Vectis Hamstery and Exotics

Exhibitor and Breeder of Chinese Hamsters and Syrian Hamsters

Finding a Hamster Breeder

Unfortunately anyone can call themselves a breeder, whether they breed one litter a year or hundreds, whether the hamsters live in a living room or in a warehouse. This can make it tricky when you're searching for one for a new pet hamster.

So how do you spot the difference between a sensible hamster breeder and one who is ... not?
I suggest asking questions - lots and lots of questions. I would recommend researching any new pet well before taking the step to get one, firstly so you know what you’re committing to and secondly so you can judge whether the information you are given is good. If the 'breeder' can't answer them or doesn't want to or gives incorrect information then run away as fast as you can! Hamsterlopaedia by Chris and Pete Logsdail is a reliable source of hamster information and I would recommend it as a reference book. Also, be prepared to be asked questions by the breeder.
Hamster club websites (Northern, Midland and Southern) may have lists of breeders. If not, then the Club Secretary should be able to help.

Questions to ask a Breeder

 Why do you breed? 

I feel this is the most important question! “Because I want to” and “Because baby hamsters are cute” and "for the experience" are not good enough in my opinion. So why do I breed? Why do I risk my pets in having litters? What do I consider a ‘good’ reason? Ultimately, my aim is to improve the species. I want to establish healthy lines with good temperament which fit the show standard (which in hamsters were set to promote good health as well as aesthetics). And in that order: health, temperament, standards. And I’m happy to explain how I judge these qualities… until the poor person who asked me at a dinner party wishes they hadn’t! 

Do you provide any ongoing support? What will happen if an owner can no longer keep a hamster they have had from you? Will you take it back?

The answer to this is ‘yes’. If it’s not, don’t get a hamster there. A hamster from a responsible breeder shouldn’t end up in a rescue centre – they have enough to deal with already. I brought them into the world, the buck stops with me. 

Are you a hamster club member or do you hold a prefix?

Why do I think this is important? The National Hamster Council is the governing body for the hamster fancy. It and its clubs (Southern, Midland and Northern) are run by enthusiasts who receive no financial reward. It promotes hamster care, sets the show standards and also gives 'prefixes' – hamstery names for those who have been members for 1 year. All members and prefix holders must abide by the code of conduct which relates to care and breeding.  Potential new owners can ask to see a breeder’s prefix certificate and check the list on the NHC website to make sure it’s still current. And yes, I'm a Southern Hamster Club member, and Vectis Hamstery is a registered prefix.

Do you cull babies in litters?
No. No. No. If the answer is anything other than ‘no’ run, fast.

What care do you give to mums and litters?
Hamster mums-to-be need a protein-rich diet including extras such as porridge and chicken. A few days before the litter is due they need a final cleanout and the wheel removing from their cage. When the babies are born neither mum nor babies should be disturbed for the first two weeks. Mum and babies need to continue on a protein-rich diet. The litter needs to be separated from mum and into boy and girl groups at 4 weeks old.

How often are the babies handled and from what age? When are they available for rehoming?
The babies should not be handled until their eyes are open at 14 days old. From then I handle daily to get them nice and tame. Hamster babies should be no younger than 5 weeks old when they go to their new home, though 6-8 weeks is more usual.

Do you seek veterinary treatment for your hamsters? Can you recommend a local vet?
The answer should be yes. A good breeder should be able to describe symptoms that would prompt an owner to seek a medical opinion.

Are there any health problems that may affect any hamster we may have from you?
If the hamster/litter/line has any existing health problems, a responsible breeder should be open and honest in disclosing these. Do make sure you give any potential new hamster a health check.

Warning Signs

If they can’t spell the name of the animal they breed then it’s not a good sign – and yes, I’ve seen breeders advertising ‘hampsters’!

If they use strange/unrecognised/vague terms for the hamster colour or species, or has higher prices for rare colours. For example, snowflake Chinese, teddy bear hamster, panda bear hamster, angora, semi-longhaired, Russian, dalmation, calico, ginger, brown, sunfire, red-eyed winter white, dwarf Syrian. 

If they aren't aware of important potential problems with the species they breed, for example diabetes and hybrids in certain dwarf hamster species, or eyeless whites in Syrians.

If they are unable to handle or accurately sex their baby hamsters.

If they are deliberately breeding hybrid hamsters, often referred to as 'Russians' with colours such as mushroom, lemon or mandarin.