And since hamsters will sample virtually anything to see if it’s edible, it’s really important not to give your little furry buddy free access to your kitchen countertops, garbage can, or any other area of your home where food is stored, prepared or eaten.
Some foods you should not feed your hamster include:
- The leafy green parts of a tomato. These tomato parts are so toxic to hamsters they can be fatal
- Meats high in fat
- Chocolate or other candy
- Junk food (chips, etc.)
- Beans and potatoes. These can often lead to a case of hamster diarrhea, which can lead to more serious health issues.
- Onions, garlic, peppers. These vegetables can cause stomach irritation.
- Almonds. Some almond nut skins may contain naturally occurring acids that are harmful to hamsters.
- All citrus fruits. Citrus can be too acidic for hamsters.
NOTE: There is much debate among hamster enthusiasts and few research findings about whether items 5 through 8 on the above list should be avoided in all forms, at all times, for every hamster. My recommendation for novice hamster owners is to err on the side of caution and/or solicit the advice of your veterinarian or other knowledgeable source.
A healthy hamster diet should include lots of variety, but because the little guys are sensitive to foods you might not suspect, it’s important to be very knowledgeable about what to avoid.
Most hamster owners feed a combination of a commercial hamster diet found at pet supply stores, and supplement with appropriate fresh, people food.
Prepared Hamster Diets
The food you buy your hamster generally comes in one of two forms, pelleted blocks or seed mixes that also contain grains, cracked corn and pellets.
Pelleted blocks with around 20 percent protein contain all or most of the nutrients your hamster needs. Unfortunately, many hamsters don’t like this food.
Seed mixes seem to be more favored by hamsters, but in order to be optimally nutritious, they should contain a variety of foods in addition to seeds, like dried fruits and vegetables. Mixes with a high amount of sunflower seeds can cause both obesity and a nutritional deficit in your hammy’s diet, so those blends aren’t a good idea.
A problem with seed mixes is they allow hamsters to pick and choose what to eat, which can contribute to a nutritional imbalance.
Some hamster owners feed their pets a combination of pelleted blocks and seed mixes, combining the food with complete nutrition with food that is more attractive and often more palatable to their pet. The blocks provide the added benefit of meeting a hamster’s need to chew while helping to keep the teeth trimmed.
Ideally, your hammy will take a liking to the more nutritionally balanced pelleted food. Then you can sprinkle a bit of a seed mix in for variety and as a special treat.
Many prepared hamster foods are formulated specifically for a certain type of hamster, so make sure you choose one that is right for your pet.
Fresh Food Supplementation
You should supplement your hamster’s diet with fresh foods at least every couple of days.
I recommend you feed healthy human foods and limit treats and “extras” to less than 10 percent of your pet’s diet. Supplement primarily with whole grains, nuts, fresh veggies and fruits (in moderation, because they can cause diarrhea and also contain sugar). Avoid sugary treats, as hamsters are prone to both obesity and diabetes. A few suggestions:
|Safe fruits and veggies||Other safe foods for supplementation|
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Hamsters are known for stuffing their pouches with food to eat later. Your little guy will also build a stash of food for late night snacking if he can get away with it, so it’s important to check the cage thoroughly when you clean it each day to clear out any hidden, hoarded treats.
Don’t Forget the Drinks!
Fresh, clean water should be available to your hamster at all times. Use an inverted bottle with a drinking tube, and change it each day.
For more information on how to be a great hamster parent, visit the ASPCA hamster care page.