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NUTRITION
(food & treats)

Correct nutrition, from as young as possible, even during gestation, will make a big difference in your hamster’s well-being and longevity.

The diet needs to consist of (1) GOOD QUALITY DRY FOOD MIX, (2) FRESH FOOD (fruit, veggies & protein), and (3) FRESH WATER. Hamsters with poor nutrition usually suffer from various ailments as a result, especially as they age.

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HOW MUCH FOOD DOES A HAMSTER EAT?

Your hamster not only needs a good quality dry food mix, but it is also VERY important that s/he receives fresh vegetables, fruit, and proteins (dwarfs should not have fruit and sugary vegetables, except as an occasional treat).

  • Most people tend to put in more dry food than what the hamster can actually eat and also don't take into account the amount that they are hoarding. Some hamsters hoard more than others so, if you have a manic hoarder, you can keep a check on that in order to avoid unnecessary wasting.

  • Some people will only put in new food when the hamster has been forced to eat every last grain (even the bits that he really doesn't like, or are simply hay fillers, because he's desperate). We do not recommend this method very highly as it can often result in food deprivation anxiety and the hamster will then most likely want to hoard even more.

  • While it is good to get the hamster to each as much of the dry food over a few days in order to benefit nutrition from most ingredients, rather waste a little than cause the hamster to stress about something as important as food.

  • Your hamster's body will let him know what and when he needs and, as long as he's given a good variety of quality foods, he will most likely be getting a good balance of what he needs over the course of a few days to a week.

GENERAL QUANTITY GUIDELINE (dependent on each hamster's size ,age, and level of activity):

  • DWARF HAMSTERS - approx. total of 2 teaspoons of food in a day (dry and fresh total together), give or take a few grains. You can put in a Tablespoon of dry mix in an empty bowl and then top up with a teaspoon a day, or as necessary.

  • SYRIAN HAMSTERS - approx. total of about 2-3 Tablespoons of food in a day (dry and fresh total together). You can put in 3 Tablespoons of dry mix in an empty bowl and then top up with a teaspoon or two a day, or as necessary.

  • This will give enough to eat and hoard without causing anxiety, but you can gauge over time how much is actually eaten and adjust according to your own hamster...some will eat less and some will eat most of it. Remember that most hamsters generally don't overeat, so too much leftovers are really just a waste. 

  • It is important to throw out leftover dry food every few days to avoid it going stale or rancid (particularly fatty seeds and nuts), which the hamster won't like even if s/he has hoarded them. Uneaten fresh food needs to be removed every day...don't let it go slimy and rotten! 

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Food Pyramid for Hamsters
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DRY FOOD info

DRY FOOD & MIXES

  • It is difficult to find a mix with the exact perfect nutritional values, but with a good quality mix and inclusion of small amounts of daily fresh foods your hamster should receive sufficient nutrition in order to thrive.

  • Pups and nursing females may be fed a little more protein (pregnant females should have slightly less, since too much can apparently result in larger pups and a difficult birth). Proteins should be decreased when the hamster reaches senior & old age.

  • When changing to a different food, it is important to ‘wean’ the hamster onto it by mixing old with new and gradually decreasing the old brand in order to avoid upsetting the tummy with food he has not had before.

 

PLEASE FREEZE ALL DRY FOODS, SEEDS, TREATS, ETC. FOR 48-72 HOURS BEFORE OPENING, AND STORE EXCESS IN THE FREEZER OR FRIDGE THEREAFTER.

Eggs/nits of bugs can lurk within grains and seeds, through no fault of the food manufacturers...it's just nature. Freezing will kill most of these.

 IT IS EASIER TO FREEZE THAN TO GET RID OF A PROBLEM THAT MAY TAKE MANY MONTHS TO BATTLE.

TIP: Storing excess food in a tightly sealed container in your fridge or freezer will also maintain freshness for a lot longer.

BEST RECOMMENDED FOOD MIXES IN SA

BEST DRY FOOD

Note that Syrian Hamsters and Dwarf Hamsters have different nutritional needs & it is therefore preferable to get a species-specific mix.

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HSA DWARF HAMSTER MIX

A carefully researched, healthy and well-balanced, daily mix, specially formulated to meet the nutritional needs of Dwarf Hamsters. 

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HSA SYRIAN HAMSTER MIX

A carefully researched, healthy and well-balanced, daily mix, specially formulated to meet the nutritional needs of Syrian Hamsters. 

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Olivers Burrow

HSA BASIC HAMSTER MIX

High quality balanced, varied general mix.

Suitable to use as an only dry mix, but also good to mix into commercial brands for improvement.

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BUNNY NATURE DWARF HAMSTER DREAM EXPERT

Dwarf Hamster varieties imported from Europe.

Produced by exotics vets & highly recommended world-wide.

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OLIVER'S BURROW HAMSTER MIX

Good variety of safe ingredients.

Good one to add to commercial brands.

More suited for Dwarf hamsters.

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BUNNY NATURE HAMSTER DREAM EXPERT

Syrian Hamster varieties imported from Europe.

