Posted: March 23, 2012, 1:30 p.m. EDT
Any basic diet for a hamster should include some:
1. Hard, gnawing-type food
2. Some seed and grain
3. Some fresh foods
Some people choose lab blocks for their hamster's gnawing food; others prefer dog bones or pressed pellets. Certain chew foods are better than others.
Lab blocks are made from grains, cereals and dried vegetable material that are pressed into solid blocks. They attempt to create a nutritionally complete food product for your hamster that has the bonus of keeping the hamster’s ever-growing incisors from getting out of control.
Lab-block hamster diets have the advantage of providing exact nutritional proportions so that a hamster does not eat too much of one kind of food. The only possible drawback with these foods is that they are a little boring. Hamsters prefer some variety. If you choose to feed your hamster a lab-block diet, supplement the hamster’s meal with one or two small pieces of fresh food every two or three days as a treat to keep it interested.
Choose a block specifically made for hamsters or gerbils. Gerbils have roughly the same nutritional needs of hamsters, so lab blocks for gerbils can be used as long as you supplement with other foods. Rat blocks can be used as well, but they must not be the only food source. Rats have significantly different nutritional needs.
Pressed green pellets are a good gnawing food for hamsters. These green pellets are usually made from vegetable matter, mostly alfalfa. They may have cereals mixed in but not enough to make them a good stand-alone hamster food. Some hamsters will eat these, some won’t. They are included in most hamster-mix foods.
Dog bones are also a good food for hamsters to gnaw on. Nutritionally they are not a stand-alone food either. Just add one or two small bones to the hamster’s cage every other week.
Another common food choice is hamster seed-and-grain mixes. These typically offer a variety of seed-and-grain ingredients that range from good to unhealthy. The biggest concern is mixes with an overabundance of sunflower seeds.
Hamsters love sunflower seeds almost as much as they love to horde food. When given a seed-and-grain mix, most hamsters choose to eat the sunflower seeds first. These seeds make great treats, but the fatty oils in them make them too fattening as a major staple of a hamster’s diet. Use caution when feeding your hamster seed-and-grain mixes, and remove some of the sunflower seeds.
Feeding fresh foods can be a nice change and a treat for your hamster. Too much of this good treat can cause diarrhea, dangerous to hamsters, so offer fresh foods only twice or three times a week, one or two small pieces at a time.
Start slowly when first introducing a fresh food into the hamster’s diet. A hamster’s system may need to adjust before it can eat more than a few bites.
Pesticides easily kill a hamster, so completely wash any fresh food you give to your hamster. Also, do not leave fresh food lying around the cage or it will rot. If you give your hamster too much fresh food, it will stash it away where it will spoil. Check your hamster’s food storage regularly and remove any fresh food stored there before it spoils.
Final Hamster Diet Tips
For hard, gnawing-type food, if you prefer a lab-block diet for your hamster, a small amount of seed mix will give your hamster some added variety. Add a tablespoon every day or two.
If you choose to feed your hamster a seed mix as the main diet, offer some lab blocks for your hamster to gnaw on occasionally. Feeding your hamster about five blocks every other week will keep its teeth healthy.
Fresh foods should be used primarily as a treat. Keep the portion small and the volume low, such as a small piece or two of fresh food about every two or three days.
Some foods are toxic to hamsters. It is important to know these foods to avoid serious problems for your hamster.
Excerpt from the Popular Critters Series magabook Hamsters with permission from its publisher, BowTie magazines, a division of BowTie Inc. Purchase Hamsters here.