If you’ve decided that a hamster is a right pet for you, it’s finally time to pull the trigger and find your furry little friend! However, deciding where to adopt one can be challenging, especially considering that not all hamster breeders and sellers are equal. You’ll want to adopt a healthy hamster that has already been socialized.
You can adopt a hamster from a local pet store, hamster breeder, or a local person looking to rehome their pet. However, if you want to go for the best and most reputable source, there are options to adopt from local animal shelters and small-scale breeders.
If you’re planning to adopt a hamster, you’re on the right page! This article will provide a closer look at places where you can get a hamster. I will also discuss important things to consider when adopting and tell you how to take care of a hamster once you’ve successfully gotten one.
Most people purchase hamsters from pet stores, but many owners discard them at animal shelters after a few months or once they decide that they can’t commit to taking care of the animal anymore.
Rescuing hamsters from these institutions is a great way to get a pet, as there are many of them in shelters across the country that need love, care, attention, and a new home.
You can adopt a hamster by contacting or going to a nearby animal rescue shelter. People working in rescue centers are also the most knowledgeable about taking care of the hamsters that you will adopt, so that’s another thing you can take advantage of!
Sometimes, rescue shelters will not have hamsters for adoption. When this happens, you can resort to small-scale breeders. Small-scale breeders give hamsters up for adoption when asked, so if you have contact with one, you can take chances and directly inquire if they have hamsters available for free.
As you choose to adopt, you also help reduce the animal overpopulation crisis in the US, where thousands of unwanted hamsters are euthanized every year for lack of adoptive homes.
Adopting a hamster is not an easy process. Usually, animal rescue shelters in the USA closely assess every potential hamster parent to ensure that all of their animals go to suitable adoptive homes.
To pass the initial screening, you need to complete the requirements that your local animal shelter will need.
In most cases, they will ask you to present all the necessary equipment before passing the first assessment.
Different adoption centers require various minimum equipment, but to be sure, I will provide a list of the basic materials you need to purchase before you bring your pet home:
Hamster cages should be at least 360 square inches (2322.6 square cm) for Dwarf types and at least 420 square inches(2709.6 square cm) if you plan to adopt a Syrian. Note that these sizes are just the minimum requirement – the bigger the cage is, the better. You also need to include a safety top cover for the cage.
The size of a hamster’s exercise wheel also depends on its type. For dwarf hamsters, the minimum size should be 18 cm (7.09 inches). For Syrians, exercise wheels should be at least 21 cm (8.27 inches) in diameter.
One important thing to remember when buying this equipment is that you should choose solid materials such as wood or plastic. Wire wheels and cage floors may harm hamsters’ feet.
The best options for a hamster’s bedding are those made of paper. You want to pick something that says “dust-free” and has no chemicals or fragrances. There are also wood, spruce, and cedar shavings in most pet stores, but do not purchase these beddings because they contain aromatic oils that can irritate hamster skin.
Hamster food should include a wide variety of seeds and a good protein source. Most animal rescue shelters will only require you to buy primary feeds such as pellets and blocks, which you can find at pet stores.
When you’re finally approved to adopt a hamster, you need to feed them with protein through fruits, fresh grains, nuts, and worms.
Hamsters are active creatures that need toys for amusement and exercise. They love crawling through tunnels, gnawing on toys, and bathing in sand. You can choose to DIY these accessories at home or buy them from pet supply stores.
Whichever option you choose, make sure that your materials are calcium-free and unscented.
Before you get any pet, it is critical to ensure that you have the financial resources for emergencies or vet checkups.
Additionally, it would be best to prepare basic medical instruments like blunt-tipped syringes (for feeding and medication purposes), pet heating/cooling pads, and recovery food for situations where your hamster is sick.
Some animal shelters will ask to see pictures of your hamster setup, including the enclosure, its location, and details on what foods you plan to feed your pet.
If the staff approves, you will need to answer a pre-adoption questionnaire to check your knowledge of hamster care. This form will also include questions about you and your contact information.
After providing proof of the proper equipment and answering the form, the process is not yet over, but we’re ALMOST there!
After those steps, you will have an orientation with the caretakers at the shelter, where the staff will guide you through the dos and don’ts of caring for a hamster. They will also give you specific care instructions for the hamster you choose to take home.
The process may be long and tedious, but you’ll finally have an adorable addition to your family with a bit of patience! By pushing through the process, you will also get to help a hamster find a new home.
When looking for the perfect hamster to adopt, there are several considerations you need to observe to ensure that the one you will take home is in optimum health and condition. The main factors to look out for are the animal shelter’s environment and the hamster’s behavior.
