Many things we eat are unsuitable for our pet hamsters. While their health thrives on a diet that includes several fruits and vegetables, milk is a tricky region. Pet owners must learn the benefits and risks of everything they choose to feed their pets in the United States. So, can hamsters drink milk? Let’s get right to it.
Is Milk Nutritious for a Hamster?
You’ll be surprised to learn that most baby hamsters enjoy having their mother’s milk. It’s the main source of nutrition for them. Generally, milk is known to be packed with nutrients.
Human infants, as well as certain animal infants, grow up drinking it. However, you want to be a bit more cautious when it comes to grown hamsters. A mother’s milk is the only nutritious milk for a baby hamster.
Can Hamsters Drink Milk?
In a nutshell, no. Hamsters cannot drink milk. It is a leading cause of diarrhea in them. As a result, they may get extremely dehydrated and become prone to other illnesses. In short, the risks of feeding milk to your hamsters outweigh the benefits.
5 Reasons Hamsters Can’t Drink Milk
For many people, it’s a rather odd finding. Why can’t hamsters drink milk when they already do as infants?
For one, it’s vital that hamsters are given solid food and weaned off milk after a while, even as infants. This is because as they grow old, they cannot digest lactose. However, the reasons not to feed them milk don’t end here.
Too Much Liquid Can Harm Their Digestion
There’s only so much liquid a hamster can ingest daily. Surpassing the limit can result in diarrhea, and it can also cause digestive issues. The dehydration, as a result, can further cause their health to deteriorate, and in some cases, it can even kill them.
The Nutrition Does More Harm Than Good
While milk is nutritious, it isn’t as beneficial for a hamster as we think. Just like human infants prefer human milk, hamsters prefer milk from their mothers. The vitamins and minerals in regular milk do them more harm than good. The ingredients and nutrients just aren’t meant for them.
It Just Isn’t Worth It
Apart from being nutritionally deficient, milk is also extremely hard to feed to a hamster. Since you can’t feed it more than a certain amount of milk, you will most likely need a dripper. The lengths you’ll have to go through to feed it milk will not be worth it, given that it isn’t a part of their diet.
Milk Can Spill and Cause a Terrible Stench
There’s always a risk of spilling involved when it comes to milk. It is hard to clean up, but it also makes the bedding moldy and exudes a terrible stench in the air.
Again, maintaining your hamster’s environment is more important than feeding it something it doesn’t need in the first place.
Milk Goes Bad Fairly Quickly
One property that makes milk unsuitable for most pets is that it can’t last longer than a few hours right out of the fridge. Ingesting milk in itself is dangerous for a hamster. Hence, drinking bad milk is even more harmful since it contains bacteria that may end up killing your pet.
Read more: What Foods Can Kill a Hamster
Is Milk Beneficial to Their Health At All?
While it’s generally best to avoid feeding milk to your hamster, there is a counterargument to this. Hamsters need calcium to boost their bone and dental health.
However, milk isn’t the only source of calcium for them. It’s crucial to incorporate dairy products into their diet after consulting a veterinarian.
Generally, their specially formulated food that you can find in various stores across the United States is a good source of calcium for them. Hence, you do not want to rely on any other source, especially not cow’s milk.
Milk’s only benefit is boosting a hamster’s bone health, mainly because of its high calcium levels. Fortunately, there are safer calcium sources available in the market today, so it’s better to avoid milk altogether. It doesn’t serve their dietary requirements and is a waste of space in your fridge.
Are There Any Alternatives to Milk?
Fortunately, there are several ways you can make up for the lack of milk in a hamster’s diet. Some alternatives you can consider are apples, barley, mealworms, and romaine lettuce. Not only are they equally beneficial, but they’re also safer and much more nutritious.
How to Determine If Your Hamster Is Sick?
Let’s say you fed your hamster some milk without being aware of the consequences. Depending on the quantity you’ve fed it, it’s likely that your hamster will fall sick. Here are some symptoms you should look out for:
- Less activity
- Weight loss
- Hunched posture
- Rough fur (can be a sign of dehydration)
- Difficulty breathing
If you’ve had a hamster for a while, you’ll recognize what their natural behavior is like. They’re usually active and also pretty curious.
