Welcome to Dashing Hamsters. I created this website back in 2005, initially to have a place to share my love of hamsters. Throughout the years I have come across a lot of information that just often doesn't match up. Care standards and information are outdated, and these little creatures are misunderstood by many. So I decided to make this website as more than just a hamster lover's website, but a hamster website for modern owners who are looking for up to date advice on how to care for and understand their beloved hamsters. On DH you can learn about hamsters, see some cute pictures and read through a hamster filled blog.

Getting Your Hamster

Where to Obtain?

  There are several ways to obtain hamsters. These include:

Adoption: Adopting a hamster from a shelter or a rescue has to be the best way of obtaining a hamster and is a worthwhile experience. You never know what poor hamster many need a loving forever home. Most hamsters are given up when children become bored with them or when a hamster is accidentally bought from a pet store, pregnant. They are not there through any fault of their own and deserve a second chance!

Breeders: This is a good choice to get a young and healthy hamster. You may even get a nice choice of colours and the hamster should be well tamed too. Be sure to do your research about the breeder of your choice and to ask lots of questions. Most breeders are not breeding for the betterment of the species but to earn some money. If the breeder does not seem knowledgeable then it is best to move on and not support their bad practices.

Pet stores: Not all pet stores are bad though you will never really know what you are getting. Most pet store hamsters have poor genetics due to over breeding, in breeding and from suppliers not paying attention to genetics. If you can find a store with good conditions then it could be all right. Pet stores should be a last resort. Please read further to learn more about pet store hamsters.

Other: Looking in the classified section of your local newspaper or on online ad websites are a good way to find hamsters. I got Rory and Bones from a girl who was given a pair of hamsters as a present and had an "Oops Litter" and had advertised the babies on a website called Kijiji. Getting a hamster from a friend, neighbour or family member that no longer wants their hamster is another good option.


What to Look For

     When selecting your hamster there are a few things to look for to ensure that you're getting a healthy one. A healthy hamster is inquisitive and alert, has bright clear eyes, the nose should have no discharge, the fur is full and well groomed, and there are no lumps, scabs or red and irritated skin. If you decide upon an unhealthy looking hamster, keep in mind that you may have to visit the vet soon after acquiring your hamster. Before selecting your hamster be sure to watch for a bit to be sure that your soon-to-be hamster seems healthy.

The Big Picture

     This article was shared on a rat forum that I go on. The article is based on rats but it applies to hamsters and other small animals as well. It is the big picture on buying from pet stores. Keep in mind that not every pet store: keeps their animals cruel/neglectful conditions, has ignorant employees or gets their animals from large scale mills. There are always exceptions. Some pet stores do their best to get from decent breeders or even take in animals that were in need of a second chance. Though any breeder that will sell to a pet store is just a smaller-scale version of what is depicted below. However a lot of pet stores, especially large chain stores, do not focus on getting quality animals to sell. This is the big picture as to why it is best to go to a quality breeder or shelter, why by 'saving' that one hamster at pet store is in fact continuing this harmful cycle.

The Story of a Pet Shop Rat

99% of rats in pet shops are born in what is called a Rodent Farm. This is very much like a Puppy Farm, which the majority of the world now know the evils of.

Rats, mice, hamsters and all other small animals are bred, born and raised en mass, usually in small plastic crates with wire lids, akin to a storage box, in shelving units called breeding racks. The crates are generally empty apart from a shallow layer of litter, which is usually sawdust or wood shavings due to their cheapness and availability. There may be a small amount of nesting material such as shredded paper. There are no luxuries such as toys or beds, there simply isn't the room for them.

Generally there will usually be several adults to a box, or a mother and at least one litter, though depending on the purpose of the breeding farm, a mother may be in a box with two or three litters of varying ages.

Most animals in a rodent farm will be fed a basic diet of lab blocks and water. Generally they are not fed supplements or extras, regardless of age.

Handling in a rodent farm is minimal - generally the animals will be handled once a week when they are removed from the crates during cleaning for a general check over. Other than this handling they do not usually receive any regular socialization.
The majority of the babies and adults in the farm will end their life being euthanised and frozen for reptile food. Rats with unusual markings or colourings may be kept and put back into the breeding process. The remainder of the babies born in the farm will be shipped to pet shops, who pay rodent farms on a per animal basis.

Very little attention is given to the health or genetic make-up of the animals. The emphasis of rodent farms is on creating as many animals as possible to satisfy the demand from the reptile and pet shop industries. Whether the babies being bred live to 3 months or 3 years is neither here nor there to rodent farms, most of their rats will be 'lucky' to live to 6 weeks as it is, the majority will be euthanised and frozen before they reach that age. No health records are kept, and no attempt is made to improve the health or longevity of the rats - the simple aim of the rodent farm is profit. The rodent farm is a business not a hobby, the animals are stock, not pets.

At 6 weeks old (if they are lucky) babies that are destined for pet shops are transported in their crates to the pet shops who have bought them. They are often transported in mixed sex batches, despite the fact that babies can become sexually active at 5 weeks of age.

The sad thing is that everything said so far is very much legal.

