What Should Your Pet Hamster Eat?
The majority of a pet hamster's food should be made up of a good quality, store bought food designed specifically for hamsters (not rats or mice). But your pet food choices at the pet store can be overwhelming even by narrowing it down to hamster food and then when you get home your decisions don't end when you want to offer fresh foods and treats to your hamster.
Pelleted Hamster Diets
Pelleted hamster foods offer a completely balanced diet in every bite and for this reason they are often recommended.
Pelleted diets can come in many shapes but usually look like small biscuits, cookies or cereal. A hamster can be picky with loose seed mixes, eating only their favorite items, resulting in an imbalanced diet. Pelleted diets prevent this from happening but they are a bit monotonous and some hamsters will refuse them. A pelleted mix can be supplemented with a variety of other items as long as the pelleted food makes up the bulk of the diet.
Seed Hamster Diets
It is important to pick a loose seed mix diet that contains a variety of foods such as grains and dried vegetables along with some seeds. Some loose seed mixed foods also contain a balanced pellet food as part of the mix (which is ideal). As mentioned previously, the biggest problem with loose seed mixes is that hamsters can pick and choose their favorite items in the mixture which could result in a dietary imbalance. Therefore, when feeding a loose seed mix, make sure your hamster empties the food bowl before adding more to it to make sure your hamster does not just eat his or her favorite things (but don't allow your hamster to starve if they refuse to eat what they are supposed to).
Fresh Foods and Treats for Hamsters
You can feed your hamster a variety of human foods as long as you stick with healthy foods and limit the treats to no more than ten percent of your hamster's diet. Skip the the junk food and stick to healthy things like whole grains, fresh vegetables, and fruit (in moderation otherwise diarrhea may result).
Store bought treats such as yogurt drops and honey/seed sticks are too sugary for a hamster and they should be avoided. Since dwarf hamsters are somewhat prone to diabetes it is also especially prudent to avoid sugar in their diet, so avoid fruits altogether as treats for them. Some safe foods you can offer to your hamster are:
- apples (no seeds)
- dandelion greens
- potato (cooked)
- romaine lettuce
- sweet potato
- whole grain bread or toast
- whole wheat pasta (cooked)
- brown rice (cooked)
- whole grain cereal (no sugary cereal)
- meal worms
- small pieces of cooked chicken
- hard boiled eggs
- nuts (no almonds, unsalted)
- unsalted peanuts
- pumpkin seeds
- sunflower seeds
- plain air popped popcorn (no butter or salt)
Hamsters also usually love peanut butter but it must be fed carefully (as with any other sticky food) because it can get stuck in their cheek pouches and cause severe problems. A very thin layer on a piece of wood is okay as an occasional treat but peanut butter must be given with caution.
Foods You Should Not Feed Hamsters
- apple seeds
- raw beans
- raw potatoes
- citrus fruit
- rhubarb leaves or raw rhubarb
- any sugary or salty foods
- any junk food
The Best Hamster Diet
The ideal diet for a hamster is a pelleted diet that is supplemented with a variety of other safe and human foods but if your hamster won't eat the pelleted diet then sprinkle some seed mixture onto the pellets or find a seed diet that already has pellets in it.
Edited by Adrienne Kruzer, RVT