Can hamsters eat papaya?
Papaya, also known as a paw-paw, is a tropical fruit native to North America. Papayas are sweet, juicy fruits with pink to orange colored flesh. But whilst we as humans like to eat them, it is safe to feed papaya to our hamsters?
If you are thinking of feeding your hamster papaya then it is worth knowing that only certain species of hamsters such as Syrian and Roborovski can eat papaya in small quantities. Other species including Winter Whites, Russian Campbells and Chinese hamsters should avoid papaya altogether.
Read on to find out more!
Which species of hamster can eat papaya?
There are a number of different species of hamster. The most common species kept as pets include Syrian, Roborovski, Winter White Dwarves, Russian Campbell Dwarves, and Chinese hamsters.
Syrians and Roborovski hamsters can eat small quantities of papaya occasionally as part of a balanced diet. These are larger hamsters that can handle a diet that includes more sugar.
Both Syrian and Roborovski hamsters can be fed small amounts of papaya once or twice a week and this can be in the form of fresh or dried fruit.
If you have opted to feed your hamster dried papaya, then you should ensure that it contains no added sugars or artificial sweeteners as these are not good for your hamster to consume.
The smaller species of hamster, such as the Winter Whites, Russian Campbells, and Chinese hamsters are more prone to developing diabetes. These species should not be fed papaya as it is too high in sugar to be healthy, and could cause them to become obese.
They also have much more delicate digestive systems and papaya can cause them to have diarrhea. For species this small, even a condition as simple as diarrhea can be fatal for a hamster.
It is important to note, however, that no hamster should ever be fed the skin or seeds of the papaya fruit. These seeds are hard and can pose a large choking hazard for your hamster.
What are the health benefits of papaya for hamsters?
Papayas contain a lot of antioxidants, fiber, and vitamins. All of these are essential components of a healthy, balanced diet for your hamster. They are also believed to play a role in bone health and the prevention of arthritis in hamsters.
Antioxidants also play a large role in supporting your hamster’s immune system. This is what helps to protect them against diseases and infections, allowing them to stay fit and healthy.
Antioxidants protect the cells of the body against harmful free radicals which can cause cell damage. It is believed that there is a link between free radical damage and cancer.
Another great thing about papayas are that they are high in vitamin C. For hamsters, this is an essential nutrient for eye health – especially as some hamsters suffer with diseases such as pink eye.
Many hamsters have incredibly poor vision to begin with, so keeping a good level of optical health is vital. It also plays a key role in the growth and maintenance of thick and healthy fur.
Papayas are also rich in vitamin K. This is used to help with the regulation of blood calcium levels in your hamster. As well as this, vitamin K assists with the clotting of the blood and the speedy recovery from injuries.
Fiber helps the digestive system to stay moving and in good working order. It is also used to keep the gut microbiome healthy and balanced. If your hamsters are suffering from constipation (where they are not pooping), then a little papaya may help to relieve this.
What are the health risks of papaya for hamsters?
As we have mentioned, papaya is a sweet fruit that is very high in sugar. For species that are prone to developing diabetes, it is a large risk to feed them high-sugar foods.
A number of species are also prone to becoming obese, meaning that you need to have strict control over their food intake in order to prevent this.
Hamsters have little pockets in their cheeks that they use to hide and transport food and small objects. They are known to put food in these pockets instead of eating it and move it somewhere else in their cage.
If you feed them fresh fruit and they hide it somewhere, it may become moldy over time. This will not only smell, but it could be very dangerous for your hamster to eat.
The mold spores could make them very unwell. When feeding your hamster fresh fruits and vegetables it is important to check their cage and pockets for any leftovers. Remove any fresh foods 24 hours after placing them in their cage to prevent health risks.
What is a healthy diet for a hamster?
Hamsters are natural omnivores, which means that their diet must include plants and insects. In the wild, they would eat a mixture of fresh plants and vegetables, as well as insects such as mealworms.
The best diet for your hamster will consist primarily of a commercially available hamster pellet. There are a number of muesli-style mixes marketed as hamster foods.
The issue with these is that it allows your hamster to be choosy with the food they eat, meaning that their diet may not be as balanced.
This will be complemented by small daily quantities of low-sugar fresh fruits and vegetables. Good choices include cucumber, carrots, broccoli, romaine lettuce, spinach, and squash. Good fruits are apples, bananas, and pears but these should be fed in moderation.
There is a special variety of hay known as Timothy hay. This should be mixed into your hamster’s bedding as a form of enrichment. It is also healthy for them to eat small quantities of this as it contains a lot of fiber.
They will need the occasional protein snack inclusion too. The easiest option is to include dried mealworms into their food bowl every so often.
These can be purchased in all pet stores and kept for a long time. Other good protein sources are boiled eggs and nuts. Monkey nuts in the shell are a good form of enrichment and mental stimulation for your hamster.
Your hamster should constantly have access to a clean and fresh water source. This should be in a water bottle with a metal spout. If the spout is plastic your hamster may accidentally ingest small pieces of plastic which could be very harmful to their health.
We do not recommend using a water bowl as there is a risk that your hamster could fall in. Hamsters are not natural swimmers and it can be dangerous if they are submerged in water.
There are a number of food sources, such as papaya, that can give your hamster a multitude of health benefits whilst providing new flavors and texture to their diet. It is important to remember, however, that papaya contains a large quantity of natural sugars so should only ever be given to Syrian and Roborovski hamsters as a treat and in small amounts.
If you want more helpful advice on looking after your hamster, including tips on food, toys, accessories and accommodation, add a comment below to let us know!
Waiting for our next post here.