With their sweet and docile personalities, hamsters make fantastic pets. If you have just acquired a hamster, you’re probably wondering if there’s anything they can’t eat. More importantly, what foods can kill a hamster?
Many foods like celery, onions, and dairy can kill a hamster. Unripe, unwashed, and moldy produce can also be dangerous for hamster consumption. Finally, various beans and foods rich in oxalic acid are often fatal for hamsters.
In this article, I’ll discuss the specific foods that can kill a hamster and explain why they may be dangerous for your hamster to eat.
Hamsters are omnivores and eat a wide range of foods. However, there are certain foods that they should never eat, as these could be fatal for them.
These foods are fatal for hamsters:
- Chocolate and coffee beans
- Unripe, unwashed, and moldy produce
- Apple seeds
- Bitter almonds
- Uncooked beans
- Oxalic acid-rich food
- Tomato vines, leaves, and stems
- Some plants and leaves
- Dairy products
I’ll discuss in more detail below why these foods can be fatal for hamsters.
Hamsters love snacking on healthy vegetables, but you should avoid feeding them celery. Celery is nutritious for hamsters, but its stringy consistency can make it a serious choking hazard.
If your hamster loves eating celery, you could overcome the choking hazard by chopping the celery up into tiny pieces.
Unfortunately, onions are incredibly nutritious but can kill your hamster if they eat them in large enough quantities.
Onions contain thiosulfate, a compound that can cause hemolytic anemia in hamsters. This fatal condition causes hamsters to lose their red blood cells and can quickly become life-threatening.
Red blood cells transport oxygen and iron throughout the body. Without them, your hamster’s tissues can break down and release toxins.
You should avoid giving your hamster onions and any other vegetable in the onion family, including the following:
- Green onions
Most hamsters love eating chocolate and can’t resist its rich sweetness. However, when in large quantities, it can be fatal.
Chocolate contains theobromine, an alkaline chemical that hamsters metabolize extremely slowly. Eating even a moderate amount of chocolate can make the hamster’s blood too alkaline, which can cause organ failure.
Caffeine is another dangerous chemical to hamsters, and the caffeine in chocolate and coffee beans can make your hamster’s heartbeat too quickly.
A paper released by the National Library of Medicine describes how caffeine can raise a Syrian hamster’s cholesterol levels. If you have a Syrian hamster, this is another reason to avoid feeding him chocolate and coffee beans.
Giving your hamster small quantities of fresh fruit and vegetables as a snack is typically acceptable and nutritious. However, you should scrutinize the produce before feeding it to your hamster.
Unripe fruit and vegetables can cause severe diarrhea in hamsters. In turn, the hamster can quickly become dehydrated, lose electrolytes in its cells, and, in extreme cases, die. If you notice that your hamster has diarrhea, it’s essential to take it to the vet as soon as possible.
Unwashed fruit and vegetables may contain traces of pesticides, including permethrin, organo-phosphates, and lead. These chemicals can fatally poison a hamster, depending on how much they consume.
Hamsters sometimes don’t mind eating moldy produce. Still, this produce contains a fungus, which can cause a fatal blood infection in hamsters. If you leave the moldy produce for your hamster to eat later, the mold may release spores that can cause your hamster to develop breathing problems.
Avocados are incredibly nutritious, but they contain persin, a dangerous toxin for hamsters. This poison can also be found in avocado skins.
If ingested, persin can affect your hamster in the following ways:
- Organ failure
- Muscle weakness
- Breathing problems
In extreme cases, persin poisoning can be fatal. It’s vital to take your hamster to the vet as soon as possible if they’ve eaten avocado.
Apples provide many health benefits for hamsters, but apple seeds can be fatal to them.
According to a study published by North Dakota State University, apple seeds contain cyanide. With this in mind, animals rapidly metabolize cyanide. Since hamsters are so tiny, it doesn’t take long for signs of poisoning to emerge.
Signs of cyanide poisoning in hamsters include:
- Muscle weakness
- Breathing difficulties
- Rapid pulse
When feeding your hamster apples, always chop the apples up into tiny pieces and check carefully for seeds.
It’s not dangerous to feed your hamster small quantities of almonds occasionally, but you need to be careful as packaged almonds often contain a tiny amount of bitter almonds, which can be lethal for hamsters.
Bitter almonds contain a cyanide compound, and your hamster would only need to eat a few to become life-threateningly ill.
The US Department of Agriculture allows packaged almonds to contain up to one percent of bitter almonds, so it’s safer to avoid giving your hamster almonds altogether.
Cooked beans are healthy for hamsters. However, the Providence Animal Hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina states that you should never feed hamsters uncooked beans.
Uncooked beans (kidney or black beans) contain lectin, a glycoprotein compound, which is toxic and sometimes fatal to hamsters. They also contain phytohaemagglutinin, a toxin that can give hamsters intestinal problems and cause severe diarrhea.
Hamsters shouldn’t eat any foods containing oxalic acid. Oxalic acid is a toxic natural compound belonging to the carboxylic acid family.
When eaten, oxalic acid binds to minerals in the intestine or kidneys to create new compounds such as iron oxalate and calcium oxalate. These compounds can cause kidney failure in hamsters, which is often fatal.
Produce rich in oxalic acid includes:
It’s OK to feed your hamster tomatoes, but you must ensure that you remove any vines, leaves, or stems from the fruit beforehand.
Tomato vines, leaves, and stems are toxic to hamsters because they contain solanine, an alkaloid chemical.
