How to feed hamsters

How to feed hamsters

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

The majority of a pet hamster’s food should be made up of a good quality, store-bought food designed specifically for hamsters (not for rats, mice, or cats). But your pet food choices at the pet store can be overwhelming even by narrowing it down to hamster food. The decisions don’t end when you get home and want to offer fresh foods and treats to your hamster. Learn the best diet to give your hamster and the safe foods you can offer as treats.

Pelleted Hamster Diets

Pelleted hamster foods offer a completely balanced diet in every bite, and they are often recommended for this reason.   Pelleted diets can come in many shapes but usually look like small biscuits, cookies, or cereal. A hamster can be picky with loose seed mixes, eating only their favorite items, resulting in an unbalanced diet. Pelleted diets prevent this from happening, but they are a bit monotonous and some hamsters will refuse them. A pelleted mix can be supplemented with a variety of other items as long as the pelleted food makes up the bulk of the diet.

Seed Hamster Diets

It is important to pick a loose seed mix diet that contains a variety of foods such as grains and dried vegetables along with some seeds. Some loose seed mixed foods also contain a balanced pellet food as part of the mix (which is ideal). When feeding a loose seed mix, make sure your hamster empties the food bowl before adding more, not allowing your hamster to eat only its favorite things.

Fresh Foods and Treats for Hamsters

You can feed your hamster a variety of human foods as long as you limit the treats to no more than 10 percent of your hamster’s diet. Skip the junk food and stick to healthy things like whole grains, fresh vegetables, and fruit (in moderation, otherwise diarrhea may result). Store-bought treats such as yogurt drops and honey/seed sticks are too sugary for a hamster and they should be avoided. Since dwarf hamsters are somewhat prone to diabetes it is also especially prudent to avoid sugar in their diet, so avoid fruits altogether as treats for them. Some safe foods you can offer to your hamster are:

  • Apples (no seeds)
  • Bananas
  • Blueberries
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Cucumber
  • Dandelion greens
  • Grapes
  • Kale
  • Peas
  • Potato (cooked)
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries
  • Sweet potato
  • Squash
  • Hay
  • Whole grain bread or toast
  • Whole wheat pasta (cooked)
  • Brown rice (cooked)
  • Whole grain cereal (no sugary cereal)
  • Mealworms
  • Crickets
  • Small pieces of cooked chicken
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Nuts (unsalted, no almonds)
  • Peanuts (unsalted)
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Lentils
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Plain air-popped popcorn (no butter or salt)

Hamsters also usually love peanut butter but it must be fed carefully (as with any other sticky food) because it can get stuck in their cheek pouches and cause severe problems. A very thin layer on a piece of wood is okay as an occasional treat, but peanut butter must be given with caution.

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The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

Foods You Should Not Feed Hamsters

  • Apple seeds
  • Raw beans
  • Raw potatoes
  • Almonds
  • Citrus fruit
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Rhubarb leaves or raw rhubarb
  • Chocolate
  • Any sugary or salty foods
  • Any junk food

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The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

The Best Hamster Diet

The ideal diet for a hamster is a pelleted diet that is supplemented with a variety of other safe and human foods. If your hamster won’t eat the pelleted diet then sprinkle some seed mixture onto the pellets or find a seed diet that already has pellets in it.

How to feed hamsters

Hamsters are very popular pets that can be found in many homes. Hamsters are part of the rodent family and they come from Syria, Asia Minor and the Caucasus. Many parents choose these small mammals as a first pet for their children as they’re easy to care for in comparison to cats and dogs. In this OneHowTo article we explain you how to feed a hamster.

Feeding a hamster is really quite simple. The first thing to consider is that they are omnivorous animals and therefore their diet is quite varied. In pet shops you can find specific food for them known as balanced food. It contains sunflower seeds, mixed seeds, corn and other dry components.

If you don’t want to buy this prepared food, you can also produce it at home. To do this, you should know that the base of the mix is seeds, cereals and dried fruits. These are some of the foods you can include in the mix:

  • Oats
  • Barley
  • Wheat
  • Sunflower
  • Corn
  • Peanuts
  • Hazelnuts
  • Raisins
  • Walnuts
  • Sesame seeds
  • Linseed
  • Sorghum
  • Rice
  • Lentils
  • Watermelon seeds

How to feed hamsters

To a lesser extent you can include fruit (apple, banana, pear, peach) and vegetables (Zucchini, celery, lettuce, tomato, cucumber) that will provide vitamins for your little hamster. Of course, you have to wash these thoroughly to remove traces of pesticides.

