To keep your hamster healthy and happy, providing a healthy well-balanced diet is vital.
But how can you tell if a diet is good or bad, and what exactly is the best food for a Syrian hamster?
Let’s find out!
Two Strategies for a Balanced Diet
Creating and maintaining a well-balanced and healthy diet for your hamster can be difficult. You have to find the right balance between proteins, carbohydrates and fat, while also including vitamins and minerals.
There are basically two ways to achieve this:
- Buying commercially prepared food – lab blocks, pellets, or a mix.
- Going with all-natural fresh foods (see lists below).
For most Syrian hamster owners I’d recommend to go with a commercially prepared food. It’s easy and practical, and it contains adequate amounts of the nutrients that your hammy needs.
But if you want to use fresh foods instead, make sure you have the knowledge to create a balanced diet, and that you pay close attention to any changes in your hamster’s weight, fur or behavior. Over time, you will have to adjust and fine tune the diet based on your observations.
Regardless of which strategy you choose, you should try to follow these general nutritional guidelines:
|Type||Protein (%)||Fat (%)|
|Pregnant & Baby Hamsters||18-20||7-9|
Pregnant and baby hamsters require more protein and fat to support growth.
And remember, the Syrian hamster – also called Golden hamster or Fancy hamster – is the largest of the five hamster species we keep as pets. Therefore, it requires more food than its smaller cousins.
But don’t go overboard; even though they have a rapid metabolism, they can get overweight with bad health as a result (diabetes for example). Since they only live for 3-4 years in the first place, you don’t want to shorten that by putting them on a bad diet.
Commercially Prepared Food
There are three types of prepackaged hamster food:
- Pellets. Contains a complete diet, often with added vitamins and minerals. Not all hamsters like pellets though.
- Mixes. A mix of seeds, grains, and pellets, contains the whole spectrum of nutrients. Most hamsters like the variety in flavor and texture that they offer.
- Blocks. Besides a balanced content, the main advantage of so-called lab blocks is that it helps to file down the hamster’s front teeth. Because the teeth never stop to grow, gnawing on hard objects is the way hamsters keep them in check.
Mixes are the most popular and common type of commercial hamster food. Make sure the mix doesn’t have large amounts of dried fruit, as that contains concentrated sugar. It could make your hamster hyperactive, and in the long run be the cause of overweight and diabetes.
Start with 1-2 tablespoons per day if you have a normal adult Syrian hamster. Observe any changes in weight, and adjust servings accordingly.
Finding the right hamster food can be difficult, because there are many brands and products to choose from. To give you some guidance, let’s take a look at my top three picks that I highly recommend.
Best Hamster Food
|Kaytee Forti Diet Pro Health||4.5||Check Price|
|Oxbow Healthy Handfuls||4.4||Check Price|
|Vitakraft Menu Vitamin||4.3||Check Price|
Supplementing the commercial food with healthy treats is a good idea.
I’d recommend to give a slice of an apple, a few raisins, a small piece of low-fat cheese, or a floret of cauliflower along with some lettuce or spinach. Don’t give everything at once, but try to distribute it throughout the day.
As I mentioned earlier, be careful with dried fruit.
If you want to know more exactly which treats are ok to use, check out the lists below.
Although Syrian hamsters are omnivorous (they eat both meat and vegetables), you have to be careful with what you feed them.
Because of the relatively high content of sugar, fruits should be given in moderation.
Vegetables and fruits should be rinsed clean of any pesticides.
Here’s a list of foods – that I’ve borrowed from DwarfHamsterBlog.com – that are safe to use (although intended for dwarf hamsters, it’s also applicable to Syrian hamsters).
- Bean sprouts
- Bell pepper
- Choy sum
- Cooked potato
- Green bean
Grains, seeds and nuts
- Pumpkin seed
- Sesame seed
- Sunflower seed
- Brown rice pasta
- Boiled egg
- Cooked plain salmon
- Cooked plain chicken
Foods to Avoid
According to Hamsterific.com, you should NOT feed your hamster with:
- Almonds (contains cyanic acid)
- Apple seeds
- Canned food
- Chips and junk food
- Pork products
- Potatoes (raw)
- Raw kidney beans
- Fool’s parsley
- Grape seeds
- Avocado (contains cardiac glycosides)
- Raw rhubarb
- Tomato leaves
- Oranges and tangerines (no citrus fruits)
- Watermelon (high water content, can cause diarrhea)
- Cherry stone
- Peach stone and leaves
- Apricot stone
- Lemon and lime
- Jams and jellies
Because a hamster’s teeth continue to grow throughout it’s life, it’s important to help wear them down. Once a week, you could offer small dog biscuits or a few tree branches to give it something to gnaw on. The lab blocks we discussed earlier are also good for this.
Or, you could opt for a commercial treat that’s specifically developed for this task. Like this very popular one from Ecotrition:
Before we continue, let’s talk briefly about water.
Water is absolutely essential to all living organisms, which is why it’s very important to keep your hamster well hydrated. The best way to do this is to install a drip bottle, and then make sure to change to fresh water every day.
I’d suggest that you avoid water bowls, as these can be turned over. The water could also become unsafe to drink due to food spill, poop, or other contaminants.
When To Feed
Hamsters are nocturnal animals, which mean that they are mostly active during the night. Because of this, it makes most sense to serve the food in the evening.
The treats, however, are perfect for snacking. Sprinkle them out during the day, so that your hammy has something to gnaw on.
How To Serve
Before we wrap this up, let me give you some advice on how to serve the food:
- Use a ceramic bowl. They are durable and resistant to chewing.
- Place the bowl in the corner that’s opposite to the bathroom area. Hygiene is important.
- Be consistent. Always serve the food at the same time and place.
- Clean the bowl thoroughly once a week, as you should with the rest of the cage. Once again, hygiene is important.
At least for novices, I recommend that to keep things simple. Start with one of the three products I mentioned earlier:
Good luck! 🙂