Produced by exotics vets & highly recommended world-wide.

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NOT HIGHLY RECOMMENDED MIXES AVAILABLE IN SA

The following are ONLY OK if you're in  pinch or as a temporary/emergency measure while waiting for the good quality balanced mix to arrive.

However, they do NEED TO BE MIXED with one of the Premium Mixes above (HSA Basic or Oliver's), to ensure variety & better balance.

The following brands will no longer be recommended as better quality mixes appear on shop shelves.

Versl Laga Food
BAD FOOD MIXES

PUUR (Witte Molen) HAMSTER and DWARF HAMSTER 

Not entirely balanced, but decent variety of ingredients with pellets.

The better of the commercial mixes currently available in SA.

Available from CatBox Hyper.

HARRY HAMSTER

Lowest quality of the acceptable brands.

VERSELE-LAGA NATURE HAMSTER (for Syrians & MINI for Dwarfs)

Heavily pelleted. Not very popular with most hamsters.

BURGESS HAMSTER, GERBIL & MOUSE 

Pellets only. Good quality but not popular with hamsters.

SMALL BUSINESS COMMERICAL MIXES

These were once recommended before the good quality mixes became available. Mixes of commercial brands simply combined together, some enhanced with extra ingredients, but still full of pellets, sunflower seeds, corn, peanuts, etc.

Outdated method and in no way balanced. 

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RAISINS ARE TOXIC FOR HAMSTERS.

DRIED FRUIT CAN STICK TO THE TEETH & CAUSE IRRITATION.

BEST TO REMOVE ALL FRUITS & FEED FRESH INSTEAD.

DWARF HAMSTERS ARE PRONE TO DIABETES (see Fresh Food List)

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ADDITIONAL DRY FOOD

ADDITIONAL
(BUT NOT SUITABLE AS MAIN MIXES)

These do not meet any ideal balance and can therefore not to be fed to your hamster as a main dry-mix diet.

  • Acceptable to mix a little of each with one of the above commercial dry mixes in order to try and add greater variety, particularly for hamsters who refuse to eat the pellets in those. 

  • Can be used as treats.

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VERY POOR QUALITY MIXES * NOT RECOMMENDED *

These foods do not come close to meeting any balanced or healthy diet, even if mixed with a Premium Mix. They generally consist mainly of sunflower seeds, corn / mealies, peanuts and filler pellets, as well as sugar or artificial sweeteners, artificial colourants and flovourants.

Such mixes will cause obesity, fatty liver disease, and/or malnutrition if fed as a main diet. 

Sadly, there are more bad than good foods available in SA, but please do not risk your hamster's health by buying an inferior mix. With two local businesses producing Premium quality mixes & able to send anywhere via Pudo or PostNet, there is no excuse to be feeding your hamster any of the following:

ANIMAL ZONE HAMSTER FOOD

BRIT ANIMALS HAMSTER

BRENNCO HAMSTER FOOD

CRISPY MUESLI HAMSTERS & CO

CRISPY SNACK POPCORN

DARO HAMSTER & MICE FOOD

DARO FROOTY HAMSTER MIX

FRIKKIE'S HAMSTER MIX

GRANT'S HAMSTER FRUIT & VEG

GRANT'S HAMSTER GOURMET

MARLTONS COMPLETE DIET HAMSTER FOOD

MARTLONS HAMSTER & MOUSE FOOD

OXBOW ESSENTIALS HAMSTER & GERBIL

OXBOW GARDEN SELECT HAM. & GERB.

PET'S CHOICE HAMSTER FEAST

RODENTIA JUNGLE/NUTRI CRUNCH

SPAR PET CARE HAMSTER FOOD

TOP PET DELIGHTS HAMSTER

TWEAT HAMSTER MIX SPECIAL

WESTERMAN'S HAMSTER MIX

UNBRANDED PET SHOP ‘OWN’ HAMSTER MIXES

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BIRD FOOD

IS NOT A HAMSTER MIX !

FOOD MIXES FOR OTHER RODENTS ARE ALSO

NOT HAMSTER FOOD !

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lab block

LAB BLOCKS are popular in some other countries to ensure balance to most commercial hamster food mixes.

  • The Mazuri Rat & Mouse brand appears to be the most recommended for hamsters but, as far as we are aware, suitable lab blocks are not yet available in SA.

  • While Lab Blocks are reportedly fully balanced, they do not provide interesting variety for your hamster to pick at or forage.

  • Can be useful for a few days to ensure that the hamster has sufficient nutrition in your absence, particularly if your pet-sitter is not very clued up about hamsters.

FRESH FOOD

FRESH  & OTHER FOODS

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In addition to the dry foods, fresh food is absolutely vital in the diet for important vitamins, proteins and minerals, as well as the enjoyment of variety. A HAMSTER SHOULD NEVER LIVE ON DRY FOOD MIX ALONE!

Portion size guidelines: Revisit the 'Food Pyramid'  and the 'How Much' section at the top of this page.   