For the proteins that are needed, you can use the dry food that is usually given to dogs, known as croquettes. You can also give your hamster pieces of sausage, a mealworm, pieces of chicken, etc.

How to feed hamsters

In rodents, incisor growth is constant. If the hamster’s diet is too soft, the hamster will desperately bite the bars of the cage or plastic elements therein. The best remedy to avoid this is to introduce a piece of bone in the cage. If the bone has some meat attached, it will even be more interesting for your hamster. This way, the little pet will bite the bone and forget the bars or any plastic that finds inside the cage.

How to feed hamsters

If you are going to give a new food to your hamster, do so gradually, so it can get used to it and not harm the hamster’s digestion. Among the foods that you must avoid giving your hamster are citrus fruits, garlic, onions, foods with lots of sugar, salt or fat and spicy foods.

In terms of quantity, hamsters usually have a store of food somewhere in the cage. They can eat up lots of food and when they are stuffed, they will hide the rest of the food in their hoard, so it is convenient not to give your little hamster a surplus of food.

If you want to read similar articles to How to Feed a Hamster, we recommend you visit our Pets category.

How to feed hamsters

How to feed hamsters

Hamsters are burrowing rodents who are also considered to be lovely pets. It is true that these little animals are easier to care for than other pets like dogs or cats, however, this does not mean that they need no care. Hamster owners need to pay attention to their basic needs, especially their diet. A hamster’s diet is very important in order to avoid any arising health problems which could affect their quality of life.

For this reason, in this AnimalWised article, we have decided to discuss what hamsters eat. We will be taking into account the different specific needs of different hamster breeds, such as: The Chinese hamster and the small Roborovski.

  1. How to feed a hamster?
  2. What do hamsters eat?
  3. How to give hamster food
  4. What do Chinese hamsters eat?
  5. What to feed a Roborovski hamster

How to feed a hamster?

Before going into of what hamsters eat, we must consider how to feed a hamster. Take a look at these recommendations:

  • Hamsters are omnivorous animals, so in their diet one must include, in addition to fruits and vegetables, meat. In the wild, hamsters eat insects, frogs and even lizards.
  • We must offer them food a significant distance away from where they defecate or urinate.
  • You must feed your hamster in small quantities. This is to avoid any leftovers. If your hamster has leftover some food, we suggest removing it from their cage.
  • Hamsters are accumulators, which means that they tend to collect food in their nests. They are nocturnal animals, so they sleep most of the day. They do however wake up several times during day to eat some of their collected food.
  • The fruits and vegetables that we offer our hamsters must be very well washed and dried. They should be at room temperature and not directly cold from the fridge..
  • In addition to food, your hamster always must have water at its disposal. Drinkers which hang from cage bars are very useful as the hamsters cannot overturn them. Their water must be changed daily.
  • You can find a large variety of hamster feed on the market. However, make sure that you choose a good quality feed which contains all of the vitamins and nutrients which your hamster requires.
  • You can offer your hamster some snacks sporadically. Some great hamster snacks include; cereal bars, ore blocks, sepia bones for parakees, toast, dog food or biscuits. When you choose to give your hamster these snacks, remember to be careful with the quantity and break the food into bits so that it is easier for the hamster to consume. You can also hang the food from the cage in order to give your hamster a way to challenge its energy in a fun way.
  • The administration of any extra supplement should be consulted prior with a veterinarian.
  • We discourage giving your hamster sticky sweets which can remain attached to their teeth.

We suggest taking a look at this list of forbidden food for hamsters.

What do hamsters eat?

Although there are several different hamster breeds, generally, they can all eat the same food. But, in some cases, there are some particularities, which we will expand on in the next couple of sections. In order to understand a hamster’s diet we must look into how they feed in the wild. As we have already mentioned, they are omnivorous animals, which means that their diet is varied, feeding on both vegetable and animals. A balanced hamster diet should be modeled on the following:

  • Approximately half of a hamster’s daily food intake should be constituted by special hamster feed. The necessary protein a hamster needs is 16%. If the feed does not cover this percentage, you should offer your hamster products such as fresh cheese or turkey.
  • 45% of a hamster’s diet should correspond with raw vegetables.
  • The remaining 5% should be fruits.

