November 9, 2020

What Do Hamsters Eat?

Complete Hammy Food Guide

Fact checked by Dr. Edele Grey, DVM
Published by Emma Hughes

Vet Approved

Feeding a hamster is one of the most delightful aspects of owning one. Offering them all kinds of foods and watching them stuff it into their cheek pouches and quickly stash it in their cage can be a lot of fun.

As a pet parent, it is your responsibility to offer your hamster a nutritionally balanced diet that meets their dietary requirements.

Food and snacks are a great way to bond with your pet and to provide them enrichment. At the same time, those foods should be healthy and suitable for your hammy.

If you're the new owner of an adorable little hamster, you're probably wondering what hamsters eat and what you can feed them.  As a pet parent, it is your responsibility to offer your hamster a nutritionally balanced diet that meets their dietary requirements.

So, what do hamsters eat? In this feeding guide, we will explain everything you need to know about feeding your hamster.

Let's dive in.

What Can Hamsters Eat?

There are many types of hamsters, with the most common pet being the Syrian hamster (also known as the "Teddy Bear" hamster or "Golden" hamster). Other common pet hamsters include the Winter White, Campbell's, and Roborovski, which are all dwarf hamsters. These three species are smaller than the Syrian hamster.

  • Seeds,
  • grains,
  • veggies,
  • fruits,
  • meats,
  • cereals,
  • grasses, and
  • nuts

are part of a healthy hamster diet. In the correct proportions, of course.

Hamsters are omnivores meaning they eat both plants and meat. In the wild, they forage, which means they travel long distances looking for food. Therefore, they need a lot of exercise and a varied diet as pets too.

What Can You Feed Hamsters? 

Hamsters should eat a diet that consists mainly of pellets (or seed mix if your hamster is healthy and not a picky eater).

You can also alternate between seed mix and pellets if you want to ensure both enrichment and a balanced diet. The food should be specially designed to meet a hamster's nutritional requirements.

The best thing is to primarily provide your hamster with a commercial hamster pellet.
- Dr. Edele Grey, DVM

An average portion of hamster kibble is about 1-2 tablespoons per day.

Although Syrian hamsters are larger, dwarf hamsters have faster metabolisms and can eat the same amount of food daily. Still, your hamster's appetite may vary depending on his age and size, so check the instructions on the bag and monitor your hamster to prevent overfeeding. If you find that your hamster rarely finishes his food, you may be giving him too much.

Your hamster's diet can be supplemented with grains, vegetables, fruits, and meats, but these should not make up more than 10% of the everyday diet.

To keep your pet's diet diverse, you should vary between different foods. The average serving size of any treats should be approximately the equivalent of two raisins.

Hamsters are prone to obesity and diabetes, which is why you should be careful not to overfeed and to keep their diet balanced, nutritious, and healthy.

hamster eating pellet food

Do you see you hamster hoarding? 

Hamsters have an adorable way of hoarding their food. They stuff their cheek pouches full of food and stash it around their cage for later. This is natural behavior for hamsters and keeps them occupied.

Hoarding is actually a great way to encourage natural activity and to keep your pet entertained. Provide your pet with hiding places in the cage but check the stashes daily to ensure any food that is hidden doesn't go bad and make your hammy sick.

Keep your hamster chewing 

Because hamsters have ever-growing teeth, they need food with a texture that keeps the teeth trimmed down. Chew toys and woodblocks are other great ways to keep them from chewing on the cage, but fibrous food will also provide them something to do while supporting their dental health.

Hamster eating poop?

Another interesting thing about hamsters and eating is that they eat their some of their own feces. This behavior is called coprophagy. It's normal and an important way for your pet to recover more nutrients from the food they have eaten.

What Food Can Hamsters Eat?

When it comes to hamster food, there are two types:

  • seed mix, which looks like muesli, and
  • pellets, which can also be called kibble.

Your hamster should be fed 1-2 tablespoons of hamster food daily.

The portions may depend on the brand and your hamster's individual requirements, though, so be sure to check the instructions on the package.

Sometimes owners make the mistake of thinking their pet needs more food when their food dish is empty every day. However, most hamsters will not eat more than this but will hide it from you.

Let's have a look at the pros and cons of each type of hamster food:

Seed mix 

Many hamster owners prefer to feed their pet with seeds mix. These colorful blends contain a variety of seeds, nuts, grains, veggies, and fruits mixed up together. Although a hamster food like this can be healthy, encourage foraging, and provide your pet with a varied diet, it's not ideal if your pet is a picky eater or needs to lose a little weight.

