Ever seen how your hammy stuffs his cheeks and then wanders off ? Did you ever wonder where all that food goes ? That’s a lot of food for such a tiny furry boy. Where does it all go ?
As it happens, hammies like to hoard. Their name in Syria where the first hammy was discovered translated to Mr. Saddlebags. Apparently hamsters like to carry away their food, but what do they do with all of it ?
Do hamsters hide their food ?
Yes, hamsters hide their food. In fact your per hamster is hiding the majority of the food you’re giving him. This is not to say you’re overfeeding him. We’ll discuss that later in this article.
But hamsters are hardwired to hide away most of their food, in case of a long, hard winter. Or in case it’s too dangerous to go outside to forage for food.
Pet hamsters still have this instinct, since it’s what kept them alive for so long in the wild. So they’re not going to forget it anytime soon. After all, they’ve only been with us for the last century or so.
Now let’s see how and why this all happens, so you can better understand your friend.
Why hamsters hide their food
Hammies hide their food for a number of reasons. To understand this we need to look at the wild hamster, and how it survives in the wild.
A wild hamster will come out of his hiding place in the evening, and hear for predators. He he thinks the coast is clear, he’ll run around looking for food. Now, given the fact that hamsters are prey and are always hunted by one animal or another, they move fast.
They also have to move fast to cover lots of ground, their territory is large because the areas hamsters come from are quite barren. Not much vegetation or fruit or veggies to be found.
So hamsters take what they can get, and cover a wide area to do so. They can cover 9 km/5.5 miles in a single night ! Imagine those tiny feet scurrying across the desert or steppes to find a few grains.
On top of all this, winter does come. That means less food, and the need to stockpiling.
Hamsters have evolved, because of all these reasons, to have one big pantry in their nest. That pantry is organized and cleaned daily. The hammy knows what he’s got there, and he knows it will last him through the cold.
For convenience, for survival, and because of scarcity. This is also why hamsters usually eat dry, hard grains since those keep the best. They’ve also evolved to have long front teeth to manage eating those grains.
More on hamster teeth here.
How does this translate to your pet hamster ? Well, even if he’s a pet and he is safe and gets food constantly, he still has the instinct to hoard and make sure he has enough food. It’s something pet hamsters will probably never forget.
When hamsters hide their food
Hammies love to hide their food. They don’t usually need a time of the year to hide it, they always hide it. Whenever they find some food, they’ll hide it in their amazingly elastic cheek pouches and carry it with them.
This means they’ll also have snacks along the way, and they don’t have to drop all their food if a predator comes along.
So your pet hamster will hide his food when he finds it. This means that right after you put food in his little bowl, he will sniff it and start putting it in his cheeks.
He’ll stuff his cheeks with as much food you’ve given him, or as much as his cheeks can carry.
Then, he’ll wander off to his hideout, and put it in his food stash. More on that later in the article.
Once his stash has been added to, he might stay there and eat a few bits of the food. Or, he might come out and play, or run on his wheel. Once he knows he’s got food, he won’t worry about much.
If you give him additional bits of food, after his feeding time, he will still take those. hamsters are greedy little things, regardless of how much or how little food they have in their stash. They will always take the food offered.
If it’s a food that spoils immediately, like a piece of cooked chicken or egg white, he’ll eat it right then and there. If it’s a food that keeps, including cheese, he’ll store it away.
Where do hamsters hide their food
Alright, hammies store their food, we know why and we know when. But where exactly do hamsters store their food ?
Well, maybe you’ve noticed, maybe not. Hamsters are good at hiding. But whenever you clean your hamster’s cage you’ll see he has a corner, tucked away in his hideout or nest, and it’s got plenty of food.
That’s the hammy’s storage place, or food stash. That’s where he keeps all the food you give him, and it’s convenient.
Next time your think your hammy is sleeping try this. Keep your ears open for any chewing or small crunching sound. That’ll be your hammy taking a midnight snack.
Hamsters keep their food close, and it will usually be in the lowest part of their nest. As in, they will build their sleeping area on top of the food, if they have no other option.
In the wild hamsters only keep their food in a special, dedicated room. They have a different room for sleeping, another one for peeing, and so on.
Hamsters are very organized, and in the wild their home is actually a series of tunnels on several levels, with many rooms.
As a pet, they have either the hideout you provide them, or the nest they’ve built in a corner of the cage. For the sake of your hammy’s sanity, do get him a hideout.
Or at the very least arrange a hidden, covered corner of the cage and you’ll see that’s where he will hide.
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Can you stop your hamster from hiding his food ?
No. You can’t stop your hamster from hiding his food. It would be like trying to stop a dog from howling when he hears other dogs.
Or a cat from surveying everything from the tallest object in your home. Or a parakeet from being… well, silly and noisy.
It’s what the animal does, and it’s their instinct.
A hamster will always hide his food, because this is what he knows. He knows food is scarce, and life in the desert or steppes is harsh, and he has to survive.
The fact that he gets a steady, regular food supply from you is just happenstance for him. Giving him more food will only mean a larger food stash that will end up spoiling since he can’t eat it all.
On the other hand, underfeeding your hamster will only give him a sense of anxiety. Having only enough food to eat in one sitting, and nothing to bring back home will make him stressed.
Hamsters react very poorly to stress and can develop serious problems like fur loss, wet tail, and a series of digestive problems.
So give your hamster food as usual, 2 teaspoons for a Syrian, and one teaspoon for a Dwarf type. That’s daily, and it’s for commercial mixes that have lots of dry grains and seeds and vitamins added in.
He will have enough food to eat, and to hide. Do keep in mind that older hamsters become very picky, and won’t eat all of their food.
Which foods are okay for hamsters
This is a topic I’ve covered in a different article. Here you’ll find a whole list of safe and unsafe foods you can give your hamster. Some are already in your pantry, or fridge.
However I do recommend a commercial food mix to give to your hammy, since that will have a balanced diet for him, with all the nutrients he needs.
At a glance, hamsters eat mostly grains. They are omnivores, and will eat most things they find. But, not all are okay for them. Again, refer to the food list I’ve linked above.
Aside from grains, hammies eat veggies, some root-type veggies, some fruits, a couple of insects, and lots of seeds and nuts. Very acidic foods like citrus or garlic or onion, and spices in general are very bad for hamsters.
A word from Teddy
I hope you found what you were looking for in this article. Us hammies love to hide our food, just so we know we’ve got enough to last us for several days. It;s not you, it’s just us being hamsters.
If you want to know more about us hammies and how to care for us, you should read the articles below for more info.