Hamsters are very inexpensive pets in terms of the animals themselves, but there are some additional costs that you need to be aware of before you go out and buy one. Here’s some figures to give you an idea.
A hamster costs between $14.99 and $34.99 depending on the species. The real expense though is the cage and the accessories which can range from about $122 to $419. In total, and on average, you’re looking at a start-up cost of around $285 including the hamster.
Of course there are recurring monthly costs too such as food and bedding which will be about $21 per month (according to Kiplinger).
If you’re interested in knowing in more detail where I got these numbers from and to learn what you need to buy for your hamster, keep reading.
Average price of a hamster (lists of breeders/pet stores and their prices)
Listed below are ten real examples of how much hamsters are being sold for at both breeders and pet stores. Some of the prices were available online, others required a phone call to get the latest prices and are accurate at the time of writing.
|Name||Location||Breeder or pet store||Price||Extras?|
|Petsmart||Nationwide||Pet store||$14.99 – $22.99||No|
|Petco||Nationwide||Pet store||$15.99 – $24.99||No|
|Petworld||Natick||Pet store||$19.99 to $24.99||No|
|Petworld Warehouse Outlet||Waukesha,Greenfield.Madison,West Allis,Menomonee Falls||Pet store||$29.99||No|
|Uncle Bill’s||Indiana||Pet store||$24.99 or $34.99 for naked hamsters||No|
|Cheeks and Squeaks Hamsters||Southern California||Breeder||$60||Yes, includes care package|
|Holmden Hill Haven||Ohio||Breeder||$20||No|
|Hubba-Hubba Hamstery||Portland||Breeder||$55||Yes, includes care package|
|Nantucket Hamstery||Illinois||Breeder||$25 – pups. Retired female hamsters (1-year old) offered at great discount||No|
|Poppy Bee Hamstery||Virginia||Breeder||$50||Yes, includes care package|
As you can see from the above table, the hamster itself really isn’t that expensive. Hamsters obtained from an ethical breeder are a little more expensive as you might expect but the hamsters in these places are bred correctly, kept in excellent conditions, are in good health and are generally cared for to a high standard.
There are unethical breeders too that don’t breed hamsters for the right reasons (more on that later), but the breeders in the above table are ethical and care who they sell their hamsters to. Many of them also require you to fill in an application form to start the adoption process.
In the application forms, they generally ask important questions of their new owner such as the size of the cage they have (or plan to get), whether or not you have had experience with hamsters before and what your plans are once you get the hamster.
In other words, whether you want to purchase the hamster as a pet or for breeding purposes.
You might have noticed that some of the breeders often bundle care packages (along with the actual hamster) and this is reflected in the price.
For example, Cheeks and Squeaks Hamsters sell an adoption package for $60 which include 5 pounds/6 month supply of high quality food, a bag of treats, a personal pedigree, a container of sand and even a snuggle sack!
Getting a hamster for free
Sometimes it’s possible to “rehome” a hamster that someone else doesn’t want or is unable to look after it for whatever reason.
In this case, the cost will be either very small or free. But remember, even if a hamster doesn’t cost you anything, they still have a value on their life and must never be thought of as “expendable”.
How much do hamsters cost at Petco?
Hamsters at Petco cost between $15.99 and $24.99 depending on the species of hamster.
How much do hamsters cost at PetSmart?
Hamsters at Petsmart cost between $14.99 and $22.99 depending on the species of hamster.
How much do hamsters cost in the UK?
Hamsters in the UK cost between £5 and £15 depending on where you get them from and the species of hamster. Petsathome sell hamsters for £10 whilst local pet shops sell them for around £5.
What are the startup costs of owning a hamster? (About $260)
Obviously you can’t just go out and buy a hamster without buying at least the basic necessities. So make sure that you’re prepared and ready with all the things you need before you actually go and buy your hamster.
In other words, have your hamster’s cage set up and ready to go. This will make your hamster’s move to its new home less stressful and less stressful for yourself too!
You don’t want to be setting up a cage that you’re not familiar with whilst your hamster is sitting there waiting in its travel cage feeling stressed.
Here’s a list of things you need to buy upfront and how much they cost.
|Item||Cost (low)||Cost (high)|
Cage cost (About $113)
One of the biggest costs of owning a hamster is the cage. The cost of the cage can vary from about $40 for a bin cage (which you can make yourself) to an aquarium which can cost $100 or more.
There’s lots of great options for places to buy cages and many different types available too. At the higher end, this small animal indoor hutch from Petco is designed to blend in with your furniture and is currently priced at $199.99.
If you’re interested in something midrange (price-wise), then the Prevue Pet Products 528 wire cage (Amazon, #CommissionsEarned) and the Midwest Deluxe Critter Nation (Amazon, #CommissionsEarned) are good options.
