How to Setup Your Hamster’s Cage

How to Setup Your Hamster’s Cage

To have a healthy and happy hamster, it is essential to correctly set up your Hamster’s enclosure and keep it clean. The enclosure is their entire world, and providing them with a safe, clean, and engaging living environment is an essential investment for your Hamster. So you may be wondering, how should I set up their enclosure?

Correctly setting up a hamster cage involves: having a suitably sized enclosure, adding a safe substrate for burrowing in, adding a range of accessories and toys such as an exercise wheel, hideout, sand bath, and chew toys, and adding food and water dishes.

1. Have a suitably sized enclosure

Your Hamster’s housing should be made of plastic, glass, or metal. It should be escape-proof with a solid bottom. In addition, a solid base is required so that you can provide enough bedding material for digging and burrowing in. Finally, a solid base and minimal wire/bar spacing make it comfortable on your Hamster’s feet.

Allow sufficient room in the housing for your Hamster to play and exercise. A cage that measures at least 450 square inches (2903 square cm) is ideal, but you can opt for something bigger. Keep in mind that many pet stores sell hamster cages that are far too small, so you may have to shop around or DIY to get one big enough. Also, you cannot connect multiple smaller cages to make the minimum required size, as hamsters need the space to run around as they would in the wild. 

While hamsters acclimate to average household temperatures, they do not do well with extreme temperature changes. Therefore keep your Hamster’s enclosure out of direct sunlight or drafty areas.

To help ensure a healthy and happy hamster, you will need a regular cleaning schedule for your Hamster’s enclosure. Your Hamster can get distressed if the enclosure is cleaned too often or not enough. See this article on How to Clean Your Hamster’s Cage for information on cleaning.

2. Add substrate for burrowing in

Add at least 6 inches (16cm) of a safe substrate to your enclosure. But aim for at least 10 inches (25cm) if you can. Safe bedding options for hamsters include:

  • Paper-based bedding
  • Aspen wood shavings
  • Hemp shavings

Generally, the best and healthiest bedding is aspen wood shavings or shredded unscented paper. However, this varies across individuals’ and hamsters’ preferences. Avoid corn cobs, fleece, cat litter, pine, cedar, or scented bedding containing chemicals that pose respiratory risks to your Hamster. The bedding should be at least 10 inches deep so that they have enough room to burrow but provide more if you can (source). This is because hamsters are naturally burrowing animals and will create multi-chamber burrows. Most hamsters won’t try to burrow unless given at least 10 inches of bedding.

 As well as substrate, getting some separate bedding or nesting material is essential.

See this article on Hamster Care for more information on hamster housing requirements or Essential Hamster Supplies.

3. Add a hideout

Hideouts are important for hamsters as they provide an area to feel safe, protected, and sleep. You can have multiple hideouts in the enclosure so the Hamster can choose which one it wants to use.

Multi-chamber hideouts are an excellent option for hamsters as they mimic how a hamster would live in the wild.

4. Add a wheel for exercise

An exercise wheel is a must to prevent boredom. Hamsters are very active and need many things to exercise in their enclosures.

Avoid a wheel with wire or mesh, as your Hamster can trap a limb or get painful sores on its feet. Also, avoid flying saucer-type wheels as it encourages an unnatural way of running, and they can fall from the device.

The wheel is too small for your Hamster if they run with an arched back. If they are, purchase a larger exercise wheel.

5. Add a sand bath

Sand baths help keep your Hamster clean as hamsters can’t be bathed in water.

Hamster’s a more likely to use the sand bath if they feel safe, so put a hideout in the sand bath.

See this article on Hamster Sand Baths: Everything You Wanted to Know for more information on sand baths.

6. Add accessories and toys

Hamsters require many accessories and toys to keep them entertained and mentally stimulated. Hamsters love toys that they can climb and hide-and-seek style toys.

Hamsters are prey animals, so they will be more comfortable if there is not a lot of open space in the enclosure. Have lots of areas they can hide in to feel safe. Make the enclosure semi-crowded.

