What Do Hamsters Eat? Facts About Eating Behavior and Diet of Hamsters
Did you know that the hamster originates from the plateau north of the Syrian city of Aleppo? There, it lives underground in a system of tubes up to nine meters long and more than one meter deep. The hamster mainly comes to the surface when it wants to find food. Whatever cannot be eaten immediately, the rodent picks up in its large cheek pouches and brings it back to the burrow. But what is hidden in hamster cheeks?
In this guide, you’ll learn what hamsters eat and other interesting facts about hamster nutrition.
Proper nutrition for hamsters
To keep your hamster healthy and fit for as long as possible, proper nutrition is very important. A species-appropriate diet for hamsters is varied and takes into account that…
…the hamster is not a pure herbivore.
…the hamster’s four front teeth grow throughout life and must be ground down by food.
The easiest way to ensure that the small rodent gets all the essential vitamins, minerals and amino acids is to feed a ready-made food in the form of pellets or flakes. A balanced ready mix should contain approximately the following proportions of protein, carbohydrates, fat and crude fiber:
15 to 25 % protein (protein) 35 to 40 % carbohydrates 4 to 5 % fat 5 % crude fiber
Pure seed mixtures are not suitable as a staple food for hamsters, as they do not represent a complete diet. Above all, they contain too little vitamin E and calcium. In addition, seeds contain a lot of fat, which can lead to obesity and diabetes in the small rodents.
If you buy a ready-made food or food mix for your hamster, make sure it doesn’t contain sugar. Sugar damages teeth, is known to cause obesity, and is dangerous to hamsters because it can gum up cheek pouches, causing inflammation of the oral mucosa.
Fresh food in the form of leaves, twigs, vegetables, fruits and other foods from the human kitchen is advised to supplement the ready-made food.
Fresh water should always be available to the hamster. For every 100 grams of body weight, a hamster will drink about 10 milliliters of water per day.
What green food is suitable for hamsters?
Hamsters like to eat green leaves and should get fresh green food every day.
Suitable green food includes, for example:
Basil Nettle Watercress Blackberry leaves Dill Iceberg lettuce Endive lettuce Lamb's lettuce Daisies Goutweed Golliwoog Raspberry leaves Coltsfoot Currant leaves Chamomile Cat grass Lettuce Clover Dandelion Alfalfa Melissa Parsley Peppermint Romaine lettuce Arugula Yarrow Echinacea Chickweed
You can find many of these plants in your garden or you can grow them yourself in a flower pot and in unfertilized soil. Herbs and salads can also be bought in organic quality in supermarkets. Cat grass is often available in seed form to grow up yourself or as a full-grown plant in pet and garden stores.
Collect meadow and garden herbs yourself and dry them! You can offer them to your little rodent as homemade hay. You can present it to him over food racks.
Vegetables, fruit and more: What foods can a hamster eat?
Numerous foods from your kitchen are good for the hamster. Many vegetables and fruits as well as animal protein sources enrich the hamster’s diet.
What vegetables can hamsters eat?
Broccoli (little) Chicory Fennel (with greens) Cucumber Carrot (without green) Celeriac Pumpkin (all types of edible pumpkin) Kohlrabi leaves Corn Chard (little) Bell bell pepper Parsley root Beet (little) bean sprouts Celery (little) Turnip Tomato (without seeds and green) Zucchini
What fruits are hamsters allowed to eat?
Apple Pear Strawberries Blueberries (little) Raspberries (little) Currants (little) Grapes
What are animal sources of protein for the hamster?
Protein from hard boiled egg Fish (cooked, without salt or spices) Meat (cooked, without salt or spices) Fresh cheese Shrimps (cooked or dried) Cottage cheese Yogurt Cheese (the more salty and fatty, the less suitable, offer only in small quantities/rarely) Curd cheese
Protein from hard boiled egg
Fish (cooked, without salt or spices)
Meat (cooked, without salt or spices)
Fresh cheese Shrimps (cooked or dried)
Yogurt Cheese (the more salty and fatty, the less suitable, offer only in small quantities/rarely) Curd cheese
Nuts, sunflower seeds and dog biscuits taste good to hamsters. However, since they are very fatty, you should rarely offer such treats.