If your hammy only chooses to eat the most flavorful pieces, their diet may contain too much sugar and fat and less useful vitamins and other nutrients. Selective eating may result in weight gain, nutrient deficiencies, and other health problems, including diabetes.

seeds and nuts for hamsters

Commercial hamster pellets

Pellets, sometimes called kibble or a rodent block, can be a better option if you want to ensure your hammy is getting a balanced and nutritionally sound diet.

Commercial hamster pellets are formulated to provide your pet with all the nutrients they need. They may seem like a more boring option, but on the other hand, they ensure your hamster gets nutritious food.

If you want to feed your pet pellets, but you're worried about enrichment, you can always supplement your hamster's diet with various exciting fruits, veggies, meats, and other treats.

Another option is to alternate between a seed blend and pellets to benefit from both.

Related reading: Best Hamster Food in 2021 (Recommended by Vets)

What Veggies Can Hamsters Eat?

Although 90% of your hamster's meals should consist of commercial hamster food, you can treat your hamster to many veggies and leafy greens to supplement their diet.

Veggies are a wholesome and nourishing way to offer that variety your hamster needs.

Here are some of the vegetables you can safely feed your hamster:

  • Asparagus
  • Bean sprouts
  • Bok Choy
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Carrot
  • Cauliflower
  • Chicory
  • Cress
  • Cucumber
  • Dandelion greens
  • Kale
  • Peas
  • Radicchios
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Sweet peppers
  • Zucchini

In addition to vegetables, you can also offer your hamster tiny amounts of

  • Whole grain bread
  • Whole wheat pasta (cooked)
  • Brown rice (cooked)

Remember to thoroughly wash the veggies before serving to remove all chemicals and pesticides with which they may have been treated.

To learn more about which vegetables are safe, check this page.

What Fruit Can Hamsters Eat?

Fruits can also be a good way to supplement your pet's food.

Keep in mind that although fruits contain many beneficial vitamins and other nutrients, they are also high in sugar and should, therefore, be fed in moderation.

Fresh blueberries in a glass bowl

Here are some excellent fruits you can feed your hamster:

  • Apples (remove the seeds)
  • Bananas
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Cantaloupes (remove seeds)
  • Cherries (remove the pit)
  • Cranberries
  • Grapes (seedless)
  • Mangos
  • Peaches (remove the pit)
  • Pears (remove seeds)
  • Plums (remove pits)
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries

As with veggies, also remember to wash all fruits thoroughly before feeding them to your pet. Fresh produce often contains chemicals that may be harmful to hamsters. Ideally, it would be best if you shopped for organic products, but always rinse the foods before feeding.

For more information about feeding various fruits to your hamster, check out this page.

Can Hamsters Eat Timothy Hay?

Yes, hamsters can eat timothy hay. Although hay is not a necessary part of the hamster diet, it can be a great addition that offers variety and something to chew on. Hamster food should make up the bulk of your pet's daily food intake, but hay can be a good source of additional fiber to support healthy digestion.

Grass hay like timothy, orchard hay, or oat is the best option. Legume hay such as alfalfa is higher in protein and calcium but can also be fed in moderation.

Fresh hay can be given daily, as it encourages foraging behavior and keeps your hamster occupied. As hay also offers something to chew on, it will keep your hamster's teeth trimmed, promoting dental health. Another benefit of hay is that it can help prevent weight gain.

Can Hamsters Eat Meat? 

Yes, hamsters can eat meat. As omnivores, hamsters should get protein in their diet. The hamster food you choose should contain everything they need, but supplementing with some high protein treats will give your hammy new exciting flavors and some extra protein.

A few great high-protein snacks for hamsters are:

  • Beef (cooked)
  • Chicken (cooked)
  • Turkey (cooked)
  • Fish (cooked)
  • Meals worms, crickets, grasshoppers
  • Scrambled or hardboiled eggs

Clean, fresh water for hamsters

Alongside hamster food and treats, you should ensure your hamster can access clean and fresh water all day long.

  • The water should be changed once a day, and the water bottle thoroughly cleaned once per week.
  • Some experts recommend you have two water bottles in the cage in case the other one gets blocked or runs out.
  • Tap water is usually fine, but if it contains a lot of chlorine, bottled water may be a better option.

What Can Hamsters Not Eat?

Although there are many foods your hamster will happily gobble up, there are also some foods you should not feed your hammy.

These are some of the foods hamsters can not eat or should avoid.

Acorns – May contain insects and parasites

Almonds – Unroasted, bitter almonds contain cyanide, and all almonds are high in fat. An occasional sweet almond is fine, but not more than once a week.