At the Pet Shop

Once at a pet shop, if the rats are lucky they are sexed by a competent member of staff. Often staff are not trained properly and animals are mis-sexed, meaning males and females are left together, and the females become pregnant. These females are often sold before their pregnancy becomes obvious and new owners are left to struggle with raising a litter. Often a pet shop will encourage these owners to give the babies back to them to sell on - free profit.

Once sexed, the rats are generally placed on the shop floor in a sales tank, or if they are lucky, a small cage. If they are lucky, they may be provided with some cage accessories -  a bed, a tunnel, or a toy. If they are lucky, the pet shop may use paper litter on the floor of the cage or tank, but many pet shops still choose to use sawdust or woodshavings. They are usually fed on a commercial dry mix such as rat nuggets or Reggie Rat, and water. Depending on the staff in the shop, they may be lucky and get supplements such as some fresh vegetables, but this is usually infrequent, if at all.  If in a sales tank, they are usually under halogen lighting to ensure that customers of the shop can clearly see them. This lighting makes the tanks hot and humid.

Shops are not required by any type of law to sell animals in pairs - this is down to staff knowledge again. Well trained staff will have been told that rats should not live alone, but many staff members will sell a lone rat because it is a sale, and may earn them a bonus. The majority of customers coming into the store to buy an animal will also buy it a cage, food, bedding and toys - this is where the pet shop makes most of their profit.

The rats will now live on the shop floor until they are sold. If they are lucky, they will be sold to someone who will look after them properly. If they are unlucky, they may be sold alone, or to someone who will put them in a cage meant for a hamster, feed them the wrong food and neglect them. If they are really unlucky, they might even be sold to someone who will feed them to their reptiles, possibly even alive.

Some rats will not sell, some rats will stay in the pet shop so long that they grow, and are no longer 'cute' - new rats will come in and customers will choose them over the older rats because they are younger and smaller and 'cute'. These older rats face a difficult future. If they are lucky, someone may take pity on them, or they may be in a pet store which operates a rehoming policy and the pet shop may offer them to a good home for a small donation or free. If they are unlucky, they are returned to the rodent farm.

If they are returned to the rodent farm, they are promptly euthanised and passed into the reptile food chain.

So what?

So why does this matter? Surely buying a rat from a pet shop is saving it, right?


Because of the breeding and raising methods of rodent farms, pet shop rats are generally weaker, less healthy overall and are less socialised than rats raised by rescues or breeders. They generally take longer to settle, can be skittish or nervous of handling for a long time, if not their entire lives, and can even be aggressive or cage territorial - generally though, pet shop rats are just plain scared. They tend to live shorter lives, and suffer from more long term health issues, specifically respiratory problems.

However, that's really the small picture when it comes to pet shop rats. The bigger picture is this:

Every rat you buy from a pet shop allows the pet shop to buy not one, but several rats to take its place. Every rat you buy from a pet shop resigns several more rats to be bred, born, raised and sold in the same way.

The only way to get rodent farms to change their methods is to remove the demand for their animals - if pet shops stopped buying rats from them, at the very least the number of poorly bred animals in the world would fall, and ideally, rodent farms would close, allowing reputable breeders to populate the rat world with healthy, socialised babies.

The article goes on to discuss what to look for in a good breeder/rescue. Here's the site that it's from: http://www.brecklagh.com/petshops.html


Bringing your Hamster Home

     Wherever you are getting your hamster, you are likely going to need to travel to get them. Make sure that you have some sort of travel cage for the way home, holding them in your hands is not a good idea. They will be frightened and they may not trust humans, it's just not a good idea in a vehicle. A cardboard box will work for short trips but anything over 30 minutes and you should bring something that the hamster isn't going to chew through. Most pet stores have a carrying box and some breeders will too, just be sure to find out prior to getting your hamster.
      Once you have picked out your hamster, ask whoever is helping you to also put in a handful of the substrate and some of the seed mix/lab blocks in the box or cage with your hamster to keep them comfortable and in familiar surroundings. When you get into the car don't talk too loudly, no arguing or loud music. This will only frighten your hamster. If it is a short trip home then don't worry about providing water to your hamster unless it is very hot out, in this case just give them some food high in water content such as cucumber. If possible turn on the A/C if it is hot out or the heat if it is cold. Also if it is hot out, keep the cage out of direct sunlight. If you have a longer trip then be sure to provide some sort of water source such as cucumber. Drive safely but don't dawdle or make any more stops, be sure that picking up the hamster is the last thing you need to do on your excursion.

     When you get your hamster home, the cage should already be set up. Now open the cage or box and allow the hamster to walk into the cage on it's own time, be sure that it cannot escape. If your cage is weird or designed poorly then you may have to carefully pick up the hamster and place it in the cage yourself. The hamster may bite out of fright, so you may wish to wear gloves and then carefully and quickly put the hamster into his/her new home. Also put in the food and substrate from the travel cage/box into the hamsters new home so that it smells familiar. If the substrate is pine or cedar, don't worry a little bit longer on it to lower stress won't hurt. Now you can enjoy watching your hamster explore it's new home for a few days until socializing begins.