In choosing where to adopt a hamster, it’s vital to research the animal shelter’s ethics and observe their cleanliness before anything else. These two factors say a lot about how they care for the animals, specifically the hamster you’re planning to take home.
While observing the animal shelter’s cleanliness, look mainly at the hamster’s cages. As a minimum requirement, they should look regularly disinfected and provide easy access to clean food and water.
Most importantly, make sure that each hamster at the shelter has its own cage since hamsters are solitary animals. Hamsters kept in isolated and clean conditions will be less likely to experience distress and have reduced exposure to disease.
Otherwise, if their surroundings are not sanitary or if the shelter houses their hamsters in communal cages, you can expect your hamster to have a lesser life expectancy.
At most, looking for the perfect hamster to adopt might take a week of frequent visits. Once you settle on a good animal shelter, the next step is to visit to see the hamsters’ behavior.
If the center is open at night, it’s best if you go at that time as hamsters are nocturnal. Hence, you will be able to observe them more during the evening.
Upon visiting, the first thing you need to do is examine the hamster’s body. According to veterinary expert Lianne McLeod, a healthy hamster is one with open eyes, a clean nose (free from discharge), and a shiny coat.
The fur around the anus should also be spotless and free from stools. Overall, a hamster with a healthy body condition must be neither fat nor thin. You should also check for swelling in the body and ensure that their coat is clean.
In terms of behavior, hamsters should be bright and always moving. A promising sign that a hamster is healthy is if it is active and alert. They should be playing, gnawing on toys, and regularly urinating or defecating.
As you watch a hamster move around its cage, it should not exhibit any sign of lameness and lethargy.
Other things to look out for are the hamster’s feces and breathing. If there are feces inside the cage, take the opportunity to ensure that they are firm and not runny. Lastly, the hamsters’ breathing should be silent and not wheezy.
If you’re particular about the sex of the hamster, one way to verify it is by simply looking at the distance between the rear end, or the anus, and the genital opening. Female hamsters’ genitals are closer to the anus than males.
In other words, a hamster’s anogenital distance is much shorter in females than in males. Generally, male hamsters tend to be gentler than females, so that’s also one factor you can consider when choosing which to adopt.
In physically observing hamsters, keep in mind that they can be nervous toward your touch and may bite without caution. Be extra careful and hold them gently if applicable.
If you’re interested in getting a hamster, it’s essential to remember that the most ethical way to find one is through adopting. If you can, skip the large pet store chains. Why? Because they source their hamsters from unethical large-scale breeders, also known as animal mills.
These places mass-produce hamsters and deprive them of sufficient living conditions and health care. As a result, most pet store hamsters are unhealthy and frequently develop serious diseases.
An inspection by the US Department of Agriculture even showed that most known suppliers allow severely distressed hamsters to eat one another.
In addition, hamster mills do not handle their hamsters, which means that pet store hamsters may be afraid of you at first. These hamsters are more likely to bite and hide from you for the first few weeks after taking them home.
Doing even a tiny bit of research before adopting will significantly help. If you can’t find any small breeders in your area, your best option is to go to small, independent pet shops.
Unlike big pet store chains, independent stores are more likely to get their hamsters from local breeders they trust. Some owners (ethically) breed their hamsters themselves as a hobby.
Ask the pet store manager where they get their hamsters if you’re unsure. If they are from a hamster mill, try to find somewhere else.
If your local animal shelter does not have any hamsters for adoption, don’t worry because there are a lot of ethical breeders who post pet adoptions online, including hamsters. Some of the websites you can check are:
- Adopt a Pet (California-based)
- Pet Finder
For those currently residing in the US, there are a lot of organizations offering pet adoptions, such as Animal Rescue League, which you can access online.
Although you can find people who want to rehome or rescue hamsters online, never purchase a hamster via the mail. No reliable breeder or institution will ever agree to put a live hamster in cargo and mail it to your address.
Traveling via mail would be distressing for hamsters, and they could even die out of stress. So if you’re thinking of adopting one through a website, the only responsible option is to pick the animal up yourself.
When you shop from large pet stores, there’s a high chance you’re supporting the unethical treatment of hamsters and other pets. Instead of backing these horrendous places that deprive hamsters of care, we should support responsible small-scale breeders who genuinely care about the hamsters.
Lastly, research (both online and direct) is key to finding the perfect hamster to adopt. To verify the ethics of a store, you can ask them about their values, caring routines and methods, and even the detailed medical records of their hamsters. Be a responsible owner—adopt, don’t shop!
You may like the following hamsters articles:
- Why Is My Hamster Drinking So Much Water?
- My Hamster Has a Tumor: How Long Until She Dies?
- Why Is My Hamster Sleeping So Much?
- What Hamster Lives the Longest?
- Why Does My Hamster Poop So Much?
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