Nature designed your little hamster to eat a high-fiber, low-fat, and low-sugar diet. Many people assume that hamsters are herbivores, but this is not really the case. Hamsters are actually omnivores. Out in the wild, they supplement their hay, leafy greens, and fruit with animal matter. This is usually in the form of insects and worms.
Heavily processed foods are usually not the best of choices for hamsters. They do best on a diet of natural grasses, greens, fruit, and animal-based protein and fat. It's worth checking that any dairy product or cooked food is safe for your pet.
Can Hamsters Eat Cheese?
Yes, hamsters can eat cheese. Low-fat and low-salt cheeses like mild cheddar, cottage cheese, and mozzarella can be healthy treats full of calcium and protein. However, salty high-fat cheeses like parmesan should not be fed to hamsters. Follow our feeding instructions to avoid health issues, as some cheeses like Stilton are toxic to hamsters.
To put it in a nutshell, not all cheeses are suitable for hamsters.
Simple, low-fat cheeses are usually okay for your hamster to eat.
At the same time, cheeses with a lot of added salt and flavorings are best avoided. It's also best to avoid any that are high in saturated fat.
And finally, some types of cheese can even be toxic to your hamster. You need to check that the cheese you're feeding your pet is safe.
Some good choices are:
- Cottage cheese
- Mild cheddar
- Pasteurized goat cheese
But avoid cheeses like:
- Smoked cheeses
- Mature cheddar
- Cheeses with flavorings like onions or garlic
Did you know that buying high-quality hamster food is one of the most important ways to keep your pet healthy and avoid those visits to the vet? Click here to learn more about vet-recommended hamster foods.
Health Benefits: Are Cheeses Good for Hamsters?
Being an omnivore, your hamster will most certainly appreciate some animal fat and protein in his diet. Commercially produced hamster cereals and foods sometimes omit these components. Adding some to top off your pet's regular feed will do him some good.
1. Good Source of Protein
A healthy, active hamster requires at least 16% crude protein in his diet. And if yours is going to be a mama or already has young ones, she needs even more.
It's important to provide your hamster with enough protein, and cheese can be a good source of this.
How much protein contained in any given cheese will vary. Some varieties are richer than others. But as a general rule, all cheeses contain a sizeable amount of protein. Being an omnivore, your hamster is capable of processing the protein found in cheese. A simple, basic cheese makes an excellent addition to your hamster's basic diet.
2. Cheese is High in Calcium
Calcium is an important part of your hamster's diet, both in the wild and at home. It is an essential mineral necessary for teeth and bones to remain strong and healthy. Almost all calcium consumed is stored within the bones and teeth.
This mineral also helps in releasing various hormones and enzymes that affect the entire body and muscles need it to be able to move. Blood vessels also require calcium to move blood efficiently around the body.
Your hamster needs to get enough calcium in his diet. The occasional addition of a low-fat cheese snack will help to boost your pet's calcium intake.
3. Provides Vitamins A and B12
These two vitamins are both essential for your hamster's health and wellbeing. Vitamin A contributes to healthy eyesight and keeps your pet's skin and fur in good condition. It is also essential for nerves and muscles to function well. B12 helps maintain the health of your pet's nerve cells, while it's also useful in preventing some types of anemia.
Most cheeses contain a healthy dose of both of these vitamins. A small serving of cheese can help to boost your hamster's vitamin intake.
Health Risks: Are Cheeses Bad for Hamsters?
Hamsters are greedy little things and will often stuff heir cheeks while begging for more. They also appreciate tasty treats, and most love nibbling on cheese. But not all cheeses will work, and even the safe ones have their drawbacks.
1. Avoid Cheeses with Salt and Flavors
We love our cheeses, and there's a massive range of them available in the shops. Many times the cheeses we like best have added salt and intense flavors.
Hamsters don't do well with salt, so any foods containing lots of it should be avoided.
The strong flavors are not good for your hamster. The best way to prevent any digestive upsets or worse is to leave such cheeses for human consumption.
If feeding your hamster cheese, check to make sure it has no added salt or flavors.
2. Some Cheeses Contain Too Much Fat
While it's true that hamsters are omnivores and need some animal fat, too much is not good. Cheese contains protein, but it also contains lots of fat. Hamsters need only a limited amount of fat in their diet. It's best to avoid any highly processed cheeses and those containing a lot of saturated fats.
3. Blue Cheese is Toxic
It's worth knowing that blue cheese (including Stilton) is very toxic to hamsters. Ingesting even a small quantity can lead to severe poisoning and illness. It is definitely not the kind of cheese you want to feed your pet.
4. Overfeeding Can Cause Problems
Individual nutritional values vary from cheese to cheese, but all cheeses are high-calorie foods. Hamsters are generally busy, active critters, but excess calories will show up in the wrong places. Things like obesity, heart-related issues, and diabetes can creep in. Because cheese is a very calorie-dense food, it needs to be fed in small amounts only.
