Initial veterinary matters for your hamster
While there are no known vaccinations or sterilisations that hamsters must get, it would be good to get a vet's opinion on the health of your new hamster. Although hamsters are hardy animals, any ailment can quickly escalate into something serious because of their small size.
Diet and nutrition
Every hamster can have different preferences when it comes to food; not all hamsters like the same things. It would be useful to test a range of foods for your hamster before deciding what should be a staple in its diet.
Hamsters love to eat and in the wild they feed on seeds, plant roots, insects, and even small animals. This gives them a healthy balance of nutrients. Your domestic hamster should be provided with the proper alternatives in its diet in order to be happy and healthy.
Hamster mixes can be bought at most pet shops and contain a mixture of seeds, oats, barley, rodent pellets, peanuts, maize, dried fruit and vegetables. These are specifically formulated to create a balanced meal for your hamster and can be your hamster's main source of food. (Though it is recommended that you provide fresh vegetables and treats occasionally.)
Hamster mixes typically have a long shelf life and can be stored in dry conditions for some time without issue.
Hamster pellets or rodent pellets are also commonly found in pet shops. They are compressed food pellets and are designed to meet a hamster's nutritional requirements. However, pellets do not give the hamster any variety and should be mixed with hamster mixes and fresh food daily.
Take note that food mixes and pellets made for other animals will be unsuitable for your hamster as they might not meet your hamster's nutritional requirements. However, small birdseed mixes can be added to your hamster's diet; especially for dwarf hamsters or hamsters with young babies.
If you are intending to change your hamster's diet, such as changing the hamster mix, take care to do it gradually and slowly introduce the new feed as any sudden change in diet can cause your hamster to become ill.
Fruits and vegetables
Although the hamster mix and pellets form a good diet for your hamster, your hamster will no doubt enjoy an occasional treat of fresh fruits and vegetables.
The introduction of fresh food into your hamster's diet should be done slowly and gradually, as a sudden large amount can cause diarrhoea.
You may feed your hamster fresh food once or twice a week for a period of weeks to begin with, and then slowly increase it to once a day. If your hamster starts showing any signs of discomfort or diarrhoea, stop feeding it fresh food altogether until it recovers entirely. Then you may re-introduce fresh food gradually again.
Take care not to feed your hamster too much fresh food at a go as hamsters like to store food in their cheeks and the fresh food may go bad or mouldy which can be toxic to your hamster.
Most vegetables and fruits can be fed to your hamster, but remember to always keep the amount to a minimum unless your hamster is well used to the routine.
Foods that are unsafe for your hamster
- Kidney Beans (raw)
- Potato (raw)
- Potato tops
- Rhubarb (raw)
- Rhubarb leaves
- Tomato leaves
Plants and flowers
In the wild, hamsters feed on plants and flowers and you may want to pamper your domestic hamster with some plants and flowers as treats. However, always remember that if you are unable to identify the plant or flower, it would be best to not feed it to your hamster. When in doubt, always leave it out.
Plants that you can feed your hamster:
- Bramble leaves
- Blackberry leaves
- Cow Parsley
- Dandelion leaves and flower
- Hawthorn leaves
- Hedge Parsley
- Knot Grass
- Michaelmas Daisies
- Shepherds Purse
- Sow Thistle
- Young grass
Hamster treats are available at most pet shops and come in many varieties. Being treats, most have a high sugar content and hamsters should not be given too much as it will cause the hamster to become obese.
Avoid sticky treats because hamsters' cheek pouches can become compacted when they pack food into their mouths. This is extremely dangerous and can even be fatal.
Other tidbits that may be given to your hamsters include:
- Almonds (sweet almonds, shelled)
- Boiled Potatoes
- Brazil Nuts
- Bread (fresh or stale)
- Breakfast Cereals
- Cake – but not chocolate cake
- Cashew Nuts
- Chicken (cooked)
- Dog Biscuits
- Egg (scrambled or boiled)
- Fish (cooked)
- Hazel Nuts
- Meat (cooked)
- Pecan Nuts
- Peanuts (shelled or unshelled)
- Pistachio Nuts
- Sweet Chestnuts
Water is an important part of the hamster's diet and should be available at all times. You may use a gravity-flow bottle, placed at an acceptable height, where the hamster is comfortable reaching to. Water should be changed daily to ensure that algae do not form in your hamster's water bottle.