A study conducted by ACS Publications in Washington, DC, revealed that acute solanine toxicity in hamsters (especially the Syrian hamster) can be fatal. Solanine poisoning can cause the following symptoms in hamsters:
- Excessive diarrhea
Most hamsters love nibbling on a handful of seeds. Although no component of seeds is toxic to hamsters, they can be a choking hazard to them.
If your hamster doesn’t chew the seed thoroughly, it can easily get lodged in the throat and prevent your pet from breathing.
A solution could be to chop up your hamster’s seeds finely, but seeds have high-fat content and can make your hamster gain weight, so it’s best to avoid them in general.
As omnivores, hamsters like chewing on plants and leaves. If you enjoy giving your hamster a few plants or leaves occasionally as a snack, you should be aware that some can be toxic to hamsters. The following plants are fatally toxic to hamsters:
- English ivy
These plants contain toxins that can poison your hamster and potentially kill him. The following plants, however, are safe for hamster consumption:
- Any mint plant
- Rose petals
Hamsters are lactose intolerant and shouldn’t eat anything containing dairy, such as cheese or milk.
If a hamster eats dairy products, he can become ill quickly and vomit or develop diarrhea. Since the reaction can be quite severe, your hamster could become dehydrated rapidly. Dehydration is often fatal in such tiny animals.
Now that I’ve explained which foods can be fatal for hamsters, you might wonder if there are foods that aren’t toxic but that you should avoid feeding them. So, are there other foods that hamsters shouldn’t eat?
Hamsters shouldn’t eat the following foods:
- Potatoes and chips
- Fatty foods
- Processed sugar
- Food for other pets or animals
- Too many vegetables and fruit
- Pale green lettuce varieties
- Spices, salt, and seasonings
- Citrus fruit
Potatoes and chips have a high carbohydrate content and are not harmful to hamsters if eaten occasionally. However, if your hamster regularly eats carbohydrate-rich foods like potatoes and chips, they can quickly gain weight.
According to VCA Animal Hospitals in Los Angeles, California, hamsters are prone to weight gain, which can cause a wide range of health problems, including mobility issues, diabetes, and heart disease.
Some hamster owners enjoy giving their pets tiny morsels of junk food or fatty meat they’re eating. Hamsters are tiny animals, so they can only handle small amounts of fatty foods each day.
Overweight and obese hamsters can develop multiple health problems. However, fatty foods on their own can also cause intestinal problems, cramping, and diarrhea in hamsters.
According to Carolina Veterinary Specialists in Huntersville, North Carolina you should never feed your hamster candy, chocolate, or sugar-rich foods. These foods can cause a rapid spike in blood sugar levels.
Blood sugar spikes can give hamsters serious heart palpitations. In addition, if hamsters eat processed sugar regularly, they can develop diabetes.
In addition to palpitations and diabetes, regular consumption of processed sugars can cause tooth decay and malnutrition in hamsters.
It’s dangerous to assume that food for other animals or pets is suitable for hamsters. These foods cater to an animal’s specific nutritional needs and may not provide your hamster with the essential minerals and vitamins it needs.
Cat food, for example, is high in taurine, a vital nutrient for cats. However, if your hamster eats cat food, he may vomit or develop diarrhea because hamsters are sensitive to taurine.
Many hamster-specific foods are widely available at pet stores, grocery stores, or online. If you aren’t sure about the quality of the food you’re feeding your hamster, ask your vet for a recommendation.
Feeding your hamster fresh vegetables and fruit is a good idea, given that they contain plenty of nutrients. However, you should only feed your hamster a small amount of fresh produce every day because the high fiber content can cause diarrhea.
One tablespoon (15 mL) of fresh fruit and vegetables is usually enough for an adult hamster. If you see that your hamster hasn’t eaten the fruit and vegetables you’ve left for him, remove them after a day, as it’s likely that he doesn’t like them.
Feeding your hamster pale green lettuce varieties is not harmful, as long as you don’t feed it too much.
Although hamsters seem to love lettuce, pale green varieties contain very few nutrients. Examples of pale green lettuce include butter and iceberg lettuce.
If you want to feed your hamster lettuce, consider feeding him dark green lettuce, such as:
- Romaine lettuce
- Dandelion greens
You might think that your hamster loves certain spicy, seasoned or salty foods. However, it’s not advisable to feed these foods to hamsters.
Even a tiny quantity of salty food can dehydrate your hamster, while spicy or heavily-seasoned foods can cause intestinal upset.
Citrus fruit is not toxic to hamsters. In fact, if you give citrus fruit to a hamster, they will likely enjoy eating it.
Unfortunately, citrus fruit is too acidic for hamsters and can cause the following problems:
- Stomach cramps
- Loss of appetite
- Tooth decay
A 1960 study by the International Review of Neurobiology revealed that hamsters could tolerate alcohol much better than a lab rat. When hamsters consume alcohol, it bypasses the liver and travels directly into the bloodstream.
Even though hamsters have a high tolerance to alcohol, you should never feed it to them because it contains no essential nutrients. Additionally, long-term alcohol consumption in hamsters can cause organ damage.
Hamsters enjoy eating a varied diet, but you should avoid giving them certain foods as they can be fatal to them. Be aware of your hamster’s nutritional needs, and ensure that you are providing your pet with a healthy diet.
It’s best to give your hamster vet-recommended food, plenty of fresh water, and the occasional healthy snack.
You may like the related hamster articles:
- Why Is My Hamster Breathing Fast?
- How Long Can You Leave a Hamster Alone?
- Why Is My Hamster Not Moving?
- Why Is My Hamster Squeaking?
- How Much Does a Dwarf Hamster Cost?
- Why Is My Hamster Trying To Escape?
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