Hamsters are adorable little creatures that can make wonderful pets for people of most any age. While they make excellent starter pets for kids, there’s no reason grownups can’t have them, too. No matter who owns them or cares for them, it’s important to remember that, like any animal, they can suffer from nutritional deficiencies if not fed properly. With that in mind, here are five nutrition tips for keeping your hamster healthy and happy — oh, and don’t forget the fresh water!
5 Nutrition Tips for A Happy, Healthy Hamster
1. Hard Gnawing Foods
Hamsters, like other small rodents, like to gnaw on things. That’s why they have those front teeth — that and to crack seeds and shells. It’s their propensity to gnaw that makes it important to include hard foods in their diet. Pellets are a food product in which the ingredients (things like corn, sunflower, timothy hay, wheat and Omega 3 fatty acids) have been ground up and formed into small, hard pieces. You should include at least one tablespoon of pellets three times a week in their food supply. You can purchase them with different feeding requirements in mind, like for babies, older hamsters and Syrian or dwarf varieties.
2. Fresh Foods
Hamsters also need fresh, leafy green vegetables and fruit in order to stay healthy, just like humans, plus it’s a nice change of pace from pellets and seeds. Offer fresh foods as a treat just two or three times a week and only one or two small pieces at a time. Greens you can give them include endive, cauliflower, cucumber, chicory, paprika and broccoli. Suitable fruits are a small piece of apple, banana, pear, melon, berries, peach or raisins. Do not give them iceberg lettuce, potatoes, celery, onion or rhubarb. Note: too many fresh foods can cause diarrhea or what’s called wet tail.
3. Seeds & Grains
Mixes or blends of seeds and grains are another excellent source of nutrition for hamsters and make good supplements to pellet food. There is one thing you need to be aware of, however, when buying it: with most of these mixes there is a disproportionate number of sunflower seeds in them. So what’s wrong with that? It’s a double edged sword in that hamsters love sunflower seeds, but they are full of fatty oils and can lead to obesity in your pet if they eat too many. Avoid giving them almonds or peanuts, as they’re considered toxic to them.
4. How Often Do I Feed My Hamster?
Because they have tiny stomachs that fill up quickly, it’s important to provide them with healthy foods to fill them with. Give them one heaping tablespoon of food per day alternating between seeds and grains or pellets. Doesn’t sound like much? As stated, hamsters can get fat just like people and other domestic animals. If you feed them more, make sure they have a wheel to run on. In the wild, they eat insects, so as a treat you can provide them with mealworms. Hard treats can also be supplied such as dog biscuits for toy breeds or small branches from fruit-bearing trees.
5. More Hamster Feeding Tips
While pellets help hamsters receive the proper nutrients they need in their diets, they can also cause constipation, just like too many greens can cause diarrhea. That’s why it’s important to strike a happy balance when providing these two food groups. Also, when buying pellets, look for a brand lower in corn, since large quantities of it are said to be harmful to them. Pesticides are extremely dangerous to hamsters, so thoroughly wash any fresh foods before supplying it. Finally, don’t leave any uneaten fresh food in their cage over night. It will rot, start to smell and begin attracting insects.