How much does a hamster cost? For many potential owners, that's question swirling in their mind since they decide to get a furry friend. There's more to the question than the cost of an actual one live hamster. The real cost of owning a hamster comes from caring for one properly. To give you the answer, we did some research on various costs associated with owning a hamster.
A hamster will cost you about $20-$25 to buy from a reputable source. The cost of ownership, however, is far more expensive. Expect to pay around $150-$250 for setup costs (cage etc.) and then an average of $600 a year or $50 a month (including veterinary care costs).
We know you need more information to decide whether you can afford to have a hamster as a pet. That’s why we’ll go in-depth and explain all the financial facets of hamster ownership, from initial costs to longer-term ones like vet bills and other care.
How Much Does a Hamster Cost?
One of the first things to be aware of as you search for your perfect pet is that hamster costs vary depending on where you shop. Private breeders will often charge more than the average pet store because they specially breed pedigreed hamsters to meet stringent breed standards.
The species of the hamster can determine the price as well. If you’re searching for a more uncommon breed, for instance, that could increase the price.
Read more: Where Can I Get a Hamster?
How much does a hamster cost at the pet store?
If you were to buy a hamster from popular pet store Petsmart, you wouldn’t pay more than $15.99 per critter. This seems to be regardless of size, species, and gender. Petsmart has many hamster breeds in their various stores, such as Russian dwarves, fancy bears, winter whites, short-haired, long-haired, Roborovski dwarves, and Chinese dwarves.
The only hamster that’s a little more expensive is the fancy teddy bear hamster - a longhair variety of the Syrian hamster - which can cost upwards of $23.
Prices at Petco aren’t too different. All their hamsters are listed at $15.99 and include species like Robos (Robowski Hamsters), dwarves, and Djungarian hamsters.
How much does it cost to buy a hamster from a breeder?
There are many breeder clubs and groups. Ethical breeders run their operation in a carefully managed "hamsteries" and are often a much better place to buy a hamster from. Buying from an ethical professional hamstery, you'll be getting a much healthier, happier and more tamer than you would from the store.
We found some with locations across the country. These are not recommendations, so do your due diligence and check for recommendations before you buy. Here are their prices:
- Nantucket Hamstery in Huntley, IL: $25
- Holmden Hill Haven in Cleveland, OH: $20 for Syrian and dwarf hamsters
- Critter Cabana in Newberg and Wilsonville, OR: $23 - $24 for Djungarians, dwarves, and teddy bear hamsters of both genders
How much does a hamster cost at Craigslist?
If you decide to look for a pet hamster on Craigslist, you could get arguably the best deal in terms of price. Many people are willing to rehome their hamsters for free. If you must pay, then it’s typically a small fee of around $5.
Craigslist doesn’t have the best reputation, so do your homework before you just buy a hamster off the site. Even if the animal is free, you have to ask yourself why that is. Sometimes it's a perfectly legitimate reason - such as the owner finding out that they can't care for the hamster properly.
Also, always make sure you can see a picture and/or video of the hamster before you commit to buying or taking it. This way, you can ensure it’s in relatively good health.
And don't be tempted by owners who state they'll give away the cage or any other accessories. More often than not, these are low-quality items which you'll have to pay good money to replace with good ones.
Avoid hamster mills and backyard breeders
Please avoid buying from "hamster mills" where people relentlessly and irresponsibly breed female hamsters. An ethical hamster will never breed a female before the age of four months and then no more than 3-5 times during her lifetime.
At a hamster mill, females will be breed as soon as they're able to conceive, in terrible conditions and basically until the day they die.
Some people are unaware of this issue. If you ended up rescuing a hamster from such a place or getting her from the pet shop - be a responsible owner yourself and never breed your hamsters! These hamsters often carry genetic faults due to irresponsible breeding and you should not breed them any further.
What Other Costs Are Associated with Hamster Care?
One reason hamsters are viewed as such favorable pets is that they’re so inexpensive. (And yes, they’re also very cute.) What you might not think about as you browse Craigslist or stop by a pet store is the long-term costs of ownership. These will end up being as much as the hamster cost you - or much more - per month.
According to Investopedia, each year, you’ll spend about $150 on necessities like litter, bedding, and food. There’s also the one-time costs for supplies, toys, and an enclosure, which could be $160 or more. If you add that up, then within the first year of hamster ownership, you could expect to pay $310.
Financial resource Kiplinger states the first-year cost of ownership is even higher. They say you might spend $345. After that, you still have to pay $260 for annual costs, which we’ll talk about shortly. If your hamster lives for two years, then over their lifetime, you’d spend roughly $605. If you get to enjoy your hamster for three years, it’s $865.
