What do you usually feed your hamster ? What can hamsters eat ? What should they NOT eat ? I had some many of these questions when I first got my Teddy, and I can tell you what I found out.
Some I found out by trial and error, some I asked vets, and some still I found out from other hamster enthusiasts. So I’ve compiled a big ol’ list here, so you can have all the info you need for your hamster’s food and diet.
Table of Contents
So what can hamsters eat ?
First off, hamsters are omnivores. That means they can and will eat anything from plant-based food, to grains, to meat and insects. This applies for every kind of hamster out there, be it Syrian, Robo, Campbell, or Chinese.
If you look at a box of hamster feed, you will usually just see grains, a few seeds, and a few vitamin pellets. But if you turn the box and look at the ingredients, you will often see protein sources like chicken/fish/beef/shrimp.
You can feed the hamster an omnivore diet yourself, or get a pre-made mix that will last for several weeks, even a couple of months.
I’ll get into more detail with each food group a hamster can eat, along with actual examples you probably have in your home. And I’ll give you a couple of food mixes you can buy for your hamster, along with other treats.
But first, let’s see what hamsters should definitely avoid.
What hamsters should never eat
In general hamsters should stay away from anything acidic. Even if you give your hammy a piece of orange he will turn away from it, but that’s just because of the strong smell.
Best to avoid acidic food altogether. There are other foods your hamster should avoid, mainly because his stomach is not built for such foods. Here are a few examples of foods your hamster should never eat:
- any type of citrus at all – lemon, orange, clementine, grapefruit, etc.
- any part of a tomato, it’s acidic as well, even if less than a lemon
- chocolate, and anything sweet – can cause diabetes
- fruit seeds or peels – apple, grapes, strawberry, etc
- onions, garlic, peppers, spices – anything extra spicy or tasty will upset his stomach
- high-fat content foods – like extra fat meat, or even some types of dairy
- anything unwashed like unwashed fruits or vegetables
- any part of a rhubarb(1)
- almonds, apricot pits can be highly toxic
- celery or very stringy/fibery foods like cabbage
- anything containing added sugar or salt
- raw potato or beans (any kind)
These are all foods that your hamster is better off not eating, since he can’t digest them. In some cases these foods will kill the hamster, so best to avoid them completely.
Alright, now let’s get into the food groups your hammy can eat, along with actual examples. Yay !
Protein foods your hamster can eat
Hammies do eat protein, and it doesn’t have to be soy-based necessarily.
While you can feed your little hammy something soy-based like tofu, you can also find some soy protein in his food mix as well. But I wouldn’t advise giving the hamster and actual, raw soy bean. Best to stay away from that.
For example I’ve given my Teddy boiled egg white, boiled unseasoned chicken and turkey, and he loves them both. Actually, most of the time hamsters just store food in their cheeks and hide it in the house. But with the egg and chicken, Teddy dropped everything he had and ate them right there.
Of course, the pieces you feed your hammy should be small, so he can eat them on the spot. If you give him too big a piece, he might want to save some of it for later and we all know how quickly meat goes bad.
Mealworms are sometimes a treat for hamsters. I’ve never give my Teddy one, but I’ve met hamster owners who give them to their hammies as treats. Not all hamsters will like them, but you can try. Do not give them mealworms too often though, since they are very filling.
Teddy: If your feed any kind of meat or egg to you hammy, keep it simple, unsalted, unseasoned. Never feed any raw protein tot us, like raw meat or egg.
Dairy is also a good protein source, but don’t give it to your hammy often ! Hamsters are mammals just like us humans, and as such we can’t process milk-based products very well when they are in large quantities.
So, keep the dairy to a minimum. Something like a peanut sized piece, once per week is alright.
Vegetables and Legumes you can feed your hamster
Most vegetables are safe for hamsters to eat, but some are to be avoided. Especially legumes like lentils, beans, peas, chickpeas and so on are not alright.
This is mostly because of their high fiber content, which can upset your hamster’s guts. So best to stay away from legumes for your hamster.
