Syrian hamsters are one of the most popular breeds of hamsters, with millions of owners around the world. If you’re a pet owner, you then surely understand that each pet has specific dietary needs and personal tastes, and you need to adapt to each pet if you want it to live a happy and healthy life. There are many foods that hamsters need to eat to stay healthy, and there are many foods that they can’t eat.
In this article, we’ll be taking a deeper look into Syrian hamsters, what are their likes and dislikes when it comes to food, what food they can eat and what foods should you avoid, what are they allergic to, and how long can they last without food. If you’re looking for advice on your hamster’s feeding habits and how can you optimize their dietary plans, you’re in the right place
Let’s get started!
How Often Should I Feed My Syrian Hamster?
Ideally, you should feed your hamster every day. This applies to all hamster breeds, not just Syrian hamsters. All hamsters require fresh food and water every day.
What’s best is to feed your hamster twice a day, especially if you’re feeding it a Hamster Mix or Formula. You should feed your hamster once in the morning and once in the evening. The prescribed amount of food is a spoonful a day, so half a spoon of the mix in the morning, and another half in the evening. You can add treats to this daily (although not all treats, continue reading for specifications). You should also never keep vegetables or fruit in their cage for longer than 24 hours, as it will start to rot – if your hamster hasn’t eaten their fruits and veggies within a day, take them out.
You should feed your hamster with hard treats twice a week. There’s a difference between everyday treats, (apples, for example) which you can use to reward your hamster for training and hard treats. Hard treats are important because they will trim your hamster’s teeth, keeping their incisors filed down, which is good for your hamster’s overall dental hygiene. You can see this practice with dogs, as well, as there are many threats that may be tasty, but they’re there mostly to clean dog teeth. You’re supposed to do this as well – let your hamster chew on smaller dog biscuits, commercial hamster treats (that we’ll be taking a look at later), or even smaller branches taken from a fruit-bearing treat (but not all fruit, we’ll take a look at that later).
Also, don’t refrain from feeding your hamster soft treats daily. Especially if you’re training your hamster and teaching it to do tricks, as this is the best way for your hamster to learn something. Soft treats include protein, which is very important for muscles, so; cooked meats, low-fat, no-salt cottage cheese or a hard-boiled egg, wheat bread, and scrambled eggs.
You should also keep your hamster’s hydration in mind – many owners worry about their hamster’s feeding habits and completely overlook that keeping them hydrated is actually part of their diet. It’s vital for your hamster’s health that you change their water bottle often enough and that you keep their water fresh.
We recommend that you buy a hamster-sized water bottle with a stem and ball bearing from your local pet store. The ball regulates how much water comes out each time the hamster takes a drink. This way, your hamster can have a drink whenever they want to, but keep in mind that you have to change the water often – it needs to be fresh.
It takes two weeks for the water to go stale, and that’s only if it’s in a glass – bottled water can last for years, even decades if it’s properly stored. However, you would never drink stale water, so why should your hamster do that? You should change your hamster’s water every two days, and if the vet recommended it, you can even add supplements to it, but don’t do this without the vet’s approval.
You also shouldn’t use a water bowl for distribution. Hamsters are messy animals and they will definitely spill water all over the place, which is great for bacteria, parasites, etc., but not so great for the hamster.
You should try to feed your hamster at the same time every day. This will not always be possible, of course, as we all have our obligations and responsibilities, but it’d be good to try that. Hamsters are very active animals, and Syrian hamsters have a fast metabolism (just like dwarf hamsters), and they require exercise and food throughout the day. There is some debate on whether you should feed them in the morning or in the evening.
If you feed your hamster in the morning, you’re ensuring that they have food throughout the day. On the other hand, if you feed them in the evening, you’re feeding them when they’re most active, as hamsters are mostly nocturnal animals. That’s why we’re advising you to feed them once in the morning, and once in the evening, that way you’ll be winning on both fronts.
What Can Syrian Hamsters Eat?
There are many foods that hamsters can eat, and many foods that hamsters shouldn’t eat. In this section, we’ll be covering everything you should feed your hamster, and we’ll be covering the foods you should avoid in the next section.
