NUTRITION - FOOD

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

The diet needs to consist of (1) GOOD QUALITY HAMSTER-SPECIFIC 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.

Click to go to: HOW MUCH FOOD DOES A HAMSTER EAT?                 

                         DRY FOOD MIXES IN GENERAL                 GOOD DRY FOOD MIXES                   ADDITIONAL DRY FOOD MIXES                BAD DRY FOOD MIXES

                         FRESH FOODS (GOOD & BAD LIST)          PUREED FRUIT & VEG                        AGEING, PREGNANT & BABY NUTRITION

                         TREATS & GNAWS                                       MEALWORMS & SILKWORMS          INTERNATIONAL COMMERCIAL DRY FOOD LISTS

                         (next page:  - WATER    - GOOD SUPPLEMENTS      - BAD SUPPLEMENTS )                                                                                  

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HOW MUCH FOOD DOES A HAMSTER EAT? 

 

Note that 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 of us tend to put in more dry food than what the hamster can actually eat. And then we don't take into account the amount that they are hoarding. Some hams hoard more than others, so if you have a manic hoarder, put in less food so that he eats from what he's stashed away. You don't need to put in more every day....maybe a only little every 2nd or 3rd day, otherwise you just end up wasting (or feeding the birds). Some people will only put in new food when the hamster has been forced to eat every last grain (even the bits that he doesn't like because he's desperate) but this is not in any way recommended and can often result in food deprivation anxiety and the hamster will then most likely want to hoard even more. Most of us would rather waste a little than cause the hamster stress about something like 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.

As a general guideline of how much to feed:

  • DWARF HAMSTERS will eat about a maximum total of about 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 will eat about a total of about 2-3 Tablespoons of food in a day (dry and fresh total together), depending on the size of him and his appetite. You can put in 3 Tablespoons of dry mix in an empty bowl and then top up with a Tablespoon 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 morning (or after a few hours during hot weather)

 
DRY FOOD
 

NOTE that dwarf hamsters are prone to diabetes and should only be given fruit, peas and mealies as a very occasional treat. If you can only get a dry food mix that contains such ingredients, do be sure to pick those out.

FOOD BOWLS: 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 cage. A bowl would therefore keep the cage cleaner.

Many are likely to pouch and transport their food to a specific hording area within the cage/habby. Try to return some of this to the same spot after cage cleaning so as to not upset the little one too much. However, it is important to regularly check that fresh food is not also being stored as this can become moldy over time, which can cause various health issues.

COMMERCIALLY PACKAGED FOODS:

  • Be sure to pick your commercial dry food mix carefully! When looking at foods, there should be nutritional information on the back of the bag. Although it can be difficult to find a mix that has the exact perfect nutritional values, the general rule is that a good food mix should contain 18% protein + 6% fat + 8% fibre.

  • Pups and pregnant/nursing females may be fed up to 24% protein, and mature hamsters should be reduced to 18%, and increased a little again as they become senior.

  • If you are having trouble finding foods with the correct nutritional amounts, it is very important to supplement the diet with other safe high protein or high fibre foods (see the good/bad foods list further down).

  • THERE IS A COMMERCIAL FOODS LIST FROM THE INTERNATIONAL HAMSTER GROUP at end of this page, but most are not available in SA. The foods on the lists below are simply the most commonly found here, but you are welcome to check with us about any other brands that are not mentioned and we will gladly attempt to find out if they are good, mediocre, or poor.

  • Hamsters can be picky eaters, so you may need to try several brands until you find one that is well-received. 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 any new foods that s/he has not had before.

CAUTION: PLEASE FREEZE ALL DRY FOODS, SEEDS, TREATS, ETC. FOR 24 - 48 HOURS BEFORE OPENING, AND STORE EXCESS IN THE FREEZER OR FRIDGE THEREAFTER.

There are often eggs/nits of bugs lurking within grains and seeds, through no fault of the food manufacturers...it's just nature. The best way to ensure that you don't end up with an infestation is to kill them by freezing. Store excess food in a tightly sealed container, either in your fridge or freezer, and simply having a small jar of food for regular top-ups near the habby, will also maintain the freshness of the food for a lot longer.