If you choose not to feed your hamster with quality feed but instead, naturally, you can offer it a mixture of seeds, grains and nuts in raw. Limit fruits with too much caloric content to avoid problems with weight gain, specifically with Russian hamsters.Be careful with citrus fruits, as they can sometimes prove to be too acidic for hamsters. Albino hamsters have no particularities when it comes to their diet, so if you are wondering what an albino hamster eats, follow the above recommendations.

How to feed hamsters

How to give hamster food

One must be careful with how they present food to a hamsters. As mentioned before, food needs to be given to a hamster in a small amounts. This amount is not only to allow them to feed more easily, but it also allows you to see how your hamster reacts to the specific food. If after a couple of days, you see no adverse reaction to this feed, you can give your hamster a larger quantity. You can follow this process accordingly, until your hamster is eating the full ration it requires.

As for the daily amount of food needed for hamsters, these small animals tend to distribute their food themselves. Therefore, establishing a solid quantity is difficult. We recommend offering moderate quantities to avoid discarding too much food. In addition, you should pay attention to your hamster and when it prefers to eat, as it will depend on each individual.

What do Chinese hamsters eat?

Generally, Chinese hamsters follow the same diet indications mentioned above. However, due to the fact that Chinese hamsters are at a higher risk of sufferings from diabetes and osteoporosis, some alterations need to be taken into consideration. Thus, in addition to looking at their food composition, it is important to occasionally provide a Chinese hamster with fresh cheese and vegetables rich in calcium, such as spinach.

How to feed hamsters

What to feed a Roborovski hamster

When feeding a Roborovski hamster, their small size needs to be taken into consideration. For these hamsters, commercial food may be too big, therefore, the pellets need to be cut by their owner into smaller pieces. When feeding a Roborovski hamster, one must also be careful with fats, as these hamster do not tolerate them very well. Finally, when feeding them natural foods, such as: fruits, vegetables or cheese, they should be chopped accordingly to facilitate easier chewing.

If you want to read similar articles to What do hamsters eat?, we recommend you visit our Healthy diets category.

The sufficient amount for your hamster is a quarter tablespoon per serving and you can feed chicken to your hamster once or twice per week assuming that it is the only meat protein your pet was fed.

Can Hamsters Eat Chicken? In moderation!

This chicken should not be salted and it should be either boiled or baked. It should also be unseasoned. Chicken that has been fried or canned or deli- style lunchmeats is not recommended.

Lunch meats in general are also a no go for your little cute pet, due to the high salt content.

Most hamsters love chicken so it’s great to give it to your hamster right after buying (or adopting) it.

What others treats can I give my hamster?

Hamsters thrive on a high variety diet. Fruit and vegetables are with some exceptions a good and healthy choice that add antioxidants and healthy fats to a diet. In addition, food like meat and cheese can be important protein sources…

… and watching your hamster feast on its treats is sure to give you a warm and even proud feeling!

If you’re ever unsure about feeding your hamster a particular food, just don’t do it. Likewise, if your hamster ate something you’re not sure about, call your vet.

To answer the most common items given as treats (and some items not to give you hammy) we’ve put together a hamsterific infographic you can get below.

3-Step System for Testing New Hamster Treats

When I introduce new treats for my Hamster, Mr. Bubbles, there is a 3-step system I use every time to ensure it’s good for his little stomach.

How To Test New Hamster Treats

  1. Make sure its fresh , washed and doesn’t contain any pesticide (i.e. purchase organic treats)
  2. Test if your hamster can eat the treat. This is done by giving a little test piece and waiting a couple of days watching for any symptoms
  3. Introduce the treat into your hamster’s diet at more regular intervals over the coming weeks

Best Hamster Food

Besides giving your hamster treats, it is very important to give it the right kind of hamster food.

There is a lot of food out there with one of the following traits:

  • Not enough protein in it
  • Becomes dusty
  • Your hamster simply don’t like it and leave a lot of food

That’s why, we have done the research and recommend the following three products, that are none of the above, and instead are the backbone of a good hamster diet.

How to feed hamsters

How to feed hamsters

How to feed hamsters

How to feed hamsters

How to feed hamsters

How to feed hamsters

Interested in other treats for your hamster?