The list we’re about to show you actually apply on all hamsters.
Fruits: apples, bananas, blackberries, blueberries, cantaloupes, cherries, cranberries, seedless grapes, lychee, mangos, melons, peaches, plums, raspberries, raspberry leaves, and strawberries.
Vegetables: carrots, celery, broccoli, dandelion leaves, cauliflower, clover, kale, bean sprouts, asparagus, chickweed, chicory, cucumber, corn, spinach, watercress, radicchio, romaine lettuce, turnip, peas, green beans, chestnuts, squash, sweet potatoes, zucchini.
Nuts, seeds, and grains: pumpkin seeds, peanuts, millet, flaxseed, cashew nuts, sunflower seeds, oats, barley, walnuts, lentils, soybeans.
Other foods hamsters can eat grasshoppers (pet food), mealworms (pet food), boiled eggs, plain grasshoppers, plain tofu, whole grain bread, cod fish (with bones removed), low-fat cottage cheese, brown pasta, unsalted peanut butter.
You shouldn’t feed these things to your hamster too much, though. These are all things that your hamster can eat, yes, and they eat these things in the wilderness, but today’s food mixes for hamsters are optimized for their dietary needs. Your hamster is going to be okay if you feed it with the things we’ve listed, but you should definitely feed it with hamster mixes or formulas if you want to optimize your hamster’s diet. These things can be used as treats and shouldn’t take more than 10% of your hamster’s diet.
We’re going to give you a few examples of food quality food mixes for hamsters.
Tiny Friends Farm Hazel Hamster Mix – this is a very tasty mix, and it’s definitely the best choice for picky hamsters. You’ll notice that hamsters, just like people, have their own personal likes and dislikes. Some hamsters may love apples, while others won’t eat them. This mix is nutritionally balanced, suitable for all breeds, and it has vitamins included in the mix. What’s also great about this mix is that it has mealworms on top of its great choice of seeds. This is important because your hamster needs protein. Also, all hamsters love mealworms, so they definitely won’t be skipping this.
Kaytee Forti Diet Pro Health Hamster Food – a great product if you’re concerned about your hamster’s health. This mix is full of healthy nutrients that every hamster needs to keep their body healthy. However, you should know that some packs have too many sunflower seeds, which can be bad for your hamster, so make sure to take them out if you notice that you’ve added too much. This mix also contains a lot of omega-3 oils, and the shape of the mix will help your hamster clean and pick its teeth.
Kaytee Fiesta Hamster Food – this mix is also good for dwarf hamsters, not just Syrian hamsters. It has natural veggies and fruits to add some variety and improve the nutrient content of the mix. This mix will definitely take care of your hamster’s dietary needs, but there’s a problem that a lot of hamster owners have reported. It has so many fatty things (which is important for your hamster, but in this case, these fatty scraps in the mix are too tempting) that hamsters run and eat those as soon as possible, and leave out healthy foods. Since they’re full, many hamsters don’t return to finish their meal, so you might be throwing some of this food away.
You can even use this mix for gerbils, as it’s good for them, as well. It also has plenty of natural fruits and veggies for your hamster to enjoy, and it’s rich in antioxidants to support your hamster’s immune system.
When we’re discussing treats, you can use anything we’ve listed above as a treat. There’s no need for you to spend money on factory-made treats. However, there are some advantages to this, the most obvious one being that those treats are clean and optimized for hamsters, so you can be sure that what you’re rewarding them with isn’t unhealthy.
We’ll take a look at just two examples: Tiny Friends Farm Lovelies and Kaytee Healthy Bits.
These treats are universally loved by all hamsters, and they’re both fine for Syrian and dwarf hamsters. The Healthy Bits treat mix is definitely going to cause happiness with your hamster, as it actually contains honey. These treats aren’t too big, so your hamster(s) won’t have any trouble eating them.
When it comes to nuts, we know that we’ve already mentioned them along with seeds, but it’s important to note that they’re a natural source of protein and necessary fats, with different hamsters liking different nuts. Here, we’ll expand on the list of nuts we’ve already mentioned: barley, cashew, flaxseed, lentils, millet, oats, peanut, popcorn, walnuts, monkey nuts.
