Compact and quiet, furry and fun, hamsters are an engaging and easy-to-care-for pet. If you are looking for a fuzzy friend who is good company, doesn't need much space and won't bark at the mailman, a hamster may be a match for you.
Hamsters come in a wide range of shapes, shades and sizes. The most well-known hamster is the Syrian, golden in color and about six inches long. Smaller hamsters, such as the Chinese, Roborovski and Siberian species, come in a variety of colors and grow to just two or three inches, fitting neatly in the palm of your hand.
Inexpensive to Buy
If your budget is limited, your wallet will approve of a hamster as a pet. Large pet stores stock a variety of hamsters that cost $15 to $20. Sometimes, if a female hamster has a litter of pups unexpectedly, pet shops will allow you to adopt a young hamster at no cost.
Inexpensive to Feed
Canned cat and dog food can bloat your grocery bill, but a two-pound bag of hamster mix will barely make a dent in your budget. You can feed your hamster for a month or longer on less than $10. One small sack contains enough seeds, grain and protein pellets to keep your hamster's bowl full for weeks.
Easy to Water
Hamsters learn as babies to drink from a water bottle that hangs on the side of the cage. Just fill this bottle with fresh water every third day and your hamster will do the rest. On a hot day, you'll never need to worry that you forgot to refill her water bowl.
You don't need a huge yard or a nearby park for your tiny pal to romp in. You won't need a roomy crate or doghouse, either. Hamster habitats come in many sizes and you can buy one that fits your living space. Make sure your pet has space to explore and climb. Some plastic habitats have movable tubes that can be attached to extend the habitat's space.
The more you handle your hamster, the friendlier she will be. However, she doesn't need company to keep herself entertained. In fact, since she is nocturnal, her most active time will be when you are asleep. She will be perfectly happy left on her own while she eats, drinks, nests, hoards, cleans, gnaws, and runs, runs, runs on her wheel.
Fun to Watch
Hamsters are speedy, curious and energetic, and offer tons of entertainment. You can sit beside the cage, and watch your hamster at work and play as she burrows and climbs. Outside the cage, she will explore the environment and use you as a jungle gym, scrambling up your arms and crawling over your legs.
Hamsters are always on the move and will keep themselves in shape without a coach. You never again need to feel guilty because you didn't have time to take your pet on a walk. As long as your hammie has a wheel, she can run for miles without going anywhere.
Hamsters are known as pocket pets, and are small enough for a child to carry with ease. Their size makes them portable enough to accompany you wherever you go. Make sure to keep your hamster secure when you carry her. If you drop her while you stand or walk, she could break a leg. Keep a good hold on her. Hamsters are excellent escape artists.
You don't have to struggle to get this pet into the bath or pay expensive grooming fees. Like a cat, your little friend will take care of her own grooming needs, and will keep her fur clean and fluffy. If you see her lick her paws and run them over her face, you know she is washing up for dinner.
hamster in ball on table image by cat from Fotolia.com
Based in Los Angeles, Mary Helen Berg has been writing about pets, travel, families and parenting since 1989. Her work has appeared in publications such as "The Los Angeles Times" and "Newsweek." Berg holds a Master of Science from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.