Hamsters are omnivores; in the wild they eat plants, roots, grubs, nuts, seeds and insects. It is difficult, if not impossible, to duplicate this diet for a pet hamster, so a substitute is needed.
Most pet shops sell a "hamster mixture". This is a dry food, consisting of a selection of nuts, grain and pellets, designed to give a balanced diet. This should be your hamster's staple type of food; he or she will eat about an eggcupful a day. Do not give rabbit food or guinea pig food, since these may contain whole oats, which can damage the hamster's cheek pouches. (On addition, some rabbit foods have chemicals added to prevent rabbits contracting a disease called coccidiosis. These chemicals may harm hamsters).
In addition to their dry food most hamsters will appreciate "extras". These fall into three categories; greens, porridge and titbits.
The term "greens" covers the wide variety of fresh fruit or vegetables that can be given to hamsters as fresh foods. All of them should be washed and dried before feeding to remove any contamination from agricultural or preservative sprays. Also, give greens in moderation; too much can upset the stomach. A slice of apple once a day is better than a whole apple once a week.
Hamsters should never have acidic fruit or vegetables, such as citrus fruits or onions. Suitable "green" foods include;
|Carrot||Cabbage||Lettuce||Cauliflower, (inc. leaves)|
|Brussels Sprouts||Bean Sprouts||Melon||Parsnip|
Since hamsters do not require large amounts of greens, the simplest way to supply them is to set aside a small portion of whatever fruit or vegetable is being prepared for the human family to eat.
Hamsters are fully grown at twelve to sixteen weeks of age but are born blind, deaf and naked. It is obvious that they grow tremendously quickly and they need extra, high protein food to support that growth. In the same way, a pregnant or nursing female may be supporting up to twelve or more babies, as well as herself. Obviously she also needs extra nourishment. The most palatable way to supply the extra protein, calcium, vitamins and energy is as porridge. The full cream or semiskimmed milk will supply some energy, together with the protein, calcium, vitamins and minerals, while the cereal provides the rest of the calories needed. A hamster will eat a tablespoonful or so of porridge as well as its dry food, so this is an ideal way to help growing youngsters or females with young. Although I use the word "porridge", (because that is what most exhibitor-breeders like myself call it), do not feel that you have to make real porridge for your hamster. Some people do, and undoubtedly the animals enjoy it, but you could equally well use oats, "Ready Brek", baby rusk or "Weetabix" soaked in milk, or even tinned rice pudding! All that is necessary is that it is made with full cream or semiskimmed milk and contains some form of cereal or grain. Although this supplement is primarily for growing animals and pregnant/ nursing mothers it will also be appreciated by elderly hamsters or those with tooth problems who may have difficulties coping with hard foods.
Titbits are just that - treats or snacks - and as such should be fed in very small quantities. Your hamster may enjoy any or all of the following;
|a small piece of cheese||a small piece of cooked meat or chicken||one or two raisins or sultanas||a small piece of boiled potato|
|hamster chocolate buttons||a few mealworms||a small piece of hard boiled egg||a small piece of cooked chicken skin|
Never give titbits which melt, (like chocolate), or are sticky, (like toffee or sweets), since they may cause an impaction of the cheek pouches and lead to an infection.
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