Hamsters have got to be some of the cutest pets in the world – their tiny paws and snoots make them almost irresistible. Because of this, it is natural that you will want to give them the best possible care money can buy. They are generally known to be cheap pets for kids and beginners, but the total costs of owning a fuzzball of your own may surprise you.
It costs $400 and $600 to care for a hamster annually. On top of that, there are some other costs, such as buying the hamster, which can range between $5 and $50. Additionally, you’ll have to buy a cage, which is at least $50, and some toys, which can cost around $30 to $50.
In this article, I’ll break down the costs of owning one of those cute fuzzy rodents. I’ll look at the initial costs and the highest monthly costs so you can decide whether a pet hamster is a good choice for you or not.
The initial costs of getting a hamster are the cost of the hamster, the cage, and supplies. Generally, this up-front investment can cost between $85 and $150, although you may be able to find a few other ways to cut costs, such as using DIY toys and finding a hamster that’s free to adopt.
To break down this initial cost, here’s what each component of the purchase will run you on average:
- The hamster ($5 – $50)
- The cage ($50+)
- The supplies ($30 – $50)
Let’s examine each of these and see exactly how much you can expect to pay if you want a hamster.
A hamster costs between $5 to $20, although the price may go up for more exotic breeds. Prices of hamsters range widely depending on the hamster type and where you’re getting one.
While it’s possible to get a hamster for literally $0 if you manage to find someone who’s giving away their pet, it’s improbable that you’ll find an offer like this. What’s more, if you don’t know the person, you might get a sick hamster or one with other problems.
There are a few places where you can get a hamster.
- Buying from a breeder
- Buying from a pet store
If you’re looking to adopt a hamster, it can cost anywhere between $5 and $50. The price will depend on the type of hamster, its age, and the organization giving it up for adoption. Sometimes, you’ll also get a cage, some toys, or food, which will all be included in the price.
Buying a hamster from a breeder usually costs $5 to $20. That mostly depends on the breed of the hamster. For some more exotic breeds, the price may go up. You likely won’t get anything but the hamster, though, so this can make it more expensive than adoption.
Buying from a pet store is slightly cheaper. Retailers such as Petco and Petsmart sell them at $15.99, less than most breeders. You might not be able to get such a variety, though, and most of these hamsters are from inhumane hamster mills, so it’s not the best option.
One thing you should always avoid is buying from hamster mills. These places force their female hamsters to give birth to as many hamsters as possible, as often as possible. These hamsters rarely get any attention, so they might take a while to warm up to you.
This maltreatment has a detrimental effect on their health and is highly unethical. Only go for reputable breeders.
Some reputable breeders you can take a look at are:
In addition, some mom-and-pop pet shops breed their hamsters in-house, and these breeders are usually much more ethical than hamster mills. So, try to opt for local instead of chain stores if you want a pet shop hamster.
Before you’ve picked up your pet, you’ll have to find them a nice place to live. You will need a high-quality cage with specific features. Not all rodent cages are large enough or suitable for pet hamsters.
A hamster cage costs between $50 and $300, although you may be able to find a deal on a local marketplace website or from a local person looking to rehome their pet hamster.
Most first-time hamster owners get a small cage, but this will not do. Some rodent cages are better suited for mice, 2 to 3 times smaller than a hamster. You’ll need a large glass aquarium or an enclosure that is specifically listed as “for hamsters.”
Avoid cages with wire flooring since hamsters have tiny, sensitive feet that easily get caught in the wire. Also, be sure that the bars on a wire cage are narrow. If a hamster can fit its head through the bars, it will be able to squeeze out.
You’re probably not going to need the fanciest possible cage, but it’s probably not a good idea to buy the cheapest enclosure. Aim for something durable but affordable and large enough for your pet to move around in.
While the supplies here are not one-time purchases, you will probably need to invest some money in them. The supplies referred to here are:
You’ll most likely buy these products more than once, especially when it comes to bedding, but you’ll have to get them along with your hamster if you want it to feel at home.
Bedding is thankfully very cheap. You can get 30 liters (7.93 gallons) of it for $11 and 60 liters (15.85 gallons) for $20. A 60-liter bag of bedding will probably last you between two and three months.
You’ll have to change it every week, of course, and probably even more often if you have a couple of hamsters. It’s one of the cheapest things here, despite that.
However, be sure to get a dust-free, unscented option. Most hamster owners use soft paper bedding like this Kaytee Clean & Cozy Natural Paper Bedding (Amazon.com). It’s one of the few bedding options that won’t irritate a hamster’s sensitive respiratory system and tiny feet.
Making the wrong bedding choice can be detrimental to your pet hamster, so never get wooden bedding, corn cob, or cotton since these will harm your pet.
These costs will not significantly impact your hamster budget. You can find the cheapest food bowl for around $4, while you may pay up to $11 for a better-quality one. You can find a water bottle for $8 to $11.
You won’t have to buy these things very often, but you’ll likely have to replace them in a year or two. That is because hamsters like to chew on things around them, and they won’t necessarily spare their food bowls and water bottles. However, if you opt for a glass water bottle, you likely won’t ever have to replace it.
You’ll have to periodically buy new toys for your hamster to make things more interesting for them. Still, you should also buy some right away, so they don’t get bored when you bring them home.
These toys are crucial for your hamster’s mental and physical well-being. If you don’t entertain your pet, it will become unhappy.
For starters, you must buy an exercise wheel. These wheels are usually less than $30. Get a plastic or wooden one for a comfortable running surface.