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

Please be aware that RAISINS ARE NOW CONSIDERED TOXIC FOR HAMSTERS but many manufacturers have not changed their recipes and you will still find these fruits in the mix.  You simply need to PICK THEM OUT as you dish up the food and toss them away.

 

BEST RECOMMENDED COMMERCIAL DRY-FOOD MIXES IN SA:

Generally, these foods fulfil most of the analysis criteria, but do note that not all on this list can or should be fed alone. Nutrition is of critical importance, and some foods are considered as good enough due to their excellent variety or quality, even if the balance is not perfect. Therefore, it is difficult to rate them as “perfect diets” – unfortunately, in SA, we don't have many options of the  better mixes and these appear to be the only ones of those currently available.

Please be advised that NO HAMSTER FOOD MIX IS A PERFECT BALANCE!!!!!!

 
 
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BEST HAMSTER DRY-FOOD MIXES IN SA
Carefully researched and made here in South Africa.
Excellent and most recommended!
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PUUR (WITTE MOLEN) HAMSTER and DWARF HAMSTER (slightly low in protein, but decent variety)

HYGGELIG HAMSTER HAVEN COMMERCIAL FOOD MIX (for Dwarfs or Syrians) Decent variety.

HARRY HAMSTER (lowest quality of the acceptable brands)

VERSELE-LAGA NATURE HAMSTER (for Syrians) Heavily pelleted. See note below.

VERSELE-LAGA NATURE MINI HAMSTER (for Dwarfs or Syrians, and baby hamsters) Heavily pelleted. See note below

BURGESS HAMSTER GERBIL & MOUSE (Pellets only - good quality but lacks favourable variety)

DECENT COMMERCIAL DRY-FOOD MIXES IN SA
 

Please be aware that RAISINS ARE TOXIC FOR HAMSTERSPICK THEM OUT as you dish up the food and toss them away.

FOR DWARF HAMSTERS: PLEASE REMOVE ALL FRUITS.

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***NOTE*** VERSELE-LAGA MUESLI HAMSTERS & CO 

Sadly, the manufacturer converted the majority of the nice variety into pellet form. Pellets have unfortunately proven to be unpopular with most hamsters.

Since it is an excellent idea to mix at least two good quality brands together, we recommend adding Oliver's Burrow Hamster Snack Mix or Hyggelig Food Mix, which will add extra variety.

Alternatively, the Commercial Food Mix from Hyggelig is ready-mixed for your convenience without having to buy all the brands:

  Puur Hamster, VL Hamster Mini, VL Cereals, VL Proteins, with added Hempseed and Linseed.

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TIP: WE RECOMMEND MIXING BRANDS TOGETHER IN ORDER TO PROVIDE BETTER VARIETY.

PARTICULARLY IN THE CASE OF COMMERCIAL BRANDS  THAT HAVE A LOT OF PELLETS, THESE HAVE PROVEN TO BE UNPOPULAR WITH MOST HAMSTERS. THEREFORE, TRY NOT TO CHOOSE TWO HEAVILY PELLETED TYPES OF FOOD.

As examples, decent mix combo's if you like to use a commercial brand (in addition to daily fresh foods):

 

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Use Oliver's Burrow Hamster Mix OR Hyggelig Food Mix as the main dry food in combination with Harry Hamster.

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Make a mix of Hyggelig Food Mix or

Oliver's Burrow Hamster Mix  and

Puur Hamster (Dwarf or Syrian)

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Mix together:

2 x bags of Puur Hamster (Syrian or Dwarf, depending on your hamster)

1/2 bag of Versele-Laga Snack - Cereals

1 bag Versele-Laga Snack - Nutties

1 bag of Versele-Laga Snack - Protein

These particular products are available from CatBox Hyper

or online: http://pethypers.co.za/products/small-pets/

 

ADDITIONAL, BUT NOT SUITABLE ON THEIR OWN AS THE MAIN DRY-FOOD MIX:

These may not be completely unsuitable, and are even of good quality, but do not meet the analysis criteria closely enough to be fed to your hamster as a sole main dry-mix diet. However, it is really good to mix a few together with one of the above main dry mixes in order to add greater variety, particularly for hamsters who refuse to eat the pellet portions of their dry food.

