Peanut butter is basically a paste made of grounded (pureed and crunched) and dry roasted peanuts with added oils to ensure a creamy texture. Depending on the brand, there can be added sweeteners as well. The United States is the leading exporter of peanut butter, and in this country alone, the annual peanut butter consumption is worth $800 million.
Considering the popularity of peanut butter and our fondness for it, it is only logical to wonder – can hamsters eat peanut butter? After all, they do eat peanuts in the wild. Are there any risks and concerns worth evaluating? How can peanut butter be safely incorporated into a hamster's diet?
If you are interested in finding out the answers, keep reading. In this article, we'll go through the benefits and risks of feeding peanut butter and also tell you why it can be just downright dangerous for your hammy.
Can Hamsters Eat Peanut Butter?
Yes, hamsters can eat peanut butter. Peanut butter is packed with proteins, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals which have health benefits. However, the health risks of peanut butter include obesity, upset stomach, and choking. In addition, sometimes peanut butter can contain aflatoxins which are toxic and even lethal to hamsters.
Adding peanut butter to the hamster's menu is not straightforward as it may seem
- Dr. Ivana Crnec, DVM
The best way of ensuring there are no harmful and toxic substances in the peanut butter is to make it at home. The homemade peanut butter is perfectly safe for hamsters as long as used in small amounts and not too often. As with any other sugary or high-fat treat, moderation is the key.
Do hamsters like peanut butter? Yes, hamsters adore peanut butter because it tastes like one of their favorite nuts. However, there can be hamsters that prefer other sugary treats.
Also, it's important to remember that your hammy should always be fed a balanced and complete diet consisting mostly of hamster food (either pellets or seed-mix) and a small amount of healthy treats like veggies, fruits, and meat. Peanut butter can be included as a small treat.
Can hamsters eat smooth or crunchy peanut butter? In terms of ingredients, both types are the same. However, smooth varieties are safer for greedy little hamsters as they can choke on crunchy versions.
With everything said, it is safe to assume that adding peanut butter to the hamster's menu is not straightforward as it may seem. There are several caveats, but luckily, we are here to explain them all.
Health Benefits: Is Peanut Butter Good For Hamsters?
Something that tastes so amazingly good must be unhealthy, right? Well, that is not always true. When it comes to peanut butter, it is both tasty and healthy.
When it comes to peanut butter, it is both tasty and healthy.
Supports growth and development
Peanut butter is perfect for young hamsters as it helps them gain weight and promotes their muscle development.
Because of its ability to promote weight gain and the satisfying amounts of protein, peanut butter is excellent for convalescent hamsters recuperating from health problems that caused weight losses and debilitation.
Enhanced cardiovascular health
Peanut butter is loaded with unsaturated fats, which are the "good" kind of fats. These unsaturated fats promote healthy heart function and have the ability to regulate blood cholesterol levels.
Plus, peanut butter has potassium and magnesium, and these minerals lower blood pressure. All these features combined together result in improved cardiovascular health.
This may sound confusing at first – where can hamsters find peanut butter in the wild? Well, they cannot find peanut butter, but they can find peanuts. And not only can they find but they love them.
Hamsters are attracted to peanut butter because it is close to their natural diets. Its strong smell and sweet taste are just a bonus.
Provides mental stimulation
Besides being rich in vitamins from the B-complex that boost the hamster's brain function and promote a healthy neurological system, you can use peanut butter in interactive games that provide mental stimulation.
It is simple – just spread some peanut butter on a cracker and hide it somewhere in your hamster's enclosure. Then, let your hamster find the treat by sniffing around.
Health Risks: Is Peanut Butter Bad For Hamsters?
Even the healthiest food, if eaten in excess amounts, can have adverse effects. Here is a short review of why eating too much peanut butter might not be the best idea.
Peanuts and all nuts, in general, have high molding tendencies. Two particularly common molds - Aspergillus parasiticus and Aspergillus flavus produce harmful chemicals known as aflatoxins while growing.
