The best place to buy a pet hamster is typically direct from a breeder, as this way you are more likely to find a healthy hamster that has been well treated and therefore has a good temperament. This is less likely if you choose to buy from a pet store.
However, most pet stores will offer a guarantee which will allow you to return your hamster should it be unsatisfactory as a pet or if it becomes sick, in exchange for a refund or a new hamster. They are therefore still a good option if you cannot find a local breeder.
Alternatively, you may want to buy your hamster from a rescue center, which allows you to buy at a cheaper price and support a good cause.
The main advantage of buying your hamster from a private breeder is that the hamsters will usually have been carefully bred to be of good health and temperament. Producing hamsters of high quality is particularly important to the breeder if their intention is to keep the very best hamsters themselves as show hamsters. Even if the breeder is only breeding pet hamsters, rather than show hamsters, they will in most cases have taken good care of the hamsters.
Another advantage is that you will know the exact age of the hamster you are buying, while you may also be able to see its parents.
However, you should still handle any hamster before buying to more carefully check its condition and to inspect how tame it is, while in addition you should ask the seller if they offer any form of guarantee that will allow you to return an unsuitable hamster. Also, you should be aware that in some cases a private seller will have babies only as a result of an unwanted pregnancy, and they may not have taken as good care of the hamsters as others who are breeding intentionally, either as hobbyists, private sellers or to produce show hamsters.
Hamsters available at pet stores will generally have come from commercial hamster farms, which breed hamsters in large numbers solely for the pet market. They are therefore not likely to be in as good a condition as hamsters sold by most private breeders and you will probably not know their exact age, or have information on the quality of their breeding and previous care. A few hamsters sold by pet stores may have come from the litters of breeders or other pet owners.
As such it is very important to closely observe the habitat, condition and temperament of hamsters sold in pet stores. Most pet stores will offer a guarantee, but you should check that this is the case before buying.
Rescue centers sell hamsters of various ages that have been abandoned or could no longer be cared for by their previous owner. This is normally a cheaper alternative to buying from a breeder or a pet store. However, you will not know the background or precise age of the hamsters.
Most rescue centers will assess each hamster’s health and carry out any necessary treatment after taking them in, but you should enquire as to whether this is the case. It will still be important to perform your own checks on a hamster’s condition before buying, as when buying from a breeder or a pet store.
Rescue centers may require you to fill out an adoption application form to ensure that you are a suitable owner.