Hamster, like all pets, have their own very specific dietary needs that can only be met with the right high-quality food that is designed to meet these needs. However, with so much choice on the market, how do you know which one is right for your little furry friend? Our panel of pet experts and hamster lovers have produced this list of the best hamster foods to point you in the right direction.
Best Hamster Food Buying Guide & FAQ
Hamsters can be complex mammals to look after, their skin, coats, and teeth all need special care to keep them happy and healthy. The right staple food mix goes a long way to achieving this. In this part of the buying guide we consider what you need to look for when buying hamster food, which types of food are the best, and just as importantly how much food you should be giving your hamster.
Things to Consider When Buying Hamster Food
The nutritional needs of hamsters differ to those of larger mammals, so it is important that the food you buy reflects their specific needs. Of course, your hamsters specific preferences play a role in the food you buy, but some other key considerations include:
- Nutritional value
When choosing a food for your hamster you want one that provides the complete nutrition that they need. Most experts agree that the average hamster needs a food mix that has around 15% protein, and between 3- 6% fat. These percentages should be slightly higher for pregnant, nursing, and baby hamsters. Hamsters also burn through carbohydrates quickly, so food needs to be high in complex carbohydrates from natural vegetable and grain sources.
Hamsters need salt to help them retain water and stay healthy. In the wild they lick minerals and rocks containing salt. If the food that you choose does not have salt in it consider adding a salt lick to your hamster enclosure.
Hamsters do not need sugar in their diets, at least not in excessive amounts, avoid foods with added sugars, including molasses. Some foods contain dried fruits, which are also sources of sugar, be aware of the amount of fruit in the mix and maybe alternate with another similar but fruitless mix if the concentration is quite high.
- Dental health
Hamsters need to chew to keep their teeth at the right length and their jaws healthy. If the food is soft it is not going to work the teeth and jaws as needed. If your hamster prefers this type of food, then add plenty of safe chewing opportunities to their enclosure.
Seed Hamster Food vs. Pelleted Hamster Food
Good quality pelleted hamster food meets your hamster’s nutritional needs just as well as the same quality seed hamster food. In terms of nutritional requirements, it is quality that is the most important element. However, where pelleted foods can fall down is in that they do not provide any variety. All the food in their bowl looks, tastes, and feels the same. This does not encourage foraging and may lead to your hamster becoming bored with their food. Seed hamster food does provide variety and encourages foraging, but if you have hamsters with specific dietary requirements or health problems then certain mixes may not be suitable. As with many things as long as you get the quality right you can be led by your hamster’s preferences and even offer a mix of both. Just remember not to drastically change your hamsters diet to quickly or too often as this can cause health issues.
How Much Should You Feed Your Hamster?
One of the difficulties with knowing how much to feed a hamster is distinguishing between what they actually eat and how much they put into storage. Hamster avidly store food and the balance between eating and storing differs depending on the breed of hamster in question.
Experts state that on average hamsters only eat between one and two tablespoons of food in a period of 24 hours. Any other food that is gone from their bowls is likely to have been stashed away for later. It is a survival instinct that hamster have developed to help them survive in the wild during lean times. In captivity you are unlikely to find these stashes until you clean out their enclosures. While you should provide a little additional food to support the natural behavior it is important that old food is removed regularly as it will attract mold and bugs.
By following the tips in our buying guide and choosing one of our best hamster foods, you can increase the likelihood of having a healthy and happy hamster for a long time to come.