Hamsters like to have a hiding place. This can be a cardboard tunnel or a little plastic hideaway bungalow. Be sure to use something designed for a hamster, though, versus repurposing a toy meant for a child or another pet.

7. Add chew toys

Ensure your Hamster has plenty of wood chew sticks or mineral chews to chew on and maintain their teeth. Hamster’s teeth are constantly growing, and therefore, they need something to chew on to wear them down and avoid medical issues.

There are a variety of chew toys available, so buy a few different options and see which one your Hamster likes best.

8. Add food and water sources

You will need a food dish and either a water dish or a water bottle. You can also scatter-feed your Hamster throughout the enclosure to encourage their natural foraging skills. If you get a bowl, get a small one that doesn’t take up too much space.

You must provide fresh, clean, and chlorine-free water in a water bottle or dish. Hang the water bottle at a height a hamster can drink from at a natural angle. Water has to be checked and changed daily.

See this article on Water bottle or Water dish: Which is Best for your Hamster? for more information.


A hamster’s cage is their whole world. Therefore, it is essential to set up your Hamster with a suitably sized enclosure containing a safe substrate for burrowing in, a range of accessories and toys such as an exercise wheel, hideout, sand bath, and chew toys, as well as food and water dishes.

Hamster Sand Baths: Everything You Wanted to Know

Hamster with food

Hamsters are quite clean animals as they constantly groom themselves. But if your hamster is looking a bit dirty or oily, a sand bath is a great option.

Sand baths provide a way of keeping your hamster clean and odor-free without damaging its health. The abrasive sand keeps your hamster clean by removing excess particles from its coat and absorbing excess oil and moisture from its skin. Safe options include children’s play sand, reptile sand, or dust-free chinchilla bath sand.

Why do hamsters need sand baths?

Hamsters cannot be bathed in water like other animals because being bathed in soap and water removes important oils from their coat. Additionally, most hamsters hate being immersed in water and can catch colds quite easily. A safer way to keep your hamster clean and remove excess oil from its coat is with a sand bath.

Some hamsters like rolling and digging in the sand, so it is a great way to keep them entertained and clean.

What kind of sand do I use in a hamster sand bath?

You should use sand that is pet-safe, clean, and dust-free. Hamster safe sand you can use includes:

  • Children’s play sand (can get from hardware store and is cheaper than other options). If it’s been heat treated you don’t need to sanitize it (check on the label). It is also recommended to sift this sand to get rid of larger particles that may be too rough for your hamster.
  • Reptile sand (needs to be un-dyed, all-natural and with no minerals or calcium added). You don’t need to sift this sand or sanitize it.
  • Hamster sand bath (make sure the it is not dusty as some brands have a bad reputation for being too fine-grained)
  • Chincilla bath sand (most expensive option, can be very dusty, other better options available)

Avoid any sand that is labeled dust or powder. Sand should be dust-free as fine particles can cause respiratory problems in hamsters. You should also never use sand from outdoors, such as from the beach, as it cannot be properly sanitized.

As well as dust-free, sand should be free from added dyes, fragrances, minerals, calcium, or chemicals.

There are many different types of sand available to buy online. Therefore it is important to read reviews carefully to avoid buying unsuitable dusty sand.

It’s okay if your hamster tries to eat some of the sand at first due to curiosity. They should stop doing this after a few times.

What container should I use for a hamster sand bath?

Sand baths are simple to make as you can use store-bought dishes or containers you already have in your home. Large acrylic dishes or glass baking dishes work well. Do not use containers made of materials that are easily chewed, such as wood. The container should also be shallow enough that your hamster can get in and out of.

Hamsters like to have a large sand bath so that they can dig and roll in different areas. It should be heavy enough that it can’t be tipped over. It is also recommended that you put a hideout in the sand bath so that they have somewhere to hide if they feel vulnerable.

Before preparing the sand bath, thoroughly wash and dry the container. Then, depending on the size of the container, fill it halfway with sand and place it in the corner of the enclosure. Placing the sand bath in a corner minimizes the amount of sand that gets kicked around.