Uneaten perishable food must be removed daily.

Food  can be complicated in terms of safe & unsafe parts of a food, method of feeding (cooked or raw), high sugar, etc. but we keep it as simple as possible here.

The list below contains the most commonly available foods in South Africa, with basic guidelines regarding suggested frequency of feeding each category.

Depending on you and your hamster, you can offer a very small amount of two or three fresh foods every evening, or a little buffet every 2nd or 3rd evening, as long as you provide a decent variety over the course of 5 - 7 days, e.g. whether you give every day or twice a week, don’t just give broccoli every time.

FOOD LISTS   (Safe & Unsafe)

FRUIT & VEG

COLOUR KEY:

PINK = High sugar foods. Be conservative.

  • Dwarf Hamsters are prone to diabetes, so only one small piece every week as a treat.

  • Syrian owners also exercise some restraint.

GREEN = Cruciferous foods. Small amounts only in raw form.

  • Too much raw can cause thyroid & hormonal problems, and they can be a bit "gassy" too.  

  • Good for preventing heart disease & cancer, so don't avoid...just be cautious.

  • If your hamster really loves these foods, the best way to avoid issues is to actually COOK the veg to remove the problematic enzyme.

  • If your female hamster has had uterine infections or pyometra, avoid raw altogether and feed the cooked veg as a treat only. 

ORANGE = High in oxalic acid. Small amounts only.

  • Can cause kidney stones if fed too much. Avoid altogether if your hamster has had kidney or bladder problems.

Protein
Bad fresh foods
NUTS
TREATS - FRESH

SAFE FRUIT & VEG

(OFFER A VARIETY EVERY 1 to 3 DAYS)

Alfalfa (small quantities for young & pregnant hamsters only)

Apricot

Apple (not the seeds)

Asparagus

Baby Marrow/Courgette/Zucchini

Baby Spinach

Baby Corn

Banana

Barley Grass

Bean (Mung) Sprouts - shoots only

Blackberry leaves & fruit

Blueberry 

Broad beans

Broccoli (florets & leaves - no thick stems)

Butternut (pips also make great treats)

Carrot

Cauliflower (florets & leaves  - no thick stems)

Chard/Spinach (small amount only)

Cherries (not the pips)

Chickweed

Cornflowers (blue or pink)

Corn (baby corn, mealies)

Cos Lettuce (dark tips only)

Courgette/Zucchini/Baby Marrow

Cranberry (not dried/crasins)

Dates

Dandelion flower/leaf/roots (not the milky veins)

Dill ‘leaves’ (not bulb)

Endive (leafy parts only)

Fennel ‘leaves’ (not bulb)

Fig

Flowers (see topic on Accessories page)

Green Beans

Gem Squash (pips also make great treats)

Hemp (seeds & leaves)

Kale

Kiwi (without seeds)

Lentils (cooked or sprouted only)

Loganberry

Lychee

Mange Tout (snap peas/snow peas)

Mango

Marigold petals

Melon 

Mealie kernels (corn) - avoid for pregnant/nursing mums & baby hamsters.

Millet (sprays can be left in the habitat)

Mung Beans (sprouted or cooked only)

NUTS - shelled, plain (Sweet Almond, Brazil, Cashew, Hazel, Pecan, Pistachio). Walnut can be in the shell. 

Pansy/Viola flowers

Papaya

Parsnip

Patti-Pans

Peach (not the pip)

Pear (no seeds)

Peas (ordinary garden peas)

Peppers (sweet/salad kind - red, yellow, green)

Pet Grass

Plum

Prune (not the pips)

Pumpkin (pips also make great treats)

Raspberry

Rice Cakes (unsalted - plain or multigrain)

Rocket leaves

Rose Petals

Snap/Snow Peas (mangetouts),

Spinach/Chard (small amount of leaf part only)

Sprouts (Lentils, Mung beans, micro herbs)

Strawberry

Tomato (flesh only)

Turnip

Water Cress

Water Melon

Wheat Grass

Whimzees (dog chews – can be left in the habitat) 

Zucchini (courgette/baby marrow)

SAFE PROTEINS (2 or 3 x A WEEK):

COOKED/STEAMED; PLAIN (NO SALT, SPICES, BUTTER, ETC.); SMALL CUBE PORTIONS.

Beef – Lean/Extra-Lean mince (plain, steamed/cooked)

Chicken meat (plain, steamed/cooked)

Crickets (clean & specially bred)

Egg (hard boiled/ well scrambled)

Fish (fresh, not tinned; bland, not very salty kinds of fish - steamed/cooked)

Hills Kitten Chicken Mousse tinned food (not very popular with most) 

Hills Restorative Care (chicken) tinned food

Mealworms (dried or fresh) 2 to 5 at a time; see feeding info below.

Royal Canin Mother & Babycat Chicken Mousse tinned food (not very popular with most hams)

Shrimps (Gammarus) - small fresh water kind.