Certainly if there are absolutely no “best recommended” foods available, a few of these can be mixed together (with the Crispy Muesli above) to make a pretty decent mix, and definitely better than one of the poor quality foods.

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VERSELE-LAGA NATURE SNACK RANGE

(Proteins, Cereals, Nutties, Crispy Muesli, and Popcorn )

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TIP: Hamsters are generally not overly fond of pellets/nuggets and unfortunately most pet food manufacturers are tending change formulations towards this kind of diet due to increasingly GMO grown seeds & grains, and organic ones becoming too expensive and with reduced shelf-life. Some hamsters may even refuse point-blank to eat these pellets, even if they are excellent quality, but it is important that they do consume the important ingredients contained within. In such cases, 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. Instead, try this:

  • If your hamster is fussy and you are concerned that he may not be eating the full balance of his mix, simply grind up the pellets finely in a liquidizer/electric coffee grinder/pestle & mortar and mash this “powder” into his/her favourite fresh food (works well in pureed/mushy foods). Most hamsters will happily eat it in this form.

  • Grinding is also a good way of adding hemp seeds and linseeds/flaxseeds to the ground up mix, which is really good for skin and fur maintenance, but absorbed better if ground up (about twice a week).

  • 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 hot water over, and immediately drain. 

  • You may also want to try mixing two or three good quality foods together to make up for variety, in combination with the above tips. It may require a bit of experimentation to get the right mix for your hamster's particular liking. 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.

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If you want to have a go at making your own dry mix, there is a reasonably good guideline at the end of the DIY page.

CAUTION: PLEASE FREEZE ALL DRY FOODS, SEEDS, TREATS, ETC. FOR 24 - 48 HOURS BEFORE OPENING! And store excess in the fridge or freezer.

You really don't want to risk infestation of some kind of bug that could take months to get rid of.

LAB BLOCKS: These are very popular in some other countries and can be useful if you are going away for a few days since they will ensure that your little one has sufficient nutrition in your absence if your pet-sitter is not very clued up about hamsters. While Lab Blocks are reportedly fully balanced, they do not provide interesting variety for your hamster to pick at or forage for. As far as we are aware, this food is not yet available in SA but please let us know if you do see any….they look like large pellets or fibre blocks. The Mazuri Rat & Mouse brand appears to be the most recommended for hamsters.

 
 

EXTREMELY POOR QUALITY COMMERCIAL DRY-FOOD MIXES IN SA:

These foods do not even come close to any criteria of a balanced diet, or nutritional information is lacking on the packaging and it is difficult to determine the balance.  They generally consist mainly of sunflower seeds, mealies, peanuts, and the type of pellets that most hamsters refuse to eat, sugar or artificial sweeteners, and colourants. Such mixes will cause obesity, fatty liver disease, and/or malnutrition in hamsters if fed as a main diet.  As you can see by the examples, there are more bad than good foods available in SA, but you should not waste your money and your hamster's health by buying any of them!

If poor quality is all you can find in your town, and you are resistant to purchasing online, please consider making your own better dry mix.

There is a reasonably good guideline at the end of the DIY page.

ANIMAL ZONE HAMSTER FOOD

BRIT ANIMALS HAMSTER

BRENNCO HAMSTER FOOD

DARO HAMSTER & MICE FOOD

DARO FROOTY HAMSTER MIX

GRANT'S HAMSTER FRUIT & VEG

GRANT'S HAMSTER GOURMET

MARLTONS COMPLETE DIET HAMSTER FOOD

MARTLONS HAMSTER & MOUSE FOOD

PET'S CHOICE HAMSTER FEAST

TOP PET DELIGHTS HAMSTER

TWEAT HAMSTER MIX SPECIAL

WESTERMAN'S HAMSTER MIX

UNBRANDED PET SHOP ‘IN-HOUSE’ HAMSTER MIXES

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PLEASE NOTE: SOME PET SHOPS ARE SELLING BIRD FOOD TO HAMSTER CUSTOMERS AND EVEN RECOMMENDING IT FOR BABY HAMSTERS! THIS IS NOT A SUITABLE BALANCED DIET FOR HAMSTERS, YOUNG OR OLD.