How do I sanitize sand for my hamsters sand bath?

You can sanitize sand, for your hamster’s sand bath, by spreading the sand on a baking tray and baking it in the oven at 350F for about 20 minutes. Baking the sand should get rid of any bacteria or fungus growing in it.

Keep in mind that this technique will not work on sand taken from the outdoors. This sand cannot be properly sanitized and is therefore unsafe for your hamster.

Can I leave the sand bath in their cage all the time?

It is safe to leave the sand bath in a hamster’s enclosure all the time. But, you need to make sure you spot clean it – remove any debris, droppings, or urine. You need to change dirty sand as it will not keep your hamster clean as it should.

If your hamster starts using the sand bath as a toilet, do not leave it in the enclosure all the time.

When it comes to sand baths, the two most important things are keeping it clean and using dust-free sanitized sand.


Not all hamsters require a sand bath to remain clean and odor-free. However, if you decide to treat your hamster to a sand bath, make sure the sand is dust-free, sanitized, and free from added dyes, fragrances, minerals, calcium, or chemicals. You should also provide your hamster with a sand bath big enough for them to roll and dig in.

How to Make Your Hamster Happy

White hamster in bedding

Hamsters are fairly easy to care for, however, caring for them and making them happy is a bit more complicated than we would like to think.

For a happy hamster, you need to provide the best possible care and stimulate them mentally. A happy hamster has a healthy and varied diet, entertainment, exercise, and a large cage to explore, forage and burrow in.

White hamster in bedding

7 Ways to Keep Your Hamster Happy

1. A Large Enclosure

To give your hamster room to perform natural behaviors and not become stressed, you need to have an enclosure with at least 450 square inches (2903 square cm) of floor space. However, the bigger the enclosure is, the better. This gives you plenty of room for all the supplies and objects they need to be healthy and happy.

In addition to providing your hamster with an appropriately sized enclosure, you can also keep them entertained by changing the setup on occasion. Of course, you don’t have to change everything in their enclosure, but to mentally stimulate your hamster, you can:

  • Switch out different toys
  • Change layout of items

Changing their enclosure on occasion will keep them busy as they explore the new setup. However, the enrichment your hamster gets out of the change will depend on your hamster. Some hamsters enjoy exploring a slightly changed setup, while others won’t like things being changed.

Additionally, separate your adult hamsters into different cages to avoid aggressive behavior, injuries, and stress. Most hamsters should live on their own as they are solitary animals. Hamsters like to be on their own and won’t get lonely.

2. Outfit your hamster enclosure with the necessary trappings

Your hamster’s enclosure should contain various objects and supplies to encourage them to perform natural behaviors that they would do in the wild (source). Tubes and branches provide natural coverage and clutter as well as another texture for them to touch. Some popular options safe for hamsters include cork logs, branches, bamboo roots, birch logs, and terracotta tubes. Hamsters are a prey species, so a cage that is too open may make them feel vulnerable. Therefore, add some things to provide places for them to hide in. You can often find these natural items in the reptile section of the pet store or online.

Platforms give you a safe place to put heavy items if you’re worried about your hamster burrowing under heavy items and getting crushed. The platform should be no higher than 3 inches (7.6cm) for dwarf hamsters and no higher than 6 inches (15cm) for Syrian hamsters. You should limit the height of the platform because hamsters have terrible depth perception and may walk off of the platform. Therefore, you don’t want the platform too high otherwise, they may get hurt.

3. Provide a Hamster Hideout

You should include a hamster hideout in their enclosure as they provide protection and clutter. This is important because hamsters don’t like to be in the open space very much. Clutter makes them safe and less vulnerable. Additionally, a hamster will often start their burrow in a hideout. It is also good to provide multiple hideouts around the enclosure for them to choose from. When choosing a hideout, avoid softwood hideouts or ones with nails in them. The hideout should be at least a 3-inch diameter for Syrian hamsters and a 2-inch diameter for dwarf hamsters. If the hideout is too small, they may injure themselves, especially if they try to squeeze into the hideout while their cheeks are full of seeds. The sharp edges of the seeds may cut the inside of their mouth when squeezing through a too-small space. Multi-chamber hideouts are recommended if you can get one, as they mimic what hamsters would do in the wild with their burrows.