The only way of ensuring there are no aflatoxins in the peanut butter you are serving your hamster is to make it at home.
- Dr. Ivana Crnec, DVM
Basically, every peanut product (including human-grade products) can contain small amounts of aflatoxin if made from molded peanuts. These amounts are small and unlikely to cause problems in humans, but in hamsters, because they are small creatures, these toxins can have lethal consequences.
The only way of ensuring there are no aflatoxins in the peanut butter you are serving your hamster is to make it at home (which, luckily, is not that hard).
Cheek pouch clogging
Peanut butter has a unique sticky consistency that can easily clog your hamster's cheek pouches. Cheek pouch clogging, as a condition, is more severe than it sounds.
When the clogged peanut butter starts decaying, the bacteria accompanying the decay process can cause infections. Cheek pouch infections are hard to treat and always demand veterinary intervention.
In more severe cases, the hamster might have to be sedated during the cleaning procedure. Antibiotics will also be prescribed to control the infection and prevent spreading.
Hamsters are notorious for their sensitive tummies. Basically, any new and unusual food has the potential to trigger stomach troubles. In the case of peanut butter, the high sugar content is not helpful.
If your hamster develops diarrhea or bloating after feasting on peanut butter, contact a vet immediately for advice and help. Both conditions can progress really quickly, endangering your hamster's life.
Diabetes and obesity
It is no secret that peanut butter is rich in sugars and fats. Therefore, just like in people, too much peanut butter can make the numbers on the scale rise really quickly with hamsters.
Obesity in pet hamsters is associated with cardiovascular and joint issues. Plus, obesity combined with high-sugar and high-fat foods increases the risk of diabetes. This is of particular concern in Dwarf hamsters as they are already genetically predisposed to diabetes.
Many brands use artificial sweeteners in their peanut butter formulas. These artificial sweeteners, like xylitol, can be even more harmful than natural, regular sugar.
Peanut butter is rich in lectins. Lectin is a specific carbohydrate-binding type of protein notorious for its pro-inflammatory features. Pro-inflammatory means it has the power to support inflammatory processes.
This is terrible news, especially for hamsters already suffering from chronic inflammatory conditions, like arthritis.
Peanut allergies in humans are prevalent. In hamsters, they are not as common but are possible. Peanut butter allergies can manifest with tummy issues, skin problems, or, worst-case scenario – impaired breathing. Again, if you witness any worrying symptoms, you should contact a vet for advice.
Hamsters can choke on peanut butter, especially if they try to fit into their mouths more than they can handle. The risk of choking is greater with crunchy peanut butter varieties. Therefore, when serving peanut butter to your hamster, opt for smooth kinds.
Feeding Guidelines: Peanut Butter For Hamsters
Adding something new to your hamster's menu can be tricky. Here are some general guidelines that will ensure your hamster's safety.
With certain precautions and safety measures, hamsters can enjoy the lovely taste of peanut butter
How much peanut butter can hamsters eat?
The portion size depends on the hamster size. Namely, Syrian and Robo hamsters can eat one-quarter of a teaspoon of peanut butter. For Dwarf hamsters, use the tip of the teaspoon as a measurement guide.
These portion sizes apply to adult hamsters already used to eating peanut butter. If your hamster has never tried this delicacy before, do not offer the whole portion at once.
Start small and see how its tummy handles the new food. If there are no tummy trouble signs after 12 hours, you can continue increasing the amount served until reaching the recommended portion size.
How often can hamsters eat peanut butter?
The serving frequency also depends on the hamster size. If you have a Syrian hamster, you can offer peanut butter once a week. If you are parenting a Robo hamster or a Dwarf hamster, serve peanut butter once every two weeks.
When using peanut butter as a treat, avoid offering other sugary foods, especially fruits. Peanut butter has more than enough sugar.
How to give your hamster peanut butter?
Although peanut butter is readily available in supermarkets and stores, as already mentioned, the safest option would be to prepare it at home.