A small amount of wild bird seed or mixed canary seed is fine to mix in to other dry foods, but not as a sole diet. The hamster will start suffering from malnutrition if fed only bird seed!

New research shows that a diet too full of corn/mealies results in hamster cannabalism due to resulting deficiencies caused.

We therefore suggest that if you suspect your hamster of being pregnant, or if your hamster surprises you with a litter, you immediately refrain from feeding mielies/corn to her, and then also to the babies once they start eating solid foods.

The detailed study: https://m.phys.org (or a brief watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tnFT1rG9T4A)

In general, we recommend avoiding high corn-based mixes due to the resulting cause of niacin (Vitamin B3) deficiency.

 

In 2019, Petco, a major pet store chain in USA, removed all pet foods that contain artificial colours, flavourants and sweeteners from their shelves and encouraging manufacturers to re-look at their "recipes": Petco removing harmfull food

FRESH FOOD
 

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!

When it comes to portion sizes, keep in mind the size of your hamster’s little stomach. Like humans, some will eat until they are satisfied while others have no self-control and will over-fill themselves, leading to problems like obesity or intense discomfort and/or runny tummies. Uneaten perishable food should be removed after a few hours.

Some people like to offer a very small amount of one or two fresh foods every evening, and others prefer to give a little buffet every 2nd or 3rd evening. This depends on you and your hamster.  The list below contains the most commonly available foods in South Africa, with basic guidelines as to how often it is advisable to provide each category.

 

GOOD & BAD FOODS LIST

NB: If in doubt, don’t feed it to your hamster!

Dwarfs are prone to diabetes! Fruit & sweet veg are are high in natural sugar – so only a small piece every 2nd or 3rd  week

- indicated in pink on the list.

If the hamster has never had fresh foods before, please introduce this slowly to avoid an upset tummy.

It gets complicated with foods ....many are high water content foods, cruciferous foods, oxalic acid foods, high sugar foods, etc. so an over-abundance of one particular type can actually be not-so-good, and we therefore recommend a variety throughout the week so that the hamster doesn't get overloaded with one particular category. Whether you give every day or twice a week, variety is the key to providing ample nutrition, e.g. don’t only broccoli every time.

 

NOTES:

  • Best to pick out most dried fruit from commercial food mixes and feed fresh or baby pureed fruit instead.

  • Similarly, nuts go rancid easily so rather pick out and provide your own freshly bought.

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

  • Please, everyone, hamsters are omnivores -  NOT vegans or vegetarians! They require a certain amount of PROTEINS. 

Do not enforce your preferences/principals on your hamster.

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 yourself against handling proteins, you can provide your hamster with this by giving Purity baby foods but please check the label for unsafe ingredients, like tomato paste, lemon juice, spices, etc. (Best flavours: veg & chicken, veg & beef, and veg & lamb...but please check the ingredients, since Purity seems to change the recipes often). See Baby & Pureed foods below.

 

COLOUR KEY:

PINK = High sugar foods. One small piece only to be given as a treat once a week for Dwarf Hamsters.

Syrian owners also take note of feeding too much.

GREEN = Cruciferous foods. Too much raw can cause thyroid & hormonal problems.

Small amounts only in raw form.

Good for preventing heart disease & cancer, so don't avoid.

If your hamster really loves these foods, the best way to avoid issues is to actually cook the veg to remove the enzyme that causes issues, and offer the raw veg as a treat.

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.

 
 

            GOOD FRESH FRUIT & VEG

           (OFFER A VARIETY EVERY 1 to 3 DAYS)

Alfalfa (small quantities for young & pregnant hamsters only)

Apricot

Apple (no 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 only - no thick stems)

Butternut (pips also make great treats)

Carrot

Cauliflower (florets & leaves only - no thick stems)

Chard/Spinach (small amount only)

Cherries (not the pips)

Chickweed

Coriander (leaves & stems)

Cornflowers

Corn (baby corn, mealies)

Cos Lettuce (dark tips only)

Courgette/Zucchini/Baby Marrow

Cranberry

Dates

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

Dill ‘leaves’ (not bulb)

Dog Biscuits (Plain, home-baked style only – good for teeth)

Endive (leafy parts only)

Fennel ‘leaves’ (not bulb)

Fig

Flax/Linseeds - preferably crushed for better absorption and mixed into wet food (good for skin & fur)