Silkworms (dried or fresh 3 to 5 at a time)

Superworms (dried or fresh) 3 to 5 at a time; chop heads off the live worms first - the jaws are strong and can injure your hamster.

Turkey meat (plain, steamed/cooked)

ONCE OR TWICE A WEEK TREAT OPTIONS

(ONE SMALL PORTION AT A TIME)

Artichoke (raw flesh only)

Basil leaf

Beetroot

Bread (w/wheat toasted or not)

Brussels Sprouts

Celery

Cheese (only ricotta and low-salt cheeses)

Chicory

Coconut (fresh or flakes, not sweetened desiccated)

Coconut Milk (unsweetened; not cream)

Coriander (leaves & stems)

Cornflakes (unsweetened & salt-free) 

Couscous (cooked, plain)

Cucumber (small piece)

Dog Biscuits (Plain, home-baked style only)

Flax/Linseeds - preferably crushed for better absorption and mixed into wet food (quarter tsp)

Mint leaf

Oats & Barley flakes (soaked)

Peanut (out of shell).

Parsley (as a tonic)

Pasta (pref. cooked, plain)

Potato (FLESH ONLY; must be really well cooked)

Provita crackers

Quinoa

Rice (brown, cooked, plain)

Sunflower Seeds (hulled, not in shell)

Tofu (rinsed and/or cooked) - high in fat and calcium, so only a tiny piece.

Weetbix

Yogurt - tiny amount, plain unsweetened, pref. organic (however, in the case of babies & nursing moms, a daily lick of yogurt is particularly good)

NOTES:

  • Nuts go rancid easily so rather pick them out of a commercial dry food mix, and provide your own freshly bought.

  • Sticky foods (e.g. dried fruits, nut butters, fruit jams, etc.) can cause problems in the pouches & mouth. Pick dried fruits out of commercial mixes.

Please do not enforce your preferences/principals on your hamster:

  • Hamsters are omnivores -  NOT vegans or vegetarians! They require a certain amount of PROTEINS. 

  • Although they don't require a huge steak or an entire chicken, a complete lack of proteins can cause certain issues, including fur loss.

  • If you are against handling proteins, you can provide your hamster with this by giving commercially prepared baby foods but do check the labels for unsafe ingredients like salt, spices, tomato paste, lemon juice, acid preservatives, etc. 

UNSAFE FOODS

Acorns

Alcohol

All-Bran Flakes

ALL FRUIT SEEDS & PIPS

Artificial Sweeteners

Aubergine

Avocado

Bacon

Biltong

Bindweed

Bitter Almonds

Bran

Brinjal

Bulbs (of any sort)

Butter

Citrus Fruits (lemon, orange, naartjie, etc.)

Cabbage (particularly stems and veins)

Cayenne

Cheese (strong/yellow/salty types)

Chilli

Chives

Chocolate

Cinnamon

Coffee and Ceylon Teas

Coriander seeds

Cream

Crocus

Currants

Chickpeas (unless REALLY well cooked)

Deadly Nightshade

Dragon fruit 

Eggplant

Elderberry leaves & branches

Evergreen plants

Flowers (see topic on Accessories page)

Garlic

Gooseberry

Grapefruit

Grapes

Greenies (dog chews) 

Ham

Honey

Jam

Jelly

Kidney Beans (unless REALLY well cooked)

Laurel

Leeks

Lemon

Lettuce (particularly Iceberg & light green)

Lime

Liver

Macon

Milk & Cream 

Naartjie

Nutmeg

Oak

Onion (all types)

Olives

Orange

Peanuts in the shell

Pepper (spice)

Pickles

Pineapple

Pips from fruits

Pomegranate

Pork

Potato (eyes, leaves, skin, and raw pieces)

Processed meats (bacon, ham, macon, polony, viennas, etc.)

Radish

Ragwort

Raisins

Rhubarb

Salt

Sausages

Seeds from fruits

Spices

Sugar

Sultanas

Sunflower seeds in shell (black or white)

Sweet Potato (unless really well-cooked, & flesh only - as a treat)

Sweets/Candy

Tomato seeds, green parts & flowers

Tomato Paste (too strong and concentrated)

Vinegar

BABY & PUREED/COOKED FOOD (FREEZING)

Cooking your own foods, or purchasing jars of safe baby foods is good for households that do not regularly have a variety of fresh, or to keep as backup for added variety. Large batches or jars that won't be eaten within 3 or 4 days, can be frozen and defrosted as you require.

CHECK THE INGREDIENTS on the packaging of commercial baby foods! Avoid varieties that contain salt, spices, onion, garlic, pork, tomato paste, lemon juice, and any other ingredients listed as bad in the above food list.

MAKE YOUR OWN is healthier. Buy fresh food, peel, chop, and steam over plain water and then mash, puree, or leave chunky.

 

TO FREEZE:

  1. Line an ice-cream tub lid with cling wrap, and spread the food onto that.

  2. Cover with another layer of cling and put into the freezer. Set your timer for 1.5 hours (to partially freeze).

  3. Peel back the top layer of cling wrap carefully, and cut the food into little squares with a blunt knife. Cover again & return to the freezer.