Other feeding tips for your hamster:

1. Provide fresh water every day. The water bottle should be frequently checked for any dirt or leaks to avoid contamination of the water. It is also good to monitor your hamster’s water intake because a reduction of water intake can mean you need to visit the vet.

2. Remove any remnants of feed to avoid rotting- this is especially for fresh fruits, vegetables, and powdered food which tend to grow mould / bacteria.

3. Do not overfeed on vegetables to avoid diarrhoea. Overfeeding on sugary fruits and treats is also discouraged because it tends to cause obesity in your pet.

4. When introducing a new kind of feed to your hamster, you should first give a small amount and observe for a week for any negative reaction to the food. If there is no negative reaction, then the feed is safe for consumption for your hamster. A sudden change in the diet of your pet may cause stress.

How to feed hamsters

Now you try it!

You are now well equipped to start feeding all kinds of treats to your hamster.

If you have any questions around any treat we have not covered please leave a comment below – we’ll be around to answer it.

How to feed hamsters

In “how often do I feed my hamster” we’ll look at hamster mealtimes. We’ll talk about how often and how much to feed, how to know when your hamster is hungry, and how to make sure your hamsters enthusiasm for storing food doesn’t do him any harm

People are fond of regular meals and we often tend to put our pets on a similar system of two or three meals a day. At a minimum, most pets are fed at least daily.

But you can run into problems if you top up your hamster’s food bowl once or twice a day. Let’s find out why

Hamster cheek pouches

Those hamster cheek pouches don’t just add to the cute appeal of a hamster, in wild hamsters they serve a very useful purpose

Every hamster likes to keep a store of food in a safe place. Usually close to his or her nest. This helps wild hamsters survive during times when there are food shortages.

Instead of starving, the hamster can tuck in to the food stored in his larder.

Those cheek pouches are of course a brilliant way for such a small animal to carry much more food home when he finds it, than he could manage by carrying it in his mouth

Wild hamster food stores

In the wild these clever little creatures will sometimes store huge quantities of food.

It’s a great way of making sure they survive the bad times as well as the good

Your hamster’s empty food bowl

You’ll probably notice your hamster emptying his food bowl quite soon after you fill it up. He’ll stuff the contents into his cheeks and then return to his nest to empty the food into his store.

Pretty soon the store will be quite big. And your hamster will be ‘snacking’ at intervals during the night, and sometimes during the day, whenever he feels hungry

But you may be wondering whether or not to fill up the bowl again, or whether to wait until the hamster has eaten what is in his store.

How often to fill a hamster’s bowl?

You only need to fill your hamster’s bowl once a day because his mealtimes are not restricted to when the bowl is filled.

How to feed hamsters

However, it’s a good idea to let the hamster eat most of the food in his store before giving him any more. This is because if the food is stored in his nest for long, it may go ‘stale’

You’ll need to check your hamster’s store from time to time and if it is getting much bigger, it means you are putting too much food in his bowl, or filling it too often

How much food to put in a hamster’s bowl

Try limiting your Syrian hamster to about two tablespoons of food once a day to begin with

If he builds up a big store in a few days, then cut down on those quantities.

Dwarf hamsters will need a little less, and Robo or Chinese hamsters may only need a single tablespoon of food once per day due to their tiny size.

Make sure you have several bowls so that you can put his daily rations in a clean one and remove the old one for washing.

Food bowls left in the cage for several days soon get contaminated with droppings

Cleaning out your hamster’s food store

It’s okay to remove your hamster’s food store and throw it away when you clean out the cage. At least once a week.

He won’t approve, but he doesn’t need it in the same way that wild hamsters do, and he’ll soon make another.

If you leave the store in his bed, then the food will go mouldy and potentially make him unwell.

How to stop your hamster getting fat

In addition to providing him with an exercise wheel, you need to make sure he doesn’t eat too much as this can lead to obesity too

It’s important that your hamster doesn’t get fat, as this can make him sick. So don’t be tempted to fill the food bowl every time it is empty.

All of this applies to dry food or commercial hamster pellets. Fresh food needs to be treated differently and fed more carefully

How often to feed a hamster fresh food

Because a hamster will try to store their food, fresh food should only be fed in tiny quantities.

