Hamsters can be sensitive creatures. They need a balanced diet with the correct proportions to keep a healthy weight and not have stomach aches.
You should feed your hamster approximately two tablespoons (30 ml) of food daily, depending on its weight. Pelleted feed makes up 75% of the diet, and 25% can be various vegetables and treats. Of that 25%, the foods can measure 1.5–4.5 teaspoons (22-66.5 ml). Portions are the size of a few peas.
This article will go a bit more in-depth on the appropriate amount to feed your hamster. Keep reading for considerations on how much to offer and how often.
How Much Food To Feed Hamsters
On average, hamsters eat two tablespoons (30 ml) of food per day. However, dwarf varieties need only one tablespoon (15 ml), so the amount varies depending on the breed, age, and health condition. If they begin to collect food in their cheeks, not finish their food, or eat fast, you will want to adjust the amount.
The rule to help you decide proportionately how much food to feed your hamster is 75% pellets and 25% variety. This way, the hamster is guaranteed to receive balanced micro and macro nutrition from the complete feed. But the hamster can also have fresh treats.
When you give your hamster fruit, make sure the fruit is ripe, and you offer pea-sized servings. The same rule applies to vegetables. Hamsters can have a bad reaction if they get too much of one thing.
Lettuce is easier on hamsters because it’s mostly water. But also because it is mostly water, too much can cause diarrhea.
When introducing new treats, start small. Make infrequent offerings, and work your way to whole servings regularly. This slow integration will prevent stomach upsets. It also applies to hamsters that have always had a strict pellet diet, and you are adding fresh food for the first time.
Here are some amounts and frequencies recommended for different types of food:
- Vegetables like lettuce, dandelion greens, and cucumbers. Offered daily with one to two teaspoons (15-30 ml).
- Fruits like apples without seeds, bananas, and cantaloupe. Offered every other day with less than one teaspoon (less than 15 ml).
- Grains like cooked brown rice, oats, and whole-grain cereal. Offered daily with half a teaspoon to one teaspoon (7-15 ml).
- Proteins like hard-boiled eggs, crickets, and mealworms. Offered two to three times per week with half a teaspoon (7 ml).
- Fats like pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and pecans. Offered two to three times per week with half a teaspoon (7 ml).
One way to tell if you are feeding too much food is to check on your hamster’s food store. If the hamster collects a lot over several days, you can offer less.
Also, check, Why Is My Hamster Bleeding From Its Bottom?
What Hamsters Eat
Hamsters are naturally omnivores with more leanings toward being herbivorous. So the healthiest diet for them involves lots of plant material.
Depending on if the food is a seed, fruit, or other parts of the plant, the animal can get a variety of fats, proteins, and carbs. When they eat something that’s not a plant, they can eat insects like mealworms and crickets. In the wild, they would also go after small lizards and frogs.
About 15% of their diet is protein, and 5% is fat.
Hamster teeth constantly grow, so they need to chew to keep their teeth under control. Sometimes they have chew toys, coconut shells, and cardboard.
Grapevines and dogwood branches are healthy wood types for hamsters to chew. But you should bake softwoods like pine for an hour because the wood can soak pesticides.
Other times they eat roughage. Pellet feed counts as roughage, as does hay. Hay also is low-calorie, so the hamster can chew a lot but not gain weight.
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Hamsters enjoy sweets, though too much is not better for them than for people. The moisture content can also lead to digestive problems. So the type of fruit you give and the serving size matter. Start small and stay moderate.
- Apples are among the most common treats. The seeds have potassium cyanide, so hamsters can’t have them. But the rest of the fruit is safe after rinsing.
- Grapes are another popular treat. They have more sugar and water in them, so you will want to start with a small amount and monitor how well the hamster tolerates them.
- Bananas offer lots of nutrients. Just make sure the fruit is ripe and doesn’t spoil in the cage.
- Like bananas, strawberries are great as long as they are ripe and not spoiled. They also offer antioxidants and manganese.
- Blackberries have a similar moisture content as grapes and thus the same risk of diarrhea. But blackberries also have lots of fiber and antioxidants.
- Pears are a lot like apples. They are full of fiber, but hamsters should not have access to the seeds.
