What do hamsters eat? And what type of food should you feed your hamster? Find out in our guide to what hamsters eat…
In the wild a hamster’s diet is suited to the area where it lives; this is usually in a dry place, often close to the edge of a desert. Wild hamsters eat seeds, grain and grasses as well as some insects. Hamsters are omnivores which means that, much like humans, they exist on a mixed diet of vegetation and meat.
It’s important that domesticated hamsters have a similar diet to that of their wild cousins. It’s also important that you don’t overfeed your hamster.
It’s a common sight to see a hamster, with cheek pouches full, still begging for more food. Although hamsters don’t necessarily eat all of the food in their cheeks straight away; they often store it under the bedding in their cage. It’s still a good idea to be careful of the amount of food you’re providing.
What do hamsters eat?
You can buy hamster mix from a pet shop; either muesli or pellets. It’s a good idea to buy food that looks natural as highly coloured foods are normally full of additives.
Hamsters love fruit and vegetables, but you need to be careful about the amount you are giving them. Hamsters are obviously only small creatures and too much fruit and veg in their diet can cause diarrhea. A small cube of apple, carrot or cucumber is enough. Hamsters normally especially love carrots but remember they are high in sugar so don’t give your pet too much. Other fruit and vegetables your hamster may like are; chicory, cauliflower, broccoli, pear, peach and banana. You should never give your furry friend any citrus fruit or onion as they are high in acid and your hamster could end up with an upset tummy.
If you want to give your hamster a treat then once a week you can provide a little hard-boiled egg, or some meal worms. These are both a great source of protein.
It’s easy to provide a healthy diet for your hamster but one thing it’s very important to remember is that no matter how tempted you might be, never give a hamster any food that is sharp or sticky, as it can become stuck inside their check pouches and cause real damage. Other than that, as long as you provide a balanced diet, fresh each day, your hamster should be a very happy pet.
Later in this article, we look at some specific foods – including meat, cheese, grapes and bread – and find out whether you should feed them to your hamster. But first, let’s look at how and when you should feed them.
How much should you feed your hamster?
The PDSA suggests that you should feed a Syrian hamster 10g of dry hamster food twice a day.
Of course you are going to need to take note of what your hamster eats, as they don’t all have exactly the same appetite.
Surprisingly, when it comes to the question of how much dwarf hamsters eat, the answer is, about the same as Syrian hamsters!
This is because, despite their smaller size, the metabolism of dwarf hamsters is a lot faster!
When should you feed a hamster?
There is some disagreement as to when you should give your hamster its food, with a lot of people thinking that it’s best to feed a hamster in the evening when they are active. That’s not necessarily true. In the wild hamsters come out of their burrows at night, and this is when they search for food. However, this is mainly for protection from daytime predators.
Much like domestic hamsters in their cage, wild hamsters collect food in their cheek pouches then store it to eat later. Hamsters wake several times during the day to snack on the food they have stored. Even though they are not in the wild, your hamster will also enjoy snacking throughout the day, so make sure they have enough food to do this.
When feeding, it’s important to remember that you should never leave uneaten food to rot; provide fresh food at each feeding time. You should also provide fresh water each day and make sure the drinking bottle is cleaned thoroughly at least once a week. If your tap water is high in chlorine then it’s a good idea to give your hamster filtered water to drink.
Can hamsters eat this..?
We’ve talked generally about what a hamster diet should include, but you might be wondering about some specific food types, and whether your hamster can eat them.
In this section, we look at some common foods that people often want to feed to their hamster.
Can hamsters eat meat?
Hamsters are omnivores, which means that they will happily eat meat as well as fruit and vegetables.
Meat is a great source of protein, which is an important part of a healthy, balanced hamster diet.
Wild hamsters eat small insects as part of their diet, including crickets and mealworms.
If you’re not too squeamish, you may want to consider feeding your hamster dried or live crickets and mealworms. These can be particularly popular with dwarf and Syrian hamsters.
Other kinds of meat that you can safely feed to your hamster include cooked chicken and beef, and canned dog food. Note that this is cooked meat, not raw meat.
It’s widely said that you should avoid feeding pork to hamsters. Other people report feeding pork to their hamsters without any problems. We recommend avoiding pork. With so many other meat, fruit and vegetable options, it’s simply not worth the risk.
