Something all hamster owners learn is that hamsters love to eat! The truth is they forage actively, especially at night, and spend a large portion of their time on food gathering activities. Hamsters consume about a tablespoon of food per day spread throughout the day. Hamsters typically collect food at night and wake every couple of hours during the day to snack. A fast metabolism ensures that hamsters require food regularly in small amounts.
Staple Diet Base: Hamsters know which type of food their bodies need at any given time and commercial grains cover most of these requirements. It is safe to use packaged grains from the store as the staple or base of your hamster's diet. You will want to supplement a base diet with proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, fresh vegetables and the occasional hamster treat to keep your pet healthy and happy.
Proteins: Needed for building of healthy tissue additional protein is recommended for young or pregnant hamsters. Good sources of protein include corn, nuts, oats, peas, barley, cooked beans and wheat.
Fats and Carbohydrates: Eating fats only results in a fat pet if eaten in excess, otherwise your hamster needs fats and carbohydrates to maintain a healthy level of energy. Carbohydrates are abundant in potatoes, milk, sugar and yeast and readily provided by barley, corn wheat and oats. Note: avoid giving your hamster pure milk as this can sour quickly in a warm environment.
Vitamins & Minerals: Ask your vet if they recommend additional vitamins or minerals when you bring your hamster in for a checkup. Too many vitamins or minerals can cause as many problems as not enough.
Water: Hamsters require fresh water daily even if they are not finishing the bottle. Clean the bottle regularly and boil it to disinfect as required. Stagnant water breeds mold that can harm your pets health.
Hamster Treats: Hamster snacks can be added to the diet of a healthy pet in moderation. A hamster eats a relatively small amount of food each day so focus on snacks that have a good nutrient value. Do not feed your hamster human snacks with empty calories such as chocolate or your pet will eventually get sick.
Fresh Vegetables: A list of recommended fresh vegetables to feed your hamster is available below. It's important to thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables to remove any trace of pesticide before feeding it to your hamster.
Should I Use a Bowl? A bowl is recommended to keep foods off the bottom of the cage however hamsters will likely move the food into their sleeping area. It's also perfectly acceptable not to use a food bowl. A regular feeding schedule and placing the food in the same location each day will limit the hamsters desire to relocate food. I recommend placing a food bowl just outside your hamsters primary sleeping area to further minimize hoarding outside of the bowl. Important: if you notice the hamster sitting in the bowl regularly and doing his business in it consider moving the bowl or using a smaller bowl.
You can read more about hamster habitat and cage setup HERE.