Hamsters eating hay is a not a common thought for hamster owners. But if you also own a guinea pig, who needs hay, you might wonder if your hammy would like some too. After all, there’s tons of hamster toys and cage objects made of hay.
Wouldn’t it be safe for hamsters ? Would they eat it ? Would they nest in it ? Ignore it ? Well, let’s find out.
So do hamsters need or eat hay ?
Yes, some hamsters do eat hay. Some only use it as bedding, because it is so pliable and soft. At least when compared to wood shavings.
Hay isn’t necessary for hamsters, as it would be for guinea pigs or rabbits. It does provide some nutritional value to them, mostly minerals and fibers. But it’s not necessary, as in they are okay if they never see a straw of hay in their life.
Most hamsters will interact with it somehow, at least using it as a bedding or foraging substrate. Some will eat it, some will just chew on it to file down their teeth, like with wood. And some might just ignore the hay.
Let’s see what you should know about hay before you give it to your hamster, and which types are okay.
Types of hay safe for hamsters
There are several types of hay available on the market. Alfalfa, timothy hay, orchard grass, clover, and so on. Not all are okay for hamsters, but I’ll help you out.
Hammies can have timothy hay, alfalfa, and meadow hay. Those are the ones they get long with well. It does not mean other types of hay will necessarily harm your hamster. It’s just that they might not like other types as much.
After all, hay is just dried grass, of various types. So the dried version of your hamster’s favorite herb should be okay. You can find out more about hamster-safe herbs here.
A few other examples of safe hay, as in dried herbs, can include marigold, wheat, daisy, clover, chamomile. These are also safe plants to feed to your hamster, but in moderation.
As for their ‘hay’ version, all the plants mentioned above could be more expensive if you’re buying them from somewhere. This is because for example marigold hay, while not unheard of, is not a common item found on pet shops. You can make your own, by picking marigolds and letting them dry in the sun.
The process take time and is very… well, you’re working with individual stalks, so it’s time consuming and painstakingly detailed. Still, it’s worth it if you’re really set to give your hamster premium hay.
If you get a ballot of commercial hay, you should make sure it’s not the yellow type usually given to farm animals. The yellow straws are too hard for hamster cheeks. And the hamster will pouch the hay, even if he’s perplexed by it at first. Especially if he’s going to use it as bedding.
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Hay bedding for hamsters
Hamsters will use anything soft enough for bedding and nesting. You can give your hamster wood shavings (not cedar or pine !), wood pellets, hay, dried grass (wider hay), paper bedding.
Hay is not often used for bedding for hamsters, simply because it’s not something commonly associated with hamsters. But if you do give them a full cage of hay, they’ll treat it like the ‘ground’, and maybe drag a few extra bits to their hideout.
If you just add some hay on top of their usual bedding, they’ll move all of it to their hideout and start building a nest with it. In the wild hamsters use small twigs, dried leaves, anything vegetal soft or pliable enough to be rolled and coiled around them in the shape of a warm, comfy nest.
A bunch of hay would not be out of the ordinary in a hamster nest, if they ever find it in the wild to bring home.
Do be careful with hay if you give it to your hamster for nesting or bedding. Often the hay is meant for larger animals like guinea pigs or rabbits, who can easily chew though the tough bits. Hamsters are much smaller, and while they can chew the tough parts, sleeping on them is not comfy.
So make sure you go the extra mile for your hammy and look for the sharp, hard bits of hay (like some exceptionally hard stalks) and remove them. This way they won’t poke the hamster and he can’t hurt himself on them either.
Do not underestimate how silly hamsters can be, they will pouch anything, and they can sometimes hurt themselves on the weirdest of things.
If your hamster starts to sneeze in they hay, it might just be a small piece tickling his nose. But if he keeps sneezing, remove it or change they hay brand.
Sometimes it can be too dusty and affect the hamster’s nose. Other times, the hay smell is just too strong and you’ll need to leave it out air it out the day before you put it in his cage.
A word from Teddy
I hope you found what you were looking for in this article. Us hamsters can use hay, either to eat or to chew on, or even just for bedding. But you’ll never know if your hammy likes it until you try it.
If you want to know more about us hamsters you should check out the related articles below. You’ll learn how to keep us safe and happy, and what we need for a good life.