When it comes to owning furry little pets, diet is one of the most important factors that you need to get right to ensure they are happy and healthy.
While it’s natural to want to ensure your hamster is always sufficiently fed as well as also allowing them the occasional treat, an important point to question is whether or not you can actually overfeed a hamster.
You can overfeed a hamster which can lead to numerous issues including weight gain/obesity, digestive issues, and eventual heart problems. Hamsters can be picky eaters and if you feed them too much, they will overconsume the fatty and sugary foods and leave the more nutrient-dense options as they know they will be fed again soon.
Overfeeding a hamster can be a very tricky subject, they are hoarders yet also picky eaters so It can sometimes be difficult ensuring that they are getting all the necessary nutrients without eating too much and becoming fat.
In this article, we cover what some of the common occurrences of overfeeding your hamster are, what you should watch out for, and also how much you should feed them for a healthy and balanced diet (with a few treats included of course).
Can You Overfeed a Hamster
The word hamster comes from the German meaning “to hoard” and hamsters have special pouches in their cheeks that allow them to store large quantities of food.
This is a survival mechanism from an evolutionary standpoint and is something hamsters utilize in the wild to avoid starvation.
What this means for a pet hamster then, is that a full bowl of food will usually be an opportunity to hoard this food and save it.
If you are not aware of these pouches or a hamsters penchant for hoarding, it would be easy to assume that the hamster has eaten all of its food.
This can then lead to you assuming that you’ve underfed it or that you need to feed it more frequently, both of which would not be a mistake.
This is one way that you can overfeed a hamster, however, you can also overfeed your hamster by giving it too much of a food that is high in fats or sugars.
Hamsters can be picky eaters if you don’t keep an eye on what food they are consuming, you might find that they will pick out some fatty foods like the seeds and nuts and then wait until you top up their dish to repeat this cycle (leaving the other nutritious food sources).
This means that you need to employ a few strategies to ensure that you don’t overfeed your hamster.
How Much Does a Hamster Need to Eat
To ensure you don’t overfeed your hamster, there are two factors that you need to control:
- How much food you give to your hamster
- How frequently you feed it
These two factors will be the key determining factors for overfeeding. We won’t cover the type of food as that is beyond the scope of this article and slightly less relevant.
Firstly, it’s recommended that you feed your hamster 1 – 2 tablespoons of hamster mix per day. You should monitor this to see how quickly it eats the food and also consider other factors like how much it is exercising and what time of year it is (hamsters may need more food in the winter when they store body fat for warmth).
How Frequently Should You Feed Your Hamster
Feeding frequency is the other factor that you need to control to ensure you don’t overfeed your hamster. As hamsters can store their food in their cheek pouch, it’s very easy to assume that your hamster has eaten all of its food quite quickly.
Just seeing an empty food dish is enough for many owners to assume that their hamster has eaten all of its food quite quickly and must have been hungry. If this keeps happening then a lot of people will increase the feeding frequency which would be a mistake.
The recommendation for 1 – 2 tablespoons of food per 24 hours is a good guideline for most hamsters. A Syrian hamster is larger so may eat this more frequently whereas a dwarf hamster is smaller and therefore might only eat the 1 – 2 tablespoons over a 48 hour period.
Monitoring your hamster is the best way to ensure you are not overfeeding it. As they are such natural hoarders, it’s very easy to want to top up their food bowl if you notice it has been emptied quite quickly but this is one of the most common ways that people end up overfeeding their hamster.
You may also be wondering whether treats could contribute to overfeeding and the answer is yes, though only when provided with too much frequency (especially foods high in sugar like yogurt drops).
Treats like fruit and foods high in sugar like a yogurt drop can certainly be given to your hamster but moderation is key. For fruits, a small thumbnail-sized piece per day is enough for a treat whereas the sugary treats should be kept to a less frequent 1 – 2 times per week schedule.
If you are unsure of what food you can feed your hamster and how frequently you can do so which is important to avoid overfeeding, then you can check out this useful guide here.
Suitable Hamster Foods & Treats
Overfeeding your pet hamster is a sure way to see it quickly gain weight which will eventually lead to a range of health issues.
Hamsters will try to manipulate their own diet by hoarding food and only consuming the foods they like if given the opportunity.
A consistent feeding schedule alongside consistent feeding amounts made up of nutrient-dense food sources is key to maintaining a healthy diet for your hamster and avoiding overfeeding. Though this doesn’t mean that you can’t still allow them the occasional treat!