Celery stalks – Celery itself is not toxic or harmful to hamsters, but the strings may pose a choking hazard. If you feed your hamster celery, always remove the strings and cut it into small pieces.

celery

Chocolate – Chocolates contain theobromine, which is toxic to hamsters. Also, chocolate, like any high sugar or high-fat food, should be avoided to prevent obesity and diabetes.

Citrus fruits – Because citrus fruits are highly acidic, feeding them may lead to tummy upsets and diarrhea.

Garlic – Can cause blood disorders.

Kidney beans (uncooked) – Are toxic to hamsters.

Iceberg lettuce – May cause diarrhea because of the high water content and contains very little in the way of nutrition.

Onions and leeks – May cause damage to the red blood cells.

Peanuts – Salted peanuts are a definite no-no. One unsalted peanut a week is ok, but keep in mind that peanuts are high in fats and may cause your hamster to gain weight.

Raw potatoes – Potatoes are a part of the nightshade family and not safe for your hamster when raw. Small pieces of cooked potato are fine but never raw.

Rhubarb – Rhubarb is too acidic and may cause tummy problems and diarrhea.

Sugary foods – Feeding your hamster sugary foods may lead to obesity, diabetes, and other health problems.

Tomato leaves – Tomatoes are also a part of the nightshade family, and the leaves and stems are toxic to many animals. Also, never feed your hamsters unripe tomatoes for the same reason.

  • Keep in mind never to feed you hamster anything that is unripe or overripe. If fruits have gone bad or you wouldn't eat them yourself, then you shouldn't feed them to your pet either.
  • All human foods that are not healthy for hamsters should be avoided too. Junk food, sugary treats, or snacks that are high in salt are off the hamster's menu. Remember that hamsters are small creatures, and even a small piece of something that is not suitable for them may cause serious health issues.

How Often Do Hamsters Eat?

Hamsters are crepuscular, which means they are most active in the mornings and evenings. This means they will most likely eat at dawn or dusk. Still, they often wake up during the day for a snack and should always have food available.

It is recommended to feed your hamster twice a day in the morning and evening.

It is recommended to feed your hamster twice a day in the morning and evening but feeding him once a day is also acceptable. More importantly, hamsters like routines, and you should stick to the schedule you choose. Once your hamster learns to expect food at certain times, they may get stressed if they don't get food at feeding times and overeat when they do.

Hamsters often hoard their food to hide it from other animals and competitors. They stuff their cheek pouches with food and scurry off to hide it in their cage. This behavior is natural for hamsters, and they should be provided with a chance to do this, or they can become stressed.

How to Prevent Boredom with Food

Food is a great way to keep your pet busy and entertained. You can hide some of the pellets to encourage foraging or stuff some fresh greens inside a cardboard tube. There are many excellent ways to ward off boredom and give your hamster something exciting to do.

Chew toys and wood sticks are always a welcome treat for hammies; they support dental health and help prevent teeth from growing too long. A hamster stick can also be a good choice if it doesn't contain too much sugar.

There are also many hamster toys you can fill with food to keep your hammy busy and entertained.

 

Related reading: Best Treats for Hamsters

Summing Up

Hamsters are small pets with big appetites. It's not so much about what hamsters can eat as it is about what they should eat. These greedy little critters would probably hide just about any food in their cheek pouch and hurry off to stash it somewhere.

In many ways feeding your hamster is pretty easy since the bulk of their food consists of hamster food with small treats added to offer diversity. Still, it's essential you pick the right type of food and pay attention to foods you add to their diet.

Suitable foods rich in nutrients, correct serving sizes, and a balance between different foods are key.

We hope this hamster food guide has helped you understand hamster nutrition and how you can help your hamster thrive by keeping them nourished.

FAQ

What do baby hamsters eat?

Because hamsters are mammals, hamster pups drink their mother's milk for the first 3-4 weeks. After they are weaned, they move onto solid foods, but it is usually a good idea to offer them soft foods at first before moving onto harder kibble. If the pups have difficulties eating kibble, you can soften the pellets by soaking them in water first.

Vet's Comment

Hamsters are omnivorous, so in the wild, they will munch on a variety of foods, including grasses, nuts, seeds, fruits, and insects.

For pets, the best thing is to primarily provide your hamster with a commercial hamster pellet. These are specially formulated to meet your pet's nutritional needs with every bite.

There are seed and muesli mixes available for hamsters that are also complete feeds; however, hamsters often selectively choose what they want to eat from these mixes, leading to vitamin or other deficiencies that could cause disease in your pet.

Small treats are ok, but remember portion control!

- Dr. Edele Grey, DVM

Dr. Edele Grey Veterinary Surgeon

Vet-Approved by
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 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.

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