The main part of your hamster's diet should be a good quality complete (rather than complementary) food mix. This will contain things like dried peas, peanuts, sunflower seeds, alfalfa pellets, locust bean, wheat, barley and corn. A mix with added sugar (glucose, sugar beet, molasses) should be avoided, as hamsters do not have a "sweet tooth" and as with people, too much sugar can be harmful.
Any change to a hamster's diet should be gradual, when switching foods try to ensure you have enough of the old food to mix some together before transferring completely to the new brand. Fruit or veg should be introduced gradually, as young hamsters can get enthusiastic and eat to much giving themselves diarrohea (which should not be confused with the serious disease wet tail that can affect Syrians).
Vegetables and fruit can provide enrichment in your hamster's diet, but remember as hamsters are very small they only require small portions (the size of a fingernail) and do not require this daily.Hamsters are omnivores, and so may be fed animal proteins. Small treats of plain meat can make an excellent treat for your hamster. When feeding fresh food, ensure any uneaten food is removed after several hours to avoid it spoiling in the cage.
Foods to feed in moderation:
- Nuts. Hamsters love nuts, but as these are high in fat extras should only be given as a treat.
- Cheese; hamsters are thought to be lactose intolerant as adults, so should only be given small treats of cheese.
- Egg (boiled, poached, scrambled or omlette); a high protein treat good for expectant mothers or young hamsters. Care should be taken feeding extra protein to old hamsters, as they find it harder to process.
- Poultry (unseasoned, cooked without added fat).
- Mealworms, crickets, locusts, waxworms etc. In the wild hamsters would eat insects, so while we may find it unpleasent to feed bugs to our pets, they adore them! Dried or live are suitable.
- Commercial treats with honey or other sugar; may be fed as an occasional treat to syrians or roborovskis, but it is generally advised to avoid feeding refined sugar to the other species as they can be prone to diabetes as a result of bad breeding.
Foods that should never be fed:
- Chocolate; contains theobromine which is toxic to animals. Also has a risk of melting in the pouches, which can cause them to stick together and cause problems. This includes chocolate biscuits, chocolate cake etc. Please note, "hamster chocolate" is not made from the cocoa bean, has a higher melting point than chocolate and is a safe treat in small quantities.
- Alcohol; this should be obvious!!
- Citrus fruits; these are too acidic and can upset the bacterial balance in the gut.
- Garlic, leak, onion and chives (or other members of the Alium family); contains thiosulphate which is toxic, this does not affect humans as we are much larger. Small amounts of cooked onion (such as that which may be present in babyfood) do not cause problems.
As a rule, anything unsafe for humans (e.g. raw potato) will also not be safe to feed to hamsters.