Finding the right food for cats and dogs is relatively easy, but things can become a little more complicated if you own a small animal. If you’ve recently become a hamster owner, you may be wondering how to give your new pet a healthy, well-rounded diet.
A hamster eats plants and insects in the wild. But this omnivorous creature typically gets a store-bought pellet diet when domesticated. Domesticated hamsters are also fed with a small number of fresh foods as treats.
In this article, I’ll discuss what the primary diet for feeding your hamster should be, as well as what foods are acceptable as treats and what foods to avoid for the safety of your pet hamster.
Thanks to their diet of plants and insects, hamsters in the wild have an easy time meeting their nutritional requirements. However, it can be challenging to replicate this diet for pet hamsters. So the best method to keep your hamster healthy is to feed it a pellet diet.
Store-bought pellet diets are readily available at your local pet stores and online. Consider purchasing food from a reputable brand such as the Oxbow Hamster and Gerbil Food (available on Amazon.com around various cities in the United States of America). It has essential ingredients to ensure your hamster stays healthy.
Pet stores also offer pre-packaged seed diets in addition to pellet food. While these can cover all of your hamster’s nutritional needs, they’re less recommended because your hamster may pick through the seed mix, only choosing to eat its favorite items.
If you choose to feed your hamster a seed mix rather than a pellet diet, ensure that you wait for it to finish its food before refilling. That way, your hamster doesn’t miss any necessary nutritional content by avoiding certain seeds.
Because hamsters are nocturnal creatures, experts suggest feeding hamsters in the evening to adhere to their natural cycle. Additionally, it’s a good idea to enhance their mental well-being by turning mealtime into a form of mental stimulation.
In the wild, hamsters spend a huge percentage of their life scavenging for food and hunting insects. Because of this, they can sometimes grow bored when domesticated, and feeding time is a perfect time to mimic their natural environment.
Consider buying your hamster a feeder, such as the SAWMONG Hamster Toy (available on Amazon.com). Your hamster will have to work in order to have its food dispensed. The feeder will scatter food around your hamster’s habitat, allowing your hamster to spend more time hunting for food.
While your hamster will have all of its basic dietary needs met with a pellet or seed diet, it’s still good to supplement their diet with the occasional treat. Treats help your hamster stay entertained—they also offer other benefits, such as trimming your hamster’s teeth.
Your hamster’s teeth will grow throughout its lifetime, so offering your hamster some harder foods (such as carrots) is healthy for keeping it at an appropriate length.
You can also offer your hamster food items, such as coconut shells or hay cubes. These items are great for chewing, thus helping your hamster maintain its teeth.
Treats add important variety to your hamster’s diet, and as long as they’re given in moderation, they’re perfectly healthy for your pet’s physical and mental well-being.
When offering your hamster treats, you must remember that they should always be fresh items, never store-bought treats that claim to be designed for hamsters.
While geared toward hamster consumption, treats such as yogurt drops are incredibly high in sugar content and should never be given to your hamster, even in moderation.
Hamsters (especially pygmy hamsters) are prone to diabetes, and even the amount of sugar in certain fresh fruits and vegetables can be too much for them.
Additionally, because of their size, be careful not to give them so many treats that they become overweight, posing additional health risks.
Treats are intended to be supplementary and should never make up more than 10% of your hamster’s total diet.
You also have to consider your hamster’s anatomy when offering treats. Hamsters have delicate pouches in their mouths that they store food in. That said, you shouldn’t ever give your hamster sticky or sharp foods that could harm these delicate pouches.
Below is a comprehensive list of acceptable treats to offer your hamster. Remember that you should give all treats in moderation, and it’s a good idea to rotate which treats you offer to avoid gastrointestinal upset or adverse health effects such as weight gain or diabetes.
Here’s a list of acceptable treats for your hamster:
- Potato (cooked)
- Grapes (seedless)
- Romaine lettuce
- Bok choy
- Pumpkin seeds
- Dandelion greens
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Timothy Hay
- Chicken (cooked)
- Brown rice (cooked)
- Apples (without their skin or seeds)
- Sweet potatoes (with skin removed)
- Dandelion greens
- Popcorn (completely plain)
- Sunflower seeds (unsalted)
While you should avoid feeding your hamster any supplementary food in excess, take note of certain foods you should never offer your hamster under any circumstance.
Some of these foods have high fat and sugar content, which can be bad for your hamster. Below is a list of foods to avoid feeding your hamster:
- Nuts that are high in fat, such as peanuts or almonds
- Apple skin and seeds
- Onions and garlic
- Raw potatoes
- Citrus fruits
- Fruit pits
- Grape seeds
- Raw beans
- Sugary foods
- Salty foods
If you’re ever unsure whether or not your hamster can eat a specific food, it’s best to check the internet first, and if the information you find is unclear, contact your vet directly.
Remember that your hamster could have certain sensitivities to foods, even if they’re considered “safe” for hamsters to eat.
You know what’s normal for your pet, so stop offering any treats that cause your hamster to develop an upset stomach or have diarrhea.
Related Hamsters Articles:
- Why Is My Hamster Biting Me
- How To Clean a Hamster
- How To Tell if a Hamster Is Pregnant
- Why Is My Hamster Drinking So Much Water?
- What Does a Dead Hamster Look Like?
- Why Is My Hamster Biting the Cage
- Do Hamsters Need a Wheel at Night?
- Why Is My Hamster Squeaking?
Offering a well-balanced diet to your hamster is relatively easy with store-bought pellet or seed diets. You can easily supplement this diet with the occasional healthy treat.
Put the food in a dish; it keeps your hamster’s food clean and dry. Also, offer your hamster fresh drinking water every day. To best care for your hamster, consider mimicking its natural feeding habits by feeding it later in the day.
Hamsters in the wild spend much of their time searching for food, so consider occasionally scattering hamster food or feeding your hamster using feeders or cardboard tubes.
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