Luckily, preparing peanut butter is much easier than it sounds. All you need to do is shop for peanuts. As key ingredients, the peanuts you buy need to be fresh and free from molds. After all, using mold-free peanuts is the whole reason for preparing the butter on your own.
The peanuts you buy need to be fresh and free from molds.
The peanuts are put into a processor, and then some oil is added to achieve a creamier texture. Keep in mind that smooth kinds of butter are safer than crunchy ones as hamsters are prone to stuffing food and choking.
Once you have the peanut butter prepared, put it in a glass jar and store it in the refrigerator. Proper storage is another critical factor. Namely, if exposed to light and room temperature, the peanut butter's nutritional value declines.
When it is serving time, or better said, a couple of hours before serving time comes, you need to scoop the amount necessary and let it warm. Hamsters cannot be harmed by cold peanut butter. Also, they are more likely to refuse it unless it is warm. Plus, you will have a more challenging time spreading it if cold.
Yes, spreading – that is another caveat worth mentioning. To avoid choking issues and cheek pouch clogging, it is best advised to apply the peanut butter on a piece of bread, cracker, or oats. Alternatively, you can spread it on a flat wooden surface and let your hamster lick.
If your hamster fails to eat the entire amount of peanut butter you served, remove the leftovers. Peanut butter is exceptionally sticky and can make a mess inside the enclosure if left for long enough.
Finally, you can prepare your hamster tasty homemade peanut butter treats. Just mix one cup of whole wheat flour, half a cup of oats, one-third of a cup of your previously made peanut butter, one egg, and few tablespoons of water. The mixture is used to make thin and round-shaped treats that will be baked in a preheated oven for around 20 minutes at 180 degrees.
In case you were wondering, these are the nutrients 100 grams of peanut butter offer:
- 588 calories
- 1.8 g water
- 25 g protein
- 50 g fat
- 20 g carbohydrates
- 9.2 g sugar
- 6 g dietary fiber
- 4.8 g starch.
And these are the vitamins and minerals per 100 grams of peanut butter:
- 0.11 mg thiamine (B1)
- 0.11 mg riboflavin (B2)
- 13.2 mg niacin (B3)
- 1.1 g pantothenic acid (B5)
- 0.55 mg pyridoxine (B6)
- 35 µg folic acid (B9)
- 5.9 mg vitamin E
- 54 mg calcium
- 179 mg magnesium
- 1.5 mg manganese
- 2.2 mg iron
- 649 mg potassium
- 335 mg phosphorus
- 0 mg sodium
- 2.7 mg zinc
The analysis is straightforward for interpretation. Peanut butter contains healthy ingredients like proteins, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, but it is also rich in fats and sugars.
So, can hamsters eat peanut butter? The answer is yes. With certain precautions and safety measures, hamsters can enjoy the lovely taste of peanut butter. As for health benefits and risks, there are considerations for both categories.
However, when infrequently served in tiny amounts, peanut butter, especially if home prepared using fresh peanuts, is safe, tasty, and adds diversity to the hamster's menu.
Last but not least, as tempting as it sounds, do not let your hamster lick the peanut butter off your finger as your hammy can accidentally bite you.
Being a responsible hamster parent is more than providing proper nutrition, enclosure, and care. Sometimes, being a responsible hamster parent means putting the apron on and preparing your hamster some tasty and healthy homemade peanut butter.
You can safely add peanut butter to your hamster's menu, but only when you are 100% positive, it has no dangerous ingredients and compounds. And the only way of being sure is to take the matter into your own hands and start cooking.
- Dr. Ivana Crnec, DVM
Ivana Crnec is a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine specialized in domestic carnivores. She graduated from the University Sv. Kliment Ohridski, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Bitola, Republic of Macedonia. Ivana is a certified canine nutritionist and also certified in HAACP food safety system implementation. She currently works as a veterinarian while completing her postgraduate studies. Her research has been published in international journals.
NOTE: Advice provided within this article by FeedingMyPet.com 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.