  4. Next day: Leave out for a few minutes and carefully peel the cling wrap off both sides (make sure no plastic is stuck and left in the food). Place the sheets of food, whole or broken up, in ziplock bags or sealed containers and store back in the freezer.

  5. To defrost, simply break off the amount of blocks you need and place onto a folded piece of paper towel to absorb excess water (otherwise it defrosts into a watery mess). Some foods can look 'spongey' when defrosted, so you just chop & mush and it'll be fine. (Takes about 30 min to defrost, depending on season). 

  6. Now you can mix in some powdered pellets/dry food, Protexin, etc. and voila! A little meal is ready to be served up to HRH Hamster.

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REMINDER: Dwarfs can only have high sugar fruits once a week.

PUREED FOOD

FEEDING DURING SPECIFIC PHASES OF LIFE

ELDERLY HAMSTER NUTRITION

As their lives approach the end, some hamsters often find it difficult to eat and digest hard foods.

  • In such cases, you can provide shelled seeds and chopped up softer nuts, baby/pureed foods, baby cereal (don't mix with milk),  small portions of plain scrambled eggs, etc.

  • Do not overdo the proteins from about 18 months onward as too much can cause swelling of the kidneys (protein value in the diet can be dropped to 14/15% (safe baby foods with chicken or meat ingredients will be sufficient protein for old hamsters, two or three times a week). 

  • A drop or two of CBD oil every 2 or 3 days also works wonders (mixed into tasty food).

  • Some of the dry-mix can also be soaked in a little water until softened, or ground up and served as a 'porridge'.

  • Slightly warmed food (never hot) will be appreciated during the very cold winter months.

CHECK THE INGREDIENTS IN COMMERCIAL BABY FOODS 

- NOT ALL ARE SAFE (REFER TO THE FRESH FOOD LIST ABOVE)

Note that BABY CEREAL is not recommended as part of regular feeding for younger/adult hamsters, except as a little treat. It is recommended for old hamsters, or to beef up others that have lost weight due to surgery, serious illness, or malnutrition.

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AGEING & PREGNANT FOOD

PREGNANT & NURSING FEMALES require extra good nutrition in order to keep her and babies (unborn/born) healthy and strong.

  • Ensure that she has a HIGH QUALITY DRY FOOD MIX and that she gets a little fresh veg every night.

  • Extra protein is essential AFTER the babies are born (plain scrambled eggs, plain cooked chicken, mealworms, etc.)

  • Do not over-do proteins while she is pregnant, as the babies can overdevelop, resulting in a difficult birth.

  • Once she has given birth, a little lick of plain organic/probiotic yogurt every day will be beneficial too, or Protexin (animal probiotic) should be given. If you're only using Protexin, Alfalfa (sprouts) is said to be good for pregnant hamsters too - the calcium content assists with keeping teeth and bones strong from the depletion that can happen during pregnancy and lactation (avoid alfalfa and yogurt more than once a week for weaned and non-pregnant hamsters).

  • Refrain from feeding corn/mielies to your pregnant/nursing hamster, per the advice provided in the dry food section above.

  • Once again, dwarfs should not have high sugar fruit and veg more than once a week as a little treat (be sure to pick out all raisins and dried fruit from commercial dry foods as advised, and feed fresh instead).

YOGURT
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PREG FOOD

BABY HAMSTERS will start sampling solid foods as soon as they start emerging from the nest on their own (at approx. 2 weeks old).

  • They should be kept on a similar diet to the nursing mother.

  • Softer or pureed fresh foods may be easier for them to eat until they're about 3 or 4 weeks old. 

  • Large pellets and ingredients in the dry food mix should be smashed up to make it easier to start eating. You can even soak the food for the first few days to soften.

  • Protein content should be higher for the first 8 weeks and then dropped to normal.

BOOSTER “MEATLOAF” RECIPE

Great for nursing female, baby, or convalescing hamsters.

Can also be used as a protein serving for other hamsters.

INGREDIENTS (no salt or seasoning): 

1 Tbsp Plain rolled oats (without oat bran) or barley flakes.

1/2 Tbsp plain probiotic/organic yogurt OR 1tsp Protexin Soluble. 

1/2 Tbsp tinned Hills Restorative Care ( or use plain cooked chicken)

1/2 Tbsp shredded carrots and/or broccoli (or any other safe veg)

1 pinch of wheat germ (optional)

Weak Rooibos/Nettle/Dandelion Tea (or plain boiled water)

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  • Mix all together.

  • Add tea, a few drops at a time, until it’s to a consistency that you’re happy with for your hamster.

  • Feed in consumable portions.

    • Freeze or refrigerate any excess in convenient portion sizes.

    • Remove any leftovers that haven't been eaten overnight.

FOOD BOWLS:

Any strong, small-ish, bowls with smooth edges, about 2.5cm deep. 

Metal or strong ceramic/glass is good in case your hamster is a chewer, and they're more hygienic.