If you let your hamster store fresh food, such as fruit or vegetables, it will rapidly go mouldy and may contaminate his whole food store, and if he eats it later, it may make him ill

If possible, it’s best to wedge fruit and vegetables to the bars so that your hamster cannot carry them back to his bed

How often do I feed my hamster – summary

Your hamster won’t get hungry if there is food in his store, but he may get fat if the store gets too big.

You can feed your hamster once a day if you place a small quantity of dry food in a small bowl

Fresh food and vegetables should be fed in tiny quantities and any that remains uneaten should be removed the same day.

Your hamster’s food store should be cleaned out at least once a week and checked every couple of days to make sure he is not being overfed. That way your hamster should stay happy, healthy and fit throughout his life.

How to feed hamsters

Your hamster’s food must be based on a feed prepared from dry seeds, grains, nuts and green food. However, veterinarians recommend always supplementing their diet with a little fruit and vegetables which are suitable for them, because these products contain nutrients and proteins lacking in preparation for hamsters. This should happen always under the supervision of a veterinarian and in moderate amounts. If you want to supplement the diet of your little rodent but do not know what they can take, read this article and discover here at OneHowTo What fruits can a hamster eat.

Hamsters love fresh food such as fruits and vegetables but feeding them only these is a mistake because they can cause digestive disorders. Therefore, it is important to follow a course of dry feed, provided by the veterinarian, and supplement it with these products occasionally and in small amounts. Also, because hamsters are prone to obesity, which is highly detrimental to their health, we must give them fruits low in calories.

Pear is one of the fruits with a higher level of fiber supplement that can not be missed out in the diet of our hamster. Pears are very beneficial to them because they help them purify their body and regulate bowel movements. Since the pear is a fruit with fewer calories, you should give it to them clean, well cut, seedless, with skin in trace amounts once every two weeks.

How to feed hamsters

On the other hand, watermelon itself is a fruit with fewer calories, ideal to give to our hamster. Of course, like pears, you should give it seedless, as they are harmful to them. The advantage of this fruit against the rest is its high water content, since proper hydration is another aspect that we can not neglect when maintaining our hamster in perfect condition.

How to feed hamsters

Following in the line of fruits that hamsters can eat, Strawberries are another of the best options. As with the above, they are rich in fiber and provide our rodent with an extra contribution of vitamins and minerals. Also, its diuretic properties will help to regulate intestinal transit. Remember to wash the fruit by peeling before feeding it to them and that makes it easier to eat.

How to feed hamsters

Apple is another fruit that your hamster can eat. Although not one of the lowest in calories, it gives them multiple benefits in terms of the process of digestion. Also, it will help to strengthen their teeth to gnaw. The advice is to give it to them in the form of chunks not too thick to chew and so they can exercise the jaw. Remember to wash it before and do not remove the skin but rather the seeds.

How to feed hamsters

Finally, kiwi and peach are good fruits for hamsters. In these cases, you must remove the skin, pips and give it to them chopped up. These fruits are also composed of a lot of water and contain a very low calorie level and high carbohydrates, so it does not promote weight gain and helps regulate the intestinal transit. Remember that obesity in hamsters is highly harmful to their health.

How to feed hamsters

When giving your hamster fruits it is also important that you consider various considerations and properly wash them first, and by shredding and removing the skin in specific cases. It is also recommended that throughout the week they ingest a minimal amount of fresh food, either fruits or vegetables. And that they do this in moderation. As well as good frut for hamsters, there are also some which are toxic like grapes, bananas and avocados, although they like the taste.

If you want to read similar articles to What Fruits can a Hamster Eat, we recommend you visit our Pets category.

How to feed hamsters

Whether you’re a hamster veteran or just welcome a new furball into your home, these tips will help you keep your hamster healthy and happy!

Let your hamster eat well! However, what they eat is just as important as how much they eat. Hamsters like to pick out the tasty fattening food first out of the dish. Often you’ll see the sunflower seeds disappear first, followed by the less fatty (and less tasty) seeds. It’s very important that you provide your hamster with well-balanced food. Just because they love sunflower seeds doesn’t mean that’s all they should eat! Kids like cookies but need their fruits and vegetables, too.