What insects can a hamster eat?
Hamsters will happily eat the following insects – whether dried or alive:
house crickets crickets
What twigs can a hamster eat?
Unsprayed twigs are a welcome change for the gnaw-happy hamster. They help him grind down his ever-growing incisors:
Apple Tree Pear tree Birch Maple Beech Ash Hazelnut Linden
What should hamsters NOT eat?
There are some things you should not feed your hamster, as they are unhealthy or even toxic to the little rodent. These include:
In general: all poisonous plants Eggplant Avocado Beans Cabbage Leek rhubarb raw potatoes spinach Onions Sour fruit (for example pineapple, kiwi or sour cherries) Stone fruit (for example, apricots, nectarines or plums) Citrus fruits Ham and other salty meats Salted nuts Salt lick Stale bread Sugary foods such as candy, treats, pastries or cake
When and how much should hamsters be fed daily?
Unlike its ancestors from Syria, the hamster kept as a pet is nocturnal. During the day, the small rodent sleeps in its small animal home. Therefore, hamsters also eat at night. To ensure that food and water are fresh and the hamster can sleep as undisturbed as possible, the ideal feeding time is in the evening or late afternoon.
For the amount of food, you can follow the instructions on the package of the ready-made food. It usually states what portion size is suitable per day. A typical example for adult hamsters might be 10 to 15 grams, which is equivalent to two teaspoons.
You don’t have to be strict about the amount of greens, vegetables and fruits. However, you should only give small amounts of fruit to the small rodent so that it does not consume too much sugar. Hamsters can also develop diabetes.
Animal protein sources such as insects, dairy products, eggs or meat should also not be offered in large quantities, as the small rodent cannot consume much of them at once and there is a risk that they will go bad during the night – especially in the warm half of the year. It’s enough if you feed animal protein sources about three times a week.
Hamsters spend a lot of time foraging in the wild. Species-appropriate feeding also includes distributing and hiding food in the enclosure. This will give your hamster variety and fun in everyday life. Make sure that the food in the enclosure remains clean and remove everything the next day that the little four-legged friend has not eaten. It should not contaminate the bedding, sand and hay.
Is your hamster too fat or too thin?
If you notice that your hamster looks thin or has gained weight, you should talk to your veterinarian. The experts at the vet’s office will help you determine how many calories your hamster needs based on its size and health. Generally, active animals burn more calories than leisurely contemporaries. During pregnancy and lactation, the mother animal also needs more calories than normal.
What do baby hamsters eat?
Baby hamsters are nursed by their mothers for the first few days after birth. For example, the Syrian golden hamster begins eating solid food between about the seventh and tenth day. After about 21 to 25 days, the young are weaned. In the case of the Dzungarian dwarf hamster, the weaning age is three weeks.
Other facts worth knowing about the diet of hamsters.
Hamsters eat their own feces, but only a special type of feces: appendix feces. Appendicitis feces are formed in the appendix and are very rich in nutrients, making them different from normal feces. If the food is changed too quickly, it can cause digestive problems – such as bloating and diarrhea. Therefore, if you want to optimize your hamster’s diet, go slowly. Start with small portions of the new ready-made or green food, previously unknown vegetables or fruits or new animal protein sources and feed them in addition to the usual food. This way your hamster can get used to the new foods bit by bit. A species-appropriate and varied diet as well as gnawing toys keep the permanently growing incisors in shape. If the teeth become too long, the hamster must go to the vet’s office. There, the veterinarian will trim the teeth, otherwise they will interfere with the animal’s eating and pose a health and injury risk.
Learn more about keeping hamsters in our guide “Keeping hamsters in a appropriate way – how to do it right!”.
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