How to Search for and Buy Your New Pet Hamster
Most pet shops that sell live stock usually sell hamsters and this is where most people usually acquire their new pet. Unfortunately mistakes can made when buying a hamster from a pet shop as people give very little thought to the health or temperament of the animal they are buying and seem to accept the fact that a hamster is just a hamster regardless from where it’s bought. This is not always the case however; some BsB's (Back street breeders) have little or no concern about the health or temperament issues of the animals they breed as they breed for profit rather than quality. Children in particular are more likely to make a mistake when buying a hamster from a pet shop. After picking a nice pretty colour it's into the box and off home we go. All hamsters are very cute in appearance but the animal’s temperament can differ immensely from hamster to hamster. It is only at a later date they find problems start to arise. Either the hamster becomes sick shortly after getting home or may starts biting when trying to handle it.
If luck was on your side that day hopefully none of these problems will arise. Unfortunately this is not always the case as many people do experience problems days after arriving home with their new pet.
Here we hope to outline a few of the finer points when searching the local pet store for your new hamster. These tips may help you to make the right decision when it comes to selecting that new pet and hopefully, avoiding any disappointment that may follow later if after making the wrong choice. It is generally acknowledge that acquiring a hamster from a reputable breeder does have considerable advantage over a pet shop bought hamster as the health and temperament of a hamster acquired from a breeder is given priority over profits. It is also viewed, or considered, with some that many of these pet shop bought animals are of inferior quality.
However, that does not mean that all hamsters’ should be put into the same category. Many pet shops do sell hamsters that can make very good pets. There are some very attractive sweet natured animals sold in some of these pet stores, depending of course who the breeder was, and if that breeder had concerns about health and temperament issues.
If the selection is made positively and decisively any future problem with health or temperament issues should be minimized or even eliminated.
It is very unlikely that you will acquire anything of show quality standards from a pet shop, but it has been known on occasions. Animals bought from a pet store should never be acquired with the specific intention to be used for breeding purposes as the temperament of the hamster can be assessed while you are still in the shop almost immediately on handling, but any underlying genetic or health problems may not surface for quite some time.
Always do a bit of research first by asking around to find a shop that has a good reputation for selling hamsters' with good temperaments. Once you are satisfied that you have found the right shop then check out all the other animals, do they look healthy, clean, content, and well looked after. Make your way to the hamsters' enclosure these are very likely to be glass tanks (Aquariums).
Once the hamsters' are in the shop they should be separated into same sex cages with males in one cage, and females in another. Hamsters should be separated by gender at 4 - 5 weeks of age as at this age they are capable of reproducing. If you suspect that they are not then go elsewhere. It is now a requirement by law that any hamster put for sale in a pet shop in the UK should be a minimum of 5 week old. If the tanks look dirty, that is, if the corners are excessively soaked in urine and more than an acceptable amount of dropping around the tank or they are in overcrowded conditions, then this is a breeding ground for bacteria I would think again about purchasing any animal that is keep in unsanitary or overcrowded conditions.
This is the most critical point in the transition of a hamster from the breeder to the pet shop then on to its new home, if anything is going to happen this is where it usually occurs. The ears on a hamster should always be in the upright position when they are awake. If the ears are down and flat against the head this is usually one of the first signs that all is not well. If in general the conditions of the tanks look good and look relatively clean with food and water then have a good look at all the hamsters' that are in there. If they are awake they should be bright, alert and inquisitive. Their activity either playing or eating should give you some indication of their general health and condition. If you should see any, even one, that is lethargic hunched in a corner and ears down with unkempt fur and in your own opinion does not look right walk away. Don't buy any, even if the one you have selected looks alright, this is a sick hamster and may have a genetic disorder or a contagious disease that the rest may have already been exposed to but not yet showing any outward symptoms.
Their coats should look clean thick and well groomed. The eyes should be open bright clean and with no discharge. Check around their rear ends, any sign of wet or dirty smears, or any sign of diarrhea don't buy any. As a hamster reaches around 8 weeks old; their territorial and solitary instinct start to emerge and fighting becomes more persistent, so look for signs of injuries, torn ears, cuts and infections.
Once you have finally selected your hamster you must always ask the assistant may you handle the animal if the answer is “No” walk away as a refusal is an indication of a temperament issues. If one of the assistants won't handle the animal this should confirm that they could possibly have temperament issues. And don't be fobbed of with the reply "Well they haven’t been tamed yet" Taming a hamster has nothing to do with temperament, the temperament of an animal is a genetically inherited trait. You cannot achieve a good temperament by taming the animal. If the answer is “Yes” then the animal should make no attempt at all to bite when you try to handle it, although they may show signs of being nervous and a bit jumpy, this is a natural reaction once he has been tamed he will be fine.
Don’t buy any animal that bites thinking you may be able to tame it later, You Won’t!! As previously said you cannot tame aggression out of a hamster. A hamster that bites on handling has serious temperament issues that are the result of bad breeding. Don’t be tempted pick the smallest of the bunch just because you feel sorry for it. It may be cute and little but it may also be the runt of the litter. It is not always possible to tell the age of a baby hamster but in general terms a young healthy hamster will be alert, lively, and very inquisitive. It should have a well groomed coat, clean, and bright eyed. Older hamsters seem have a slower moving pace. The general condition of the coat and size of the hamster should give you some indication that it may be an older animal.
Finally, once you have your hamster and ready to take it home. Ask the assistant what food they have been fed on and buy some of the same. Don’t be fobbed off with “Well this is better brand” Odds on and in their favor it will also be a better price. You want the same food he has been fed on and enough to last around 2 weeks.
Hamsters in transition from the breeder to the shop then on to his new home will always undergo a certain amount of stress. Stress in itself is not particularly harmful for short periods; it is when stress becomes prolonged and persistent the symptoms can then become aggressive and severe. Stress in a hamster can produce a variety of unwanted reactions as the symptoms of stress in animals as well as humans can produce the same results. With stress the first line of attack is normally the digestive system. Stress can also depress the immune system leaving it wide open to attack, when this happens, illness and disease may then eventually occur. Changing the hamster’s diet suddenly under stressful conditions can result in upset tummies and diarrhea. It is important to understand the causes of stress and how to minimize some of it.