At the start of 2022, I officially became a pawrent to a gorgeous dwarf hamster 🐹! It felt surreal because I’ve never had a pet in my life before. So, in the past 2 months, I’ve learned so much about how to take care of a hamster and I’ve been spending quite a considerable amount for such a small creature!
Based on my own experience, I’ll share how much it costs to own and properly take care of pet hamster. If you’re planning to get a hamster and you’re wondering what’s the real cost of owning a hamster in Singapore, I hope this article can give you an idea on how much to budget for hamster care.
On top of financial costs, you also need to spend time to enhance the quality of your hamster life, so I’ll dedicate a section about non-financial costs as well. Lastly, I’ll share some thoughts and tips on owning a hamster on a budget.
Before we start, here’s a photo of my cutie pie…
Purchase or Adoption Fee
The purchase price of a hamster ranges from $20 to $80, depending on the shop. Cheaper hamsters ($20-$40) can be found at pet store chains that house them in super-small enclosures with very minimal enrichment. Meanwhile, more expensive hamsters ($40-$80) can be found at specialty hamster stores that provide spacious enclosures and plenty of enrichment to the hamsters they sell.
Personally, I highly recommend that you adopt rather buy, in order to stop the hamster mills (i.e. places that breed hamsters with very little care for the purpose of selling them). This is also the route that I took.
These rescued hamsters were taken care of by experienced fosterers before being put up for adoption, and these organizations will share with you the hamster’s personality and medical issues, so that you know what to expect, and you won’t be surprised by hidden illnesses.
Enclosure / Cage
Enclosure comes in different materials, sizes, and therefore, prices. It is important that you provide an enclosure that meets the minimum size recommended by the hamster community, i.e. 70cm x 40cm for Dwarf hamster; and 80cm x 50cm for Syrian hamster.
Here are the price range of various enclosure in Singapore:
- Bin cage: $15 IKEA Samla 78cm x 56cm but you need to make your own mesh lid
- Bar cage: From $80 onwards
- Acrylic tank: From $125 onwards
- Glass tank: $79 IKEA Detolf 163cm x 43cm but you need to make your own mesh lid
For my dwarf, I got an acrylic tank from Taobao. It costs about $50 before shipping. I can’t work out the exact shipping cost because I’m shipping the tank together with other stuffs. For simplicity, I’ll estimate the shipping to be $35. So, my cost for cage is $85.
Hamsters need multiple hideouts to hide and feel safe. A simple ceramic/wood hideout costs about $8 to $20 depending on the design. Meanwhile, a multi-chamber hideout costs about $20 to $50 depending on the design and material.
For me, I have 1 multi-chamber and 3 simple hideouts. My total cost for hideouts is about $45.
There are 3 types of recommended bedding:
- Paper bedding: About $18 per 36L
- Teabag bedding: About $15 per kg
- Aspen bedding: About $15 per kg
How much bedding you need depends on how thick the bedding you want to provide. The recommended depth is at least 10 cm. For me, I use paper bedding, and one 36L pack can last about 2 months.
Hamsters don’t bathe with water. Instead, they clean themselves (and sometimes pee) in the sand. Not all types of sand can be used, though. The sand for hamster should be unscented, non-dusty and free from clay or silica. In Singapore, hamster sand costs about $15 to $18 per 3 kg.
Similar to bedding, how much sand you need depends on how big your sand bath is, and how thick you want to provide. For me, a 3kg sand can last for about 2 months.
Hamsters LOVE to run! In the wild, they can run 9 to 21km every night. So, it’s necessary to provide a suitable wheel for them. A wheel can cost between $25 and $70, depending on the brand, size and design.
I got my wheel from Taobao also. Including estimated shipping, it’s about $20.
Hamster’s food consists of:
- Seed mixes: From $15 per 500gr onwards
- Fresh food: boiled egg, raw vegetables, chicken meat, porridge, etc (cost varies)
- Treats: mealworms, dried tofu, corn, sprays, sunflower seeds (cost varies)
- Chews: Whimzees (about $20 for 113 pcs), dandelion roots (about $15 for 75gr)
For me, I’ve spent about $110 on food and I estimate they can last about 6 months.