Their eyes appear bright, and they love using their wheels and toys in the cage. Hence, it’s quite easy to figure out if your hamster is less active than usual. While it isn’t always a sign of illness, you want to be cautious and consult your veterinarian immediately.
Can You Feed Milk to a Baby Hamster?
While grown hamsters don’t need milk, baby hamsters certainly do. However, the real question is, what type of milk can you feed to a baby hamster? Hamster milk isn’t the same as human or cow milk.
If your hamster babies were abandoned and did not have a mother to feed them, you might need to find an alternative. Consult your veterinarian about using the right milk formula, and you might not need to do much else.
Generally, you want to avoid handling baby hamsters when their mother is around. Doing so can stress her out and make her eat her own babies in self-defense.
Is Cheese Safe For Hamsters?
We often think of cheese as the best alternative to milk for a hamster, but is it? Cheese is generally considered safe if you feed it in small quantities.
Again, it’s best to depend on your veterinarian’s advice before feeding anything to your furry baby. Now you may be wondering, why is cheese safe and milk not safe?
Again, cheese isn’t entirely safe, either. It is not as wet as the latter, so it won’t cause diarrhea, but it could lead to obesity due to its high fat content.
Cheese is also prone to getting spoiled quickly. If you leave it in the cage for too long, it may go bad and make your hamster sick. It’s better to stick to nuts and seeds as your hamster’s source of protein instead of unhealthy dairy products.
Is Goat Milk Safe For Hamsters?
Goat milk is safer than cow milk due to a number of reasons. For one, it is easier to digest and does not contain as many lactose and fat molecules as cow milk.
Goat milk is also slightly more nutritious for hamsters than cow milk. Again, overfeeding isn’t recommended. A balanced diet with a small amount of goat milk shouldn’t hurt your hamster’s health.
Is Almond Milk Safe For Hamsters?
Since almonds are safe for hamsters, almond milk in small quantities is also safe. However, too much of it can make them obese since the milk has a high-fat content.
All in all, it’s a good source of Vitamin E and other nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D, and fortified calcium. The low sugar content is another benefit to reap from it.
Furthermore, it is lactose-free, which means it’s much easier to digest than other sources of milk. Make sure to feed them organic almond milk and avoid using a store-bought variety, as it can be detrimental to their health.
Is Oat Milk Safe For Hamsters?
Oat milk has low-fat content, and it is also dairy free. The two qualities make it a safer alternative to regular milk.
It can boost gut health and can also benefit their digestive health due to the high fiber content but feeding too much of it can cause diarrhea. A small teaspoon of oat milk should be enough to fulfill their dietary requirements a few times a week.
What Milk Is Safe For Baby Hamsters?
Feeding a baby hamster can be a daunting task, especially if the mother hamster isn’t around. Replacement milk formula after consulting a veterinarian is the only safe choice you want to rely on.
Avoid feeding them goat and cow milk as they don’t match a mother’s milk and lack crucial ingredients. It’s safe to admit that while some varieties of milk are safer than others, milk isn’t the healthiest thing to feed a hamster, regardless of how grown your hamster is. It’s safer to rely on other food items for minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients for optimal growth.
Can hamsters drink milk? They can but should they? No. Milk is mostly indigestible and can lead to health complications in the form of diarrhea and dehydration. If you’re concerned about fulfilling your hamster’s calcium requirements, it’s better to rely on other food sources for it.
All in all, if you must feed milk to a hamster, make sure to use low-fat and low-sugar varieties out there, such as almond and oat milk. Furthermore, you want to ensure not to feed it too much, regardless of the type of milk.
A few drops each week should be enough for their tiny and delicate digestive system to process.
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My name is Everly. I am a Milwaukee-based mom of 2 and have been a proud owner of many hamsters throughout my life. Like many of us, my introduction to hamsters happened when I was very young. My family saw several hamsters come and go through the years, and I enjoyed playing with them, but I never fully appreciated them until I grew up and my own children decided to jump on the hamster bandwagon. At that point, I was determined to learn all I could about caring for these adorable pets. Read more