Vegetables like leafy greens and roots are mostly alright. But let’s talk about a few clear examples. Here are some vegetables your hammy can totally eat:
- most leafy greens, like spinach, watercress, lettuce, kale
- cucumber, zucchini
- carrots are okay, but any other hamster than a Syrian will have to eat them less frequently (higher sugar content than other vegetables, can cause diabetes for dwarf hamsters)
- sweet potato, cooked – same as carrots, keep a very low intake for dwarf hamsters
- asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower (cooked)
You probably have most of these in your fridge or pantry already. So feel free to feed your hamster small pieces of these veggies as a treat, or even as a supplement to his usual food mix.
Hamsters can eat pasta and bread too !
But only in small quantities. The thing with pasta, bread, rice, and so on, is that they’re all high carbohydrate foods. As such, your hamster needs them, but not as much as you’d think.
The carb content of a hamster diet should not get past 20%, since they require a balanced dies of protein and veggies as well.
So here are a few examples or carbs and bread your hammy can safely eat:
- Bread, as long as it has no added sugar and has a low salt content. That rules out toast bread, hot dog buns, and hamburger buns as well. Whole grain or multi-cereal bread is great for hamsters actually.
- Dry grains, of basically any kind
- Cooked brown rice, unseasoned
- Cooked wholegrain pasta, unseasoned. Regular white pasta becomes too sticky for your hamster, and will leave residues in his cheek pouches that can cause problems later on.
- Corn flakes, oat flakes, most muesli mixes
- Unsalted, unsweetened crackers and biscuits, small piece
The food mix you give your hamster is usually well balanced, so don’t feed your hammy too much additional bread or other carbs. Keep them as a small treat every now and then.
Nuts and seeds your hamster can eat
Hamsters love to chew on a lot of things, and nuts and seeds give them just that opportunity. Most nuts and seeds are okay for hamsters to eat, but there are a few exceptions. Here’s a list of seeds and nuts your hamster can enjoy:
- dried sunflower and pumpkin seeds, with or without shell, unseasoned
- peanuts and hazelnuts, unsalted, plain; remove shell and skin
- chestnuts, without shell, cooked, plain
- sesame seeds
Do keep in mind that nuts and seeds have a high fat content. So don’t feed too many or too often to your hamster. Keep them as a treat every now and then. Especially if the food mix you bought for the hamster already has a couple of seeds and nuts included.
Teddy: Stay away from almonds though. They classify as a nut, but they are toxic for us hamsters !
Fruits your hamster can eat
Most kinds o fruit are safe for hamsters. There are a few exceptions, and I’ll cover those too. But first, here is a list of fruits your hamster can eat:
- apple, pear, peeled and cored (no seeds)
- strawberries, no seeds
- banana slice, in a very small amount
- grape, no seeds, peeled
- dates and figs, dried
- blueberries, blackberry, raspberry
- cherries, no seeds
Again, keep the hamster away from citrus fruits. The citrus oils is toxic for hamsters, and will harm them. If you’ve ever peeled an orange and got your hand close to your hammy, you saw him pull away.
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Pre-made food mixes for your hamster
These are a convenient way to feed your hamster, and often are actually pretty well thought out. If you see the ingredient list, and think there’s something vital that’s missing (like proteins) you can look for another brand or supplement with proteins like the list above.
Grain and pellet food mix for your hamster
I use a pre-made mix for my Teddy, and give him fruits, veggies, and meat whenever I’m cooking. So he gets the grain and pellets mix, with an assortment of carrots and other foods I have around the house and are safe for him.
The whole bag will last you for a couple of months or more, depending on how much you feed the hamster, and what you supplement alongside (More on that below).
You can check the Amazon pricing here, and other details as well.
Treats for your hamster
While most hamster food mixes have a balance of protein, vitamins, and carbs, you can give your hamster occasional treats. These don’t have to be often, but need to be kept as a treat every few days, or when you’re trying to teach or tame your hamster.
I found a variety pack that you can give your hamster. They’re yogurt based and suitable for all kinds of hamster, rats, gerbils, even ferrets.