Don't be fooled by these numbers.
They may reflect how some people care for their hamsters but not how what good hamster care should cost.
We’re now going to break down each area of care a hamster requires. We’ll provide real-world numbers about how much you can expect to pay monthly and annually to keep your hamster healthy.
Note that this post will not try to tell you how much other people pay to care for hamsters per se. We're going to cover how much good care for a hamster is going to cost you. We strongly believe that every pet deserves the very best quality of life possible - and that includes hamsters. And yes, that quality of life comes with a price tag.
The Cost Of Food and Water For a Hamster
The cost of hamster pellets
Most of your hamster's diet should be made of quality commercial well-balanced pellets or dry food mixes. But how much would that cost you?
You can easily find low-grade hamster food at Walmart or Petsmart, with prices going as low as $3 a pound.
To keep your hamster feeling well and active - and avoid future vet bills - you should order quality food for your little furry friend. And yes, that will be more expensive. Here are a couple of high-quality commercial hamster food which comes recommended by experienced hamster owners:
While these are more expensive than the average bag of hamster food you can buy in the grocery store, they're just so much better for your hamster. They provide a more balanced nutrition and that pays off in the long run - and more importantly, ensures that your pet gets the good care it deserves.
And in the end, even with high-quality food, this isn't going to be a huge expense. Every day, on average, hamsters consume little food. It’s about two tablespoons’ worth, but it can vary by species. That means your bag of hamster pellets will last you several months. So overall, this part of your hamster's diet should cost no more than $5-$10 a month.
The cost of fresh foods
Your hamster can subsist primarily on pellets you’d find at a pet store. Since they’re omnivores, you can supplement your hamster’s diet with vegetables and fruits. Here are several acceptable ones, as well as the average price. All prices are from Produce Price Index.
- Cantaloupe: $1.25 per fruit
- Peaches: $0.64 per pound
- Strawberries: $1.06 per pound
- Cauliflower: $1.21 per vegetable
- Broccoli: $0.75 per broccoli crown
Now, your hamster won’t eat an entire cantaloupe, so you can’t factor in the prices of a full fruit. They’d eat at most a cup, but still, cantaloupes aren’t good forever. No produce is. That means that even if your hamster doesn’t eat a full cantaloupe or a full cauliflower that you need to consistently buy this product to feed them.
If there are 52 weeks in a year and you buy the above produce every week, you’d spend about $255 on it all. That is, of course, if the prices of the fruits and vegetables don’t go up. Few fruits and veggies are in season all year long. If produce isn’t in season, you’ll spend more money on it. Likewise, when produce is in season, you can get it at a better bargain.
Food dishes and water bottle
Lastly, there are the initial costs of feeding your hamster, such as food bowls and a water bottle. It's worth investing in a good quality ceramic food dish which your hamster won't be able to topple over, chew on or otherwise ruin.
Here are a few examples to give you a sense of the costs -
And for quality water bottles -
To sum this up, when you first get a hamster, you'll pay a one-time cost for food and water (includes all vegetables and fruits listed above as well as pellets, food bowl, and water bottle): Up to $50-$60.
Following that, your monthly cost for food (assuming you buy one bag of pellets per month and a variety of fruits and veggies above): $40-$50
How much will you pay for your hamster's cage?
With food out of the way, where is your hamster going to live? An enclosure is a one-time cost unless yours by chance breaks.
There are many options for your hamster to live. You can choose from high-rise dual tanks, single cages, plastic hamster habitats, and even two-story hamster hutches. The cheapest option is a small tank topper enclosure for $44.99. The most expensive enclosure would be the two-story hamster hutch for $349.99.
This is one area where you really need to be prepared to invest. Don't cheap out on your hamster and choose a large and spacious cage. The largest you can afford.
Read more: What Size Cage Does a Hamster Need?
Here are a couple of good choices from Amazon -
And again, if you have the space for it - go larger.
One-time cost for enclosure: $70 to $350
How much will bedding cost?
You can’t just put a hamster in a bare enclosure. They need nesting materials for sleep and making waste.
You can get 30 liters of bedding for about $11 and 60 liters for $20. The prices don’t really vary too much from other retailers.
For recommendations and more information read our guide: Choosing the best bedding for your hamster's cage
Every week, you need to change out everything in your hamster’s cage. That means the bedding, too. It's possible to train some hamsters to use a littler box. In that case you might have a litter box for your hamster, which you can find on Amazon for $7 to $10. If so, then your bedding can stay longer since your hamster will make waste in the box. If your hamster isn’t using a litter box, though, almost all the bedding has to go when you clean the cage.
