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Hamsters are foraging animals. In the wild they eat seeds, nuts, insects, fruits, vegetables, herbs, and grasses. The food that you feed them should replicate this as much as possible.
Hamsters need to eat mostly hard foods to wear down their teeth which grow constantly throughout their life. To encourage their natural foraging behaviour, it’s best to scatter their seed mix around their cage, as well as provide sprays such as millet and flax.
Hamsters are also hoarding animals. If your hamster seems to “eat” all their food immediately, there is no need to panic; they are just collecting the food in their cheek pouches, and will store it in their nest to eat later. To ensure you don’t overfeed or underfeed your hamster, follow the guide below:
Syrian hamsters = 2-3 teaspoons of their seed mix every day.
Dwarf hamsters = 1-2 teaspoons of their seed mix every day.
Syrian and dwarf hamsters have different natural diets and therefore should be fed a mix tailored to their needs. The common seed mixes found in Irish pet shops usually have a low number of ingredients, with most of it provided as filler such as hay, which has almost no nutritional value for a hamster. Species appropriate mixes from places like Getzoo have up to 35 ingredients that are all natural and much more beneficial for your hamster.
Any seed mixes fed to your hamster should be free from artificial colours and preservatives, and should have a wide variety of ingredients without pellets. Pellets have no variety and do not offer any enrichment to your hamster. Most commercial pellets are full of poor quality ingredients, like soybean hulls, to bulk them up, but aren’t necessarily good for your hamster. Countries that do not have high quality seed mixes available to them often rely on pellets to ensure their hamster gets what it needs, but when balanced seed mixes are available, there is no reason to feed pellets alongside your staple seed mix.
Seed mixes can usually be bought in two forms, those that include a protein source and those that do not. If you prefer to feed your own protein source, then make sure the seed mix is one that does not already contain protein.
Hamsters are omnivores, meaning they need both plants and meat in their diet. In the wild, they get protein from eating insects. To replicate their natural diet as much as possible, it is advised to feed live insects to your hamster. Not only does this give them the protein they require, but the insects can also be “gut loaded” with vegetables in order to increase their nutritional value.
Suitable insects to feed your hamster include: meal worms, black soldier fly larvae, crickets, silkworms, wax worms, and small morio worms or locusts. It’s a great idea to add them to your hamsters sandpit or digging box, so it replicates how hamsters find insects in the wild, (or you can of course use tweezers to feed insects directly to your hamster if you’re squeamish!). Insects can also be provided in freeze-dried form. While they still give your hamster the protein they need, they are not quite as nutritional as live insects. Some hamsters refuse to eat dried insects, so in these cases it is advised to feed live insects instead.
Other protein sources include plain cooked chicken or turkey (either fresh or freeze-dried) and plain cooked egg.
Hamsters require fresh food in the form of fruit and vegetables as part of their diet. They should be fed fresh food approximately 4-5 times a week.
Small (thumbnail size) pieces of various vegetables or fruit can be fed to your hamster. While many are safe for hamsters, there are some that are toxic for them, so it’s important to check that an item is safe before feeding your hamster. Take a look at our list of safe hamster food below if you’re unsure. Dwarf hamsters are more sensitive to sugar, so it is advised to feed them vegetables rather then fruit, because fruits have a high sugar content.
Fresh food should be placed in a bowl or on some tissue paper rather than scattered around the cage like seed mix. If fresh food gets lost amongst the substrate, it can start to rot and mould after a few days, which cause cause problems for your hamster. Any uneaten fresh food should be removed after a few hours if your hamster hasn’t eaten it.
Check to see your hamster has not pouched fresh food and stored it in their burrow or hides. Generally, hamsters instinctively know not to do this, because in the wild, the smell of fresh food would attract the attention of other animals or predators and put the hamster in danger. Some pet hamsters do not follow this rule, so make sure to remove any fresh food if they happen to carry it to their nest.
Getzoo species appropriate seed mix
- Large variety, lots of enrichment, 34 different ingredients
- Complete mix that closely mimics a wild diet – including herbs, grasses and flowers.
- Accurately matches the correct nutritional values for a particular species of hamster.
Popular commercial seed mix
- Low variety, little enrichment, just 13 ingredients
- Bag recommends supplementing this mix with a small amount of hay, even though hay has very low nutritional value for hamsters.
- A compromised mix which tries to balance the needs of not only all hamster species, but gerbils too.
