Most kids love the idea of keeping pets, and hamsters are an all-time favorite. But whether you're debating getting a hamster or happen to be the proud owner of one, understanding your pet's needs is important.
Pet's depend on us for their survival, and so it's no wonder that you want to know everything about their dietary needs. Hamsters mostly eat dry food and leafy green vegetables such as dandelions, but they also love gorging on fruits.
If you're wondering whether your pet hamster can eat strawberries, then you've come to the right place. Read on to learn more about hammies, strawberries, and everything in between.
Can Hamsters Eat Strawberries?
Yes, hamsters can eat strawberries. Strawberries are high in fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants, which can be beneficial for your hammy. However, you should only feed strawberries to your hamster once a week because they are high in sugar and water, often causing diarrhea and weight gain. Avoid health problems by checking the recommended serving size.
The recommended and safest food for hammies is the complete feed available in the pellet form. These pellets are perfectly balanced to provide proper nutrition for your furry friends.
However, you can also feed your pet pals an occasional snack that amounts to a special treat containing additional nutrients. So, to answer the initial question, can hamsters eat strawberries - is they most certainly can. They can be fed a variety of berries, including raspberries or blueberries.
Other healthy edibles such as carrots, kale, cauliflower, and bok choy are all good options. Variety in diet keeps the little foodies happy because they genuinely love their food.
Because 90% of your hamster’s food intake should comprise pellets or seed mix, it’s important you know how to choose the best food for hamsters. High-quality food will keep your pet healthy and nourished.
Health Benefits: Are Strawberries Good for Hamsters?
If you want to give your hamster a snack, why not go with something that's a healthy option? Let's take a look at the benefits of the strawberry:
Berries are known to be wholesome and enriched with nutrients.
Excellent Vitamin Source
Strawberries are known to be a very high source of vitamin C and support the immune system. They are also rich in antioxidants, which are necessary for heart health and blood sugar control.
Strawberries also contain folate and manganese, which are essential for healthy tissue growth, cell function, and other processes in the body.
Rich in Fiber
Fiber comprises almost 26% of the carbohydrate content of strawberries. It's a well-known fact that fiber is good for gut health and maintaining a strong digestive system. Dietary fiber feeds the friendly bacteria in your gut. Therefore, a hamster snacking on a strawberry is likely to have good digestion.
Fresh strawberries are very high in water and have a very low glycemic index of 40. It contains potassium, iron, copper, and phosphorus. Also, strawberries contain vitamin B6, K, and E.
Furthermore, strawberries have 25 different anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are beneficial plant compounds known to improve health and prevent chronic diseases.
The regular intake of strawberries can decrease LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol, regulate insulin levels, hinder obesity, and fight gut bacteria. Hence, feeding your hamster this organic treat is bound to provide benefits for their overall wellbeing.
The process of oxidation can damage cell membranes, lipids, and DNA. When oxygen is metabolized, it goes on to create free radicals that steal electrons from other molecules and cause harm.
While nature has equipped all living things to deal with free radicals, an excess of them can cause irreversible damage to organs like the heart and liver. This damage can even take the form of cancer.
Hamsters are prone to developing tumors that may or may not be malignant. The good news is that the majority of hammies who develop such a condition have benign (non-cancerous) tumors. However, four percent of hamsters with tumors stand the risk of being diagnosed with cancer.
That's where antioxidants can help big time. Studies have shown that antioxidants help prevent cellular damage in hamsters and help protect against diseases. Additionally, antioxidant-rich foods like strawberries can also reduce the risk of oral cancer in hamsters.
Health Risk: Are Strawberries Bad for Hamsters?
So, let's look at the risks that might be involved when feeding your hamster strawberries. For human beings, the list of benefits that are associated with eating strawberries is pretty lengthy.
Strawberries are a yummy treat for hamsters, but they are high in sugar, which can cause tummy upsets and obesity.
- Dr. Edele Grey, DVM
But, of course, hamsters are tiny creatures with a delicate digestive system. So, what works for humans may not necessarily apply to hamsters too.
In short, strawberries can be given as a snack for your pet. However, there are certain things to keep in mind when you do feed hamsters strawberries.
High Sugar Content
While strawberries do have a very low glycemic index and are also mostly water-based, nonetheless, they contain too much sugar for hamsters to eat daily.
Pair this up with a tendency for obesity and diabetes: too much of this wonder berry may spell disaster for your pet.
Not to mention, hamsters can develop troubled tummies. That means that if you give them too many strawberries, they can end up with diarrhea and quite a bit of bloating.
Too Much Water
Water is essential for all living things, and hamsters are no different. But fruits and vegetables that have high water content can be harmful to hamsters if fed regularly.