4. Ability to forage and burrow

Your hamster’s enclosure needs a proper amount of bedding so that they can burrow in. The bedding should be at least 10 inches deep, but provide more if you can (preferably at least 16 inches deep) (source). This is because hamsters are naturally burrowing animals and will create multi-chamber burrows. Most hamsters won’t even try to burrow unless they are given at least 10 inches of bedding.

There are several other reasons why your hamster may not be burrowing. The bedding material may not be holding its shape enough to allow the hamster to form burrows. Bedding material such as hemp or aspen often does not hold its shape well for forming burrows. It would help to compact bedding down when you add it to the hamster cage – non-compacted bedding won’t hold burrows. Another reason why your hamster is not burrowing may be because the bedding is in a too-small area. The bedding should cover a large area of the hamster cage so that they can form large multi-chamber burrows. To encourage burrowing, you could also add a burrow starter. These can be purchased from pet stores. Some hamster species tend to take over other animal burrows in the wild, so a burrow starter helps them mimic this natural behavior. If you have tried out all of these tips and your hamster still isn’t burrowing, wait. Some hamsters take time to start burrowing.

To encourage foraging behavior, you can provide your hamster with herbs, oat sprays, or wheat sprays, available online and from pet stores. They are nutritious and fun for your hamster to eat. They get your hamster to forage as they have to pick the seeds directly off the plant. Keep in mind that some sprays have many calories (e.g., flax seeds) and should be given sparingly.

5. Give your hamster enrichment

Hamsters require items to stimulate their brains and keep them busy, so they don’t get bored. This can include providing them with a variety of different toys and tubes, as well as a hamster wheel. For more information on toys and exercise wheels for your hamster, see this article on Essential Hamster Supplies.

However, hamsters are not a social species, so they will not get as much enrichment from interacting with other hamsters or humans. Some hamsters will even avoid human interaction. This is ok. There are many other ways you can provide enrichment to your hamster. For example, you can sprinkle food around their cage and hide it in toys so that they have to look for their food. This taps into their natural behavior to look for food and bring it back to their nest.

Herbs, leaves, and flowers are another way to enrich your hamster as they stimulate the sense of smell. They are fiber-filled snacks that you can replenish once a week.

You can also provide your hamster with different substrates for digging and burrowing in to stimulate the senses. Some safe substrates you can provide for your hamster include corn cob bedding (make sure they don’t eat it – remove it if they do), cork granules, and moss.

6. Provide your hamster with a sand bath

A sand bath provides your hamster with a way to keep clean, helps wear down their claws, and gives them a different substrate to dig in. You should not wash hamsters in water as this can remove the oils from their coat. Therefore, a sand bath is a good way for your hamster to remove excess oils while having fun. Many hamsters love to roll around and play in sand baths.

The sand bath should be a decent-sized container for them to walk and dig in. You can use an acrylic tray or a glass baking tray.

The sand bath should contain actual sand and not dust. This is because dust can cause respiratory problems in your hamster. You can use safe sand such as chinchilla sand, lizard sand without any dyes or added calcium, or play sand, as long as it is dust-free. Play sand can be used because it has been previously washed and dried. Avoid sand from $1 stores or craft stores as you don’t know what it contains.

A sand bath does not have to be cleaned unless it has been soiled.

For more information on sand baths, read my article Hamster Sand Baths: Everything You Wanted To Know

7. High variety diet

Hamsters should have a high variety diet to keep them happy as well as healthy. The ideal diet for your hamster includes:

  • The majority of your hamster’s diet should be commercial hamster pellets (not a seed or muesli style mix)
  • Small amounts of fresh fruit, vegetables, or herbs
  • Occasional treats such as unsalted nuts, Timothy hay, sunflower seeds, or mealworms
  • Your hamster will also need constant access to fresh, clean, and chlorine-free water. You should provide it in a water bottle, with a metal spout, or a water dish that is changed daily.