MIXES ON THE MARKET
GETZOO SEED MIXES
One of the leading hamster foods on the market, Getzoo offers a variety of ingredients in both syrian and dwarf mixes. This can be bought with or without the protein source (be careful to choose correctly when purchasing). There is also a “light” mix for dwarf hamsters who may be overweight.
RODIPET SEED MIXES
Rodipet are a leading hamster care brand. Their seed mixes are organic, so you can be sure no pesticides or fertilisers were used during the farming of this food. As well as being species appropriate, Rodipet also divide their food into age-appropriate mixes. They have both senior and junior mixes available for syrians and dwarves. Junior mixes should be fed to hamsters less than 1 year old.
Rodipet mixes do not contain a source of protein so owners must add other protein sources to their hamster’s diet in the form of mealworms, egg, plain cooked chicken, for other options, see our safe hamster food list below.
MAXI ZOO “REAL NATURE” MIXES
Maxi Zoo’s seed mixes are made without artificial preservatives, colourings or flavourings. They are the only chain pet shop in Ireland to sell an species appropriate food for hamsters. The huge benefit of this food is it’s affordability, as it’s only a fraction of the price of other species appropriate mixes. It doesn’t compromise on quality either.
Syrian Mix: 47 ingredients
Dwarf Mix: 38 ingredients
MIXERAMA SEED MIXES
Mixerama sell a range of whole-ingredient, species-specific seed mixes. The various mixes available come both with and without protein already added so the owner can specifically balance their mix if desired for a hamster of any age or stage. Mixerama have a range of different species appropriate mixes, we recommend the Fairytale mix for syrians and the Magic mix for dwarves.
Syrian Mixes: 27-34 ingredients
Dwarf Mixes: 23-31 ingredients
BUNNY “HAMSTER DREAM” EXPERT
Bunny “hamster dream” expert contains no pellets, making it a much less processed food than many others on the market. It contains meal worms as a protein source for your hamster. It has vitamins added, so even hamsters that are picky eaters will get lots of nutrition from this seed mix. Quite expensive considering it’s sold in 500g bags, but it’s useful to have as a back up option.
SAFE HAMSTER FOOD
NOTE: THIS LIST IS NOT EXHAUSTIVE. ITS ALWAYS BETTER TO BE SAFE THAN SORRY. IF YOU ARE UNSURE ABOUT AN ITEM THAT IS NOT LISTED ABOVE, PLEASE ENQUIRE THROUGH OUR SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS (SEE BELOW) OR THROUGH OUR CONTACT PAGE (ABOVE).
- Cherries (no stone)
- Honeydew Melon
- Tomato (ripe, no leaves/stem)
- Bok Choy
- Brussells sprouts
- Potato (cooked)
- Romaine Lettuce
- Sweet potato (cooked)
- Swiss Chard
- Courgette (Zuchini)
- Black eyed peas
- Black turtle beans
- Bulgar wheat
- Chia seeds
- Flax seeds
- Hemp hearts
- Mung beans
- Nutritional yeast
- Oat flakes
- Pasta (cooked & dry)
- Popped corn
- Pumpkin seeds
- Rice (cooked & dry)
- Rye flakes
- Sesame seeds
- Split peas
- Sunflower seeds
- Wheat germ
- Chicken (cooked)
- Cottage cheese
- Meal worms
- Turkey (cooked)
HERBS & FLOWERS
- Rose hip
- Rose petals
- Avocado – high in fat
- Dark Chocolate
- Garlic/Onion – too acidic
- Lean ground beef (cooked)
- Peanut butter – high in fat, sticky
- Dried fruit – high in sugar
- Yoghurt drops/honey/any item high in sugar
Unsafe – Do Not Feed
- Citrus fruits (orange, lemon, etc.)
- Kidney beans
- Packaged meats
- Raw green potato
- Rhubarb leaves
- Pips/stones of fruits/veg
All of the above foods should be fed in moderation.
Your hamster’s ear is a good size reference for fresh food portions.
Cutting fresh food into very small pieces helps to make sure it dries out rather than going mouldy.
Herbs and flowers should be used in small, limited quantities, sprinkled around the enclosure or in small bowls/pots. If your hamster is excessively eating any plants, it’s best to remove them so that the hamster will have a more balanced diet.
Seeds and nuts are high in fat so should be fed occasionally as treats.