Feeding Your Hamster
Hamsters are small, lovable pocket pets that require optimum diet and nutrition to maintain a healthy and active life.
Hamsters are wonderful pocket pets that can bring years of fun and enjoyment to your life. While these pets may seem small, they require a high level of care that starts with a proper diet. Keeping your hamster well fed with a high level of nutrition is essential to keeping your hamster healthy and happy. Not only does your hamster require basic food to keep him or her healthy, but a steady diet of supplemental foods as well as enrichment items are necessary as well.
When it comes to keeping your hamster healthy, keep in mind that you are his sole source of nutrition. As the owner, you are responsible for keeping your hamster not only well fed, but also well nourished. This means that you are responsible for giving your hamster the right mix of proteins and fats necessary to maintain a healthy body weight, an active mind, and ongoing healthy organ function.
Your hamster will require a source of protein in his or her diet. Recent hamster health studies have shown that hamsters do best when they receive between 14% and 20% protein in their diet. Protein can help build and restore muscle to keep your hamster healthy and active. Luckily, many commercially produced hamster foods have a high level of protein already formulated and available to your pet. Be aware that wheat protein does not metabolize well for hamsters and should not be considered an active protein source.
Fat is also necessary to keep your hamster healthy. Not all fat is bad, and some fat in your hamster's diet will help to boost energy levels. An optimal level of fat for your hamster's diet is somewhere between 3% and 9%. Keep in mind that too much fat in the diet can lead to hamster obesity, which can cause other serious problems later in life.
Luckily, the majority of your hamster's dietary needs can be found in high quality food mixes intended for small rodents. Be sure to look for hamster specific diets to ensure that you are targeting the specific needs of this small pocket pet. In general, commercially produced hamster food is available in seeds, pellets, or in a blended mix. There are advantages and disadvantages to each, described below.
- Seeds - Many hamsters will love a meal made entirely of seeds. The high fat content can help energize your hamster, however there are drawbacks to giving a seed only diet. Seeds can create a picky eater, which can lead to food waste. Further, giving a seed only diet to your hamster is the equivalent of eating a diet entirely made of pizza. Delicious, but not the best, well-rounded source of nutrition.
- Pellets - Pre-made pellets that are created at a factory are an excellent choice for hamster food. These pellets combine all the necessary minerals and vitamins necessary into one convenient food source. Pellets can reduce the likelihood that you will have a picky eater and are a great way to minimize food waste. Unfortunately, pellets do not give your hamster a great deal of variety in their diet, and can be costly compared to other food alternatives.
- Mixed Diets - There are also many commercial made hamster food mixes that combine both seeds and pellets. While these seem to combine the best of both worlds, be aware that these diets can still create picky eaters, as the hamster may be likely to only pull out tasty seeds for his or her meal.
Your hamster will also need some sort of vitamin and mineral supplementation to keep him or her healthy and happy. This is usually in the form of fruits and vegetables. Introducing fresh fruits and vegetables into your pet's diet is a great way to give your hamster the necessary nutrition that is often overlooked in commercially produced hamster food. Consider adding vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, kale, and celery to your hamster's diet. Fruits such as mango, strawberries, peaches, and cherries can also be a great addition to your hamster's diet. Keep supplemental treats minimal though. While these are wonderful sources of vitamins and minerals, they can be high in sugar and fat which can contribute to obesity.
Food For Enrichment
While food is definitely necessary to give your hamster enough vitamins and minerals to sustain a healthy life, food can also be used for enrichment. Hamsters are curious creatures who enjoy exploring and investigating their environment. Not only can the right food enrichment chews help to keep your hamster healthy, but they can help keep his or her mind active.
Adding different enrichment chews into your hamster's cage is a great way to keep your pet mentally stimulated. Try hiding different high value seeds and nuts throughout the cage to encourage natural foraging behaviors. Adding different hays and grasses in hard to reach areas can promote additional exercise and exploration. It is important to remember that these high value treats are intended to supplement your hamster's diet and should not be used as the sole source of nutrition throughout the hamster's cage.
Although a hamster may not ingest certain foods, it is still necessary to give your hamster the right enrichment items to help keep his or her teeth healthy. Having plenty of enrichment chews within the cage can help keep your hamster's teeth in great shape. Consider adding different wooden chews intended to wear down constantly growing teeth. There are several commercially produced wooden chews available at the pet store that are designed specifically for pocket pets. It is best to avoid chews that have been artificially stained or dyed, as these can cause harm to your hamster after long term use. Hamsters may also enjoy the addition of coconut shells, cardboard, or soft natural woods to help keep their teeth healthy.
Keeping a hamster as a pet is a rewarding and fun experience that can provide years of friendship. A hamster, although small, requires a high level of care and dedication that begins with feeding your hamster a healthy and balanced diet. Not only are your hamster's nutritional needs important to keep his or her body functioning, but it is essential to maintain a high level of exercise and brain health necessary to keep your pet happy.