Another good option is the WARE Chew Proof Three Level Small Animal Critter Cage which comes in at just over $95 from Petco.
If you’re on a budget (and good with DIY) then I recommend making yourself a bin-cage (see video below).
Alternatively, you could purchase the Ikea Detolf (for $69.99) which many of the hamster YouTubers recommend.
The Ikea Detolf is basically a glass cabinet that can be laid on its side and used as a hamster cage.
You just have to make your own lid for it as it is easy for your hamster to escape out of, but it does give your hamster plenty of space and has all the advantages of an aquarium without the added expense.
What you may have noticed from the above cage examples, is that they are all reasonably large and have at least 450 square inches of floor space.
This is very important.
Although hamsters are small animals, they have a lot of energy and are known to travel for miles in the wild foraging for food.
Domesticated hamsters aren’t too dissimilar to wild hamsters because they haven’t been domesticated for long (in comparison to say dogs and cats).
So it’s very important that you give them the space that they need and you should go as large as your home and budget will allow.
Inside the cage
There are things that you’ll need to purchase that go inside the cage such as bedding, a wheel, water bottle, toys and more. Although these things vary in price, here are some typical costs with examples.
Bedding cost (About $23)
Hamster bedding or substrate (the stuff that goes on the bottom of the cage) varies from about $6 and all the way up to $40 depending on the brand, the type and the quantity of substrate that you buy.
Any paper-based substrate is fine or you can use Aspen shavings (Amazon, #CommissionsEarned) like we do. Make sure that you avoid Pine and Cedar wood shavings as these woods give off dangerous phenols that can be harmful to a hamster’s respiratory system
You should also avoid any products where the type of shavings is unspecified as you can’t guarantee that the shavings aren’t derived from Pine and Cedar trees.
If you have a large hamster cage, you’ll initially need a lot more substrate than you would with a small cage, but it will be cheaper in the long-run as large cages don’t have to be cleaned out as often.
Small cages on the other hand need cleaning once a week which means you will end up throwing away bedding and buying it more often.
One final point is that hamsters are burrowers, so make sure that you have at least 6-inches of substrate in at least one section of your hamster’s cage to allow them to dig and burrow.
Food dish cost (About $9)
Food dishes cost between $2 and $16 depending on what the dish is made of. Something simple like the Living World Ergonomic Small Animal Food Dish (#CommissionsEarned) from Amazon will do just fine or you can go something more expensive with the OMEM Hamster Bowl (Amazon, #CommissionsEarned) which your hamster won’t be able to tip over.
You don’t have to buy a food dish from Amazon or a pet store, any small dish (either plastic or ceramic) for your local dollar store will also do.
You may also choose not to buy a food dish at all and instead, choose to scatter feed your hamster which will make your hamster forage for its food like it would in the wild.
Indeed, whether you choose to use a food dish or a scatter feed your hamster, your hamster will collect its food in its cheek pouches and hoard it in its nesting area or in one or more corners of its cage.
Water bottle cost (About $10)
Water bottles are inexpensive and you can pick them up for less than $10. A good option is this good quality glass and stainless steel water bottle (#CommissionsEarned) from Amazon. If you don’t want a glass one, then this non-drip plastic water bottle (Amazon, #CommissionsEarned) is also a good choice.
Of course it’s not imperative that you use a water bottle as it is possible for hamsters to drink out of a small bowl.
The main problem with water bowls though is that they can be easily knocked over and if you use a bowl that is too big, your hamster could potentially climb into them.
This can strip the natural oils from their fur so you should get a water bowl which is no bigger than about 5cm in diameter to prevent this from happening.
Another downside is that food and bits of bedding can fall into a water bowl and contaminate the water.
On a positive note though, water bowls tend to be easier for your hamster to drink out of because they can drink out of them whilst sat in a natural position.
Sometimes water bottles are positioned in such a way that hamsters have to get into an awkward position to drink out of them.
Water bowls aren’t necessarily recommended for every hamster but they are certainly worth a try to see if your hamster prefers drinking out of them.
Food cost (About $17)
Hamster food is obviously an ongoing purchase, but to start with, it will cost you around $15 to $20 depending on the brand and quantity that you buy.
Hamsters first and foremost need a good quality food mix (Amazon, #CommissionsEarned) which will provide them the variety that they need. However, because no one particular food mix will provide all the nutrition that they need, you should consider mixing it with pellets.
These Mazuri Rat & Mouse Food pellets (Amazon, #CommissionsEarned) are a good option and when combined with the seed mix suggested above (recommended by hamster youtuber Victoria Raechel) it will provide everything that your hamster needs.