As we've already mentioned, hammies have delicate digestive systems, and even a minuscule change in diet can sometimes set off a bad bout of diarrhea.
According to the USDA, a single strawberry can contain up to 6.37g of water. Typically, hamsters should consume around 10-20ml of water daily. But a quick conversion reveals that 6g of water equals 6ml.
It means that feeding your pet too much strawberry can throw off their daily water intake and cause loose poo. To make things worse, diarrhea can lead to a condition called" wet tail" in hamsters, which can be potentially life-threatening.
Potential Pesticide Problems
Unfortunately, a majority of growers use pesticides and insecticides on their crops to protect from insects, weeds, and fungal diseases. However, this practice leaves traces of chemicals used in pesticides on the fruits and vegetables we consume.
Ingesting these chemicals in small amounts will not damage humans (though they should be avoided). But, if your little hamster ingests even the tiniest amount of pesticides, it can lead to serious health risks.
This is why you should always thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables before feeding them to your pet. Also, always try to buy organic products whenever you can because these are pesticide-free.
Serving Size and How to Feed?
Now that we've covered the potential benefits and risks attached to strawberries let's focus on how you should serve them to your pet hammy.
Treat Your Pet to Strawberries Only Once A Week
We know you get that strawberries can make excellent treats for your pet. But, because of the potential health risks (such as diabetes, obesity, and diarrhea), you should only feed your hamster strawberries once a week.
A good rule of thumb when it comes to treats for hamsters is that they should only make up 10 percent or less of their diet. It means you should only feed your hamster a quarter teaspoon worth of strawberries.
How to Serve Strawberries to Your Pet?
To avoid any risk of choking, you should chop up a strawberry in little pieces. It'll be best if you cut the strawberry into hamster bite-sized pieces.
Furthermore, hamsters have a habit of storing food in their cage to munch on later. After you've fed your pet, it's best to check the cage for any remnants because you don't want your hammy eating rotten food.
If you're still worried about the potential health hazards attached to feeding your hamster strawberries, remember, anything in excess can be detrimental. Still, to put your mind at ease, here are some other nutritional facts about strawberries.
Vitamin A, C, And E
Vitamin A is the term for a type of fat-soluble compounds that are essential for many processes such as healthy vision, and proper growth. Vitamin A is especially good for young and pregnant hamsters.
Vitamin C helps promote healing in hammies. Hamsters who suffer from Vitamin C deficiency are prone to developing scurvy. Scurvy can cause fur loss, lethargy, weight loss, and wobbly walking.
Vitamin E is essential for keeping your hamster's skin and fur healthy. However, too much can cause problems, so speak with your vet about whether your hamster is receiving the right amount.
Zinc and Copper
Zinc is an essential micronutrient and helps enhance immune functions and maintains heart and skin health. Copper is another crucial mineral that is necessary for all living things because it plays a role in making red blood cells.
In hamsters, both copper and zinc can help break down proteins and aid in digestion and nutrient absorption. They're particularly good for hamsters that are breeding.
Strawberries are a tasty way to maintain good health in your hamster, provided you follow the rule of moderation.
That way, you'll be able to provide your hammy with the best of both worlds and make sure it's getting all the nutrients it needs. The main thing to remember is that fruits, including strawberries, are only good to use as occasional treats.
One last piece of advice, though, whenever you're introducing any new element in your pet's diet, it's best to do so gradually. Additionally, you should also carefully observe your hammy after giving it its first taste of strawberries.
Apart from that, you're all set to feed your hamster strawberries should you wish to do so.
Can strawberries kill hamsters?
No, strawberries can not kill hamsters when fed correctly. Strawberries may contain harmful pesticides and must be washed thoroughly before serving. Also, strawberries have a high sugar content, which may be damaging to your hamster by causing obesity and diabetes. Strawberries don't kill hamsters, but to keep your pet safe and healthy, they should not replace balanced and healthy nutrition.
Diabetes is a relatively common disease in some breeds of hamsters, particularly Chinese hamsters, as they may be genetically prone to this and signs usually develop before they are a month old. You can try to prevent or slow the development of this disease by feeding carefully. Aim for high protein, low sugar/fat diets with no sweet treats in these hamsters, or if your hamster is a couch potato prone to obesity.
Signs of diabetes include weight loss, increased thirst, and cataracts on the eyes. If your pet is diagnosed with this disease, your veterinarian will be able to advise you about proper dietary management.
Wet tail is the common name for proliferative ileitis, which is most often seen in Syrian hamsters though it can be seen in all types and ages. This disease is preceded by stress, and tummy upsets from inappropriate diet or portion sizes, causing diarrhea and stress on the tummy, which can then progress to wet tail. This is a nasty disease that has a high fatality rate, so prevention is best.
- 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.