You can also provide your hamster with cooked, unseasoned meat as a treat.

For more information on what you can feed your hamster, I wrote an article called What Do Hamsters Eat?

Boredom Breakers for your Hamster

Without mental stimulation, your hamster can get bored. For example, a bored hamster may display behavior such as:

  • Chewing bars constantly
  • Constantly climbing the bars of their cage. Also known as ‘monkey barring’
  • Pacing up and down the cage
  • Wall climbing – climbing and bounching of the walls of their cage

As well as being an indication of boredom, these behaviors can indicate that your hamster does not have enough space. A hamster cage or aquarium should have at least 450 square inches (2903 square cm) of floor space.

Hamsters mainly get enrichment from food, and some good boredom busters include (source):

  • Stuff willow balls with a few treats and/or seeds. Your hamster will have to shake it or chew through it to get to the treats.
  • Stuff a cardboard tube (toilet paper tube) that has a few holes cut in it with some willow hay, then some seeds, then more willow hay, and repeat until the cardboard tube is full. They have to rip at the tube to get to the food.
  • String fruits and vegetables onto a kabob and hang it in the cage. They have to work at it to get the food off. You can buy a kabob from pets stores.


For a happy hamster, you need to provide the best possible care and stimulate them mentally. A happy hamster has a healthy and varied diet, entertainment in the form of toys and tubes, exercise from a hamster wheel, a sand bath, and a large cage to explore, forage and burrow in. To further enrich your hamster, you can switch out their toys, change the layout of their enclosure on occasion, make them search for their food by scattering it around their enclosure or hiding it in toys, and provide them with herbs, leaves, flowers, or sprays to eat.

Read more on: Hamster Care or Essential Hamster Supplies.

Can Hamsters Eat Cheese? Everything you needed to know

Hamster in cage

Many foods are not safe for hamsters. Some foods can cause medical conditions, are toxic, or quickly exceed a hamsters’ daily caloric requirements, leading to weight gain and/or medical conditions. So you may be wondering, can hamsters eat cheese?

Some types of cheese are safe for your hamster to eat. For example, cottage cheese, mozzarella, and other low-salt cheeses are safe for hamsters in small quantities. However, some cheeses should not be fed to your hamster, as they can cause health problems.

Hamster in cage

Is Cheese Safe for Hamsters?

Cheese is a delicious and safe treat for hamsters as long as it is fed in small amounts. However, there are some types of cheese that you should not feed to hamsters. Hamsters should not be fed cheese that is:

  • Aged: Can damage your hamster’s digestion
  • Very soft: Can get stuck in your hamster cheek pouches, causing them to choke or develop teeth problems
  • High Fat: Can result in diabetes and obesity
  • Blue: The bacteria in blue cheese could cause serious health problems for your hamster. They are toxic to hamsters!
  • Highly processed: Are high in sodium (e.g., American cheese or spray cheese)
  • Salty: Are high in sodium (e.g., parmesan or asiago)
  • Flavored: Cheeses with additional spices and flavorings can be harmful to your hamster

Also, do not feed your hamster cheese-based snacks made for humans, such as cheese puffs. This is not real cheese and has no nutritional value! In addition, they can contain flavoring and other ingredients that are damaging to your hamster’s health.

Too much cheese is bad for your hamster

Cheese in excess is bad for your hamster because it has lots of saturated fat, dietary cholesterol, and sodium. A diet high in fat and sodium can lead to health problems such as diabetes, obesity, heart attacks, strokes, and kidney disease. Too much cheese can also make your hamster constipated or dehydrated. Other side effects of your hamster eating too much cheese can include an upset stomach, gas, bloating, and diarrhea. However, cheese is high in protein and calcium and several vitamins and minerals, which are good for your hamster.