Read more: How Often Should You Clean a Hamster’s Cage?
According to the Hamster Hideout forum, if you have a 60-liter bag of hamster bedding, you put about 3.5 inches of it in the enclosure, and you clean weekly, you can get about two or three months out of your bag of bedding.
The monthly cost of bedding: $11 to $20
The annual cost of bedding (if you get a new bag every two months): $132 to $240
The cost of toys for your hamster
Your hamster needs both stimulation and exercise, and they can get that with what people refer to as "hamster toys". The first toy that might come to your mind of hamsters is likely the exercise ball. This is actually not a good choice for many hamsters as it could tire them out and stress them as they're rolling around without being able to interact with their environment.
In fact, you're probably better off getting the following instead -
- Exercise wheels
- Tube mazes
- Chew toys
These so-called "toys" are crucial to your hamster's well-being.
Exercise wheels are how your hamster simulates running around. In nature, Syrian hamsters can run for miles and miles every night. Do provide a great wheel for your hamster!
Tube mazes and slides work as more than toys. They increase your hamster's living space, providing a chance for him to move around and explore in the confines of the cage. The more you invest in a great system of tubes, the more space you're creating for your hammy.
As for chew toys - they're essential for keeping your hamster's teeth in good shape. Without chewing, these teeth will grow too long. You'll end up paying a lot more to a veterinarian for filing down these teeth. Invest in good chewing toys instead and replace them as necessary. It's good for your hamster's teeth as well as her mental well-being.
It’s better to spend more money now on quality toys. Cheap ones will break, necessitating a replacement. Plus, a broken toy could injure your hamster, which would require a trip to the vet (we’re talking about vet costs next). You could end up spending more money than you would have if you had bought a quality toy in the first place.
To give you a grasp of the costs of toys, we're picked a few great ones from Amazon -
Hamster wheels and saucers -
Tube mazes -
Chew Toys -
So, overall we're talking about $30-$70 for your initial expense when getting a hamster.
Following that, expect to average another $10 a month on chew toys which need to be renewed.
Do keep in mind that you can make some toys yourself. If you’re crafty with wood or plastic, you can create a hamster slide or even an entire playground. There are tons of tutorials out there on how to do so.
You can even take empty toilet paper and paper towel tubes and give those to your hamster to play with. These are smart alternatives if the costs of hamster care are getting to be too much for you.
Read more: What Toys Should I Get for My Hamster?
Cost of Veterinary Care For a hamster
We've come to the big one, in terms of budget.
Being small, hamsters don't cost a lot to provide for in terms of food and toys. However, when it comes to veterinary care, there are no discounts for size. In fact, the opposite is true. You're going to need a specialist, at least for some conditions, so expect vet care to be more expensive.
Some experts advise that you take your hamster in for basic checkups every single year. Many dedicated owners only take their hamsters to the vet when they notice something is unwell with the animal. And that is bound to happen during the lifetime of any hamster.
While you don’t have to pay for vaccinations, any symptom of illness or injury in your hamster necessitates a trip to the vet.
Here are some signs your hamster might be sick and needs care:
- Lethargy and weakness
- Unwilling to play, run, or interact
- May eat less if at all
- Dull and/or sunken eyes
- A runny nose
- Loss of fur and/or dandruff
- Skin irritation
Unlike a cat or a dog, which you can bring to any vet, some veterinary clinics do not treat hamsters. They’re typically considered exotic animals, so you need an exotic vet.
It’s best you research vets in your area that will see your hamster before any injury or illness strikes. This way, if your hamster is ever in an emergency, you can get them immediate care.
The Hamster Hideout forum says that antibiotics for conditions like wet tail cost anywhere from $10 to $20. Hamster surgery may be $75 and up. It’s not completely unreasonable to spend $200 to $300 for a surgical procedure for your furry friend. In fact, one poster wrote they paid $150 for a biopsy as well as medications.
Checkups may cost you $70 or more. Some injections can be expensive, closer to $100. If you need to get your hamster emergency care, you could pay $117 for the appointment.
While no one ever wants to think of it, if your hamster dies, euthanasia may be over $200. A cremation could cost an additional $200.
The average cost of vet care for one year (assuming your hamster is in reasonably good health): $100-$250
Total Costs of Caring for a Hamster
Ok, time to go over everything and see just how much proper care for a hamster should cost.
This is what you'll have to pay for the hamster itself, cage and basic accessories.
