What to look for when buying a hamster ?
To choose a healthy hamster, you must not only check that it does not show any symptoms of disease, such as discharge, signs of diarrhea or hair loss, but especially no symptoms of behavioral problems such as excessive fear or aggression.
I will therefore list all the checks to be made when you choose a hamster in order to bring home a pet that is disease free and above all easy to tame and live with.
I will then continue with advice on which hamster to choose ? the gender, the breed …etc but also is it better to buy it in a pet store, from a passionate breeder or just go to a rescue center and adopt a hamster ?
So let’s start with the most important things to check before buying or choosing a hamster:
Before choosing a hamster you should take the time to look at the enclosure, which should be absolutely clean (no signs of diarrhea or flying hair) and choose a hamster that does not show signs of stress or illness:
Let me tell you that if you detect any symptoms of illness in a hamster, you should not buy any of the other hamster that live with him in the same cage.
It is better to choose your hamster late in the afternoon and if possible at nightfall to give the hamsters time to wake up and start their day.
Here is what you should check:
Check the physical health of the hamster before choosing it:
1-The hamster must be dynamic, active but not wacky and fearful, it must be curious, playful, exploratory, but does not run away as soon as you approach your hand from the cage.
2-Baldness : A healthy hamster should have no dry patches, flecky or red, hair stuck together, there should be no crust on the hair and no shedding too (except on his Scent Glands). His coat should be smooth, shiny, clean and well maintained.
3-The hamster that you must choose must not be too fat nor too thin, it must have a round body, which does not let appear neither the bones, like the rib cage, nor too much fat either! When it is a Teddy bear (long-haired hamster), ask permission to take it and check its roundness if it does not have the signs of lack of weight. A thin hamster is probably a stressed or sick hamster.
4-A good hamster is a hamster that has a lively look, black, red or pink eyes, clear and bright and well opened because half closed eyes are a sign of infection and other diseases. There should be no discharge from the eyes, no cataracts, no traces of dried tears around the eyes.
5-A healthy hamster is a hamster that does not cough, does not sneeze, in any case continuously and does not show any nasal discharge, no crust around the nostrils, its whiskers are clean, and the same for its ears, clean inside and outside and there should be no trace of ticks or parasites.
Also check that your hamster hears well by making a sound or clapping his hands and see if he reacts to that.
6-Your hamster that you have to buy, must not show any sign of diarrhea (Really really important), his anal region and his backside must be clean and dry, and especially no trace of dried blood. You should also not see any traces of droppings stuck to its backside or its hind legs.
7- You can also ask the seller to show you the hamsters teeth , they must not be curved and too big and must not present any break and their color must be between yellow and orange . White teeth are a bad sign, surely a bad food which has surely another bad impact on the health of this hamster.
8- Also check that the hamster you choose does not show any signs of lung problems or infection. You should not hear it make a sound when it breathes, also check by looking at its rib cage 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, which does not jump at the slightest noise or when you make a quick or sudden gesture with your hand, it must be confident and does not show any visceral fear of humans.
When I said calm, this does not mean that you should choose a hamster completely heavy and indifferent!
A healthy hamster should show some curiosity even if it doesn’t get too close to your hand if 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 curious by nature, this quality will help you in the taming process, so never choose a hamster that is too shy and “not brave”.
Also avoid hamsters that show aggression, the signals are a hamster that stands on its hind legs and shows its teeth, a hamster that screams, if it grunts or groans, excessive salivation …
Beware of hamsters that suffer from chronic stress:
You should not buy a hamster that shows signs of stress such as a hamster that bites the bars of its cage, a hamster runs from one hideout to another, a hamster that climbs on the bars of its cage and looks for a way to escape …
Don’t 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, playing on its wheel, exploring its cage, going to its sandbox and playing with its toys…etc.
Some other Tips when choosing your first hamster
Finally, I recommend that you choose a single hamster, probably a male, if you ask my opinion, the breed of hamster, it’s up to you!
If you also want to choose two hamsters, be aware that hamsters hate to live with their congeners, especially Syrian hamsters, do not let the fact that they are several in the same cage in the pet store, soak you!
They are brothers and sisters, they have not yet reached their sexual maturity and as soon as they become adults (between 4 and 6 weeks), the fights will begin between them.
If you buy two Dwarf hamsters, prepare two cages, because the fights will start sooner or later between them, buy only two males!! and they must be from the same litter (two brothers).
Also choose two hamsters that sleep or play together, so they can get along well with each other and may not kill each other later!
Be careful not to buy a pregnant female hamster:
If you buy a female hamster, avoid bringing home a female that is already pregnant and will probably give birth in less than 3 weeks.
Choose a female from a cage that contains only females and you must have the guarantee of the seller.
Where do I go to buy a hamster?
To buy a good hamster, I recommend and advise you to avoid pet stores, because it is the Pet Mills that supply them with hamsters and they treat these poor animals like merchandise.
You only have to see the tiny cages in which they put them in these stores to understand!
Don’t buy your hamster in a pet store because you will surely get a hybrid hamster, which has all the predispositions for the diseases of its parents, they are crossbred hamsters, which get sick quickly and don’t live too long.
Where to go to buy a good hamster?
I recommend that you look for a hamster breeder in your city or state; they are passionate people who select healthy, robust, purebred hamsters.
This breeder, you may have to go out of your way to get your hamster but believe me, it is worth it.
You will have a pure breed hamster, if you pay for a Winter white ; for example, you will not have a hybrid between winter white and Campbell …etc
In addition, purebred hamsters, which are not from crossbreeding are more robust and live longer, and especially they do not become aggressive and you can easily tame them if you do not buy it already tamed by the breeder.
There is probably a hamster Facebook group in your state, go to these groups and you will probably find breeders not far from where you live.
You can also find hamsters for rehoming.
Beware : If you go to buy a hamster from a breeder, don’t go alone, always be accompanied by your parents if you are a child or a friend if you are older.
Adopt a hamster from a Rescue Center:
You can also go to a rescue center and see if there is a hamster that has all the qualities I mentioned in this article.
Ask volunteers to help you choose and tip you. You will surely find a good lovely hamster, usually already tamed, ideal for a beginner.
My last advice would be to prepare everything that your hamster will need, the cage and all the necessary, days before bringing your hamster, and especially accumulate the maximum of knowledge on hamsters, you will find all the necessary information on my website of course.
At the end , you should know that , your hamster will behave differently from what you expect during the first weeks, and with time, your hamster will trust you more and become the most affectionate hamster and will reward you for all your patience and kindness
Final thoughts :
Finally, the hamster that you have to choose will live with you at least one year, but usually much more than that.
So take the time to choose well, if it is your first hamster, I advise you to buy a Syrian hamster, they are a good choice for the first time.
They are also more robust and easy to tame.
Find a hamster breeder or go to a rescue center, only buy your hamster in a pet store if you really have no choice.