To keep hamsters physically active and their brains stimulated, it’s recommended to provide enrichment. This can include but not limited to willow balls, cork logs, sandblasted grapevines, tunnels, platforms, bendy bridges.
Because there are so many enrichment products, it’s quite difficult to provide a price range. For simplicity, let’s assume that you need $15 per month for enrichment.
Vet visits are unavoidable. Over the lifetime of the hamster, you will need to bring him/her to vet for various reasons, such as nail trimming, general health check-up or health treatment. A nail trimming (for hamster who doesn’t trim its own nails) costs around $15, vet consultation costs around $30 to $50, treatment can cost hundreds, and surgery/hospitalization can cost thousands.
It’s important that you set a sinking fund for vet fee. I’d recommend setting at least $1,000 (more is better) for a hamster’s lifetime. Assuming the hamster lives up to 2.5 years, the $1,000 is equivalent $33.3 a month.
Then, there are miscellaneous items that don’t belong in any of the above categories, such as:
- Cleaning gears, such as mini broom, scoop, strainer (estimated cost $4 if you buy from Daiso)
- Food dish (estimated cost $2 if you buy from Daiso)
- Water bowl or bottle (estimated cost $2 to $20)
- Sand bath tray (estimated cost $2 to $25)
- Carrier to transport pet when going to vet (estimated cost $12 to $25)
- Boarding fee (or hamster hotel fee) if you are traveling overseas and can’t take care of the hamster (estimated cost $10/day)
To ensure the well-being of the hamster, pawrent needs to spend a lot of time on the following:
- Research (time required varies)
- Shopping for food or stuffs (time required varies)
- water bowl needs to be cleaned every day (3 to 5 mins per cleaning)
- sand bath needs to be cleaned every day or alternate day (5 to 10 mins per cleaning)
- cage needs to be spot cleaned every week or so (30 mins to 1 hr per cleaning)
- Food preparation:
- fresh food preparation once a day (time required varies)
- topping up dry food once a day or when food dish is empty (5 mins)
- Taming (15 to 30 minutes a day for untamed hamster)
- Bonding, playing and free roaming (time required varies)
- Reviewing CCTV footage if the pawrents are curious what their hamsters are doing at night (time required varies)
Besides time investment, there is also emotional cost. For example, if you notice that your hamster has odd behavior (like sleeping longer than usual), you’ll be anxious trying to decode what’s wrong. You might lose sleep worrying about the unknown. It could be tough if you’re already on the brim of getting burnout from work.
- Purchase/adoption: $20 to $80
- Enclosure: $25 to $200
- Hideouts: $40 to $100
- Wheel: $25 to $70
- Misc tools: $25 to $70
Total start-up cost = $135 to $520
- Bedding: $7.50 to $10 per month
- Sand: $7.50 to $10 per month
- Food: $20 to $40 per month
- Enrichment: estimated $15 per month
- Vet fund: estimated $33 per month
Total running cost = $83 to $108 a month
Can You Own Hamster on a Budget?
Yes, it is possible to own a hamster on a budget. Firstly, you can get your essentials from Taobao instead of local sellers. Secondly, you have to be a hands-on and DIY type of person to build your own hamster enrichment, make your own hamster treats, and perhaps make your own seed mixes.
By DIY-ing, you are basically investing more time in order to spend less money. If you love crafts or cooking/baking, and you have plenty of spare time, you might enjoy making your own hamster’s essentials.
Personally, before getting the hamster, I had intended to spend as little money as possible. But, after falling head over heels with this little creature, I’m a changed person. Now, I don’t want to skimp on anything for my fur kid. I want to provide the best I could so that he can have the life that he deserves. Would this derail my dream for F.I.R.E? Probably, but I’m going to use this as a motivation to work harder.
Is owning a hamster worth the cost?
It depends on how much you like a hamster. If you have the capacity (mentally and financially) to take care of another being, then go for it. I am definitely much happier since I got my hamster.
If you don’t have the capacity (not enough time, not enough budget) then it’s probably better to postpone getting a pet hamster until you’re ready.
Have any question about hamster? Let me know in the comment!
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