You’ve made a space, got a cage, gone on all the forums and waded through fifty opinions on corn and pea flakes and you feel ready. All you need now is a hamster. You decided you didn’t want to pay a large chain pet store for a new pet (and that includes any in store adoption centres folks, it all goes to the same place) but now what? A brief search on Google proves frustrating….where are all the hamster breeders anyway?
Adopting a new pet isn’t meant to be easy. Animals represent long term commitment. Anyone can buy a new cage and even have it delivered the next day. A quick shop online gets you all you need with little thought or effort. The actual animal itself is supposed to take longer to get to you. In the current age of instant gratification we all need to remember that not everything comes with next day delivery!
You have two options now you have the set up ready. Personally I prefer people who haven’t bought everything in advance. Forum members aren’t all breeders or rescues and you need the best advice on what to buy from the place you intend to get your pet from really. There’s nothing worse than having to tell someone they have the wrong things for the individual they like or the species they want.
But yes, first big question:- Breeder or Rescue?
I would say, if you feel like you want to adopt then do that. There are many needy pets in rescue. However….not all pets in rescue are needy and not all rescues are above board. To find a rescue, google is usually handy but I’d go to a larger rescue centre nearby and ask. So locally here for example is St Francis Animal Welfare. A fantastic rescue dealing with many different species. Perhaps they have a hamster in, or they may know a small specialist rescue nearby that has some.
You’ve found a hamster in a rescue therefore you are being all ethical and you want to do some good. Wait! Stop for a minute and think. You didn’t want to buy from a pet shop because? Think on your reasons and then look at the rescue. Did you find it via Gumtree, or perhaps a search on Facebook? Look past the cute photos of hamsters available ‘right now!’. Look at the adoption fee and then see if you can find evidence of what the rescue has actually spent on you chosen animal. Do they have a lot of baby animals? It’s very hard (from my own rescue experience) to intercept a hamster that’s already pregnant. With the exception of dwarf hamsters that are often purchased mis sexed and come in large groups of various ages. Perhaps the rescue is breeding to supplement their income. Is that really what a rescue should be doing? There are more ethical ways to raise funds than intentionally breeding animals with unknown backgrounds and any kind of health issues.
Do they say they test for health problems? This is a common claim. The only health issue in a small animal that you can test for ahead of time is diabetes at the cost of a few pence per urine strip. Ultrasounds, x rays etc are all only done if an animal is ill already and are notoriously unreliable in small creatures.
What are the rehoming criteria, do you get lifetime back up, are they involved in education? All these things give you a picture of whether your chosen rescue is a good one. If it isn’t, and you still adopt then you may be perpetuating their continued existence and, in some circumstances, the suffering of animals in their care.
Adopt, but adopt with your eyes open.
What about if you choose to shop? You want to find a good breeder and get an animal with a pedigree, known temperament and health etc. Where are all these breeders anyway? You looked on Gumtree, you looked on Preloved, and you searched on Facebook.
I can tell you that very few of us are on Gumtree for a good reason. We all have full or part time jobs and the amount of enquiries you get has to be manageable. Although Gumtree says it doesn’t support breeders there are a lot of rather dodgy looking adverts on there along the lines of ‘rare coloured hampster’ when it’s actually just a sable and costs the earth.
On Preloved you’ll find a few of us. Quite a lot of us are on Facebook now too but your best port of call is your regional club. Either on the website, or via the club secretary you need to approach the Southern, Midland or Northern hamster clubs. This is where you will find genuine, registered prefixed breeders in or near your area. This is an important aspect to your search. Remember the rescue advice above? For everyone one good, responsible breeder there are ten other ‘back yard’ breeders who are interested in churning out pets only.
Unlike some issues you can find with pedigree breeders of other species, hamsters have to be healthy and tame to go to a show. I’ve talked about this before, and it’s a big reason why I do what I do. You are automatically buying a hamster that hasn’t been bred just because it’s cute, but because it’s parents, grandparents etc were healthy and tame. Maybe you’ll get a nice coloured animal because there were a lot in the litter but that’s not really a concern for a pet. You don’t have this with a breeder who doesn’t breed for show or to show standards (standards on body shape are written with health in mind). Your breeder may not show a lot but still try to conform to standards. We don’t give health guarantees because, with any baby, you can’t predict how they will grow. all we can do is select the best parents we can.
Look at your chosen breeder carefully. Do they offer lifetime back up? All the breeders I’ve encountered take back animals they’ve bred so as not to overwhelm rescues and because…it’s just the right thing to do. I get overly attached to my hamster pups and although I’ve only needed to take back one, I’d happily have them all back home again haha!
Don’t be dismayed if they don’t have a pup ready straight away. It’s normal to wait a few months unless you are lucky.
Your breeder or rescue should be able to advise you on what to buy, give you care information and be happy to hear about how your pet grows through it’s life.
- Choose whether to shop or adopt.
- Go to the club, or a local shelter if possible to find a source near you. If using Google, be critical about your search and careful.
- Look at the chosen sources website, or other info and ask questions if you aren’t sure. Are they doing what you expected they should be? If not, why not? Do you still wish to adopt or shop from there? Talk to them if you have concerns
- After this, THEN look at the available hamsters. Doing this the wrong way round almost always results in a disappointing experience.
- Be prepared to answer questions and to wait if need be.
- Don’t be disheartened if your chosen source says no, there can be many factors to a refusal so you can always try another place.