Start by looking for and selecting a cheese suitable for hamsters. Remember, anything with a lot of salt, fats or strong flavors is a no-no. Blue cheese and Stilton are also categorically off the menu.
A teaspoonful is a suitable serving size for your tiny hamster. Play it safe and limit your pet's cheese intake to once or twice a week.
Let It be a Treat
Once you've selected a suitable cheese, be it hard or soft, you can give a little to your hamster. If your pet is trying cheese for the first time, offer just a morsel. Wait and watch for 24 hours to check that everything is fine.
Once you're sure your hamster hasn't reacted badly to the cheese, you can increase the serving. Serving sizes will vary depending on the calorie and fat content of each cheese but a good rule of thumb is to never offer more than half a teaspoonful for your little buddy.
However, cheese should not be a part of your hamster's daily diet, and it is better served as a small treat, very occasionally.
Don't Feed Daily
Cheese is a good, nutritious food. But it is also very calorie-dense and contains a lot of fat. Feeding cheese to your hamster daily would be too much negating any benefits it may have offered. Play it safe and limit your pet's cheese intake to once or twice a month at most, and remember to avoid all the salty ones with strong smells and flavors.
It's hard to be precise because there are so many varieties of cheese out there. Each one will have its own nutritional characteristics, but. all share some general characteristics.
All cheeses are high on protein, carbs, and fats. Also, they are an excellent source of vitamins and calcium.
Lots of Protein, Carbs, and Fat
Individual values vary, but all cheeses are high in protein, and fats. They are calorie-dense, meaning a small serving will go a long way.
Cheese has a reputation for being unhealthy, but that's simply because people eat too much. And the same applies to hamsters. A small serving is good for them, but too much can cause health problems.
Rich Source of Vitamins
Cheese, being a dairy food, is an excellent source of vitamins A and B12, as we discussed earlier. To recap, vitamin A is great for eyesight, skin, and fur, while B12 keeps nerve cells healthy.
Many cheeses also contain riboflavin, otherwise known as vitamin B2. This vitamin helps convert food into energy by breaking down protein, carbs, and fat.
Calcium in Plenty
All cheeses, especially those from grass-fed animals, contain a respectable amount of calcium. This mineral contributes to keep your hamster's bones and teeth healthy. It also has other functions in the body, such as helping blood vessels move blood around.
Cheese Adds Important Minerals to the Party
We know that cheese contains lots of calcium, but that's not the only mineral it has. It is also a good source of phosphorus, magnesium, and zinc. These must all be present in your hamster's diet to keep him healthy.
Phosphorus works together with calcium in the formation of bones and teeth. The body also needs it to make protein. Magnesium supports a healthy immune system and helps to maintain a regular heartbeat. It also helps to maintain healthy muscle and nerve function in the body.
Zinc is interesting because it helps support the senses of smell and taste. It plays a role in cell division and supports the immune system too.
As long as it's fed as a small snack no more than couple of times a month, cheese is fine for your hamster. It will provide animal-based protein and fat as well as a good dose of calcium. But you also need to remember that not all cheeses are safe for your pet to eat.
Avoid blue cheese and Stilton altogether as they are toxic to hamsters. It's also better to stay clear of any that contain a lot of salt or saturated fats. And finally, avoid those that have strong smells and flavors. Stick to simple, low-fat cheeses for best results.
Can hamsters eat cheese puffs?
No, hamsters should not eat cheese puffs. Although there is nothing actually toxic in them for hamsters, cheese puffs are not a healthy food for your hammy. Hamsters can eat cheese, but only ones with low salt and fat content and no flavors. Processed junk food like cheese puffs contains way too much fat and salt to be fed to your hamster.
Hamsters are omnivores and, just like their rat cousins, love a little taste of cheese. Cheese is high in protein with vitamins and minerals that help to build and maintain strong bones, teeth, and muscles.
Tiny pieces of mild, low-fat cheese are safe as an occasional treat for your pocket-pet. Cheeses that are low in salt are also better choices, so avoid Parmesan cheese. Low-fat plain cottage cheese is a great option for your little chap, but remember to check their cage afterward.
Hamsters love to save their favorite foods for later, but cheese can rapidly start to mold, which can pose health risks for hamsters. Blue cheeses are extremely toxic to rodents because of the mold growing within the cheese. You should also avoid feeding any flavored cheeses (no pepper, no onion, etc.).
With cheese, a little definitely goes a long way for your hamster treats.
- Dr. Edele Grey, DVM
Edele Grey, BSc, MVB, PGCertESM, MRCVS was born and raised in Ireland on a farm, so she was destined for veterinary-related work from a young age. Dr. Grey attended the only veterinary university in Ireland, the University College Dublin, and graduated in 2013. Since graduation, Dr. Grey has worked with a range of exotic, companion, and production animal species.
NOTE: Advice provided within this article is not a substitute for veterinary advice. Please discuss your hamster's specific dietary needs (based on his breed, weight, age, and health status) with a veterinarian.