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)

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)

NUTS - shelled, fresh (Sweet Almond, Brazil, Cashew, Hazel, Pecan, Pistachio, Walnut)

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)

 

 

ONCE OR TWICE A WEEK TREAT OPTIONS (one small portion at a time)

Basil leaf

Beetroot

Bread (w/wheat toasted or not)

Brussels Sprouts

Celery

Cheese (preferably ricotta and low-salt cheeses - yellow cheese is high in fat and salt)

Coconut (fresh or flakes, not sweetened desiccated)

Coconut Milk (unsweetened; not cream)

Cornflakes (unsweetened & salt-free) 

Couscous (cooked, plain)

Cucumber (small piece)

Mint leaf

Oats & Barley flakes (soaked)

Peanut (in or out of shell).

Parsley (as a tonic)

Pasta (pref. cooked, plain)

Potato (FLESH ONLY; must be really well cooked)

Provita crackers

Rice (brown, cooked, plain)

Sunflower Seeds (white, not black striped)

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)

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

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)

 

 

 

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

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 and light green fancy)

Lime

Liver

Macon

Milk & Cream 

Naartjie

Nutmeg

Oak

Onion (all types)

Olives

Orange

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

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 and PUREED FOODS are also good to keep as backup for times when fresh fruit/veg is not too plentiful in the house.

CHECK THE INGREDIENTS on the packaging of commercial baby foods! Avoid those foods that contain onion, garlic, pork, salt, tomato paste, lemon juice, spices, and any other ingredients listed as bad in the above food list....or make your own by peeling, chopping and steaming them over plain water and then mashing it.

If you have excess that won't be eaten within 3 or 4 days, freeze it:

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;

3. Set your timer for 1.5 hours, peel back the top layer of cling wrap, and then cut into little squares with a blunt knife;

4. Return to the freezer and the next day you can place the sheets in ziplock bags or sealed containers back in the freezer;

5. To defrost, simply break off a block or two and place onto a folded piece of paper towel to absorb excess water (otherwise it defrosts into a watery mess), chop and mush it up so it's not like a dry sponge block (takes about 30 min to defrost, depending on season). 

6. Now you can mix in some powdered pellets, Protexin, etc. 

... and voila! A little meal is ready to be served up to HRH Hamster.

Dwarfs should not have the fruit varieties, unless it's just for a little weekly or two-weekly treat. 

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PREGNANT & NURSING HAMSTERS require extra good nutrition in order to keep mom and babies healthy and strong. Ensure that her dry food mix is of a high quality 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. Alfalfa is said to be good for pregnant hamsters too, due to the calcium content, which should normally be avoided but is good for keeping teeth and bones strong from the depletion that can happen during pregnancy and lactation.

NOTE that a diet high in corn/mielies causes a deficiency in Vitamin B3, resulting in cannibalism!  Therefore we suggest that you refrain from feeding corn/mielies to your pregnant/nursing hamster and the babies until all of them have been separated from each other.

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

They should be kept on a similar diet to the pregnant/nursing mother, as described above, and pureed foods may be easier for them to eat during the first few days. 

If your dry food mix contains large pellets, simply smash them up to make them easier for the babies to eat, and cut up any larger fruit pieces. Alternatively, get the Puur Dwarf Hamster food or Versele-Laga Mini Hamster food, which have smaller pellets. Protein content should be higher (up to 24% of the diet) for the first 8 weeks and then dropped to 18% until they reach senior age when it should be further decreased.

Once again, dwarfs should not have fruit and, for Syrians, please remember to pick out any raisins that are still included in the manufacturers recipe.

ELDERLY, PREGNANT/NURSING, AND BABY HAMSTERS WILL BENEFIT FROM COURSES OF PROTEXIN SOLUBLE TO IMPROVE THEIR IMMUNITY AND STOMACH BALANCE.

BOOSTER “MEATLOAF” RECIPE:

Great for nursing females, babies, sick/weak hamsters, and elderly hamsters. (Or as an occasional treat for any hamster).

