It’s important for any hamster to eat outside of it’s basic packet muesli. Muesli (or pellets) is not complete although it does come close and many hamsters do well being given nothing else. Imagine if you had to eat the same breakfast muesli everyday, or worse…a monotonous diet of shreddies. Yes, I have strong opinions about a pelleted diet, hamsters are not rabbits.
An easy way to provide variety, and therefore balance, is to mix more into your dry food. Mixed wild bird seed is an easy one. Your vet may tell you to be careful of whole oats, due to pouch perforation. Well. I’m sceptical that this is as common an issue as the distributors of science selective pellets may lead you to believe. Some hamster do well on this type of food, more do not. Think of the breakfast analogy above and think about which you’d rather feed.
It’s nice to provide something extra on top of their dry diet. It’s vital to remember that every mouthful of a treat or an extra means one less mouthful of their (mostly complete) dry diet. Extras should not be overfed. An easy rule of thumb is to dry feed a small bowl full every 2-3 days and on the day you put the new food in, add in something fresh or wet. Keep it separate from your dry, there’s nothing worse than soggy muesli. Your hamster will prefer the fresh on the day and store the dry for eating on days 2 and 3. This is the best way, in my opinion, of stopping selective eating. Hamsters naturally horde their food so take advantage of this to make sure they can still have a varied and balanced diet.
Your choices are fresh veg, fresh fruit, protein like wet dog or cat food, leftover human food and other food items such as porridge. The foods to avoid are citrus fruits, human chocolate, onions, garlic in some hamsters, spicy food, salty food and very sticky food that might get stuck in a pouch. A little bit of sugar and fat is fine unless your hamster can’t tolerate it or is diabetic (remember that sugar does not make a hamster diabetic).
I recently asked fans of the Facebook page what they like to feed. Broccoli, kale and carrots were top of the list. Bell peppers, cauliflower, sweetcorn, corn on the cob, green beans, cabbage, brussel sprouts, watercress, rocket, peas, spinach, sugar snap peas, fennel and parsnip were all suggested. Apple, courgette and cucumber too. It’s lovely to hear so many owners feed such a wide range. I’ve been a bit stuck on feeding kale recently, and kalettes are a cute veg to feed (look like tiny kale).
Wet food wise I have fed a lot of different brands of dog and cat food. I find that although Applaws is taken readily because of the texture, I prefer food that is fortified wherever possible. My guys have a preference for pate as well as flaked meat and I use puppy mousse, kitten pate or similar. I tend to mix this with Ready Brek made up using water (not the sachets, too much sugar), as disgusting as it sounds it makes it go further and the hams love it. To this I might add EMP, a supplement often used for birds. If I’m giving extras to a new mum though, I tend to feed meat and porridge separately. This may be a better option for those of you with only one hamster. Just bear in mind that you will want to ease off extra protein when your hamster is older as it can stress the kidneys.
Other extras include dried mealworms, dried crickets, dried sprats, pumpkin seeds, dog biscuits and dried fish skins. Ancol hedgehogs and dried pigs ears can be fed but I’d take these out periodically as otherwise the hamster will eat only these (they are quite big).
A good regime might be:-
Monday – Dry food plus a spoon of fresh veg. Less for a dwarf.
Tuesday – No food today
Wednesday – Cup cake case with a small spoon of wet dog food. Less for a dwarf.
Thursday – Dry food.
Friday – Treat with human leftovers or a shop bought treat of an appropriate size. Or fresh veg/fruit again if you’d prefer. If you have a young hamster, this could be a day for mealworms or similar.
Saturday – Half portion of dry food and a small dog biscuit. Puppy bones are ideal for dwarfs.
Sunday – No food today.
If your hamster has lots of left over food in the cage, just decrease the portions. Keep decreasing portion sizes until your hamster is eating everything. Keep an eye on your hamster’s waste and waist! Runny poo means stop everything except the dry food, see your vet and add in extras slowly once they have recovered. If your hamster feels too chubby, cut back. If you can feel your hamster is boney or skinny, add more assuming they are finishing it. If there is a lot of food left and your hamster is still skinny then chat with your vet.
As an aside – if your hamster is diabetic, it’s very difficult to control this with diet. In humans, carbs and fat all contribute to glucose levels too. Keep the sugar low by all means, your hamster still needs a balanced diet and medication if appropriate. Information on medication can be found on Vectis Hamstery’s website vectishams.webs.com
Despite the best variety, you still need to make sure they have plenty of vitamins and minerals. Particularly D3. Use a vitamin paste in wet food or a powder supplement. You can also use a supplement in the water.
Variety. Your hamster will thank you for it 🙂