- Watermelons are 90% water. But they are nutrient-dense, so they still make a healthy hamster snack.
- Cherries, like apples and pears, need to have their seed removed. Beyond that, they are safe for hamsters.
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Vegetables come packed with fiber and nutrients valuable to hamsters. However, even healthy treats need moderation.
Carrots are one of the best options to feed hamsters. Carrots have a low-calorie count and are stiff. The hamster can gnaw their growing teeth on them.
Lettuce lacks meaningful nutrition, and its water content increases the risk of diarrhea. But your pet will still enjoy lettuce. If possible, offer alternative leafy greens like romaine, kale, or spinach.
Spinach can still cause gas distress in hamsters but is one of the best greens for them to eat. You can also tear and leave it around the cage for the hamster to forage. Cabbage is another leafy green that’s rich but can cause gas discomfort.
Cucumbers are another example of a safe vegetable as long as you feed them in small amounts due to their water content.
Celery is another high-fiber snack full of nutrients and antioxidants but carries the same cautions as other vegetables with high water content.
Bell and sweet peppers add some hard texture and a different range of vitamins to the diet. But avoid chili peppers.
Broccoli fulfills the same role as carrots for hamsters. They can gnaw on broccoli for a long time. They don’t spoil fast and have lots of nutrients.
Fully ripe tomatoes are good. For the most part, hamsters don’t tolerate nightshades like potatoes, tomatoes, and the greenery of those plants. But in tomato’s case, full ripeness lacks the toxic chemicals.
Potatoes need to be cooked and skinned before a hamster eats them. The toxicity of potatoes lies in the fibrous areas. Cooking and skinning fix this.
Seeds are fatty, which all hamsters benefit from in moderation. If your pet is underweight, slowly increasing the number of seeds in its diet is a healthy way to help it gain weight.
Sunflower and pumpkin seeds are the most popular. Though, be mindful that sometimes they can get stuck in the hamster’s cheek pouches, much like how parts of seeds can lodge into your gums.
Also, read, How To Make Your Hamster Happy
Other Kinds of Foods as Treats
Hamsters enjoy and tolerate many other foods typical to a household or gathered from a yard. The rule is always moderation. Remember the pea-sized serving, and test the small amount.
Hard-boiled and scrambled eggs once in a while work. If you want to experiment with meat cut to the centimeter-cubed size, make sure you cook it. Hamsters will eat chicken and beef, but pork is still under debate.
You can try different types of cheeses. Blander, low-fat ones are best but start by taking a pinch and waiting a few days before trying again. Once or twice a week is enough.
While hamsters can eat bread, it shouldn’t be routine. It offers no nutrition they need, and it’s easy for them to get fat. That said, at least bread is safe. Make sure that it is whole wheat. Whole wheat applies to pasta as well.
You can catch small insects like crickets from a yard or park.
Hamsters can even eat low-gravy canned dog food.
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Foods Hamsters Can’t Eat Regardless
Sometimes moderation isn’t enough for a treat to be safe for a hamster to eat without gastric issues. For fruits, this includes citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruits. They are too acidic.
Also, as mentioned before, some parts of fruits you shouldn’t give. These parts are usually seeds from apples and cherries.
Most vegetables are safe for hamsters, especially if you cook potatoes and tomatoes.
Besides these nightshades, the onion family can cause problems. You should never feed hamsters with onions or garlic. These destroy red blood cells and cause anemia in hamsters.
Another category of vegetables to avoid is beans. Raw kidney beans can kill hamsters.
Out of nuts, avoid almonds. They and most other nuts are too fat and calorie-dense for a hamster to have as a routine. Brazil nuts are the exception.
And for other well-known foods, chocolate, table sugar, and rhubarb are also dangerous.
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Conclusion: How Much Should I Feed My Hamster?
Hamsters eat an average of 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of food a day. The complete pet feed should be 75% of that amount. Then vegetables, fruits, seeds, meats, and cheeses can compose the remaining 25%. That 25% may measure 1.5–4.5 teaspoons (22-66.5 ml).
If anything else, remember to try small pea-sized portions once every few days for a new type of food. If you feed too much, hamsters will usually abandon the excess or start to look chubby. If they are eating fast, then you can gradually increase the amount.
Related Hamsters articles:
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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