Feeding your hamster
Hamsters are omnivores, which means they eat a variety of plants and insects. The best diet for your hamster is one that includes fresh vegetables and protein-rich treats like mealworms, similar to what they would eat in the wild.
Hamsters are notorious for hoarding their food. Extra food is packed into special cheek pouches and stored around their cage for later use.
Top tip: avoid giving your hamster muesli-style food. They eat the parts that are high in sugar and leave the parts that are high in fibre. This can result in painful dental problems as well as weight gain.
The ideal hamster diet will include:
- Commercial hamster pellets (not a muesli-style mix). You can buy these in pet shops
- Small amounts of fresh fruit, vegetables or herbs
- Timothy hay. This is a special variety of hay that’s full of fibre and is ideal for small pets. You can buy it in pet shops
- Occasional treats, like nuts, boiled egg or mealworms
- You hamster will also need constant access to clean, fresh water. It should be in water bottle with a metal spout
Make feeding fun
In the wild, hamsters spend a lot of time looking for food. Making them work for their food is an excellent way to keep them occupied and prevent boredom. You could try the following:
- Scattering some of their food pellets around their cage instead of feeding them from a bowl. This is a really good idea if you have one hamster that is very protective of the food bowl and won’t let other hamsters have their fair share of the meal.
- Hiding hay, food pellets or fresh greens inside paper bags or cardboard tubes or boxes. Your hamster will enjoy searching for their food and can also gnaw on the packaging you hide it in.
Healthy fruits, vegetables and herbs
All of these fruits, vegetables, and herbs are safe for your hamster. Make sure to thoroughly wash them before feeding them to your hamster, and only feed a small amount each day.
- Sweet peppers
Don’t feed citrus fruits, such as oranges, lemons or grapefruits, to your hamster!
If you want to feed your hamster live insects, go to a pet store that specializes in reptile feed. Many small lizards must be fed live insects, and mealworms and crickets are bred for this purpose. If you buy insects from a store, you can be certain they have not been exposed to insecticides or other harmful chemicals. Crickets outperform mealworms for two reasons:
- Mealworms just sit there, but the hamster gets exercise chasing the more active crickets.
- Mealworms are very, very low in calcium, which is essential for good bone strength – if hamsters eat too many mealworms, it can upset their calcium balance.
Feeding your hamster live insects is probably only possible if you keep it in a large aquarium tank. If you don’t want to feed live insects, try cheese, meat, eggs, or yoghurt instead.
Things to chew and gnaw
Hamsters enjoy chewing and gnawing on things. It’s a natural behavior that keeps their teeth healthy and prevents them from becoming overgrown. It also keeps your hamster entertained and keeps them from becoming bored.
Hamster love to shred and chew things like:
- Coconut shells
- Hay cubes
- Unbleached loofah
- Pumice stone
They have the ability to gnaw on untreated softwood. Before giving them any softwood branches to chew on, bake them for an hour on a low heat and thoroughly wash them to ensure they are safe for your hamster.
Good woods to use are:
- Elm & Red Elm
- Grape & Grapevine
- Willow (goat, weeping, or pussy willow)
What else should you be aware of?
Prepared hamster diets are sold in pet shops and stores in boxes or bags. These diets include a lot of seeds and other oil-rich foods.
As a result, if improperly stored, they go rancid and lose their nutritional value. Furthermore, these oil-rich foods contribute to obesity.
These foods can be offered as a supplement to the aforementioned commercial diets. All food should be served in heavy ceramic dishes that will not tip over. Dishes should have high enough sides to keep bedding and feces out of the food, or they should be elevated slightly above the bedding. Water is most easily made available and kept clean by storing it in one or more water bottles fitted with’sipper’ tubes.
Make sure the ends of the tubes are low enough so that all residents, especially juvenile hamsters over a week old, can easily access them. Make sure that very young hamsters are strong enough to drink from these sipper tubes.
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!
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