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Buying a Hamster

By Jeremy Smart

Pet shops are often the first place where people entertain thoughts of buying a hamster. A prospective buyer may be struck by a hamster’s beautiful color, or entertained by his antics and before long, the new owner is taking the cute little guy home.

The downside of buying a hamster from a pet shop

However, there are certain disadvantages to buying a hamster from a pet shop. First and foremost, pet shop hamsters often originate on hamster farms where the health and welfare of the animals is of secondary concern to turning a profit. Certainly not all hamster farms or pet shops are negligent, but there have been enough instances of abuse to discourage the ethical buyer from supporting these establishments until more strict regulations are in place.

Also, the lineage is unclear. This becomes important if a purebred variety is desired. Lineage is especially important when buying a hamster such as a Russian Winter White Dwarf. Purebred Winter Whites are rarely seen in North American pet shops, and are most likely the hybrid offspring of Campbell’s Dwarf Hamsters. Hybrid hamsters are susceptible to disease and their irresponsible breeding dilutes the purity of the breed.

Inbreeding and poor conditions on hamster farms may also create animals with underlying health issues that are not immediately visible under the glare of the pet shop lights. Once an owner becomes attached to an animal, dealing with serious hamster health problems can be emotionally painful and expensive.

The advantage of buying a hamster from a professional breeder or hobbyist

Buying a hamster from a professional breeder, on the other hand, ensures that the hamster is healthy and has most likely been treated well during its upbringing. Most professional breeders offer a satisfaction guarantee, which allows a buyer to return the hamster within a specified timeframe if the new owner is unhappy with his new pet.

Buying a hamster from a hobbyist will also yield a well-cared for, healthy pet, and will be less expensive than purchasing one from a professional breeder.

Rather than buying a hamster, opt to adopt

Yet another option is to adopt a hamster from a small animal rescue organization. A quick search online will yield a vast array of hamsters, young and old, that are in need of a loving owner. Generally, an application must be completed, and a small fee is charged.

The reason to adopt, rather than buying a hamster, is the satisfaction of giving a loving home to an abandoned animal.

Many rescue animals originated with buyers who carelessly allowed their hamsters to procreate. Overwhelmed, the owners surrendered the young hamsters to their local animal shelter. This should be a cautionary tale when considering placing male and female hamsters in the same cage.

Animal rescue organizations screen the hamster’s health thoroughly before putting it up for adoption. In addition, the new owner has not contributed to animal abuse by buying a hamster that originated on a hamster farm.

Before buying a hamster, do a little research.

Knowing what breeds are available will help you avoid hamster remorse. You might regret the purchase of a plain, brown hamster when you discover that there are hamsters available in colors like “champagne” or “lilac.” Also, different breeds have different personalities and housing needs. Researching ahead of time will allow you to match the hamster’s activity level and housing need to your budget. Buying a hamster should not be an impulse purchase.

Before buying a hamster, purchase housing and accessories.

After deciding on the variety, but before making the purchase, is the time to purchase the habitat your pet will live in and the toys he will play with. Your hamster should not have to stay in temporary quarters while he waits for you to make a decision on a cage.

Before buying a hamster, give it a quick check-up.

o A healthy hamster’s eyes will be clear and sparkling. The eyes should not be watery or clouded.
o The nose and ears should be clean. Look for signs of ear mites.
o Make sure the hamster responds to noise and is not deaf.
o Check for broken limbs, and be sure the hamster does not walk with a limp.
o The hamster should be neither too fat, nor too thin.
o A healthy coat should be smooth and well groomed.

Putting some effort into buying a hamster will result in a happy bond between owner and pet, and will reduce the number of abandoned hamsters showing up at animal shelters and rescue organizations.

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