There’s no such thing as cuddling up to a bowl of ice cream with your hamster. As much as we want to share our indulgences with our pets, we must consider what’s best for them nutritionally. You’ve come to the right place to find out what you can and can’t give to your hamster for treats.
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Do Hamsters Need Treats?
Wild hamsters are in a constant state of foraging, and treats are not something that exists out in the wild. However, when it comes to captive/pet hamsters, they are completely dependent on their owners to provide them with food.
Although hamsters are nocturnal (active at night, sleeping all day), they wake up during the daytime to eat every few hours. This eating continues through the night while they are foraging for food. When foraging, these hamsters bring food back to their burrow to have a constant supply of food.
According to the Nutrient Requirements of Laboratory Animals: Fourth Revised Edition, hamsters eat every two hours. The Louisiana Veterinary Medical Association reports that hamsters eat small meals every two hours with an average of eating up to 20 times per day.
As hamster parents, we ensure that our hamster has access to fresh water and food at all times. So, in essence, if we do this, our hamster really doesn’t need treats. We provide treats as an act of affection and to enrich the lives of our beloved pets. However, how do we know how much is too much when it comes to treats?
How Often Should You Give Your Hamsters A Treat?
Anything beyond the minimum to sustain life is what we will refer to here as a treat. Treats are a welcome surprise for a hamster. Too many, and your hamster becomes a bit fluffier in poundage and becomes overweight. Diabetes is an issue in Chinese dwarf hamsters, so the utmost care in what and how much is given to one is important.
There isn’t an exact amount recommended for treats. However, let moderation be your guide. A few bites of a carrot is acceptable, whereas an entire carrot isn’t. A hamster fed a good-quality pellet diet will have its daily nutritional needs met, and anything in addition to that is extra.
Required Preparation Of Treats
Most of us shop in the regular produce aisle and give little thought to the organic section. However, when it comes to the tiny, incredibly cranky tummy of a hamster, organic/natural is a must. Hamsters don’t do well with fruits and vegetables tainted with pesticide residue or waxes to enhance their appearance.
All fruits and vegetables for your hamster should be thoroughly washed. We’ll explain why.
Pesticides and Produce
Pesticides have been around for as long as crops of foods and vegetation have been cultivated. Chemicals are formulated to make a pesticide to protect plants from disease, pests, insects and prevent weed growth. The chemicals used have the potential to cause significant health issues.
The Environmental Working Group in Washington D.C. (EWG) published a 2021 shopper’s guide to pesticides in produce. They mention that the FDA’s (Federal Department of Agriculture) latest test data analyzed by EWG revealed that “nearly 70% of non-organic, fresh produce sold in the U.S.” has a residual pesticide.
Meats should be given equal consideration for safety to ensure they are free from antibiotics and hormones. Lean meat is highly recommended. When cooking meat, it should be thoroughly cooked.
Hamster Treats List: Bad and Good Munchies
So, now we’ve come to the “stuff to chew on ” and think about. We have a comprehensive list of Syrian and dwarf hamster treats.
Bad Treats For Hamsters
Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way. Some foods are not ideal for the delicate digestive system of a hamster, while others are toxic and harmful.
Any food, whether a fruit, veggie, protein, etc., that is processed is a definite no-no. These foods contain harmful preservatives that are not only unhealthy for humans but also hamsters.
- Packaged snacks (including chips, pretzels, candy, cereals, snack cakes, crackers, etc.)
- Salty foods (including nuts, packaged, pork)
- Oily/buttery foods (including fried foods, popcorn,
- Dried/dehydrated fruit or vegetables (many contain sulfur dioxide)
Toxic and Harmful
Toxins and dangerous ingredients found in some foods can cause adverse reactions or side effects in hamsters.
- Cardiac glycosides in large amounts can cause serious heart problems that may become fatal.
- Glycoside (amygdalin) causes the release of cyanide which can be fatal in large enough doses.
- Disulfides can cause various adverse reactions/side effects.
- Solanine causes solanine poisoning that potentially leads to various side effects.
- Citric acid leads to tooth erosion.
- Theobromine can cause various adverse reactions/side effects.
- Oxalates can cause renal failure and a host of digestive issues.
Contains cardiac glycosides
Contains glycoside (amygdalin)
- Pits/Seeds of Fruits (apricots, peaches, pears, apples, plums, prunes, cherries)
- Bitter almond
- Raw potato/sweet potato/yam
- Stems/leaves of a tomato plant
- Citrus (lemon, grapefruit, lime, oranges, tangerine)
Other bad foods
- Uncooked beans/lentils
- Caffeinated drinks (coffee, tea)
- Iceberg lettuce
Good Treats For Hamsters
Now that we have the bad out of the way let’s look at the diverse list of treats you can give to your hamster. We have included treats below with a recommended amount to feed; however, it doesn’t mean that you should give your hamster numerous items from the list every day, several times a week.
Select a treat (one) to give to your hamster 1-2 times a week except for insects. Insects can be given to your hamster daily.
Commercial Hamster Treats
There are some nifty little treats marketed as chewy toys that are a nice treat to give your hammie every now and then. One, in particular, is Rice Pops. Other commercial chewy treats include organic applewood sticks.
Fruits are high in sugar, so if you have a high-risk hamster species (Chinese dwarf hamster), moderation is a must if you choose to give something to your hamster. About ¼ teaspoon fed 1-2 times a week is about what you should feed to a hamster.
Flesh only (remove seeds/pits)
Other safe fruits to give your hamster are:
- Berries (blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries)
- Melons (cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon)
There are numerous healthy vegetables your hamster can enjoy as a treat 1-2 times a week (about ¼ – 1 teaspoon.)
- Bell pepper
- Bok choy
- Brussel sprouts
- Carrots (small amounts because of sugar content)
- Green beans
- Peas (sugar snap)
- Pumpkin (organic/natural/pure)
- Sprouts (bean)
Most hamster parents assume hamsters only eat plant-based foods and treats, but the occasional protein treat is a good thing!
About ¼ teaspoon 1-2 times per week.
About ¼ teaspoon 1-2 times per week.
- Shrimp (peeled, boiled)
- Fish (fresh only, deboned, baked)
Insects (purchased only from a pet store)
- Crickets (1 every few days)
- Grasshoppers (1 every few days)
- Mealworms (2-3, 1-2 times per week)
- Eggs (boiled/scrambled: about ¼ teaspoon 1-2 times per week)
- Peanut butter (natural, creamy, dot-size rare treat)
Homemade Hamster Treats
We have an easy way to make an all-in-one healthy homemade hamster treat you can give to your hammie.
- Combine a fruit, veggie, and protein together (mixed in a food processor).
- Roll into little balls about the size of your pinky fingernail.
- Freeze them and feed 1 to your hamster once a week.
Can Hamsters Eat Strawberries?
Hamsters can eat strawberries in moderation (especially if you have a Chinese dwarf) because of the sugar content.
Can Hamsters Eat Mango?
Hamsters can eat mango in moderation (especially if you have a Chinese dwarf) because of the sugar content.
Can Hamsters Eat Celery?
Celery contains a lot of water, so don’t give too much to your hamster. Fluid-rich treats can cause your hamster to have diarrhea. If you do give your hamster celery, it must be finely chopped rather than giving them a huge chunk. The stringy fibers can easily choke a hamster.
Treats Are Sweet In Moderation
There’s no such thing as “sweet on the lips, forever on the hips” when it comes to your hamster’s overindulgences. Too much of a good thing has a negative effect on a hamster’s diet. A little goes a long way when it comes to their treats.