Welcoming a new member in your family is an exciting thing, even if we’re talking about a small-sized pet like a rodent. However, before adopting one you need to make sure it has everything it needs for a healthy and happy life, including a large cage, the best food, and some delicious hamster treats.
Hamsters are some of the most popular pets in the world because they are low-maintenance by comparison to other animals, docile, and don’t require your constant care and attention. So, if you decided to adopt a hamster as your new pet, here is everything you need to know about its diet and how to help it live a long, active, and healthy existence.
What do hamsters eat?
Hamsters are herbivorous creatures, meaning they can eat almost everything plant-based. They prefer dry food, fresh fruits, veggies, and a clean source of proteins to keep their bones and bodies strong and healthy.
Modern hamster food you’ll find in most pet shops is specially formulated to meet the needs of your rodent so that it receives all the necessary vitamins and minerals. There are various mixes available so it may take a while until you find the most suitable for your furry pet.
As a general rule, hamsters should eat about 60-70% dry food or pellets, while the rest should consist of fresh fruits and vegetables.
A list of safe foods your pet can indulge in contains at least some of these ingredients: apple slices without seeds, broccoli, bananas, cherries, chicory, clover, dandelions, lettuce, peas, sweetcorn, sprouts, pears, and watercress.
Sweet treats are always a good choice, as long as you avoid processed sugars and preservatives. You can also include a source of proteins into your hamster’s diet to make sure it grows strong, healthy, and has a shiny fur.
Although you shouldn’t feed your pet meat, a small piece of boiled or scrambled egg represents a delicious meal your hamster won’t refuse. Feeding it two-three times a week is enough to improve your pet’s health.
What foods should you avoid?
Keep in mind that hamsters have a very different digestive system than our own so what may be safe and delicious for humans may cause severe health problems to your pet. If you’re not sure of a certain food or ingredient, it is always best to ask your vet.
It goes without saying that hamsters and all rodents shouldn’t have access to processed foods, sweets, alcohol, and other fast foods or junk foods humans binge on. Some of the foods you should avoid feeding your pet include aubergines, acorns, citrus fruits, buttercups, leeks, garlic, onions, rhubarb, elderflower, privet, and unripe fruits.
Don’t feed your pet fruits such as watermelon or grapes unless they have been cleaned from all seeds. And, when it comes to watermelon, make sure you only provide it as a treat once in a while since it is rich in water and sugar which may cause digestive problems or lead to overweight.
How to feed your pet?
Rodents are quite compulsory beings, meaning they can rarely stop eating before they finish everything on their plates. In time, this can lead to severe health problems, including overweight and obesity. Thus, you need to pay close attention to your hamster’s diet and act accordingly.
Depending on the size, sex, age, and weight of your pet, you should feed your hamster around 12 grams or one tablespoon of food per day. Keep in mind that these rodents are nocturnal creatures, so they will most likely eat at night.
Opt for selected commercial pellets that are specifically designed for hamsters and contain around 15-20% proteins. You should avoid feeding your animal any other type of pellets, including those for Guinea pigs or rabbits. Don’t let it indulge in pellet mixtures that contain nuts, seeds, corn or colored “poofies” either as these foods are rich in carbs, sugars, and salt and have little nutritional value.
One teaspoon of fresh veggies per day as well as one teaspoon of fresh fruits two-three times a week is enough to complete your pet’s diet and make sure it receives all necessary vitamins and minerals. You can also include carrots, mustard greens, kale, and berries for a balanced diet.
Treats should mainly be organic or as natural as possible, without added sugars, salt, preservatives or chemicals. Sugarless breakfast cereals, pasta, and whole wheat bread represent healthier sources of carbs that will boost your pet’s energy levels and stimulate its mind. Don’t forget that hamsters also require a clean source of fresh water daily.
Can hamsters eat hay?
Although it may sound uncommon for some hamster breeders and owners, these animals can eat hay as long as they like the taste. There are hundreds of hamster toys and cage objects made of hay, and they will end up being chewed anyway, so there shouldn’t be a problem but let’s dig a little deeper into the subject.
While some people will only use hay as bedding because it’s softer and more pliable than wood shavings, there is nothing wrong with your hammy indulging in some delicious hay. This ingredient may seem more suitable for rabbits or Guinea pigs due to its nutritional values, including fibers and minerals.
However, if your hamster loves the taste, you should let it chew or eat it. After all, it’s good for the teeth and for the digestive system.
What types of hay can your hamster eat?
There are numerous types of hay available for sale, and the most common ones include timothy hay, alfalfa, clover, and orchard grass. Hamsters should stick to alfalfa, meadow hay, and timothy hay as they have proved more appealing in terms of taste than other types. Other dried herbs that can be safely fed to your hamster are chamomile, daisy, marigold, and wheat.
There isn’t a maximum amount of hay your pet can chew on or eat daily, so feel free to leave it inside the cage. As we previously mentioned, there are various chewing toys, treats, and cage accessories made of this ingredient, so your hamster should be used to the taste by now.
Can hay be dangerous to hamsters?
The main reason why hay isn’t naturally associated with these rodents as opposed to Guinea pigs or rabbits is that some of its parts may be harder to chew on. Hamsters are smaller than other rodents so it will take more time until they chew, eat, and digest this ingredient.
This doesn’t mean it can pose a threat to your hammy’s well-being or health. However, not all hamsters will be attracted to the smell or taste of hay so you shouldn’t force your pet to eat it. It’s not dangerous and won’t cause any allergic reactions but it’s simply a matter of taste.
Generally speaking, hay is mainly used as bedding but you should be careful if your pet chooses it for nesting. Hamsters have smaller mouths than other rodents so, if you want to make their lives easier, simply chop the hay in smaller parts before putting it inside the cage.
Keep in mind that hamsters are creatures of habit and they might take days or weeks before trying something outside their comfort zone. Therefore, if you plan on introducing them to hay, you should observe your pet’s reactions in the first few days.
Some individuals may start sneezing which means there is either a large piece that tickles their noses or the brand isn’t of the best quality. Don’t forget that some types of hay can be too dusty for hamsters so you should air it out for a day or two before placing it inside the cage.