NO salt or seasoning to be used:   

1 Tbsp of plain oats (without oat bran)

1/2 Tbsp of plain probiotic/organic yogurt 

1/2 Tbsp tinned Hills Restorative Care (chicken)

1/2 Tbsp of shredded carrots and/or broccoli (or any other safe veggie/s)

1 pinch of wheat germ (optional)

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

Protexin Soluble (available from most vet shops and some pet shops)

  • Mix all together, except the Protexin.

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

  • Feed in consumable portions (with a pinch of Protexin added).

    • Freeze or refrigerate any excess in convenient portion sizes for extended use.

    • Remove any leftovers that haven't been eaten within a few hours.

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AGEING HAMSTERS often find it difficult to eat and digest hard foods as their lives draw to an end. In such cases, you can provide shelled seeds and chopped up softer nuts, baby/pureed foods (see above), cooked/soaked oats porridge, baby cereal (don't mix with milk),  a little portion 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%...baby foods with chicken or meat ingredients will be sufficient protein for old hamsters, twice a week).  A drop 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. Slightly warmed food (never hot) will be appreciated during the very cold winter months.

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.

CHECK THE INGREDIENTS IN COMMERCIAL BABY FOODS 

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

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TREATS & GNAWS
 
  • Your hamster will definitely enjoy some treats, and these can also be particularly useful during the taming process with a new hamster. Dried Meal Worms are particularly popular and actually have some nutritional benefit, albeit quite fatty.

  • It is very important to read the ingredients on the packages as many of these delights do contain sugar and artificial colouring which is not very healthy  (sweetened snacks should only be fed to Dwarf hamsters once a week, at the most, in a small portion). But, generally, these types are only to be given as an occasional delight, similar to us eating junk food or a guilty-pleasure snack. Such treats would be the smaller ones like Friends Farm treats, yogurt drops, etc.

  • However, nowadays we are also seeing an increase in treat products on the market that do contain healthier ingredients and have gnawing properties that are beneficial to dental care (see Teeth topic). These are larger than the junk food tidbits and can actually be left in the cage since your hamster will not be able to wolf down the entire thing in one go and will also serve as a boredom buster as he goes about breaking it up over time. These would be plain dog biscuits, Whimzees (not to be confused with Greenies that are not suitable), cockatiel seed bell, Grainless Snack Bowl, etc. 

CAUTION: PLEASE FREEZE ALL DRY FOODS, SEEDS, TREATS, ETC. FOR 24 - 48 HOURS BEFORE OPENING/OR PLACING IN YOUR HAMSTER'S HABBY!

You really don't want to risk infestation of some kind of bug that could take months to get rid of.

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

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Bowl or scatter feeding: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jinfuQ0zock

Facts about hamster diabetes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YmIYwjhZ97Q

Three foods for elderly hamsters: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j8JLI7ghwLA&t=2s

SEE FURTHER IMPORTANT NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION: WATER AND SUPPLEMENTS
 
 
 

ABOUT MEALWORMS

 

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

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DRIED are more intense/concentrated in nutrition so should really be fed 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.

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LIVE worms, 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 either snip off or smash the head to kill the worm before feeding. The concern is that the worms could bite the hamster on the 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. Therefore, it may not always be necessary for you to embark on the gory task yourself but, for the first few times, we strongly suggest that you squeeze the head dead first and then observe your hamster tackling the beast (putting them in the fridge for 30 min before feeding and then knocking the head with a spoon apparently slows them down too). Once you are confident that your hamster is indeed adept at getting the worm's head first, you can simply give it to him while still alive (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. 

USEFUL GUIDE TO GROWING MEALWORMS:   https://www.youtube.com/....-Etn4bESrww

SILKWORMS: Interesting to note that silkworms (sometimes referred to as silkworm larvae, but this may apply to the pupa stage after the worm has spun a cocoon) apparently have better nutrition than meal worms. 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.  

 

 

INTERNATIONAL COMMERCIAL DRY FOOD LISTS (GOOD & BAD) 

(NOT ENTIRELY UP-TO-DATE AS NEW BRANDS MAY HAVE ENTERED THE MARKET, & OTHERS MAY HAVE BEEN DISCONTINUED)

Since some people are ordering food from overseas, or travelling and bringing food home, we thought it a good idea to put up the international assessment list. This is from about 2017/18, so some foods may have been discontinued, and there may also be some new foods on the market now (perhaps some recipes have even been updated/improved?), but it should still give you a reasonable idea of what to get and maybe what not to.