There are other types of treats hamsters go for, like for example simple dog treats (no flavors) or milk bones, and some granola bars(no sugar or honey). But my Teddy loves these cheese yogurt drops, and he gets them 2-3 times a week.
Teddy: Whatever treat or food you choose, make sure you feed us hamsters responsibly ! Treats are treats and we don’t need them every day. Food mix is a great way to make sure we get the proper nutrition and stay healthy.
How much does a hamster eat ?
Alright, now that you know what kind of foods your hammy can and can not eat, and you’ve seen a few examples of pre-made food and treats, let’s talk about how often to feed the hamster.
This depends mostly on the hamster himself, in that a baby hamster will need a bit less food than an adult hamster. But in general, 2 teaspoons of dry food are enough for an adult Syrian hamster. Dwarf hamsters need less, 1 teaspoon.
It might sound like very little food, but look at the size of your hamster. Not only can he not eat much, but also dry food keeps him full for much longer than veggies.
If you’re unsure, grab a teaspoon and put the necessary amount in your hand. I’ll attach a photo here of how much 2 teaspoons of dry food is for my Teddy. This is enough for an adult Syrian hamster.
Teddy: Remember, we don’t need a lot of food, and we also hide food in our hideouts ! So if you just fed your hammy, and see no food there 5 minutes later, don’t give him more food.
He just took the food into his hideout, to snack on later. Us hamsters are funny like that, and love to hoard our food !
Dangers of overfeeding your hamster
The first and immediate danger is getting your hamster fat. While you might think that a chubby hamster looks cute (and he does, not gonna lie) it’s very bad for his health.
Hamsters are very active creatures, and must be able to run and sprint and dart through tubes or into hideouts at any point. This is their instinct, and a large fat hamster will not be able to do any of these, or at least not properly.
This will shorten the hamster’s lifespan as well. A hamster can only live for so long (2-3 years), might as well make his short life comfortable.
If you want to know more about why your hamster can get so big or fat, check out my article on this exact topic. There I’ll tell you everything you need to know about why hamsters can get fat, and even how to slim yours down.
Hint: it involves getting your hammy more exercise opportunities. For this a great hamster wheel is essential.
You’ll also find out what a reasonable weight is for the hamster himself, so you have a guideline to follow.
What to do if your hamster is not eating
Some hamsters are very picky about their food. They will not eat just anything, and need more attention in that way.
So play around with his food, change up the flavors a bit. Maybe he only likes chicken flavored pellets or treats. That could be a start to your hamster eating more.
If your hammy is not touching dry food, try with veggies. Give him alternatives, like a piece of broccoli, one asparagus, and a small kale leaf. See which he likes, and keep giving him that.
Then, continue adding new foods to his diet, from the list of foods I wrote above. Until you reach a mix of vegetables that you can give him daily, and you know he will eat them.
If veggies are not an option for him, try giving the hamster meat. I’ve never seen a hamster turn down meat. Make sure the piece is cooked, but unseasoned. The extra salt is not needed in your hamster’s diet, since he needs much less than humans.
If, in an exceptional case, your hamster turns down every kind of food, call the vet. Especially if you see other signs of a possible illness like sparse fur, a wet tail (very bad), dried blood on his body, or anything that looks out of the ordinary.
In a worst case scenario, you might want to know how much a hamster can survive without any food and water. I wrote an article on that topic, and the point is that if your hamster is not eating, but at least has water he has a higher chance or survival.
In any case, contact your vet if your hammy seems sick, along with not eating.
A word from Teddy
I hope you’re very clear now on what us hamster can and can not eat. I know it’s a bit of a list to remember, but it’s in your hamster’s benefit.
If you’re not sure about a food, and you can’t find any info anywhere, maybe don’t feed it to your hammy. That way at least you’ll be sure he’s safe.
You can find more info on the best kind of bedding for us hamsters, or why we sometimes eat our own poo, and even why we’re sometimes scared of you ! Just check out the articles below and you’ll find your answers.