Whatever kind of meat you decide to feed to your hamster; make sure that it is unseasoned. That means no salt, pepper or other spices.
Finally, you may hear horror stories about hamster cannibalism. Some people say that giving a hamster meat makes them more likely to be cannibals and eat their babies or other hamsters! This is not true.
Hamsters have been known to eat their young when they look unhealthy or when there is not enough food or water available. And, in some cases, hamsters may also kill – and possibly eat – other hamsters if their environment is overcrowded and unclean. However, this behaviour is not affected by whether or not there is meat in the hamster’s diet.
Can hamsters eat cheese?
Hamsters can eat cheese, though it shouldn’t be a significant part of their diet.
Your hamster should eat cheese occasionally, in small amounts. Think of it as a special treat!
The cheese that you feed to your hamster should be mild and low in fat.
Giving your hamster cheese once per week, in small quantities, should be fine.
Before feeding your hamster a significant amount of cheese, you should make sure that they don’t have a bad reaction to it. You do this by feeding them a very small amount as a test. If your hamster shows no signs of sickness, you can go ahead and add more cheese to their diet.
As well as hard cheeses, you may also be interested to know that hamsters can eat small quantities of cottage cheese. You should choose a low-fat variety and feed a test amount before feeding cottage cheese to your hamster more regularly.
Can hamsters eat grapes? What about other fruits, such as strawberries, apples and watermelon?
Hamsters can eat a wide variety of fruits; including grapes, strawberries, apples and watermelon.
The only type of fruits that you should definitely avoid are citrus fruits, such as oranges and lemons. This is because their acidity could give your hamster problems with their digestion.
To feed your hamster grapes or apples, you should first remove the skin, slice the fruit into small pieces (in half, at least, preferably into quarters) and remove any large seeds.
Ideally, you should buy seedless grapes for your hamster, as this completely removes any risk of them choking.
Before feeding your hamster any new food, you should first feed them a small test piece and check that they don’t show any signs of discomfort after eating it.
Be particularly careful with watermelon, as it can easily cause diarrhoea if you give your hamster too much.
Taking the time to offer test pieces will also tell you whether your hamster likes the new food. Some hamsters enjoy grapes, strawberries, watermelon and apples, whereas others simply don’t like them!
As long as your hamster likes it, and the test piece doesn’t make them ill, you can start adding more fruit to their diet.
Can hamsters eat carrots?
Carrots can be a great food for your hamster to gnaw on. And, as well as being a tasty treat, carrots have the added advantage of helping to keep your hamster’s teeth nice and short.
As with new fruits, you should try feeding your hamster a small piece of carrot before giving them lots.
This system of adding new things to your hamsters diet applies to all types of food. You should always feed a test amount first to make sure that new foods don’t make your hamster ill – even if you’ve seen other hamsters eat that food with no problems.
Can hamsters eat lettuce and celery?
Yes, it’s absolutely fine to feed lettuce and celery to your hamster.
Not all hamsters will necessarily like it, but many hamsters do, and it’s perfectly safe.
The only thing we would caution against is giving too much lettuce or celery to your hamster, as this can lead to diarrhoea.
It’s important that your hamster has a varied and balanced diet, rather than lots of any one type of food.
Can hamsters eat bread?
You may be surprised to learn that yes, hamsters can eat bread!
However, we only recommend feeding small amounts of brown bread to your hamster – not white bread – and only as a rare treat.
This is because, while hamsters can eat bread, it isn’t particularly good for them.
You should think carefully before adding treats like bread into your hamster’s diet. The important thing is to ensure your hamster is eating a healthy, balanced diet, without too many unhealthy treats.
If you want to feed bread to your hamster then we recommend avoiding white bread, because of its high sugar content, and sticking to brown bread instead.
You can try feeding small pieces of the crust to your hamster, soaking the bread in milk, or even toasting it. Most hamsters will love these little treats!
However, as bread isn’t very good for your hamster, you should only feed it in very small quantities.
Given the huge range of other things that hamsters can eat there’s not really any reason to include bread in their diet, so you may be safer to sticking to other more healthy options.