A hamster that is fed a well-balanced diet is usually a healthy hamster. Hamsters are omnivores so may be fed a mixed diet. Having acquired a hamster it is up to you to feed it a diet that gives a little variety and keeps your pet healthy.
Ask, when you buy, what the hamster has been fed on as, although hamsters like a variety of foods, introducing too many new foods at one time can cause tummy upsets. Always introduce greens and any new foods gradually and in very small amounts if you are not sure what your hamster has been fed before.
The basic and major part of the diet should be a proprietary complete dry hamster mix (such as Supreme Petfood’s Harry Hamster) which can be bought from a pet shop and has the correct dietary balance. This will be a mixture of seeds, crushed oats, flaked maize, sunflower seeds, locust beans, peanuts etc. with some hard dry biscuits. All these are ‘hard’ and good for the hamster’s teeth, and a small handful of this mixture should be given each day. As a treat, more hard dry biscuits can be given, such as ‘all in one’ cat rings, alongside traditional wooden chews for your hamster it can be beneficial to offer a dog biscuit (e.g. Biscrok) or cat biscuits. The meaty taste is often appealing to the hamster and so provides something useful for the animal to chew on to wear down their ever-growing teeth.
Hamsters are hoarders – they store their food behind or under their beds so greens and soft foods must only be given in moderation, otherwise anything that is uneaten will go mouldy which is unhealthy for the hamster. As hamsters put their food into their cheek pouches sticky and sharp foods should be avoided. Chocolate (which can melt when pouched) and hay (which can scratch the pouches) are two such foods.
To help your hamster grow strong bones and teeth some milky foods can be given. Some will enjoy milk on its own, others a little runny porridge, a few rice crispies with milk or even bread and milk, all without sugar of course. Any of these should be removed before the milk sours, if uneaten. Some hamsters appreciate some extra protein, foods like egg (boiled or unseasoned scrambled), nuts, or a little cooked plain chicken can be given. Fresh water, preferably in a bottle, should always be available.
All species of hamster may be fed as above, but Dwarf hamsters (Russian, Chinese etc) will appreciate the smaller type of seed – millet, budgie seed, foreign finch seed – in addition. Care should be taken to avoid feeding any treat with added sugar (e.g commercial honey sticks) to Campbell’s or Hybrids due to the increased risk of them developing diabetes. Many Dwarf hamsters (and some Syrians) also enjoy mealworms (either dried sold for wild birds or alive!) and they are a great source of protein.
Carrots, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, sprouts, broad beans, peas, runner beans, apple, bean sprouts, sweet corn, cooked potato and cucumber can all be given in small quantities. A slice of apple or the core, or a small floret of cauliflower, or a small sprout, or two broad beans would be enough at any one time. You will soon discover what your hamster enjoys and how much your hamster can eat without any tummy upset. Citrus fruits should never be given.
A very special treat would be a raisin or sultana. These are greatly enjoyed, as is lettuce but too much lettuce is not good for a hamster.
Hamsters really enjoy dandelions and groundsel but you have to be especially careful about these – picked by the roadside they could have been sprayed or covered with car fumes etc. so unless you can be certain that they are really safe to eat don’t give them to your hamster.
All greens should be fresh and washed.
© 2019 National Hamster Council