Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Hamster Economics

By Catya
Catya is a judge with the California Hamster Association. She shares her experiences in hamster ownership from a high school student's perspective.

Homemade hamster homes can be cost-effective while still fully functional
Here is an example of a hamster house made from a clear plastic bin.
Homemade toys are a cheap way to give your hamster some extra stimulation
Photos Courtesy of Catya
Stapleton enjoying some homemade toys.

Thanks, everyone, for your great comments

Hi everyone! Lots of people are talking about the economic meltdown. As a teenager, I don’t know what I can do about it, or even how it’s going to affect me. But I do know that there are ways to make hamster ownership as cost-conscious as possible while still providing what they need.

When my family first started keeping hamsters, one of the things we spent a lot of money on was hamster toys. We had miles of gleaming tubes for our hamsters to run in, themed houses for them to sleep in, glow-in-the-dark balls for them to exercise in – everything a hamster owner could possibly imagine. While it was fun to watch them use the fancy toys, the toys were a beast to clean. There were all sorts of nooks and crannies in the plastic houses that we just couldn’t reach to scrub out. And of course, our hamsters loved to chew on everything they could get their paws (and jaws!) on. We knew there had to be some other way to do it.

That’s when we discovered the joy of making our own hamster toys.  It’s simple and fun if you keep a few safety rules in mind. You know that your hamsters will chew on everything in their cage, so don’t give them any toy that would be bad for them to nibble on. That means no paint, no sharp metal edges and nothing that could make them sick if they accidentally swallowed it.

While it’s fun to watch my hamsters play in the see-through toys, they get the same amount of joy from sleeping in an empty tissue box as they do from napping in a castle. We’ve even learned how to build our own hamster houses out of big, clear plastic bins. The bin cages are super easy to clean, lighter than an aquarium-style house, and give the hamsters plenty of room to run. Sometimes we still use the crazy hamster tube toys – we just put them on the floor of the cage.

One place I don’t scrimp on is water bottles and wheels, though I do watch for sales and coupons from my favorite pet stores. I buy hamster bedding in bulk from my local feed store, and that’s where I get my lab-quality hamster food and seed mixes (also in bulk).  I also keep my eye out for sales at the local grocery store, where we buy the fruits and vegetables for their evening treats.

The economic situation is confusing and serious, but it doesn’t have to be bad news for our pets. They don’t need an expensive life style, just the basics and our love and attention.  I heard on the news that more and more people are leaving their pets at shelters as the times get tough, and that breaks my heart.  I hope that any readers out there who are looking for a new fuzzy friend will consider visiting their local shelter and giving the hamsters there a second chance at a good life.

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Reader Comments
How big a bin should we get? We have two dwarves (both boys. My mom says she's tired of cleaning their cage!
Greg, Plymouth, IN
Posted: 10/16/2008 8:58:56 AM
I've heard that the fancy cages are easier for hamsters to escape from and that they can get hurt by chewing on the little wire bars, is that true?
Ariel, Valparaiso, IN
Posted: 10/9/2008 5:47:42 PM
If I give my hamsters a cardboard box, does it matter if it has printing on it? Will the ink be bad for them?
Joey, Rochester, MI
Posted: 10/9/2008 11:41:10 AM
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