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.
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:
- Cabbage (can cause gas)
Suitable fruits include:
- Apple (without seeds or skin)
- Grapes – not too much (never a whole grape) as it can cause diarrhoea
You can also feed your hamster herbs such as:
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
- Nuts (unsalted, no almonds or peanuts)
- Sunflower seeds
- Hard-boiled egg (treat should be no bigger than the size of 2 raisins)
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
- Peanuts (very high in fat)
- Rhubarb or rhubarb leaves
- Raw beans
- Raw potato
- 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.