- $25 Buying a hamster from an ethical breeder
- $70 Good-sized cage
- $20 Food dish and water bottle
- $50 hamster wheel/saucer and tube maze
The total budget comes to $165
In addition to the above, you'll have to routinely pay for the following items.
- $100 quality dry food
- $100 fresh produce
- $200 cage bedding
- $10 chew toys
- $200 Veterinary Care
The total annual budget comes to $610
Which means you'll be paying a total of $775 during the first year of caring for a new pet hamster, and then $610 for every additional year. Or roughly $50 a month.
Are you surprised?
If you’re a little shell-shocked by the above totals, that’s understandable.
Many people view hamsters as "cheap pets" that are good for beginners. While they are relatively easy to care for, they deserve the best possible life you can give them - and that does come at a price tag. As you can see, food and toys are not that expensive - mostly because hamsters are so small - but vet bills add a lot to the totals.
We'll take a look in a minute at how they compare to other pets, but yes, please don't think about adopting a pet hamster if you cannot provide it with good quality care. If you can't afford good vet care for any pet - you probably should start saving up and only get that pet when you'll be able to properly care for it.
Are Hamsters More or Less Expensive Compared to Other Pets?
You may wonder if hamsters are more expensive than other household pets. In this section, we’ll go over the costs of ownership of those pets. All information is from Investopedia and Kiplinger.
Here’s how the costs break down:
Dogs & Cats
If you get a smaller dog or a cat, expect to pay between $500 and $875 for care annually. Larger dog breeds are more expensive, with care averaging between $700 and $875 per year. Then again, health care for canines and felines is very developed and many owners find themselves having to deal with huge vet bills as the dog gets older.
So, per year, caring for a young dog or cat won't be significantly more expensive compared to caring for a hamster. However, given that these animals live for at least a decade and sometimes up to 20 years (in the case of cats), you could spend up to $10,000-$20,000 over their lifetime. That’s exponentially pricier than hamster ownership (but again, factor in more years).
Rabbits are generally more expensive to care for because they need larger enclosures and more veterinary care (including neutering, for example). The first year of rabbit ownership can cost over $1,000. After that, you’ll spend roughly $660 every year. If your rabbit lives 10 years, that’s $6,980. If they live 12 years, you’ll pay $8,300. That makes them much pricier than hamsters.
If you own a smaller pet bird, then you’ll spend about $400 in its first year. After that, if your bird stays healthy, it’s about $200 per year of ownership. Parrots, parakeets and other pet birds are very sensitive to stress and disease and need to be seen by bird specialist. Expect to pay hundreds of dollars a year on vet care.
Birds live a very long time though, anywhere from 15 to 18 years with some parrot species living for several decades longer. This is where the costs add up. You’ll spend thousands of dollars over the life of a small bird. Hamsters are still cheaper.
Owning fish is surprisingly expensive. Some species of fish are pricey enough on their own, but their aquariums cost several hundred to several thousand dollars depending on size.
The latter is especially true if you need a saltwater tank. Those tanks may be $700 to $1,300 while freshwater tanks are about $300. The fish themselves can cost up to $100, and that’s before you factor in food and cleaning supplies. Fish are definitely more expensive than hamsters.
Reptiles include frogs, snakes, turtles, and lizards. As exotic pets, they’re not cheap to get. In your first year, you could pay $560 to almost $1,700 for your new pet.
After that, the costs are between $330 to $1,310 every year. Iguanas can live for 10 years, so paying for one would cost $3,200 to $12,125. Turtles have a ridiculous lifespan of 30 to 40 years. You’d pay $9,900 to $39,300 for a turtle over 30 years. Hamsters cost much, much less.
The cost of a ferret itself is $100 to $200. Within the first year, care will be $500. In all the years following that, you could spend $300 to $700. Ferrets can live up to 10 years. Their total lifetime cost then is $3,000 to $7,000. That’s way more money than hamsters.
Adopting a Hamster? Make a Calculated Decision
Due to their cheap prices and short lifespan, you may pay about $900 for hamster care over the pet’s lifetime. While that may seem like a lot of money, there are few cheaper pets around. Even fish cost a significant amount.
Before you take the leap and bring a sweet hamster into your life, make sure you can afford to give it the care it deserves. If needs be, save up in advance to make sure you can buy the equipment and have enough for vet care - for the entire lifespan of your hamster.
Now that we’ve informed you on all facets of hamster costs, you can decide whether owning a hamster is financially feasible for you. Don't forget to let us know what you decide by leaving us a comment here!