It’s also important to add fiber to your hamster’s diet, just like it’s important to have fiber in your own diet. Timothy hay alfalfa hay is a good, natural source of fiber.
You should also know that Syrian hamsters absolutely love insects and you should definitely try to feed them whenever you can. Insects are a great source of protein, and they’re their main food source in the wild. Feeding them with insects isn’t essential, we understand that not all people are happy with keeping bugs in their home, but your hamster will definitely be grateful if you do. However, not all insects are good for your hamster, so here’s a list of insects that are: mealworms, wax worms, crickets, and grasshoppers.
It’s important to create a well-balanced diet for your hamster. It’s best to use a mixture of the food suggestions listed above to create a diet that’s going to be both tasty and healthy for your hamster. Then, combine that mix with treats. Their diet needs to provide them with enough energy for the day. Hamsters are very energetic animals that need to burn that off in order to function properly. If they don’t run around enough, they will get stressed out.
Choose a food mix as the backbone of your pet’s dietary plan, and surround it with treats and additions. The general rule is that a single tablespoon of the mix is enough, and mix that with a couple of treats. You should also try to keep it interesting for your pet.
You can change your hamster’s meal plans, don’t be constantly feeding it crickets or mealworms, switch it up. You’re definitely not eating the exact same thing every day, so why should your hamster. If you notice that your hamster’s gaining a lot of weight, don’t fear cutting down on the portions.
When feeding your hamster, use a ceramic food bowl. This is the best solution for feeding and a much better option than plastic feeding bowls. Hamsters will definitely knock the plastic feeding bowl over and spill food all over the place. This way, all uneaten food will stay in the bowl and be ready to get eaten later. They provide a designated area for feeding and they keep all the leftover food clean. Your hamster will quickly learn that it will always be getting food in that bowl, so it will start to move around it when it’s hungry.
Hamsters will also fill their cheek pouches with secret stashes of food to build secret food stores near their bed. They do this by instinct, as in the wilderness they’re hiding their food from other hamsters. If you have more than a single hamster in the same cage, you’ll even notice that they keep hiding food away from one another.
If you have the time, observe your hamster as it’s eating – this will give you a good idea of what it likes and what it doesn’t like. If you notice that your hamster doesn’t like a certain vegetable, replace it with another vegetable. If you notice that it won’t eat a certain fruit, replace it with another fruit. Obviously, if you see that your hamster’s sick from eating a certain food – don’t allow them to eat it anymore. A good example of this is watermelon. Even though it’s not poisonous for hamsters, it has so much water that their little bodies simply can’t handle it.
While we’re at it, let’s just say that it’s also bad to overfeed your hamster. It’s in the hamster’s instinct to eat and eat and eat until they can’t eat anymore, they can’t help it. They’ll only stop eating when they’re absolutely full, and even then, they’ll stuff food in their cheek pouches and hide it somewhere. So, you can easily get your hamster fat if you’re not careful. Stick to the ‘one tablespoon a day’ plan. Also, don’t let your hamster fool you into thinking it’s hungry just because the bowl is empty – they’ve most likely hidden their food away in an attempt to get more of it.
Hamsters would most likely eat even less than a single tablespoon a day in the wilderness, so you’re feeding them more than enough. Owners are often confused as the tablespoon of food can be larger than the hamster itself, but that’s more than enough for them.
What Are Syrian Hamsters Allergic To?
There are many foods that you should never feed your hamster, but it’s also possible that your hamster, as an individual, has developed an allergy to something. Here’s a list of things you shouldn’t feed your hamster.
Almonds, avocado (it’s literally poisonous to them), apple seeds, chocolate, sweets, potato chips, pork, raw potatoes, grape seeds, rhubarb, tomato leaves, citrus fruits (oranges, lemons, etc.), watermelon, jam, spices, garlic, onions, chives, leeks.
