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What Do Hamsters Eat

What do hamsters eat? In truth, they'll eat just about anything you offer them. Find out which foods should be a staple of every hamster's diet, and how to supplement your pet with healthy treats.

Overview: What Do Hamsters Eat

What Do Hamsters Eat

Most pet hamsters never eat anything other than the hamster mix provided by their caretakers. However, hamsters are as opportunistic as any of their rodent cousins, and they will eat a wide variety of foods if they are available.

Hamster Mix

A well balanced hamster mix should be the main diet of any pet hamster. The variety of seeds, grains, nuts and pellets in this mix is the closest blend of the foods a hamster would find in its wild environment, and it's naturally high in fiber and low in fat. Additionally, the grinding action required for a hamster to chew these foods helps prevent his teeth from overgrowing.

Common ingredients in the standard hamster mix include:

  • Corn
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Millet
  • Dried peas
  • Peanuts
  • Barley
  • Alfalfa (often in pellet form)
  • Dried fruits and veggies (most often found in premium mixes)

Hamster mix should be available to your pet at all times.

Protein

Seeds and grains may be the bulk of a hamster's regular diet, but these animals also benefit from a bit of fresh protein. This is especially important for a female hamster carrying a litter. Although most hamster mixes are formulated to provide about 16 percent protein, many hamsters enjoy a bit of boiled egg occasionally added to their regular diet. You can also offer a small amount of cooked chicken once in a while or a small chunk of cheese for your pet to nibble. Be sure to remove any uneaten portions after two hours so your pet won't get sick from eating spoiled food.

Fruits and Veggies

Although most fruits and veggies provide a healthy treat for hamsters, it's important to limit the amount they are fed. That's because the higher water content in these foods, especially leafy green veggies, can lead to a case of diarrhea if the hamster eats too much or is served these foods too often. Of special note, dwarf hamsters are prone to diabetes, so many veterinarians advise not offering them any fruit.

Suggested serving sizes of fruits and veggies include:

  • A slice of apple, pear, banana or strawberry
  • A single floret of broccoli
  • One small section of carrot
  • A single leaf of baby spinach
  • A slice of green pepper

Generally, offering a couple fruit or veggie treats a week will give your hamster a little variety and added nutrition without causing digestive upset. Just remember to wash these foods before serving, and all perishable foods should be removed from the cage and discarded after two hours to avoid spoilage.

Additional Treats

You'll find a number of commercial hamster treats at your local pet supply, including items like honey seed sticks and yogurt drops. It is fine to offer these items to your pet as long as they do not take the place of a sound diet based on hamster mix and light supplementation with additional protein, veggies and fruit.

A Need for Feces

As unpleasant as it may sound, hamsters are actually "hind-gut fermenters". This means they must eat their own feces in order to digest their food a second time. If they don't, they won't be able to render all the nutrition they need from their food.

Some Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Hamster

Although hamsters will eat whatever you serve them, the following foods should definitely be off limits:

  • Raw potatoes - Solanine toxicity can lead to vomiting and diarrhea as well as shock.
  • Chocolate - Theobromine toxicity can lead to seizures and heart attacks.
  • Raw beans, especially kidney beans - Most beans contain phytohaemagglutinin, a protein that can damage the intestinal lining.
  • Onions and Garlic - Both contain thiosulphate and can lead to a breakdown of red blood cells.
  • Lettuce - High in water and containing no nutritional value, lettuce upsets the balance of the digestive system, and regular consumption can lead to kidney damage.
  • Salty, sugary or processed foods - Processing removes nutritional value, and chemical preservative can be carcinogenic.

So, what do hamsters eat? The short answer is just about anything. However, it's up to caregivers to make sure their pets are offered a balanced, healthy diet.

By Kelly Roper