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

 

HIGH-GRADE COMMERCIAL FOODS

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

  • Bunny Dwarf Hamster Dream

  • Bunny Hamster Dream

  • Burgess Hamster, Gerbil & Mouse (nuggets)

  • Burgess Supahamster Dwarf Hamster Harvest (not sure if this is still available but is still on the list)

  • Burgess Supahamster Hamster Harvest (not sure if this is still available but is still on the list)

  • CareFresh Complete Menu (hamster/gerbil)

  • Hamster Muesli by Pets at Home

  • Harry Hamster (although best mixed with something else due to lack of sufficient fat)

  • Hazel Hamster (confirmed same as Harry Hamster, but differently named for different countries)

  • 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 Complete

  • Versele Laga Mini Hamster Nature Complete

  • VitaKraft VitaNature

  • VitaKraft VitaSmart

(Lab blocks):

  • Cuisine Rodent Chunk

  • Harlan Teklad (2018, 8604, 8640)

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

  • Mazuri Rat & Mouse

  • Mr. Johnson’s Advance Hamster and Gerbil Food

  • ProLab RMH 300

  • Sunseed Critter Cubes
     

LOW-GRADE COMMERCIAL FOODS
 

  • All Living Things Hamster and Gerbil Daily Diet

  • Armstrong Milling Indoor Friends – Small Animal Mix

  • Best Friend Festival

  • Brown’s Classic Encore

  • Brown’s Encore Gourmet Foraging Feast

  • Brown’s Fruit Bites Banquet

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

  • Country Wide Hamster and Gerbil Mix

  • Drs. Foster and Smith Signature Series Hamster Food

  • Hartz Bonanza Hamster and Gerbil Diet

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

  • JR Farm Adult Hamster Food

  • JR Farm Hamster Feast

  • JR Farm Dwarf Hamster Feast

  • Kaytee Chunky Gourmet Diet (Fiesta Chunky)

  • Kaytee Fiesta Max Hamster/Gerbil

  • Kaytee Forti-Diet Nature’s Harvest

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

  • Kaytee Gourmet Variety Diet (Fiesta)

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

  • Kaytee Premium Fiber Diet

  • Kaytee Supreme Hamster and Gerbil

  • Kaytee Supreme Daily Blend Hamster and Gerbil Mix

  • Living World Classic Hamster Food

  • Living World Extrusion Pellets

  • LM Animal Farms Bonanza Gourmet Diet Hamster and Gerbil

  • Nature’s Feast Hamster, Mouse & Gerbil Food

  • Oxbow Healthy Handfuls

  • Premium Hamster Muesli by Pets at Home

  • Purina Garden Recipe

  • Royal Cuisine Small Animal Mix

  • Sunseed Sunscription Vita Prima Hamster and Gerbil Formula

  • Sunseed Sunscription Vita Prima Dwarf Hamster Formula

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

  • Tesco Everyday Value Gerbil and Hamster Food

  • Tesco Hamster Food Peanut and Sunflower Seed

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

  • VitaKraft Emotion Beauty Hamster Food

  • VitaKraft Emotion Sensitive Hamster Food

  • VitaKraft Menu Hamster

  • Wagg Hamster Gerbil Mouse Munch*VitaKraft Menu Hamster

  • Wagg Hamster Gerbil Mouse Munch

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

 

NO ASSESSMENT AVAILABLE AS YET

 

  • Country Valu

  • Cunipic Naturaliss

  • Hamiform – Dwarf Hamster Optima

  • Hamiform – Essentia Hamster Regal

  • Hamiform – Essentia Hamster Acti

  • LinkPet Fruitti

  • Mayfield Hamster

  • Pets At Home Nuggets

  • Pet Supplies Plus Ultimate Hamster Blend

  • Pet Supplies Plus

  • Rongis Hamster Premium Aliment

  • Quiko Sunny Greens Complete

  • Quiko Sunny Greens Premium

  • Versele Laga Crispy Pellets

  • Versele Laga Ha-Ca

  • Versele Laga Zero Classic

  • VitaKraft Emotion Nature Dinner