One of the most important aspects of caring for your hamster is making sure that it eats a balanced diet that provides your pet with the nutrition it needs to stay healthy. It is essential that you understand the dietary needs of this animal to make sure you are feeding your hamster the right types of food and avoiding any foods that are potentially harmful. Here is an overview of what you should and should not feed your hamster.
The Hamster Diet
The main nutrients that hamsters need in their diet are proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water. They need each of these items in different quantities and you will find each of them in different types of foods.
- Protein- This is important for tissue-building and growth. The best sources are wheat, peas, corn, nuts, oats, beans, and barley.
- Carbohydrates- Eating carbohydrates is necessary for energy and warmth. Some sources of carbohydrates include yeast, potato, sugar, corn, wheat, oats, and barley.
- Fats- too much fat in a hamster’s diet is detrimental to their health, so they only need this in small quantities. There is a small amount of fat in wheat, barley, corn, and oats.
- Vitamins- Although hamsters do not need a lot of vitamins, they do still need vitamins in their diet. If a hamster does not get the vitamins it needs, there is a higher risk that it will suffer from health problems.
- Minerals- Hamsters only need a small amount of minerals, but they are still an important part of their diet. The best sources of minerals and vegetables and grains.
- Water- Water is essential for any animal to live. Your hamster needs a good supply of fresh water, so you must clean and refill its water bottle regularly.
What Do Hamsters Eat in the Wild
In the wild, a hamster’s diet depends on the environment in which it lives. In most cases, wild hamsters live on the borders of deserts where the ground is dry. Hamsters are omnivores, which means they eat both plant-based foods and small amounts of meat. They survive on grasses, grains, and small insects. They will gather their food at night to avoid predators, store the food in their cheek pouches, and take it back to their burrows.
What Should You Feed Your Hamster?
The main source of nutrients for your hamster is hamster food mix or hamster pellets. Both are available either from a pet food store or online. It is best to buy hamster foods that are natural looking and not the brightly colored varieties. This is because the latter usually contain lots of additives.
Hamsters also enjoy snacks of fruit and vegetables, although you should only feed your hamster these in small quantities. Some of the fruits and vegetables that hamsters enjoy and that are safe for them to eat include carrots, apple, cucumber, broccoli, banana, cauliflower, pear, and peach.
A good source of protein for your hamster is chopped hard-boiled egg and feeding them a small amount of this occasionally adds a little more variety to their diet. Another treat option is mealworms. In the wild, hamsters eat insects as a source of protein and most hamster mixes do not include insects. Offering mealworms is a good solution as it gives them the meat they are missing from their diet.
One food product that many hamster owners do not know they can feed their pet is yeast. This is a good source of vitamin B and it both supports the nervous system and reduces stress. You can add a pinch of nutritional yeast to your hamster’s food mix once or twice a week.
What Should You Not Feed Your Hamster?
Although there are many fruits and vegetables that hamsters enjoy and are safe for them to eat, there are also some that you should avoid. Examples include citrus fruits and onions. These have a high acid content and will cause your hamster to have a stomach upset. Another food to avoid is garlic. This is known to harm a hamster’s kidneys.
One of the most harmful foods you can give to a hamster is the green stalks from the top of tomatoes. This part of the tomato fruit is so toxic to hamsters that it is potentially fatal. If you feed your hamster tomatoes, remove these first.
In small quantities, most nuts are safe to feed to hamsters. Large amounts have too much fat and this will cause health problems for hamsters. The exception to this is almonds with their skins intact as the skins contain acids that are harmful to hamsters.
Always avoid giving junk food to your hamster. This includes chocolate, chips, sweets, and any processed foods. These are usually high in either sugar, fats, or salt. They may also contain additives and preservatives. In most cases, junk foods are harmful to a hamster’s health. Similarly, while sweet almonds are fine, bitter almonds contain a cyanide compound that is potentially fatal to hamsters.
How Much and How Often Should You Feed a Hamster?
According to the PDSA, you should feed your hamster with dry hamster food mix twice a day, offering around 10g each time. Of course, hamsters have different appetites and dwarf hamster breeds may eat less. Therefore, you should observe what your hamster eats and feed it accordingly.
You can also offer your hamster treats, including fruits, vegetables, cooked eggs, and mealworms. You should only give a small quantity of these foods once or twice a week and you should chop up larger foods into small pieces for your pet.
When you should feed your hamster is a subject of debate. Some people believe you should give the hamster its food in the evening and early morning as these are the times when the hamster is most active.
In the wild, hamsters forage for food at night to avoid and then take it back to their burrows in their cheek pouches. However, they do not necessarily eat their food straight away as they will store it either in their cheek pouches or in their burrows. They have several periods of activity in their burrows during the day and will often eat their food then.
Therefore, you do not necessarily need to feed your hamster at night as they will probably store their food anyway. If you are feeding dried hamster food mixes to your pet, they will not spoil if left in a feeding bowl during the day. So, you can top up the food at times that are convenient for you. When feeding fresh foods, wait until you see the hamster awake in their cage before offering them a fresh treat.
Hamster Food Available on Amazon
Other than in pet stores, one of the best places to shop for your hamster food is online and Amazon is the website that offers the widest choice. This is a convenient way to buy pet food because you can easily search for products and compare the different prices from the comfort of your own home. Not only will this save you time, but you will also probably get a bargain as many pet food products cost less from Amazon than in pet stores and there are some products with huge discounts.
The hamster food sold on Amazon is perfectly safe for hamsters to eat. If the product is specifically for hamsters, then it should fulfill their dietary requirements. However, you should always take the time to read any product information about the food as this will usually tell you about the ingredients in the product. Many of the pet food products sold on Amazon are the same brands as are sold in pet food stores. The only difference between these products is the price, which is usually lower on Amazon.
What you feed your hamster is an important aspect of being a responsible pet owner and making sure your pet stays healthy. You should try to replicate what a hamster eats in the wild as much as possible because this will fulfill their dietary needs. Hamsters can live perfectly well with just hamster food mixes and fresh water, but they will also enjoy small treats of fruits, vegetables, eggs, and mealworms. There are some foods that your hamster should avoid and, if you are unsure whether foods are safe for a hamster to eat or not, you should always check first. By offering your hamster a choice of foods and avoiding harmful foods, your hamster should live a happy and healthy life.