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Diet Changes Throughout the Life of a Hamster

Last Updated: 07.04.20

 

If you want to get more information on the topic of diet changes in hamsters, you should know that baby, adult, and senior hamsters have different feeding needs and requirements in terms of protein, fat, and fiber levels in their diet. To meet these requirements, you need to adjust the feeding formula according to your pet’s age group.

Hamsters have become part of our homes and families for a long time now, and they are beloved pets and play buddies to us and our children. Although they naturally have a short lifespan, of up to four years, the way we choose to feed them will have a significant impact on their lifespan and quality of life.

For this reason, we need to research what the best feeding formulas are for our tiny friends, according to their breed, age, and health status. This can either be done with the help of our local veterinarian or with that of experienced breeders that are kind enough to share their knowledge and wisdom. Also, there are many articles and books on the topic.

Most of their diet needs and requirements were established while hamsters were used as laboratory animals, at the beginning of their days with people. Throughout the years, many people started to love these cute animals and devoted their time to researching what works best for them in terms of food, while generously sharing their findings with the rest of us. 

Just like us, hamsters need to have their daily diet balanced according to their age. Baby hamsters that are at the peak of their growth spurt will have significantly different nutrient needs than an adult hamster that has to watch its weight. The same way, old hamsters need less protein and fat in their food but should get those tasty treats that make them so happy.

 

Baby hamsters

For the newly weaned baby hamsters, there are certain needs and requirements that need to be met. First of all, when we are considering the appropriate diet for this age group, we need to keep in mind the stress level they have due to the separation anxiety they are suffering from. Any baby that is taken away from his or her mom will experience that.

With that in mind, it’s best to choose nutrient-filled foods that are also safe for the newly-developing intestinal flora, this way avoiding any unwanted diarrhea episodes associated with this time in a baby hamster’s life. There are specially designed baby formulas available on the market that are enriched with probiotics and vitamins, which make an excellent choice.

The next thing to have in mind when choosing a baby hamster’s feeding formula is the level of protein, fat, and fiber they need at this stage in their lives. Studies showed that a hamster’s food within the first six months of their life should contain at least 20% protein, 8% fat, and 10% fiber. This is something you need to look for in your pet’s feeding formula of choice.

This represents a balanced feeding diet that helps avoid putting the baby’s kidneys to extra work, thus posing a threat to the hamster’s health, while keeping weight under control, thus properly preparing him or her for adulthood. Also, it’s best to avoid snacks at this stage of their lives, although it’s also the best time to start working towards taming them. Balance is key.  

 

 

Adult hamsters

For adult hamsters, meaning hamsters that are above seven months old, it’s all about offering them the right type of food that will keep their weight down while keeping their natural energy levels up. Now, that’s a tough one to crack! Studies show that the average feeding requirement of adult hamsters should be made up of 15% protein, 6% fat, and 15% fiber.

As you can see, the main idea here is decreasing the protein and fat level, while increasing the level of fibers provided daily. This helps keep the kidneys in good shape, and the weight under control while keeping your beloved pet as active as always, and in good overall health. At this point in a hamster’s life, you can offer occasional snacks for taming purposes.

To achieve such a nutritionally balanced diet, there are two ways you can go about this. Either choose a specially designed commercial formula for adult hamsters, that should contain all of the necessary elements (it’s best to double-check that) or you can start making your own mixes at home, trying to achieve the perfect mix for the breed and age group of your pet.

An adult hamster’s diet should consist of whole grains, seeds, fresh greens, some fruit, insects and insect larvae, and, ideally, probiotic and vitamin supplement pellets. Therefore, you can make a mix of whole wheat and corn, sunflower seeds in small amounts, lucerne pellets, fresh greens and fruits, and dried insects and larvae, such as crickets. 

There are watch-outs either way you go about this issue. In the case of commercial formulas, hamsters will eat the tasty, sugary pellets first, and if you are not aware of it and keep on filling their plate, they might get diabetes due to overfeeding on sugar and fats. Also, make sure none of the fresh greens you add to the plate are toxic to rodents, such as rhubarb or grapes.

 

Old hamsters

They are the age group that should receive the least amounts of protein and fat, and the highest levels of fiber, to keep their intestinal health for as long as possible. As they are less active than adult hamsters, you need to watch their weight more carefully. However, let’s keep in mind that these guys are not going to be here for long, so tasty treats are in order.

The main idea concerning old hamsters is to balance their food in such a way that it will prolong their optimum health status for as long as possible, while being tasty enough to provide them with an optimum quality of life. In other words, it’s more important to let them enjoy life and enjoy their food than keep them under a strict diet.

When you notice your senior hamster is not acting the way he/she used to, this might be an indicator that he or she is approaching the last days of their life. And this is where all bets are off. Feed him or her all of their favorite foods, spend as much time as possible enjoying their company and know for sure you have offered them the best possible life throughout the years. 

 

 

Important facts

Keep in mind that hamsters need to always have available clean, fresh drinking water that should be provided in specially designed drinking bottles. Make sure to constantly check the tip on the bottle for any debris that might get in the way of hamsters drinking the provided water. If you notice your hamster started drinking more water than usual, refer it to the veterinarian.

The bedding you use for your hamster’s cage or glass tank is of utmost importance to keep them healthy. First of all, that’s because of their burrowing habits, which make them inhale a lot of wood dust which may lead to respiratory issues, and secondly, because the edgier the bedding, the higher the risk of injuries and abscesses, which you may want to prevent from happening.

The second thing about bedding is that you must keep it clean at all times. Keep in mind that burrowing under unsanitary bedding may also lead to respiratory issues due to the high levels of ammonia fumes in the bedding. And we all know just how much these tiny pets can do their business in one day, due to their fast metabolisms.

If you choose to offer your pet hamster wood chewing toys, it’s best to choose those made of softer wood, that will not be abrasive to the pet’s mouth, and that are non-toxic for hamsters. By choosing appropriate chew toys, you prevent many unwanted potential health issues from occurring, such as toxic chemical poisoning, abscesses, or broken teeth.

The best way to introduce new foods to your tiny friend’s diet is by gradually adding them to the daily portion. This way you avoid an upset stomach due to sudden dietary changes. Moreover, if you are feeding your pet soft food too, make sure it’s always served fresh, meaning you need to remove any leftover food before it gets stale, for the same reason.

 

 

 

Irina Ionescu

As a long-term learner and animal lover, Irina helps her readers find the best products and accessories for their pets, as well as the latest training techniques, tips & tricks on how to handle animals.

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