Like most animals, hamsters thrive when allowed a healthy, balanced diet containing the right amount of proteins, vitamins, minerals and fats. If you happen to run out of your hamster’s base diet, you can feed her a few different things commonly found in your kitchen for a day or two until you’re able to restock her base diet.
What can you feed a hamster besides hamster food?
Hamsters are omnivores, which means they can eat plant and animal-based proteins. This gives you more freedom in choosing substitute foods, assuming you run out of pellets, fruits, and vegetables.
Hamsters can eat human foods that aren’t mixed with additives, such as preservatives, salt (sodium), or oil. There are also categories of food that should be avoided altogether.
These can upset a hamster’s digestion or poison it. When feeding hamsters, avoid the following:
- Citrus fruits
- Dried fruits
- Sugary foods
- Salty foods
- Vegetables from the allium family, like garlic and onions.
What household foods can hamsters eat?
Here are foods you might find in your pantry that are safe for hamsters to eat:
Vegetables provide vitamins and minerals to your hamster and are welcomed treats in addition to their kibble. Hamsters, like other small animals, tend to love crunchy foods, and fresh vegetables fulfill their need to chew while also providing healthy snacks.
Ideal veggies to feed a hamster include:
- Green bell pepper
If you have a dwarf hamster, stay away from the fruits as dwarf hamsters are very prone to diabetes and the additional sugars could affect her in a negative way. Syrian hamsters, on the other hand, can handle the sugars better, although they should still be fed sparingly.
Syrian and regular hamsters will enjoy:
When feeding fruits, remove the seeds and pits, as these may be a choking or poisoning hazard. Most importantly, don’t provide fruit as the main part of their diet for longer than necessary.
Also, don’t offer citrus fruits, as they disrupt a hamster’s digestion.
Seeds are a great way to add essential nutrients to your hamster’s diet.
You can offer raw and baked seeds, although baked are ideal due to their added crunch. Hamsters will find this both delicious and enriching.
When buying seeds from the store, watch out for additives. Don’t pick salted varieties or those with added flavors, especially garlic and onion. Stick to plain, unsalted seeds.
Here are some seeds you can give to hamsters:
- Sesame seeds: Used in many cooking and baking recipes, this seed is a valuable source of calcium. They also contain protein, manganese, magnesium, iron, zinc, and copper.
- Pumpkin seeds: Contains magnesium, zinc, calcium, vitamin B12, and antioxidants.
- Sunflower seeds: Comes with an outer shell that allows hamsters to hold the seeds. Sunflower seeds provide iron, magnesium, vitamin C, and vitamin C6.
Pumpkin and sunflower seeds are larger. For bigger species of hamster, you can feed 2-3 seeds daily. For smaller species, break the seed into smaller pieces and only feed them 1 piece per day.
For smaller seeds, you can feed about 5-6 seeds per day.
Nuts provide protein and roughage to a hamster. They’ll also be fond of storing nuts in their cheek pouches to enjoy later. Most are a good source of energy and calories, as long as they’re a safe variety. Good nuts for hamsters include:
Most store-bought pellet food doesn’t contain meat. However, it has already been calculated to have enough protein, which comes from the nuts and vegetables in the mix.
If you’re limited to the veggies in your pantry, your choices might not contain enough protein to properly sustain a hamster. Instead, you can give your hamster protein from:
- Chicken: Prepare the chicken by boiling the chicken in water. Don’t add salt or oil. Only feed this meat in small amounts; limit it to ¼ teaspoon every other day.
- Fish: Fish contains amino acids that can’t be found in veggies and fruits. Best choices include salmon, cod, and sardines. Avoid shellfish and tuna, as these may contain high levels of mercury.
- Eggs: Boiled eggs are a more common choice since they’re easier for hamsters to eat. You can also scramble eggs for variety. Feed up to ½ teaspoons once every other week.
What human food can hamsters eat?
Some foods are considered exclusively “human food,” which can leave you on the fence about whether they’re safe for your hamster.
Meals you can find in your kitchen and safely share with your hamsters include:
Whole grain food
Whole grain refers to grains where all three parts of the grain are intact, including the following:
Compare this to refined grains, which have the bran and germ removed. This increases the grain’s shelf life and improves texture. Unfortunately, it also removes vital nutrients.
Whole grain has been linked to various health benefits. For example, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition determined that whole grain reduces the risk of stroke, diabetes, and cancer.
When it comes to feeding your hamster, you can select two main choices: whole grain bread and whole grain cereal.
Whole grain bread
Whole grain bread can be a good supplement for carbohydrates. It’s best to make your own bread, if possible, as you can control the ingredients.
In a pinch, only feed this to your hamster for only a day or two. It’s best to stick to nuts and grains instead of bread.
When feeding bread, it’s ideal to toast it or to leave it out to become mildly stale. This makes it crunchier, and hamsters love crunchy food.
Whole grain cereal
Whole grain cereal is slightly better than bread. Muesli targeted for humans can be fed to hamsters, as long as it doesn’t contain unsafe ingredients, like chocolate. Avoid brands with added sugar.
Wholegrain boxed cereals are okay to eat but check the labels. Cereals made with lots of sugar, especially ‘frosted,’ are harmful to a hamster’s digestive system. Don’t feed boxed cereals with mix-ins.
You can feed popcorn to a hamster, as long as you avoid oil and seasonings. To ensure that popcorn is healthy, you can pop the corn yourself, excluding the oil, by making it in a microwave or on a stovetop.
While it might seem like a human snack, popcorn has many health benefits. In particular, it contains polyphenols, a type of antioxidant. According to Pharmacological Reviews, polyphenols can improve blood circulation, digestion, and other diseases in mammals.
Popcorn also contains the following nutrients:
There are more than 7,000 varieties of rice, and all types are safe for hamsters to eat.
You can feed it raw and cooked. When serving cooked rice, ensure it’s not too moist or sticky, as hamsters find this distasteful.
The most nutritious type for your hamster is brown rice. Brown rice usually refers to wholegrain rice, but this isn’t always the case. Check the label, as proper brown rice will contain extra nutrients.
That said, black rice is the most nutritious type due to its high levels of antioxidants. The antioxidants provide the rice with its deep purple or black color.
Tofu is made of soy, which is safe for hamsters to eat. It is an excellent source of protein and contains:
- Vitamin B
According to The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, tofu may lower bad cholesterol levels. Just ensure that the tofu is unsalted. Give the tofu plain; avoid dips or sauces. Provide no more than ¼ teaspoon of tofu per week.
Baby food contains a lot of essential vitamins and minerals, as long as you opt for kinds that are low in sugar and preservative-free.
If possible, pick baby food made of things that hamsters like to eat, such as pumpkins, bananas, carrots, and peas.
Foods to avoid
Avoid anything that’s processed, sugary or salty. A good rule of thumb is to stick to whole foods. Avoid feeding her chocolate, green potatoes, garlic and the green parts of tomato plants as these can be toxic to her. Also avoid salt and mineral wheels, as they’re bleached or made with glues and plastics that could be harmful to her health.
If you want more helpful advice on looking after your hamster, including tips on toys, accessories and accommodation, add a comment below to let us know!
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