Your hamster will also need a place to hide. Some cages come with tubes and hiding spots, but you’ll need to get one if yours doesn’t. Depending on the size and material, these domes and “houses” will cost around $10 to $30.
However, if you’re on a budget, cut a door hole in a box and stick it upside-down in your hamster’s enclosure for a temporary makeshift house.
After that, you can invest in a tube maze and chew toys. They cost around $20 and $6, respectively. Other toy options include chew sticks, a dust bath, a hamster ball, and ropes and ladders.
Now that you’ve got your hamster all set up with a cage and some essential toys, it’s time to look at the monthly expenses of owning one. When it comes to monthly costs, you’ll have to look into
- Parasite treatment
- Environmental upkeep
Food is probably the cheapest thing on this list. Hamsters are tiny, after all, so they won’t eat much. A hamster only needs a few bites for the whole day.
There are two types of food that you should give to your hamster.
- Fresh food
Hamster pellets cost as little as $8 for a 2.5 lbs (1.13 kilograms) bag. One bag should last for a pretty long time. Your hamster can subsist on pellets alone, but you should also give it some fresh fruit and veggies, like bananas, strawberries, carrots, broccoli, unsalted seeds, etc. You probably have all this stuff lying around, so it’s not going to bring additional costs to your budget.
Overall, you’ll spend between $50 and $80 a year on your hamster’s food. If you opt for expensive stuff, the price may go up, but there’s no need to go wild.
The biggest problem with finding healthcare for your hamster is finding a vet who works with hamsters. Otherwise, the medical costs usually don’t amount to much, and hamsters are generally very healthy. They don’t even require any vaccinations.
It’s good to get an annual check-up to ensure there aren’t any health problems lurking beneath the surface. A check-up will cost around $35, so it’s not a big deal.
Most of the time, no further expenses will be necessary. However, if your hamster turns out to be ill, you may spend up to $300 for treatment. It might be wise to have some money on the side to avoid an unpleasant surprise.
Another thing to keep in mind is parasite treatment. Like all other animals, hamsters can get all sorts of parasites, like tapeworms, mites, and pinworms. The treatment for this is usually cheap, around $25, but if things get complicated, the price might exceed $100.
To keep your hamster clean and healthy, you will need to invest some money in maintaining the hygiene of its cage. The total cost of this can go up to $220 a year.
The overall annual costs include:
When it comes to bedding, you may spend upwards of $120. That depends on the number of hamsters you have and how much bedding you use. If you have only one or two hamsters, this cost can drop to $80.
Cage liners are not a must, but they will help as it will be easier to keep the cage clean if you use them. Liners can cost you around $50 a year.
After removing the liners, you’ll also have to disinfect the cage. Disinfectant is dirt cheap, and you can get it for around $10. You probably have it at home already, so it won’t be an additional cost.
You’ll also probably have to replace your hamster’s hut. Your pet will likely chew on it since chewing is one of their primary hobbies. You can get a new one for as little as $20.
Apart from that, it might be necessary to change the water bottle because of chewing. As mentioned, this will cost at least $11.
If you’re on a shoestring budget but still want to befriend one of these adorable fluffy rodents, does that mean you have to give up on having one? Of course not! There are things you can do to make your tight budget work.
If you use substitutes, shop around, or make DIY things, you can easily make your budget work.
Some of the things you can do:
- Use substitute bedding
- Make the toys yourself
- Buy more fresh food
Instead of using regular bedding, you can opt for paper towels, toilet paper tubes, newspaper, or any kind of paper you’re not using (like all that junk mail!).
Depending on where you are, you can try to find bedding in bulk. It sometimes tends to be cheaper that way, so even if you have to spend a lot of money upfront, it’ll be worth it in the long run.
You can also go full DIY and make the toys and hut yourself. The only limits are your creativity and practical skills when it comes to this. Making your hamster’s toys can also be an excellent opportunity to do something fun and learn new skills.
In addition, you don’t have to buy fancy hamster toys. I often use dog pull toys from the dollar store to make chew toys for my hamsters. You can also make ladders out of popsicle sticks, create mazes from old cardboard boxes, turn your recycling into hamster hideouts, and more!
That takes care of the hamster’s living space, so the only thing left is food. If you are on a tight budget, you can prioritize fresh food over pellets or similar things. It tends to be cheaper, especially if you buy it in bulk, and you can also share it with your hamster. Not to mention that the hamster will probably enjoy it more than regular food.
Even though hamsters are much cheaper to buy and feed than most other pets, they still don’t come for free. You can expect to spend around $400 and $600 in the first year of owning your hamster, provided that it doesn’t have any health problems.
The essential costs are:
- The hamster
- Its cage
You can get away with spending less money, but your skills and time will limit you. That is also applicable only when it comes to the toys and the hamster’s habitat. You’re, of course, not going to take medical matters into your hands.
You may like the following Hamsters articles:
- How Long Can a Hamster Go Without Water?
- How To Tame a Hamster
- What Does Hamster Eat?
- How Much Does a Hamster Cage Cost?
- Why Is My Hamster Not Moving?
My name is Everly. I am a Milwaukee-based mom of 2 and have been a proud owner of many hamsters throughout my life. Like many of us, my introduction to hamsters happened when I was very young. My family saw several hamsters come and go through the years, and I enjoyed playing with them, but I never fully appreciated them until I grew up and my own children decided to jump on the hamster bandwagon. At that point, I was determined to learn all I could about caring for these adorable pets. Read more