All hamsters are allergic to these foods, not just Syrian hamsters. You should always avoid feeding these foods to your hamster, as it will make it very sick. Almonds contain cyanic acid, which can make your Syrian hamster very sick. Seeds can also be harmful, and most often are, so remove them from the foods. There are certain seeds that are okay (we’ve listed them in the previous section), and those seeds are safe to feed to your hamster. Seeds that are in food mixes are okay, as long as there’s not too much of them. However, seeds from fruits are a big no when it comes to hamsters, so you should always remove them before feeding your hamster a fruit. This means that you can’t feed your hamster apples, peaches, and plums before you take out the seeds.
Unfortunately (for the hamster), you can’t feed it chocolate. Theobromine is a substance found in chocolate, and it negatively affects your hamster’s circulation.
Syrian hamsters are very strong, with very strong immunity, so it’s unlikely that you’ll be facing any problems with them. Unlike dwarf hamsters that develop diabetes easily. However, a poor diet can cause a few issues with any hamster.
A poor diet can also cause diarrhea. You will recognize this by a loose stool, and you should consult a vet.
Many illnesses can be caused by a bad diet, so you should always keep in mind that the problem might originate in food intake. If you notice your hamster losing weight, losing fur, breathing in distress, having a nasal discharge or skin lesions, you should take it to a vet.
When it comes to allergies in the normal sense, hamsters can develop allergies the same way humans do, and they even sneeze the same way humans do. If you’ve noticed your hamster sneezing, they may be allergic to their bedding or something in their food. They’re also allergic to dust, just like us, so there may be microscopic dust in the air. To eliminate this problem, try changing beddings, foods, to an unscented fabric softener, and use an air filter by your hamster’s cage to eliminate all allergens in that environment. However, if the problems refuse to go away, contact a vet.
There are also many things that irritate hamsters, although they’re not exactly allergic to them. Perfumes, pine and cedar shavings, scented candles, electric “plug-in” style diffusers, scented room sprays, and even some cleaning agents can be harmful and irritating to your hamster’s respiratory canal. You should move your hamster’s cage away from these fumes to deal with this problem – this is the path of least resistance. Cigarette smoke is especially irritating to hamsters, not to mention that it’s especially harmful.
If you’re trying everything and you still can’t get your hamster to stop sneezing and it’s clearly in distress for more than five days – contact a vet.
How Long Can Syrian Hamsters Go Without Food?
This applies to all hamsters: hamsters can’t go for longer than three to four days without food and/or water. It depends on when did they have their last meal, what did they eat, how much did they eat, and how active they have been for the past few days.
If you’re just going to be staying at work a bit longer than you’ve planned, you don’t have to worry about your hamster’s health – they’re going to be fine if they have their dinner a few hours later.
In summation – the feeding mix should be the backbone of your hamster’s diet. You should build your diet around it by adding various snacks and treats, that we’ve listed before. Those things are healthy additions, but they’re not exactly required. You should definitely avoid all foods on the list we’ve mentioned, as they’re toxic for your hamster. Not all of those things are lethal for your hamster, but many of them will still harm your furry friend. You should never overfeed your hamster with treats, as they should mostly be used as a reward for a job well done, for example; when you’re teaching it a new trick.
Also, never overfeed your hamster on the food mix, your pet will get fat and that’s a whole other barrel of monkeys to deal with. Understand that each hamster has their own individual taste just like people do, and try to find out exactly what they enjoy eating, and what things they do not enjoy eating. Always keep your hamster’s water supply fresh and full, try to change your hamster’s water every two days. Know that hamsters can only live three to four days without food and/or water, so you shouldn’t worry if you can’t make it back home on time, or if you stay somewhere for another day unplanned, without a method of feeding your hamster (they probably have a hidden stash of food somewhere, anyway).
Try to feed your hamster once in the morning and once in the evening, with keeping a single tablespoon for norm – half a tablespoon in the morning, half a tablespoon in the evening. Know that your hamster is definitely storing food away, so don’t be fooled into thinking that your hamster is hungry just because its bowl is empty. Always make sure to keep the food clean, and use it before the expiration date – never keep fruits and vegetables in the cage for longer than 24 hours if the hamster hasn’t eaten it, as it will rot and that can harm the hamster. Try to feed your hamster during a certain period every day, that way, it can get used to your schedule and won’t make a fuss if you’re present but not feeding it.