I have a hamster, and my inlaws have two parrots, so this question popped into my mind several times before doing research to see if a hamster can safely eat bird food.
The first thought was that the pre-made food for birds and hamsters looked kind of similar, so I thought there was no harm in feeding them the same thing.
But after doing a bit of research, I found out that there are more things we need to know before feeding our hamsters with bird food.
I have seen people experimenting with hamster food a lot without checking if that is safe for the little hamster, so I’m glad you are here, and you are willing to fact-check those things before feeding your hamster.
Can hamsters eat bird food?
Hamsters can eat small quantities of bird food as a treat. However, swapping the pre-made hamster food with bird food long-term is unhealthy for your pet hamster.
Those are the two main reasons why you should not feed your hamster with bird food.
- Bird seeds contain more fat than hamster food, and eating too much bird food might endanger your hamster. If you have bird seeds and don’t want to throw them away, you can give them to your hamster as a treat instead of the main food.
- When we talk about bird food, it is important to know that besides the seeds, there are bird pellets that contain more fruits and vegetables in the mix. This might sound like a healthier option, but it is actually more dangerous for hamsters since they can develop diabetes much easier, especially dwarf hamsters. Hamsters primarily east grains and seeds, not fruit.
Here is an entire article about hamster diabetes and all you need to know in order to prevent it. Dwarf hamsters are predisposed to diabetes, but that doesn’t mean a Syrian hamster can’t develop it.
Also, those pellets might contain too much vitamin C for your hamster. Vitamin C is an essential vitamin for hamsters, and it is essential to ensure that they receive a balanced amount.
If the hamster doesn’t receive the correct amount of Vitamin C, the mineral deficiency can cause scurvy, resulting in diarrhea, lethargy and hair loss. If they receive too much Vitamin C, they are also at risk of experiencing diarrhea and weight loss. It is, therefore, imperative to ensure that your hamster receives the right amount of Vitamin C to ensure their health and well-being. Dedicated hamster food will always have the correct amount of Vit C.
Differences between bird seeds and hamster food
Bird seeds and hamster seeds are two types of seeds that offer different nutritional benefits to the animals they are intended for.
Bird feed usually consists of millet, sunflower, rapeseed, and canary seed, which may contain excess fats and sugars that are not beneficial for hamsters but are necessary for birds.
Hamster feed is composed of a mix of ingredients such as sunflower, pumpkin, flax, sesame, wheat, and corn, providing an array of vitamins and essential fats that hamsters need, making it a more suitable option.
The hamster pre-made food mixes are fortified with vitamins and minerals to make sure your hamster doesn’t lack them but also does not get too many of them, as we talked about above.
Safe and unsafe seeds for your hamster
Hamsters eat a lot of seeds, however that doesn’t mean that any seed is safe for your hamster.
Here is a list of safe seeds for your hamster, after which we will continue with the list of unsafe seeds for your hamster.
- Sunflower seeds
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Sesame Seeds
- Flax Seeds
- Wheat Seeds
- Corn Kernels
Unsafe seeds for your hamster:
- Apple Seeds
- Grape Seeds
- Pear Seeds
- Citrus Seeds (Citrus fruits should be avoided at all, not only the seeds)
- Apricot Pits
- Cherry Pits
If you want to make sure you feed your hamster properly, check my article on what hamsters eat, and there you will find everything you need to know.
Is feeding your hamster with pre-made food mix enough?
Yes, a pre-made food mix for hamsters should have all the nutrients a hamster need.
Since hamsters are omnivores, we might get confused and think that this is not enough but in reality, hamsters eat very little animal protein, even in the wild.
The occasional treats we give to our hamsters are not mandatory for a healthy hamster diet if you feed it with a proper food mix.
Here is a good one I found on amazon.
This one should last you a few months.
What other pet food can hamsters eat?
Maybe you have another pet, a dog, a cat, or other rodents like rabbits or guinea pigs, and you wonder if you can feed your little furball with their food.
I have an entire article that talks about whether a hamster can eat dog food or not, so I will not get into much detail about that one here. But the short answer is no, hamsters can’t eat dog food (nor cat food).
Those pets have very different digestive systems, and you have to keep in mind that dogs are carnivores. They don’t need too many grains or vegetables to be healthy.
On the other hand, hamsters are omnivores, but do not normally eat meat. I discussed this in more detail in my article about hamsters eating insects.
Hamsters can eat meat/insects but they don’t need to, even in the wild. Insects are not the first thing on their menu, they might eat a few of them if they can’t find any other food. But it is not what they need or prefer to eat.
What about cat food?
The same applies to cat food as to dog food. Hamsters should not eat cat food.
A treat every now and then might not immediately hurt your hamster but it is better to avoid giving cat food to your hamster.
If your hamster accidentally ate cat food that it found while you were playing with it, you should not worry if it wasn’t a large quantity. One or two cat kibbles should not affect your hamster at all.
Guinea pig/rabbit food
We tend to think that rabbits, hamsters, and guinea pigs are all rodents, so the diet must be similar, but that is not quite accurate.
Rabbits and guinea pig are herbivore animals and they need way more hay, grass, leafy greens and vegetables than a hamster needs. Also, they can have much more vitamin C than a hamster. We’ve already discussed the side effects of too much vitamin C in a hamster’s diet.
While a hamster needs fewer seeds and nuts than a bird, they still need a good amount of them compared to a guinea pig or rabbit, which doesn’t eat nuts and seeds at all.
I had all those pets when I was a kid. I’ve had guinea pigs for about eight years, I’ve had a cat and a dog for a couple of years, and now I have a hamster, and I can tell you that they all have quite different diets.
If you have other pet food and you don’t know if it’s safe to feed your hamster, you better throw that food away instead of putting your little furball in danger.
Hamsters can occasionally eat bird food or seeds, but that doesn’t mean you should include them in your hamster diet.
It is better to stay safe when it comes to hamster diets, they can be quite sensitive, so you should stick to a pre-made food box and give some occasional treats here and there if you want to diversify the diet.
I hope this article helped you understand the differences between hamster food and bird food and also why you should not give other pet food to your hamster.