What should you check before buying a hamster?
To select a healthy hamster, you must not only ensure that it does not exhibit any signs of disease, such as discharge, signs of diarrhea, or hair loss, but also that it does not exhibit any signs of behavioral problems, such as excessive fear or aggression.
I will therefore list all of the checks to be made when choosing a hamster in order to bring home a pet that is disease-free and, most importantly, easy to tame and live with.
I’ll then give you some advice on which hamster to get, the gender, breed, and so on. But is it better to buy it in a pet store, from a dedicated breeder, or simply go to a rescue center and adopt a hamster?
So let’s start with the most important things to look for before buying a hamster: inspect the enclosure, which should be spotless (no signs of diarrhea or flying hair), and choose a hamster that does not exhibit signs of stress or illness.
Let me tell you that if you notice any signs of illness in a hamster, you should not buy any of the other hamsters who share the same cage with him.
Choose your hamster late in the afternoon or, if possible, at nightfall to allow the hamsters time to wake up and begin their day.
Here’s what you should look for:
Check the physical health of the hamster before choosing it
- The hamster must be dynamic, active, but not wacky or fearful; it must be curious, playful, and exploratory, but it must not flee from the cage when you approach it with your hand.
- A healthy hamster should have no dry patches, flecky or red hair, hair that is stuck together, no crust on the hair, and no shedding (except on his scent glands). His coat should be smooth, shiny, clean, and in good condition.
- The hamster you choose should not be too fat or too thin; it should have a round body with no visible bones, such as the rib cage, or too much fat! If it is a Teddy bear (long-haired hamster), ask permission to take it and check its roundness if there are no signs of weight loss. A thin hamster is most likely stressed or sick.
- A good hamster has a lively appearance, black, red, or pink eyes that are clear and bright, and well opened eyes because half closed eyes are a sign of infection and other diseases. There should be no eye discharge, cataracts, or traces of dried tears around the eyes.
- A healthy hamster is one that does not cough, does not sneeze, in any case continuously, and does not have any nasal discharge, no crust around the nostrils, clean whiskers, clean ears inside and out, and no trace of ticks or parasites.
- Check your hamster’s hearing by making a sound or clapping his hands and seeing how he reacts.
- Your hamster must not have any signs of diarrhea (this is extremely important!), his anal region and backside must be clean and dry, and there must be no trace of dried blood. There should also be no evidence of droppings on its backside or hind legs.
- You can also ask the seller to show you the hamster’s teeth, which must not be curved or too large, must not be broken, and must be between yellow and orange in color. White teeth are an indication of a bad diet, which will undoubtedly have a negative impact on this hamster’s health.
- Make sure the hamster you choose does not have any signs of lung disease or infection. When it breathes, it should not make a sound; additionally, look at its rib cage to ensure that it has a stable breathing rhythm, not too slow and difficult or too fast breathing.
Check the mental and behavioral health of the hamster you are buying
A morally healthy hamster is a calm hamster that does not jump at the slightest noise or when you make a quick or sudden gesture with your hand; it must be confident and free of visceral fear of humans.
When I say calm, I don’t mean that you should get a hamster that is heavy and indifferent!
A healthy hamster should be curious even if it does not approach your hand when you reach out to it, nor should it run to the other side of the enclosure and enter a hideout!
A hamster is an explorer and a curious creature by nature; this trait will aid you in the taming process; therefore, never choose a hamster who is too shy and “not brave.”
A hamster that stands on its hind legs and shows its teeth, a hamster that screams, if it grunts or groans, excessive salivation… are all signs of aggression.
Beware of hamsters that suffer from chronic stress
You should not buy a hamster that exhibits signs of stress, such as biting the bars of its cage, running from one hideout to another, climbing on the bars of its cage and looking for a way to escape…
Buy a hamster that runs in circles or bends its head to one side; it should be dynamic and show signs of a physically fit animal, such as playing on its wheel, exploring its cage, going to its sandbox and playing with its toys, and so on.
Some other tips when choosing your first hamster
Finally, I recommend that you get a single hamster, preferably a male; the breed of hamster is entirely up to you!
If you want to get two hamsters, keep in mind that hamsters, especially Syrian hamsters, dislike living with their congeners; don’t let the fact that they’re all in the same cage at the pet store fool you!
They are brothers and sisters who have not yet reached sexual maturity, and fights will begin between them as soon as they become adults (between 4 and 6 weeks).
If you buy two Dwarf hamsters, prepare two cages because fights will erupt sooner or later, and only buy two males!! They must also be from the same litter (two brothers).
Also, choose two hamsters that sleep or play together so they can get along and not kill each other later!
Be careful not to buy a pregnant female hamster
If you buy a female hamster, avoid bringing home a pregnant female who will most likely give birth in less than 3 weeks.
Choose a female from a cage containing only females, and you must have the seller’s guarantee.
Where can I get a hamster?
To buy a good hamster, I recommend and advise you to avoid pet stores because they get their hamsters from Pet Mills, which treat these poor animals like merchandise.
You only have to look at the tiny cages they keep them in in these stores to understand!
Don’t get your hamster from a pet store because you will almost certainly get a hybrid hamster with all of its parents’ disease predispositions; they are crossbred hamsters that get sick quickly and don’t live long.
I recommend that you look for a hamster breeder in your city or state; these are people who are passionate about selecting healthy, robust, purebred hamsters.
You may have to go out of your way to get your hamster from this breeder, but believe me, it is worth it.
If you pay for a Winter White, you will receive a pure breed hamster; for example, you will not receive a hybrid between a Winter White and a Campbell, etc…
Furthermore, purebred hamsters that have not been crossbred are more robust and live longer, and they do not become aggressive and are easy to tame if you do not buy it already tamed by the breeder.
There is most likely a hamster Facebook group in your state; join these groups and you will most likely find breeders near you.
Be cautious: If you go to buy a hamster from a breeder, always go with your parents if you are a child or a friend if you are older.
There are also hamsters available for adoption. You can also go to a rescue center and see if there is a hamster with all of the characteristics listed in this article.
Request that volunteers assist you in making your selection and tip you. You will undoubtedly come across a lovely hamster, usually already tamed and ideal for a beginner.
My final piece of advice is to prepare everything your hamster will need, including the cage, several days before bringing your hamster home, and to learn everything you can about hamsters, which you can find on my website.
Finally, you should be aware that your hamster will behave differently than you expect during the first few weeks, and that with time, your hamster will trust you more and become the most affectionate hamster, rewarding you for all of your patience and kindness.
Finally, the hamster you choose will be with you for at least a year, but usually much longer.
So take your time and make an informed decision. If this is your first hamster, I recommend purchasing a Syrian hamster, as they are a good first choice.
They are also more resilient and easier to control.
Find a hamster breeder or a rescue center; only buy your hamster from a pet store if you have no other option.
If you want more helpful advice on looking after your hamster, including tips on food, toys, accessories and accommodation, add a comment below to let us know!
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