Because hamsters are omnivores, they can also eat fresh meat, fruit and vegetables but these foods must be given to your hamster sparingly to avoid giving them an upset stomach.
Dive in deep: See my guide on hamster hamster diet for more information on feeding your hamster and what they can and can’t eat.
Hideout cost (About $16)
Hamsters sometimes build their own nest and may choose not to use their hideout to sleep in, but it’s important that you get one anyway as they can help your hamster feel safe and secure.
You can pay as little as $5 for a plastic hideout so it doesn’t have to be expensive. A good option here is the Kaytee Igloo Hideaway (Amazon, #CommissionsEarned) or you can get something much more elaborate (and more expensive) such as the Niteangel Natural Living Tunnel System (Amazon, #CommissionsEarned) which is made of wood and is great for climbing, hiding and crawling through tunnels.
In Richmond’s cage (our Syrian hamster), use a simple log like this one on Amazon (#CommissionsEarned) and put strips of toilet paper inside it and on the top of it to make it extra cosy and he loves it.
Chew toys cost (About $3)
Hamsters like all rodents have continually growing teeth and they keep growing throughout their entire life, so chew toys are essential to keep their teeth trim.
Chews and chew toys are not expensive, and range between $2 to $5. I personally recommend these Apple wood sticks (Amazon, #CommissionsEarned) as our hamster loves them; they’re also completely natural.
Of course there are lots of other options out there from cheesy chews to chewable kabob toys that you hang from your hamster’s cage. If you want more recommendations, you can see my article on chews and chew toys here.
Toys cost (About $7)
The next thing you’re going to need are some toys to stimulate your hamsters brain.
These toys, incidentally, are also good for your hamster’s teeth as they will tend to chew on them.
You can also get a 10-pack of hamster toys (#CommissionsEarned) on Amazon that will cost more but it will help to fill a larger cage and keep your hamster occupied.
There are also some cheaper alternatives, for example you can put toilet paper tubes in the cage for your hamster to chew on.
A whole walnut is also a good option as your hamster will spend hours gnawing on it trying to get into it.
Wheel cost (About $24)
One of the most essential items that you’ll need to put into your hamster’s cage is a wheel.
Hamsters are very active at night and have a lot of energy, so a wheel is essentia; so that they can expend some of that energy.
Hamster wheels vary from about $12 to $30 depending on the size of the wheel. Smaller wheels are obviously cheaper but these are only suitable for dwarf hamsters and not fully grown Syrians.
For a Syrian hamster, I recommend this 12” Silent Runner (Amazon, #CommissionsEarned) but you can go larger stil if you want. Just don’t go for a wheel which is too small otherwise your hamster’s back will be arched when it’s running.
For dwarf hamsters, a 6” wheel should be fine or you can go for one of those wheels that look like a satellite dish like this on Amazon (#CommissionsEarned).
It’s also important that whatever wheel you choose that it is made out of solid plastic and not one of those wire mesh wheels. These wheels are dangerous as your hamster can get its limbs trapped in between the rungs as it is running along.
Outside the cage
Here’s a couple of items besides the things that go in the cage that you should consider purchasing..
Playpen cost (About $20)
A playpen like this one on Amazon (#CommissionsEarned) is optional but highly recommended as it will allow you to spend time with your hamster outside of its cage without the risk of it escaping.
Playpens range from about $12 all the way up to around $27 like this wire Midwest Critterville Small Pets Playpen from Petco.
Travel carrier cost (About $17)
A travel carrier is essential in case you need to take your hamster to the vet. They’re also useful to bring your hamster home in after buying it from a breeder or pet shop.
We didn’t have a travel carrier at the time and the pet shop gave us our hamster in a cardboard box, which wasn’t ideal as it could have chewed its way through it – luckily it didn’t!
Travel carriers are about $15 to $20 and a good option here is the IRIS Extra Small Animal and Critter Carrier (#CommissionsEarned) on Amazon.
You could also make your own carrier and make a miniature bin-cage using a small plastic storage box with some wire mesh on the lid.
Costs associated with a veterinary visit are hard to estimate but I recommend putting about $100 to one side in case your hamster needs medical help.
Hamsters can seem extremely well one moment and the next thing you know, your hamster is lying on its side outside its sleeping area or severely dehydrated with diarrhea. So when your hamster needs a vet, they really need to see a vet.
When you take your hamster to the vet, you’ll be charged for the visit in addition to any medication, diagnostic tests or other lab work that needs to be carried out.
Of course, it may be that your hamster never needs to go to the vet but it’s worth having the funds in place for peace of mind for that visit if something does happen.
Annual Cost of Hamsters (About $260)
There is a lot more to the cost of a hamster than just the initial start-up cost. Therefore, it’s important that you budget for the recurring monthly cost for your new hamster.