Do not leave uneaten cheese in their cage as it can start to rot, attracting bacteria and insects. If your hamster hasn’t eaten all of the cheese within 12-24 hours, you need to get rid of it.

So make sure that you stick to mild, unflavored, low-salt cheeses in moderation.

What kind of cheese can hamsters eat?

Hamsters can eat mild low-salt cheese such as:

  • Low-fat Cottage cheese
  • Mozzarella
  • Provolone
  • Ricotta
  • Mild Cheddar

This assumes that the cheese is in good condition. Do not feed your hamster cheese that is old or moldy as it can be dangerous to their health.

How often can I feed hamsters cheese?

Too much cheese can impact your hamster’s health. Therefore, only give your hamster cheese as a treat once a week (at most).

How much cheese can I feed a hamster?

If this is the first time feeding your hamster cheese, only give a small amount at first. This will allow you to determine if they like cheese and whether it causes any digestive issues. Also, only feed your hamster small pieces of cheese so they won’t choke on it. Each portion should be no bigger than the size of a raisin. Hamsters cannot vomit, which makes choking a health risk.

An appropriate-sized piece of cottage cheese should be no bigger than a teaspoon or 2-3 shreds of other low-fat cheeses. It is important not to overfeed your hamster, so the smaller, the better!

You should only give small amounts of cheese because it is high in fat, sodium, and calories. Feeding too much cheese to your hamster can result in diabetes, obesity, and other health issues.


Hamsters can have cheese as long as you stick to safe, mild, unflavored, low-salt cheeses and in small quantities. However, cheese should not be a large part of their diet and should not be given more than once a week. See What do Hamsters Eat? for information on the ideal diet for your hamster.

If your hamster shows signs of digestive discomfort, loose stool, diarrhea, or decreased appetite, stop feeding them cheese and take them to a veterinarian.

What Do Hamsters Eat?

hamster eating

If you are a new hamster owner or are considering getting one, you may wonder what hamsters eat?

An ideal hamster diet consists mostly of store-bought hamster food, small amounts of fresh fruit and vegetables, Timothy hay, and occasional treats. Common treats for hamsters include unsalted nuts, sunflower seeds, dried crickets, or mealworms. Store-bought hamster food comes in the form of pelleted hamster food or a loose seed mix which differ in terms of their advantages and disadvantages.

hamster eating

Ideal Hamster Diet

Hamsters are omnivores, which means that they eat a mix of plants and meat, such as insects. Therefore, the best diet for your hamster is similar to what they would eat in the wild.

An ideal hamster diet consists mostly of commercial hamster food that you can buy in pet shops. You can also feed your hamster additional treats as long as they are given in moderation. Hamsters can be fed small amounts of fresh fruit, vegetables, and herbs. Unsalted nuts, Timothy hay, sunflower seeds, mealworms, and crickets are other popular treats for your hamster. When introducing new food to your hamster, first try tiny portions of safe foods in case they develop diarrhea. When you are sure that your hamster tolerates that new food, you can offer a pea or bean-sized amount.

Your hamster will also require constant access to fresh, clean, and chlorine-free water. You can provide your hamster with water in a water bottle, with a metal spout, or a water dish. You should change the water daily.

Pre-packaged Hamster Food

Most of your hamster’s diet should be made up of good quality store-bought hamster food. Do not use pet food designed for other animals such as rats, rabbits, or mice. Store-bought hamster food comes in the form of pelleted hamster food or a loose seed mix. These commercial hamster foods are specially formulated to contain most of the key vitamins and minerals your hamster needs to stay healthy. Pelleted hamster food is generally recommended, over a seed mix, as it provides a balanced diet in every bite. You can supplement pelleted hamster food with various other foods as long as it makes up the majority of your hamster’s diet.

Using a commercial pelleted hamster food as most of your hamster’s diet is the easiest and safest approach. Pelleted and block hamster food also helps to wear down your hamster’s teeth, preventing them from becoming overgrown. The downside of hamster seed mixes is that many hamsters will pick out what they like from the mix, missing out on some of the nutritional value.

