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Are hamsters the cheapest, yet cutest, pets ever?

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We shall now pause to consider one of the Internet’s most hotly debated financial topics: The relative worth of hamsters.

Well, to be honest, we aren’t going to waste so much as a pixel on the curmudgeonly views of hamster haters. (What is wrong with some people?)

But we will take a realistic, dollars-and-cents look at just how much they cost to own — and just how adorable they can be.

When Jennifer Keishin Armstrong and her then-boyfriend decided to get a pet together, they didn’t even consider a cat or dog.

“A friend of mine had just bought a dwarf hamster for her daughter,” says Armstrong, who today lives with her now domestic partner in Manhattan. “When I saw that, I thought ‘I must have one of those.’”

Three years later she’s had five.

“They’re the cutest little things,” Armstrong says. “I love sitting there watching TV and holding them.”

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, caring for a single hamster costs about $300 per year — $50 for food, $20 for toys and treats, and $220 for litter and bedding.

A pair would cost more, but certainly not twice as much as long as they share the same habitat.

Compare that to the $670 annual cost for a cat and $580 to $875 for a dog, depending on size.

The set-up cost is low, too.

Hamsters cost $12 to $20 each. (Armstrong has Chinese dwarf hamsters, which sell for $11.99 at PetSmart.) You can also adopt hamsters from animal shelters and small-animal rescues.

Armstrong purchased an aquarium (dwarf hamsters are so small they could get through a wire cage), plus exercise wheel for inside the aquarium, exercise ball so they can run around the apartment, water bottle and little wooden house (hamsters love to burrow and hide).

Hamsters also need something to chew on since their teeth grow so quickly. The ASPCA recommends a piece of wood or twig that hasn’t been treated with pesticides, other chemicals or been painted. Dog biscuits will work too.

Your hamster may appreciate the occasional vegetable to two as well.

Things that are not recurring costs for hamsters: flea and tick medication, heartworm medication, cat sitters or dog walkers.

“We travel a lot,” Armstrong says. “You can leave them for up to a week with their food dish filled and they’ll be fine.”

Hamsters do go to the vet, though not with the same frequency as a cat or dog would for things like vaccinations.

Armstrong has taken hers to the animal doc for things like cuts on the face (from running around the cage at night) and chewing off her tail. (I know, ewww. Let’s not go there.)

So what’s the big drawback to hamster ownership? They don’t live very long.

The typical ife span is one and a half to two years, according to the ASPCA. Armstrong’s first hamster (which we should point out was not purchased at PetSmart) died soon after she bought her.

“If they’re not bred correctly, they’re prone to diabetes,” she says. Hamsters are also susceptible to respiratory problems, and can even catch bacterial pneumonia from people.

Since her first disappointing experience as a pet owner, Armstrong’s hamsters have lived between one and two years, just like the ASPCA says.

She’s also bought them in pairs, which is good for dwarf hamsters because they’re social.

If you chose Syrian hamsters, though, they must each have their own environment, which will boost your cost of ownership.

Any other negatives?

Well, they can escape and spend the night scrabbling through your heating ducts and walls.

And night is when you’ll hear them because hamsters are nocturnal creatures. Even when they’re safely ensconced in their habitat these little fur balls will pass the wee hours of the morning racing on their exercise wheels.

If you have an issue with that kind of noise, or are a light sleeper, then you might have to settle for a more costly pet.

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