Hamsters are smart, but not smart enough to eat only foods that are good for them. Hamsters will eat any food that they can get their mouths on, no matter how fattening or how poisonous. The five species of pet hamsters all evolved in deserts where food was scare and there was no time to be picky. Hamsters still have this tendency to stuff their faces and then cheeks for snacking on later.
Food and Hamster Health
Hamsters also have very small stomachs. It’s best to fill those small stomachs with a variety of nutritious food rather than a huge pile of junk. Poor nutrition can lead to problems such as hair loss and peeling skin, according to Hamsterific.com. Hamsters only live from one to four years (depending on the species) and so you do not want to do anything to make them die prematurely, such as giving them foods they shouldn’t eat.
Do not feed hamsters foods high in processed sugar like jams, cakes, cookies, candy or sweetened breakfast cereals. Canned foods are usually loaded with sugar. Hamsters can become obese, which shortens their lives. Hamsters can also get diabetes, although Russian dwarf hamsters seem to be most prone to it. Hamsters can’t brush their teeth, so sugar can rot the teeth, causing incredible pain. Chocolate causes circulation problems in hamsters and also can kill other pets such as small dogs.
Although hamsters and nuts seem to naturally go together, some nuts are bad for hamsters. Peanuts contain a poison called afaltoxin, which can kill a hamster, although hamsters will merrily eat peanuts until they drop. It’s sort of like hamster crack. Almonds contain the poison cyanide. Some hamster owners also avoid feeding any nut so the hamster doesn’t get in the nut habit.
Small portions of fresh vegetables are good for hamsters, but should be removed from the cage in 24 hours if left uneaten. Be sure to wash the vegetables in order to clean any pesticides or dirt from them. If you wouldn’t eat it, do not give it to a hamster. The veggies may begin to rot then. But these vegetables should never appear in a hamster cage: onions, scallions, leeks, garlic, iceberg lettuce, potatoes, potato leaves, rhubarb and rhubarb leaves. All contain small levels of poisons. Avoid celery. Hamsters heave been known to choke to death on the stringy vegetable.
Although hamsters can eat apple flesh, the seeds can be poisonous. Apricot flesh is okay, but not the stone. Tomato leaves contain toxins. Lemon and lime are also off of the list, but many hamsters avoid them, anyway. But they may gorge themselves on watermelon. Unfortunately, watermelon often causes watery diarrhea in hamsters.
Hamsters. Nancy Ferris, et al. Bow Tie Press; 2008.
Training Your Pet Hamster. Gerry Bucsis & Barbara Somerville. Barron’s; 2002.