If you choose to feed your hamster a seed mix, get one that contains various grains, seeds, and dried vegetables. Ideally, some seed mixes contain pelleted food as part of the mix. Ensure your hamster empties their food bowl before adding more, so they eat all of the food, not just their favorite parts. Also, avoid mixes with lots of molasses or dried fruit as they are full of sugar.

Follow the daily recommendations on how much to feed your hamster. Giving them more food may lead them to hoard their food. It can also cause them to become overweight and develop health problems such as diabetes.

Healthy fruits and vegetables for your hamster

There are several fruits and vegetables that you can safely feed to your hamster. However, you should wash all fruit and vegetables well before giving them to your hamster. Additionally, any fruits and vegetables not eaten within 24 hours should be discarded.

Before giving your hamster new fruits or vegetables, it is best to discuss how much can be given to them per day with your veterinarian. This is important for fruits and vegetables that are high in sugar (e.g., carrots). Overfeeding your hamster with fruits and vegetables high in sugar can lead to weight gain and diabetes. Dwarf hamsters a somewhat prone to diabetes, so you should limit or avoid sugar in their diet.

Healthy vegetables that can be fed to your hamster (in moderation) include:

  • Carrot
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage (can cause gas)
  • Cauliflower
  • Chicory
  • Spinach
  • Cucumber
  • Kale
  • Squash
  • Celery
  • Dandelions
  • Clover

Suitable fruits include:

  • Apple (without seeds or skin)
  • Pear
  • Melon
  • Mango
  • Strawberries
  • Bananas
  • Grapes – not too much (never a whole grape) as it can cause diarrhoea

You can also feed your hamster herbs such as:

  • Basil
  • Sage
  • Parsley
  • Coriander

Hamster Treats

Hamsters enjoy various food, and you can feed your hamster additional treats as long as they are given in moderation. A common guideline is that treats should be limited to no more than 10% of your hamster’s diet. It is best to stick to healthy treats such as nuts, fresh vegetables, fruit (in moderation), insects, grains, and seeds. However, it would be best to keep your hamster’s diet fairly consistent, as a sudden change in diet can cause digestive issues. If you would like to change their diet, do so gradually.

Popular treats for hamsters include:

  • Timothy Hay
  • Mealworms
  • Crickets
  • Nuts (unsalted, no almonds or peanuts)
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Hard-boiled egg (treat should be no bigger than the size of 2 raisins)
  • Cheese

Timothy hay is a special variety of hay full of fiber and ideal for small pets. Timothy hay is also good for keeping your hamster’s teeth in good condition. You can purchase it from pet stores.

Foods you should not feed your hamster

Many foods should not be fed to your hamster because they can cause medical conditions, are toxic, or quickly exceed hamsters’ daily caloric requirements, leading to weight gain and/or medical conditions.

Therefore, you should avoid feeding your hamster:

  • Apple seeds and skins
  • Grape seeds
  • Fruit pits
  • Citrus fruits, such as oranges, grapefruit, or lemons
  • Almonds
  • Peanuts (very high in fat)
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Eggplant
  • Rhubarb or rhubarb leaves
  • Raw beans
  • Raw potato
  • Avocados
  • Seasoned or spicy food
  • House plants (can be poisonous)
  • Chocolate (or any other sugary sweet)

Avoid feeding your pet hamster sugar and high-fat treats. No junk food! Also, do not feed them caffeine or alcohol since these can cause severe medical conditions.

The safest and healthiest option for your hamster is to stick to vegetables and fruits with high water and fiber content instead of seeds and nuts for snacks. 

How to make feeding fun for your hamster

Hamsters spend a lot of time in the wild searching for their food. Therefore, making them search for their food can keep them occupied and prevent boredom. Some options to try include:

  • Scattering some of their food pellets around their cage
  • Hiding treats, hamster food pellets, or fresh fruit and vegetables inside paper bags or tubes

Keep in mind that any fruits and vegetables not eaten within 24 hours should be discarded.