Speaking of fruits and vegetables – hamsters need them too! The best treats for hamsters are foods that are similar to what they might eat in the wild. Fresh (rinsed with water) veggies are good, and examples include carrots, squash, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber, romaine lettuce, spinach and other greens. Fresh fruits (rinsed in water) are good too, such as apples, pears, bananas, grapes and most berries. But remember never to give any citrus fruits like oranges, limes, lemons or grapefruit. Only give small amounts at a time.

In addition to fresh fruits and veggies, hamsters love whole grain breads and cereals . Also, protein is an important part of a hamster’s diet as well. Plain scrambled or boiled eggs are a nice treat. The thing to remember when fixing your hamsters’ dinner is that moderation and variety are very important. Always provide the standard seed and pellet mix daily, and only offer some of these treats in addition to it.

Make your hamster’s bed. Choose your hamster’s bedding carefully. Some times of bedding, such as cedar shavings, can cause skin irritations because of the oils in the cedar chips. Change your hamster’s bedding regularly, and while you’re at it, give his cage a hearty scrub. Also, be sure to rinse his water bottle, as room temperature water can grow algae and acquire bacteria that will make a hamster sick. Your little furball will by much happier (and less stinky) in a clean cage.

Hamsters appreciate spacious and exciting living quarters as much as we do. Your hamster needs space to exercise and keep fit in his own cute way. Paper towel tubes, plain brown boxes and other items are cheap entertainment and provide your hamster with something to chew on regularly. There also many great toys you can buy for your furry friend.

When it comes to cages, you can go with plastic or wire, but be aware that hamsters chew, so you’ll want to keep an eye on your hamster and make sure he isn’t successful in carrying out his own version of “The Great Escape.”

Speaking of chewing, did you know a hamster’s teeth grow like fingernails? Amazingly, hamster teeth never quit growing and they are one of the few furry creatures who are born with a full set of teeth! Hamsters usually take care of their own teeth by chewing on hard items (such as paper towel tubes or wooden treats). Dog biscuits are also a great treat as they are hard and help keep a hamster’s teeth short while providing a good source of calcium! If you ever notice your hamster has trouble eating it could mean his teeth need to be trimmed by a professional!

Put your hamster’s cage in a safe place– not in direct sunlight or on a heater, not in the dark, cold basement, and not in an exposed place where his cage can be knocked over by other pets or wobbly toddlers.

Exercise! Hamsters need to move about, or they’ll have can have digestive problems, get big and fat, and have other health problems. Make sure your hamster has access to toys, like a running wheel or things to climb on and in. Tubing additions to a plastic cage allows you to expand his stomping grounds by building onto his cage – if it’s the right kind of cage – and you can also let him take a spin in a hamster ball.

Decide on whether or not your hamster wants a friend right from the start! Hamsters are not always the friendliest with others, especially hamsters introduced later in life. If you decide on more than one hamster make sure you get the same sex. Hamsters are prolific little creatures. A litter of hamsters can range from 3 to 18 and moms can give birth approximately every 30 days. Female hamsters tend to have 2-3 litters in their lifetime.

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.

How to feed hamsters

By Geoff Williams

Hamsters are adorable, and if you had one as a kid, you probably remember them being easy pets to care for. That is, of course, because your parents likely took care of your hamster. As you can imagine, it isn’t as easy to care for a hamster as it looked as a kid, but once you get into a groove, you may find that it isn’t all that hard either. Consider the following your handy hamster care handbook.

How to Take Care of a Hamster: The Basics

If you are thinking about getting a hamster for your child, it would be best if your child is in elementary school or older.

“Unfortunately, this isn’t the perfect small pet for young children. Hamsters require a lot of care, can get nippy [and] are not always great in tiny hands,” said Laurie Hess, author, exotic animal veterinarian and owner of the Veterinary Center for Birds & Exotics in Bedford Hills, New York.

If your child is old enough to handle a hamster carefully and help clean the cage, however, then Hess says a hamster can be a good, fun, educational pet for families. When heading out to the pet store, you’ll want to pick up the following:

  • Your hamster: whether you buy one or two depends on your preference and, more importantly, the type of hamster you’d like. Syrian hamsters should never be put in pairs, as they will violently fight over territory once they reach maturity, said Cindy Cribbs of Haven for Hamsters Rescue & Sanctuary. Dwarf hamsters, Russian or Chinese, are also popular hamsters, and while they can be territorial, they do well in pairs only if they are littermates or a mother and child, Cribbs said.
  • A cage: purchase a cage at least 15 inches long by 12 inches high, but opt for something larger if you can to give your hamster more room to exercise and explore. Make sure the cage is also escape-proof.
  • Bedding: as a general rule, the best and healthiest type of bedding is one that isn’t made of wood shavings. Try to find bedding made from cellulose or plant-based paper fibers and avoid cat litter, corn cobs, newspaper and any scented bedding (which contains chemicals that can cause respiratory trouble).
  • Toys: an exercise wheel is a must to prevent boredom, and you can also purchase a ball for your hamster to run around a room in under your supervision.
  • Food: you can buy bags of hamster mix, which will generally have a blend of fruits, vegetables and seeds and grains, but you’d do well to also give your hamster small pieces of fresh vegetables and fruit, Hess said. You’ll also want to give your hamster access to fresh water at all times.

Not all greens are good for hamsters, neither are all fruits and vegetables. Stick to broccoli, parsley, apple, pear, carrot and turnips while avoiding onions, garlic, chives, leeks, lettuce, raw potatoes and oranges. As hamsters can be prone to diabetes, you’ll want to give them fruit (which is laden with sugar) sparingly.

How to Clean a Hamster’s Cage

Hamsters need clean cages to keep them from getting sick with a number of conditions, including diseases that are transmittable to humans, Hess said. Follow these steps for cleaning your hamster’s cage:

  • Move your hamster to a safe area: as long as you can keep your hamster from rolling off somewhere while you aren’t looking, an exercise ball would be an ideal spot to keep your hamster while cleaning it’s cage. A second cage or deep container that your hamster can’t get out of will also work.
  • Get rid of bedding: don’t worry about cleaning your hamster’s bedding, just throw it away and start fresh. Hamsters can sometimes hoard their food, Cribbs said, so tossing the bedding every time you clean will help prevent it from bolding.
  • Wash the cage: use regular soap and warm water to thoroughly rinse and clean your hamster’s cage or container. If you use vinegar, bleach or any other type of cleaning product on the container, make sure everything is thoroughly cleaned off and dried before adding new bedding and returning your hamster back to its cage.

How to Care for Baby Hamsters

If your hamsters breed or you take home a pregnant hamster, you’ll need to know how to care for the babies, which will be generally easy to do in the beginning. “No matter how hard it is you must leave them alone for at least a week,” Cribbs said. “Just feed and water them and that’s all.”

Cribbs offers these additional tips for caring for baby hamsters:

  • Get a sheet: cover the cage with a sheet to give the mother an opportunity to used to her new family also keep odd smells off the babies, which will lower the risk of the mother harming them.
  • Take a break from cleaning: give your hamsters their own space for the first week, and then begin cleaning the cage again.
  • Add protein: to the mother’s diet while she nurses. This can include small pieces of boiled egg and chicken.
  • Separate the hamsters: eventually, the hamsters will need to be separated, which can be done in the form of purchasing new cages for them to live in or rehoming the babies to new pet parents. Dwarf hamsters should be sexed and separated at about four to five weeks old; Syrians at about six weeks. Not separating your hamsters can encourage fighting amongst them, spread diseases and encourage even more pregnancies.

Setting Up Your Hamster’s Home

Start by purchasing everything you need for your hamster, like its cage, food, water, bedding and exercise wheel, then bring your hamster home. You’ll want to make the transition as easy as possible as it can be stressful for a hamster to go from a pet store or a shelter or a rescue to your home. While a pet store, shelter or a rescue has loud people and unusual smells, your home has its own unusual noises and smells that your hamster will not be adjusted to.

Hamsters are prone to a bacterial disease called wet tail, which can be caused by changes like coming to a new home or suddenly living in an overcrowded cage, and it can be fatal if not treated within 48 hours. Signs of wet tail include lethargy, loss of appetite, failure to groom and diarrhea. If you see any of the above signs, call your veterinarian immediately to have your pet examined and bring a stool sample to the visit for parasite testing.

Do things right, however, and you and your family will probably love having a hamster.

“They’re very smart, and they can be trained,” Hess said. “They can be skittish a lot of times, but if you hold one and give it a treat, they begin to anticipate you holding them. If they’re getting food as a treat, they smell your hands and see your fingers and think, ‘OK, pet me. This feels nice.'”

Hess says that you can even train them to do tricks, like retrieving small items, using food to reward their behavior.