​NOTE: Dwarf hamsters love to get into the dry food to scratch around, and can make quite a mess. It is therefore convenient to provide a nice wide bowl (about 3 to 3.5cm deep) that they can easily fit into, but the food will be contained during this wild activity. 

 

You do not necessarily need a bowl at all for dry food. Food and treats can be scattered and hidden to encourage your hamster to forage and dig for these, as they would in their natural wild habitat. However, hamsters can be picky eaters so you could end up with lots of unfavoured food going old all over the habitat. A bowl would therefore keep the habitat cleaner, but do constantly check the hording zone and clear that out regularly to remove stale food.

food hack for fussy ham

THE FUSSY HAMSTER

Please do not let your hamster starve itself, but don't be tempted to switch to a nasty cheap mix that is filled with sugar, preservatives, colourants, unhealthy fat, and little nutritional value.

PELLETS: Some hamsters don't mind pellets, but most are generally not fond of them and may refuse point-blank to eat any at all.

  • Unfortunately a lot of pet food manufacturers have changed formulations towards this kind of diet to save costs and extend shelf-life. 

  • Much of these pellets are also simply compressed hay, used as fillers to bulk up the weight/volume. Too much hay food can be quite difficult for hamsters to digest so, if you know which are hay, you'll have to pick them out and waste a large portion of your bag. 

 

SUPER PICKY EATERS often also turn their noses up at other ingredients, even in the very best of food mixes.

  • However, pellets aside, it is important that they do consume most ingredients in quality mixes, in order to acquire good nutrition.

  • It may require a bit of experimentation to get the right mix for your hamster's particular liking (change brands if necessary). There is good value in finding the right mixture to suit each hamster's taste that he will enjoy more readily, rather than forcing himself to only eat what is available in desperation not to starve.

TRY THIS if you are concerned that your hamster may not be consuming an adequate balance from his mix:

  • Finely grind up some pellets and/or other ingredients in a liquidizer/electric coffee grinder/pestle & mortar

  • Mash this “powder” into his favourite fresh food (works well in pureed/mushy foods). Most hamsters will happily eat it in this form.

  • Grinding hemp seeds and flax/linseeds is suggested, as it is absorbed/digested better this way than if fed whole. Add to his fresh food twice a week for skin and fur health. 

  • Some hamsters may even prefer pellets and other bits if they are dampened. Simply place a few ingredients in a small bowl each evening, pour a little boiled water over, and mix to make a "porridge". 

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If you are tempted to make your own dry mix instead of ordering one of the recommended locally produced mixes, there is a reasonably good guideline on the

 DIY page IF you have access to a variety of essential ingredients, but note that it can be expensive, particularly if you only have one hamster. 

TREATS - DRY
GNAWS
WHIMZEES

TREATS AND GNAWS

  • Your hamster will definitely enjoy some treats, and these can also be particularly useful during the taming process with a new hamster. 

  • It is very important to read the ingredients on the packages as many of these delights contain sugar or artificial colouring and are not very healthy. But generally these types should only be given as an occasional delight, similar to our own guilty-pleasure snacks.

  • However, nowadays we are seeing an increase in treat products on the market that do contain healthier ingredients and have gnawing properties that are beneficial to dental care., e.g. hard baked hamster treats, Whimzees, nibble tubes/rolls, sekelbos chews, etc. 

REMINDER: FREEZE ALL DRY TREATS & FOOD FOR AT LEAST 48 HOURS BEFORE GIVING  TO YOUR HAMSTER, unless you're baking them yourself.

Storing extra in the fridge or freezer will also help maintain quality and freshness.

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OXB TREATS
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IS POPCORN GOOD FOR HAMSTERS?

  • Not really, but in very low moderation and with care, your hamster may love an occasional nibble (only if your hamster is healthy).

  • Keep in mind that it is CORN, which is not highly recommended, and it is a carb after all. There may be a few acceptable nutritional properties, but hardly essential to hamsters on a good quality diet.

  • Side-effects of too much: Gas/bloating, upset tummies, obesity and, depending on how it’s made, can also lead to electrolyte & dehydration problems and even diabetes.

  • Microwave popcorn is not recommended because these have oil, salt and/or artificial flavourants.

KERNELS?

  • A definite NO!

  • These are choking hazards.

  • Kernels are very hard and your hamster is most likely to break or crack a tooth.

  • Similarly, the slivers of the exploded kernels can get stuck in the pouches.

HOW TO PREPARE POPCORN FOR YOUR HAMSTER.

  • Air-pop only with no oil, butter, or seasoning.

  • Break up the fluffy white popped part into small hamster-bite sized pieces.

  • Remove the slivers from the kernel that are stuck in the popped corn.

HOW MUCH?

Once or twice a week only (with a day or two in between if you give twice):

- Dwarf and smaller hamsters: No more than about a ¼ to ½ a teaspoon of little bite-sized pieces a time.

- Larger Syrian hamsters: ½ to 1 teaspoon max. of little bite-sized pieces a time.