According to Kiplinger, the annual cost of caring for a hamster is $260. The majority of this expense is due to litter and bedding which they estimate to cost around $210. They estimate the annual food bill to be around $50 for a basic hamster mix from a pet store.
Although this figure doesn’t include things like toys, chews, treats and visits to the vet (generally very low for hamsters), it does give you a good estimate so that you can budget accordingly.
Where should you buy a hamster?
Where you buy your hamster, in my opinion, is more important than how much they cost.
Most people automatically think of big pet store chains like Petco and Petsmart, but there are other places where hamsters can be sourced from, which are more ethical too.
Let’s look at each one in turn.
Large pet store chains such as Petco and Petsmart have outlets all over the world and sell pets and accessories in bulk quantities based on supply and demand.
In order to keep up with the demand for hamsters in all their stores, they source their hamsters from pet mills. Pet mills are essentially huge warehouses full of animals and operate almost like a factory, breeding hamsters in huge quantities.
Pet mills are unethical for many reasons:
- Hamsters are kept in dirty, small and overcrowded enclosures with minimal bedding and no enrichment or accessories
- Hamsters often starve so much in these conditions that they have to resort to cannibalizing each other.
- The hamsters are bred purely to make money and not bred to improve the health, temperament or genetics of the hamster species. Instead, the ethos here is quantity over quality
- Female hamsters are bred excessively until they are incapable of breeding any more
- Hamster genetics are not considered in pet mills and no thought is given as to whether hamsters have a history of particular illnesses or diseases in their family line
- Many hamsters in these conditions don’t make it to the pet store
Since learning this information about where pet stores source their animals, I no longer support buying animals from these places.
By not buying hamsters from pet store chains, you will reduce the demand and help to discontinue pet mills.
A good and ethical way of obtaining a hamster is through adoption. This is a great way to help an animal in need and also helps shelters to bring in and care for more animals.
Typically animal shelters cater for cats and dogs but it isn’t unusual for them to provide shelter for smaller animals like hamsters too.
Here are some good places to try if you want to adopt a hamster:
- The Pipsqueakery (Indiana)
- Munchie’s Place for Homeless Pets (Washington)
- Small Angels Rescue (Maryland)
If you want to find a hamster to adopt in your local area, you may find these websites useful:
These websites allow you to specify the type of pet that you want, the coloring, age and gender etc and it will try to find an adoptable pet in your local area that matches your criteria.
If you don’t have many shelters in your area or can’t find a pet to adopt using the websites above, then consider using buy and sell websites such as:
People put their animals up for sale on these websites for many reasons such as being unable to look after them anymore, so it’s a great way to give animals a new home.
Ethical breeders play a very important part in improving the hamster species but it’s important to note that there are ethical breeders and unethical breeders.
The sole aim of ethical breeders is to better the hamster species, even if that means not making a profit.
In order to tell the difference between the two, it’s important that you ask questions in order to discover their true motive.
Questions to ask breeders
- Why are you breeding? – This is important because if they are in the game to make money/profit, to see cute hamster babies or to witness the birth of cute hamster babies then you may wish to choose a different breeder as they are in it for all the wrong reasons.
- What care do the mother and pups receive? – It’s important that the breeder provides proper care to the mothers and pups. Pregnant hamsters need extra care and additional supplements. If you notice that they’re using unsafe substrates or small cages, then you should avoid the breeder.
- What age do you rehome your pups? – If the answer to this question is less than 6 weeks of age, then you should avoid the breeder. Good, ethical breeders will wait at least eight weeks before rehoming their hamsters.
- At what point do you stop breeding a hamster? – Ethical breeders know how long hamsters should be bred for and how much time there should be in between litters. They also know that once females get to a certain age that they should stop breeding them.
Telltale signs of unethical hamster breeders
Here are a couple of additional things to look out for when considering buying from a particular breeder:
- Misspelling hamster species names
- Claims of breeding teddy bear hamsters (long-haired Syrian hamsters), panda bear hamsters (Syrian hamsters which panda hair coloration) or fancy bear hamsters (short-haired Syrian hamsters)
As we’ve seen there is more to buying a hamster than the animal itself and when you add up all the average prices for all the equipment, the start up cost of owning a hamster is about $285 dollars on average.
Of course prices vary and a lot depends on how much you are willing to pay for things.
You can keep the cost down significantly below this average by doing a bit of DIY and make your own hideouts, toys and cages and you don’t always have to go to the pet store (or Amazon) to buy everything.
In fact, many things can be sourced from your local dollar store and you don’t have to buy the most expensive stuff.
The quality of care that you provide to your hamster matters much more than how much you spend.