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What Treats to Feed Your Hamster (and What Not To)

Because hamsters are omnivores, meaning they eat both animal- and plant-based foods, they are able to enjoy a variety of foods in their diet. That being said, their main diet should be a high-quality commercial pellet containing all the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients they require to meet their nutritional needs. In addition to their daily pelleted food, hamsters love an occasional treat—and it’s always fun to watch your pet enjoy a variety of tasty snacks. Just remember that treats should never make up more than 10% of your pet's overall diet and all diet changes should be made gradually. Rapid changes to a hamster’s diet may cause stress, resulting in them eating and developing diarrhea—commonly called wet tail.

Safe foods for hamsters

Safe food for hamsters

When your hamster deserves a little treat, consider some of the following:

Grains make up a large part of a hamster’s diet. They offer protein and carbohydrates and can come from prepared hamster mixtures or from fresh foods such as unsweetened whole grain cereal, whole wheat bread, brown rice, whole wheat pasta and unsalted, unbuttered popcorn. If offering a prepared hamster mix as a treat, be sure that it doesn’t include a large amount of high-fat nuts and seeds, as these foods promote obesity. 

Fresh, organically grown greens are best. Romaine lettuce, dandelion greens, cauliflower, carrot tops, broccoli spears, spinach, sweet potato, squash, artichokes and any other dark green veggies are great choices. Avoid iceberg lettuce and other veggies or fruits—such as watermelon—that are high in water content and have little nutritional value. Remember to wash the vegetables thoroughly to remove traces of harmful pesticides and feed only small amounts of produce at a time.

Hamsters love apples, pears, strawberries, blueberries, grapes and bananas. Fruit should be offered in moderation, as a supplement to their regular pelleted diet. Remove any vegetables or fruits that are not eaten within 10-12 hours so they don’t spoil.

Hay is a great gnawing food that can help keep your hamster's continuously growing teeth at a healthy length and in good condition.

As omnivores, hamsters can have some animal-based protein in their diets, such as hard-boiled eggs, cooked chicken and an occasional live mealworm or cricket. Hamsters love these high-protein treats—be sure to offer them in moderation so that they continue to eat their base diet of pellets.

Water should be available to your hamster at all times and changed daily.

Foods not to feed your hamster

Just as important as knowing what is safe to feed your pet is also knowing what not to feed your hamster. The following foods should never be offered to hamsters, as they are toxic and can cause serious medical problems:

  • Chocolate 
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol 
  • Excess sugar or fat
  • Onions and garlic 
  • Apple seeds (contain toxic cyanide)
  • Rhubarb 
  • Peanuts in the shell (can contain trace amounts of toxic mold)

It's important to remember that this is not an exhaustive list. So while we all want to show our pets some extra love, we need to do so in a safe and healthy way. If you have more questions on the best foods to feed your hamster, stop into your local Petco to ask a knowledgable team member for more tips.