A new trend was seen in response to the recent pandemic; about 78% of the US population had acquired new pets that were not cats and dogs after the pandemic. According to American Veterinary Medical Association, before Covid-19 hit, 884 households out of every 1000 in the US owned hamsters as pets.
The cute little fur balls are quite resistant and can hold up against most diseases. They are likely to die from old age rather than a disease. However, a rising issue that complicates hamster owners’ lives is the shortage of hamster food. Although there is a surge in owning them, there is no equal distribution across the US for its food.
Since hamsters, mice, and rats are in the same order, Rodentia, people find it easier to feed their hamsters rat food. However, the specific subfamily of hamsters is Cricetidae, and the old mice and rats belong to the family of Muridae. Despite this difference, they are the same kind of animals with closely related anatomy. Hence, similar diets as well.
When people ask if hamsters can eat mouse and rat food, the answer is straightforward: yes, you can give your hamsters the rat food, and they will survive on it for a bit. However, making this a regular part of their diet is not the correct step.
In this post below, we will discuss the repercussions of using rat and mice food for pet hamsters and the difference between each animal’s dietary habits, which makes them similar yet very different.
A Regular Diet Of A Hamster
The frequently asked question about hamsters is the specific dietary requirements that constitute hamsters’ balanced and healthy diet. Well, there are a variety of store-bought and factory-manufactured pellets for hamsters rich in fiber, vitamins, oils, proteins, and fats.
A regular or healthy diet of a hamster must always be rich in fiber and protein. A hamster is an omnivore that eats meat, grass, or vegetables. Now, which vegetables, fruits, or meats are suitable for hamsters?
Hamsters love to eat vegetables; their favorites include broccoli and carrots, in which they can dig their teeth into and tether them away. Then some soft vegetables are good for hamsters’ health, such as cucumbers, snap peas or peas, and cooked potatoes.
Many fruits are rich in fiber, potassium, and iron that help hamsters stay healthy such as bananas or apples (seedless), cherries, berries including strawberries or blackberries, peaches, pears, grapes, and other nectarines.
Since hamsters always need fiber, the best way to fulfill this dietary requirement is to give them healthy green vegetables. To tick off this requirement, hamsters can eat dandelions, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, clover, cabbage, and lettuce.
The nuts are the definitive source of oils in a hamster’s diet; sesame seeds, dried pumpkin seeds, walnuts, and hazelnuts keep these hamsters energized to their core.
Although too much sugar is bad for hamsters, certain carbs, such as bread-based products, are essential. This includes oats, brown rice, dry grains, whole wheat bread without sugar, wholegrain pasta, cornflakes, and many other baked goods like biscuits.
You might feel that hamsters are at liberty to eat many things, but the truth is that many things are harmful to hamsters. These include bitter and acidic food items, which can be toxic for hamsters. Not only just these kinds of food items, but all sugary content is strictly off-limits for hamsters.
The reason behind this restriction is irregular bowel movement and diarrhea, which are common in hamsters after having too much sugar. In contrast, green leafy vegetables, fiber-rich fruits, and nuts are suitable for the digestive tract and allow regular stool passing for these energized hamsters.
However, switching from pellets to these natural and homemade food items can often develop into a habit for hamsters, and they start to refuse store-bought products. It could be more of a hassle for many people who are not fresh produce shoppers.
Also read: How Long Do Robo Hamsters Live?
A Regular Diet Of A Rat or Mouse
If we compare the store-bought pellets of hamsters and rat food, there might be no visible difference in the shape or most nutritional constituents. However, there is a major difference in the diet of this rodent category.
Although they are also omnivorous creatures, they prefer meat to greens. Hence, it is safe to say that proteins are the main component of the rats’ diet.
In contrast, hamsters have a difficult time digesting proteins. Can hamsters eat mouse or rat food? With what we have learned about the rats’ dietary requirements of the rats it is safe to say that if there is no other food option available, then going on rat food for some time will not kill or have any adverse effect on the hamster.
However, keeping the hamster on a rat diet will ultimately make it sick and decrease its life expectancy.
How To Feed A Hamster Rat Food?
Due to inflation and shortage of pet food, it has come down to using every resource a man can get and taking out the best possible outcome. There are many ways to use rat food in hamsters’ diet.
One of the best ways to use it is by pairing it up with additional supplements that are good for hamsters but not available in rat pellets. Vitamins A, D, K, and H are vital to adding to the list of supplements, along with Thiamine, Riboflavin, and Pyridoxine.
Similarities Between Hamsters and Mice and Rats
As mentioned earlier, hamsters and rats belong to the same order; hence, many aspects of physical appearance are the same for both. They both are kept as pets and usually enjoy the house as their home. The enclosed habitat is also one of their preferences for a permanent home.
Since they mimic many aspects of each other in the wild, they are in the same order as the animal kingdom. However, some significant differences between the two clearly show which animal belongs to which category.
Check here: Can Hamsters Eat Strawberries?
Differences Between Hamsters and Mice and Rats
From appearance to living style to dietary requirements, there is always some factor to present that rats are pretty different from hamsters. Rats are bigger than hamsters in size and weight. While hamsters have a body of 2 to 6 inches, rats have a body size of 6 to 8 inches, which doesn’t include their tails. Plus, the weight of a rat is more than a hamster on average.
Rats are always in solid colors and have long tails; in contrast, hamsters can have different shades, markings, and patterns of color and have small stubbed tails.
Although both share their love for warm and enclosed habitats, the hamsters love dessert and sandy areas where they can make tunnels and burrows. At the same time, the rats can live anywhere and prefer industrial areas and cities.
As for pet hamsters, they love running on a wheel, while rats do not find this entertaining. Many pet owners provide hamsters a place where they can mimic their natural environment of living in a burrow by giving hamsters an enclosed sandy space to live in.
There is a major behavior difference between rats and hamsters. The hamsters are nocturnal animals and love the solitary atmosphere when kept in cages. However, rats are more active day and night and are more interactive and social with humans.
Rats also like living with their species, so if you want a pair or more in one place, they will enjoy each other’s company. On the contrary, hamsters only like to live alone and have space to themselves; they love to interact with humans but not other hamsters.
The biggest difference apart from their dietary requirements and still related to food is that hamsters are real food hoarders. From pieces of nuts and carrots to bread and grains, they like to store everything they can eat inside their cheeks. At the same time, rats are opportunity seekers when it comes to food.
Can hamsters eat mouse or rat food? Yes, they can, only in small quantities or for a shorter time. It is not suitable for hamsters to eat rat pellets as they do not contain the essential amounts of nutrients and fiber that a hamster needs.
Furthermore, rat food is rich in protein because rats are more accustomed to eating meat. This is one of the significant differences between these two categories of rodents; unlike rats, hamsters do not eat meat and always prefer vegetables, corn, nuts, and grains. Hence, their dietary requirements greatly differ; this difference signifies for the rats, mice, and hamsters living in the wild.
Although hamsters are more energetic, they need additional fiber to clear the digestive tract. In contrast, wild rats and mice prefer meat and have no issues digesting it.
If there is no solution but to use rat food, then one must ensure that other dietary requirements of a hamster are fulfilled so that it doesn’t get sick.
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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