The ideal diet for your hamster is a pelleted hamster food supplemented with various other safe foods. If your hamster doesn’t eat pelleted hamster food, you can sprinkle some seed mixture on the pellets or use a seed mix that already contains pellets in it. If you have additional questions regarding feeding your hamster, consult a veterinarian specializing in small animals. Keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list of what your hamster can and can’t eat.

The ideal diet for your hamster:

  • The majority of your hamster’s diet should be commercial hamster pellets (not a seed or muesli style mix)
  • Small amounts of fresh fruit, vegetables, or herbs
  • Occasional treats such as unsalted nuts, Timothy hay, sunflower seeds, or mealworms
  • Your hamster will also need constant access to fresh, clean, and chlorine-free water. You should provide it in a water bottle, with a metal spout, or a water dish that is changed daily.

Additionally, you should monitor how much your hamster eats and drinks. If food consumption falls, their feces become soft or moist, or their hindquarters become soiled, talk to your vet immediately.

Water bottle or Water dish: Which is Best for your Hamster?

Hamster drinking water

You should provide your pet hamster with fresh water every day. Hamsters are vulnerable to dehydration and will not survive for more than a day or two without water. Two ways to provide water for your hamster are with a water bottle that attaches to the side of their cage or a shallow water dish. While both are great options, each option has its pros and cons.

Hamster Water Bottle

Most hamster owners provide their pets with an inverted water bottle that only releases water when they drink from it. It should be attached to the side of the cage at a height that a hamster can drink from, at a natural angle, on two or four legs. However, if not positioned correctly, it can cause an awkward angle for hamsters to drink from.

If you have multiple hamsters in one cage, a water bottle is preferred so that you don’t have to constantly refill their water every time the water bowl gets tipped over.


  • Holds more water
  • Cleanliness – more sterile when properly maintained
  • Avoids spillage
  • Hamsters cannot tip it over
  • Better choice if you have multiple hamsters in the same cage
  • It cannot be polluted by bedding, leftover food, etc.


  • Hamsters can chew through the mouthpiece if it’s made of plastic (check the water bottle regularly for damage)
  • Can break, leading to leaks
  • Prone to clogging
  • Harder to clean

A water bottle that is not cleaned properly can cause just as much bacteria as a water bowl. Because water bottles are more difficult to clean, bacteria can build up. Owners may also be less likely to change water bottles as they can hold more water. This is not good as the water will not be fresh, allowing bacteria to build up. Water bottles can also get clogged, which can result in your hamster getting dehydrated. Therefore, you need to check that the water bottle is properly clean and working every time you change the water, which should be daily. As long as a water bottle is properly cleaned and working, it is a good option to provide water for your hamster.

Hamster Water Bowl

Another option is to provide your hamster with a water bowl. It should be a bit heavy and shallow so that your hamster is less likely to tip it over or get wet by walking through it. It should be smaller than your hamster in size and placed on a solid surface.


  • Easier to clean than water bottles
  • It limits bacteria build-up if cleaned regularly
  • Less noisy than a water bottle
  • More natural angle to drink from


  • Hamsters can tip water bowls over, depriving them of water
  • Water can get contaminated with dirt, bedding, leftover food, urine, or fecal matter
  • Hamsters can chew through plastic water bowls/dishes. Get a ceramic one instead.

It would be best if you cleaned your hamster’s water bowl every time you refresh the water. An advantage of changing the water more often in a water bowl is that the water is fresh, which is good for your hamster.

Final Thoughts

Hamster drinking water

Whether you provide your hamster water in a water bottle or a shallow dish (or both), it should be checked and refreshed daily, even if water remains. Water bottles can malfunction and leak, while hamsters can tip over water dishes. Water can also become contaminated if it is not changed regularly. Therefore, it is essential to provide your hamster with a continuous water supply to maintain its health and prevent dehydration.

Whatever option you choose, the characteristics to look for in a hamster water bottle or water bowl are:

  • large water capacity
  • easy to clean
  • high-quality materials

If your hamster is not drinking, you will need to take it to a veterinarian.