By: Chewy Editorial Published: May 31, 2012

How to feed hamsters

How To Feed Baby Hamsters

Have a pregnant hamster? Not sure what to feed her or the babies? These tips will help guide you to the best hamster diet during these life stages.

What Do Pregnant Or Mother Hamsters Eat?

Mother hamsters need extra protein while they are pregnant or nursing. Feed them boiled egg, bits of cooked unseasoned chicken or beef, mealworms (usually available at high-end pet stores) and fruits or vegetables rich in vitamins A (natural A is good) and E.

Broccoli, sweet apple (as opposed to sour green apple), cantaloupe, and peas are all good fruit and vegetable choices for your hamster.

During pregnancy the restriction on sunflower seeds may be safely lifted; let the hamster eat as much as she can. Pregnant hamsters need the extra folic acid and vitamins as well as the fats and proteins that sunflower seeds provide, which is why mother hamsters can eat more. Protein needs for a hamster increase 60 percent during pregnancy. Nursing 14 to 28 pups in a litter can sap a mother hamster’s reserves; she’ll be able to use the fat in the seeds to keep from losing weight.

Always provide plenty of hamster food for a nursing mother hamster. She’ll need the food both physically and emotionally. Having plenty of resources to draw from makes a mother hamster feel secure and less stressed, which gives the hamster pups the best chance of survival. Hamster babies continue to nurse for almost three weeks after birth.

Feeding Baby Hamsters

Baby hamsters are usually well cared for by their mothers, but you can offer a few foods to help the hamster pups along. Baby hamsters will likely benefit from wheat germ cereal early in their development, so sprinkle a little close to the nest. Also small seeds such as millet are good for hamster pups, even those younger than 10 days old. Place a whole sprig of millet in the cage as an extra treat for the mother. This gives her something interesting to do, because she will need to gather the seeds off the stem.

Sometimes you will need to feed a hamster pup if the mother dies or rejects it. This will be a full-time job. Pups less than 8 days old have a poor survival rate, but you should still try. It can be rewarding to nurse a young hamster to adulthood. Saving a motherless hamster pup involves more than just feeding it, but our focus is nutrition.

Feed a pup evaporated milk mixed in a 50/50 solution with water. Warm the solution to 90 degrees Fahrenheit before feeding it to the baby hamster. Administer the solution via syringe or feeding wick (available at most pet stores). You may also use puppy or kitten formula. The volume to feed varies with the type of hamster.

Feeding Baby Dwarf Hamsters

For a dwarf hamster less than 2 weeks old, start at 2 drops every half-hour around the clock. Increase this to 3 drops every half-hour as it approaches 2 weeks of age. When the hamster pup reaches 2 weeks of age, increase the volume to 1/2 milliliter every hour. While nursing on this formula also provide wheat germ, small seeds and something fresh such as broccoli.

Hamsters continue to nurse for up to 3 weeks in extreme cases. This doesn’t mean that the hamsters won’t eat solid foods. Hamster pups start using their teeth at about 5 days old on smaller seeds. If you provide wheat germ by sprinkling it close to the nest, small hamster pups will lick at it.

During the third week you should see hamster pups eating from the bowl of solid foods. You can breathe easy after three weeks and start weaning them from the milk. To wean a hamster, just reduce the amount of milk given by half for a day or two and then stop all milk by the next day.

Feeding Baby Syrian Hamsters

For a Syrian hamster or other full-sized species of hamster, increase the amount of milk offered. Start with 1 milliliter 12 times a day around the clock until the hamster pups are 2 weeks old. After 2 weeks, feed them 2 milliliters 8 times a day. Provide the hamster pups with wheat germ, small seeds and something fresh while feeding the formula.

Around 3 weeks of age, you should see the hamster pups start to eat solid food. When you see this, gradually wean them off the formula. If you watch hamster pups carefully you’ll notice that they eat droppings from adult hamsters. This is normal and quite necessary. The droppings contain bacteria that the hamster pups need to help them break down and digest the mostly cellulose foods they eat. This is true for orphan hamsters as well. If you are a surrogate parent, remember to place droppings from an adult hamster near the nest so the pups you are nursing can benefit.

Excerpt from the Popular Critters Series magabook Hamsters with permission from its publisher, BowTie magazines, a division of BowTie Inc.