If you’ve just got yourself a hamster and you are not certain what type of food is safe for it to eat, you can take a look at our top picks. If you want to get more information about how to look after your new companion, we also have an article on that, so check it out later! In the meantime, our comprehensive guide will explore the foods that your furry pet can eat.
Pelleted and seed diets
While you can offer your hamster many treats and snacks, it is important to make sure that its main diet is made up of high-quality, store-bought food that is designed specifically for the dietary needs of hamsters. These foods are recommended because they contain the correct amounts of vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients.
For the most part, these come in two forms: pellets and seed mixes. Pellets are without a doubt the most popular option since they are formulated to contain at least 20% protein and that is essential for improving the overall functioning of your critter’s organs.
The high amounts of protein will also help since hamsters are known to be very active, and the protein allows them to develop strong muscles. The downside with pellets is that even if they contain all the nutrients your hamster requires for a healthy life, often times they are not as appealing to them as seed mixes are.
Hamsters love seed mixes, mainly because they resemble the food that they usually eat in the wild. The main disadvantage is that if you focus on only a few types of seeds, it is very possible for your pet not to get all the nutrients and substances required to maintain its active lifestyle.
Even if you do give your hamster a varied mix of seeds containing all the vitamins and minerals needed, many critters will only choose the seeds that they like and leave the ones they don’t untouched. This can help aggravate existing nutrient deficiencies, which is why a diet based solely on seed mixes is not recommended.
Thus, your pal’s diet should consist mainly of pellets with a few of its favorite seeds sprinkled in. To help keep your hamster happy and healthy, you can also give it fresh food and some treats, but they should not account for more than 10% of the hammie’s diet.
Fresh food and treats
As long as you remember that fresh food should not be the primary source of nutrition for your hamster and you stick to the 10% balance we talked about above, you can feed many of the fruits and vegetables you already have in the kitchen to your critter. Veterinarians recommend that only whole grains, fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, and nuts be given.
The reason why you can’t feed too much fresh food to your hamster is because it can lead to diarrhea, not to mention that many of the fruits and vegetables people like to feed their pet contain sugars that can increase the risk of diabetes.
As such, try to limit giving your pet too many sugary treats or fruits. Speaking of fruits, some of the safe varieties include cherries, raspberries, mangoes, bananas, peaches, seedless grapes, strawberries, deseeded apples, and cantaloupes.
For vegetables, the list includes carrots, spinach, kale, broccoli, celery, sweet potato, zucchini, cucumber, and peas. Other treats that you can offer to your pet are unsalted nuts except for almonds, cooked whole wheat pasta and brown rice, lentils, pumpkin seeds, plain air-popped popcorn, and small pieces of hard-boiled egg.
One other thing that is worth remembering is that hamsters like to hoard food, which means that if your pet had its full from its primary source of nutrients, it is very likely to hide the food in places you won’t even think to look.
Thus, you can be fooled thinking that your hamster eats its treats, when in fact he/she hides them. Hamsters that hoard food are very likely to get fat and from that to getting diabetes is just a small step. If you want to keep your pet healthy, you should choose two or three days per week and limit giving it fresh food or treats only in those days.
How much and when should a hamster eat?
The amount of food that your hamster needs depends greatly on its size, breed, and how active it is. On average, hamsters will only need about one or two tablespoons full of food each day. Make sure that you feed the hamster twice a day so that it always has something to chew on.
Because hamsters are nocturnal, most owners feed them at night and then give them another pinch of food and maybe a small treat in the morning. With that said, there is some disagreement in this regard because while in the wild, hamsters do go search for food at night, they do it mainly for protection against the daytime predators.
Since there are no predators for your furry companion to worry in its cage, domestic hamsters wake up several times during the day to snack on some of the food they have stored.
Similarly, it is important that the food your hamster has access to is always fresh. If you see that there is some uneaten food left in the cage, you should not leave it to spoil. Your critter should have fresh pellets or seeds available at each feeding time.
What you should avoid
While hamsters are resilient creatures and can eat almost anything, there are a few foods that you should steer clear of, if you want to keep your tiny pal healthy. For starters, never feed it apple and grape seeds, almonds and fruit pits in general. They are very toxic and can kill even a mature pet.
You should also avoid peanuts since they are very high in fat, and if they are salted they can contribute to dehydration. Lastly, but just as important, never feed unwashed vegetables and fruits since they can contain high amounts of pesticides on the skins. Human food is off the table as well.