  • Best to remove any uneaten pieces after about 12 hours (it’s just going to go stale and your hamster won’t eat it), but in the lowest moderation, he should eat it all.

CONCLUSION:

  • Unnecessary. There are better and healthier treats you can feed your hamster.

  • Avoid food and treat mixes that contain popcorn, and rather safely prepare your own.

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MEAL WORMS

MEAL WORMS & SILKWORMS

Meal worms are lovely little snack treats for your hamster and can be useful in the taming process with a new hamster.

DRIED mealworms are more intense/concentrated in nutrition than live ones, but high in fat. These are lovely little snack treats for your hamster and can be useful in the taming process with a new hamster.

Feeding: Only 2-5 worms a day at the most, depending on whether you have a Syrian or Dwarf but, to be honest, many of us overdo them because if your hamster loves them, they REALLY love them and who can resist treating the little one? Just bear in mind that the fat content can be equated to you eating too many McDonalds fries!

Where to buy? Most pet shops sell the dried worms packaged and are usually found in the bird department. Reptile shops and some exotic fish shops will also stock them. Builders Warehouse/Express stores often also have them in the pet isle by the bird feeders.

With LIVE mealworms, you could probably get away with a few more because the fat content, while still high, is somewhat less.  

Feeding: Since the worms have very strong pincer jaws, it is recommended that you squeeze the head with tweezers to kill the worm before feeding in order to prevent them possibly biting the hamster's face/nose or inside the mouth/pouch. However, most mature hamsters seem to have a natural instinct about killing the worm in an instant and do indeed bite the head off first, so you may not always have to do the killing yourself (putting them in the fridge for 30 min before feeding and then knocking the head with a spoon apparently slows them down too). You can offer the worm with blunt-ended tweezers if touching worms ain't your thing.

Where to buy? Reptile shops should sell little breeding kits, which you can also expand for continuous supply if your ham enjoys this snack. 

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Silkworms
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SILKWORMS: Interesting to note that silkworms apparently have better nutrition than meal worms (sometimes referred to as silkworm larvae, but this may apply to the pupa stage after the worm has spun a cocoon). These worms don't have the strong pincer jaws so are perfectly safe to feed without killing them first. Many reptile suppliers also sell the larvae in dried form.   

 

We're probably all familiar with how to raise these with simple mulberry leaves, since most of us had them as kids in the spring/summer time. So ask around at your local junior schools and buy some eggs off a child, and raise your own. Let quite a few of the worms enter the cocoon stage and hatch as moths to lay more fertilised eggs for a new batch of wrigglies. Surplus eggs can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge (not freezer) until next spring when the mulberry leaves are out again.  

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INTERNATIONAL COMMERCIAL DRY FOOD LISTS (GOOD & BAD) 

NOT VERY UP-TO-DATE AS NEW BRANDS MAY HAVE ENTERED THE MARKET, & OTHERS MAY HAVE BEEN DISCONTINUED OR RE-FORMULATED.

Last update appears to be around 2017/18 but may still give you a reasonable idea of what or not to get if you intend ordering food from overseas.

(~ List courtesy of Hamster Hideout and Hamsters Paw-fect Cages ~)

INTERNATIONAL FOOD

HIGH-GRADE COMMERCIAL FOODS

  • Brown's Tropical Carnival Natural Gourmet Food for Hamsters and Gerbils

  • Bunny Nature Dwarf Hamster Dream EXPERT

  • Bunny Nature Hamster Dream EXPERT

  • Burgess Supahamster Dwarf Hamster Harvest (discontinued)

  • Burgess Supahamster Hamster Harvest (discontinued)

  • CareFresh Complete Menu (hamster/gerbil)

  • Hamster Muesli by Pets at Home

  • Higgins Vita Garden

  • Higgins Sunburst

  • Mr. Johnson's Supreme Hamster & Gerbil

  • National Geographic Hamster Entree

  • Natural Balance Hamster Muesli by Pets at Home

  • Purina Little Wonders

  • Scarlett Nutra Hamster & Gerbil

  • Sunseed Sunsations Hamster & Gerbil

  • Versele Laga Hamster Nature (reformulated around 2020 - now heavily pelleted)

  • Versele Laga Mini Hamster Nature (reformulated around 2020 - now heavily pelleted)

  • VitaKraft VitaNature

  • VitaKraft VitaSmart

(LAB BLOCKS):

  • Sunseed Critter Cubes

  • ProLab RMH 300

  • Mr. Johnson’s Advance Hamster and Gerbil Food

  • Mazuri Rat & Mouse

  • Kaytee Healthy Support Diet for Rat, Mouse, and Hamster (Forti-Diet Pro-Health) - Blocks

  • Harlan Teklad (2018, 8604, 8640)

  • Cuisine Rodent Chunk

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UNSUITABLE FOOD

Dangerous ingredients:

  • 8 in 1 Ecotrition Essential Blend Hamster and Gerbil Food

  • Alcon Pet Rodent Extruded Food

  • Kaytee Chunky Hamster and Gerbil

  • Kaytee Forti-Diet Crunch Hamster and Gerbil

  • Mucki Menü Plus

  • Wild Harvest Advanced Nutrition

Extremely poor quality:

  • 8 in 1 Wild Harvest Daily Blend Nutrient Rich Food (Hamster and Gerbil)

  • Beaphar Care+ Hamster Food

  • Beaphar Care+ Dwarf Hamster Food

  • Beaphar XtraVital Dwarf Hamster

  • Beaphar XtraVital Hamster

  • Country Wide Hamster Supreme Raspberry / Hedgerow Raspberry Food

  • Cunipic Hamster Complete

  • FM Brown's Natural Hamster Food with Vitamins and Minerals

  • Grreat Choice Hamster/Gerbil

  • Hagen Original Blend Hamster & Gerbil Mix

  • Health Diet Hamster & Gerbil (Canadian version)

  • Health Diet Hamster & Gerbil (US version)

  • Kaytee Forti-Diet Hamster/Gerbil

  • Kaytee Nature's Benefits Hamster and Gerbil Daily Diet

  • LM Farms Hamster and Gerbil

  • Nature’s Touch Hamster

  • Small World Complete Feed for Hamsters and Gerbils

  • Wilko Original Hamster Mix

  • Wild Harvest Daily Blend Nutrition Diet

LOWER GRADE COMMERCIAL FOODS
 

  • Wagg Hamster Gerbil Mouse Munch

  • Wagg Hamster Gerbil Mouse Munch*VitaKraft Menu Hamster

  • VitaKraft Menu Hamster

  • VitaKraft Emotion Sensitive Hamster Food

  • VitaKraft Emotion Beauty Hamster Food

  • Versele Laga Hamster Crispy / Crispy Cereal Hamsters & Co.

  • Tesco Hamster Food Peanut and Sunflower Seed

  • Tesco Everyday Value Gerbil and Hamster Food

  • Sweet Harvest Hamster and More (by Kaylor of Colorado)

  • Sunseed Sunscription Vita Prima Dwarf Hamster Formula

  • Sunseed Sunscription Vita Prima Hamster and Gerbil Formula

  • Royal Cuisine Small Animal Mix

  • Purina Garden Recipe

  • Premium Hamster Muesli by Pets at Home

  • Oxbow Healthy Handfuls

  • Nature’s Feast Hamster, Mouse & Gerbil Food

  • LM Animal Farms Bonanza Gourmet Diet Hamster and Gerbil

  • Living World Extrusion Pellets

  • Living World Classic Hamster Food

  • Kaytee Supreme Daily Blend Hamster and Gerbil Mix

  • Kaytee Supreme Hamster and Gerbil

  • Kaytee Premium Fiber Diet

  • Kaytee Healthy Support Diet (Forti Diet Pro-Health) – Mix

  • Kaytee Gourmet Variety Diet (Fiesta)

  • Kaytee Forti-Diet Pro Health Hamster and Gerbil Food (Mix)

  • Kaytee Forti-Diet Nature’s Harvest

  • Kaytee Fiesta Max Hamster/Gerbil

  • Kaytee Chunky Gourmet Diet (Fiesta Chunky)

  • JR Farm Dwarf Hamster Feast

  • JR Farm Hamster Feast

  • JR Farm Adult Hamster Food

  • Hartz Small Animal Diet for Hamsters, Gerbils, Mice, and Rats

  • Hartz Bonanza Hamster and Gerbil Diet

  • Hazel Hamster (Harry Hamster, rebranded for different countries)

  • Harry Hamster

  • Drs. Foster and Smith Signature Series Hamster Food

  • Country Wide Hamster and Gerbil Mix

  • Burgess Hamster, Gerbil & Mouse (it's all pellets)

  • Bunny Nature Dream (must be Dream EXPERT)

  • Brown's Tropical Carnival Gourmet Food for Hamsters and Gerbils

  • Brown’s Fruit Bites Banquet

  • Brown’s Encore Gourmet Foraging Feast

  • Brown’s Classic Encore

  • Best Friend Festival

  • Armstrong Milling Indoor Friends – Small Animal Mix

  • All Living Things Hamster and Gerbil Daily Diet

NO ASSESSMENT AVAILABLE AS YET

 

  • VitaKraft Emotion Nature Dinner

  • Versele Laga Zero Classic

  • Versele Laga Ha-Ca

  • Versele Laga Crispy Pellets

  • Quiko Sunny Greens Premium

  • Quiko Sunny Greens Complete

  • Rongis Hamster Premium Aliment

  • Pet Supplies Plus

  • Pet Supplies Plus Ultimate Hamster Blend

  • Pets At Home Nuggets

  • Mayfield Hamster

  • LinkPet Fruitti

  • Hamiform – Essentia Hamster Acti

  • Hamiform – Essentia Hamster Regal

  • Hamiform – Dwarf Hamster Optima

  • Cunipic Naturaliss

  • Country Value

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