Some people may mistake that hamsters are herbivores since most of the time, they are seen being fed by seeds and grain mixes. People have been misled by this notion since they are also close cousins with rabbits and guinea pigs which are absolute herbivores. So the question is, do hamsters eat meat?
The truth is that hamsters are omnivores and are able to digest nutrients from both animal and plant origins. In their natural habitat, they munch on seeds, grains, and grasses.
Wild hamsters gather and hoard grains and their food underground to make sure that there is a constant supply of food.
Their occasional protein sources would include live crickets, mealworms, and other small insects.
Nutritional Requirements of Hamsters
Their ideal nutrient requirement consists of 15% – 20% protein, 4% – 7% fat, and 8% – 15% fiber. A number of vitamins and minerals should be present as well such as thiamine, riboflavin, pyridoxine, pantothenic acid, nicotinic acid, and the water-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K).
Do take note that protein gets the highest percentage that is needed in their body. Same as that in human food, the higher concentration of protein comes from animal origin.
What Kinds of Meat?
The good thing with hamsters is that they thrive in a wide variety of food, unlike other small rodents. For meat sources, they are usually fed with canned or dried crickets and mealworms. Dried mealworms are recommended as they usually have powerful jaws when they are alive and might harm your hamsters.
They can be given treats of cooked chicken, turkey, and beef among the food that humans also eat. Pork meat is being avoided by enthusiasts while some have reported that there were no problems when giving it to their pets.
One concern could be is that pork is a possible source of trichinosis; a type of roundworm that may affect hamsters. It is better to not offer pork meat to be on the safer side instead of increasing the chances of them getting ill.
Cooked meat mentioned above should be served unseasoned and with no oil. Salt, spices, and other additives are not good for your hamster, as they are with humans when ingested in high amounts. It is preferred that chicken meat is thoroughly boiled, steamed or baked.
Turkey meat should also not come in frozen and pre-packed from the market as it is usually already processed.
Having said that, any processed meat should not be given to hamsters because it is typically high in salt and chemical-based curing additives like nitrites. Salt is not good for hamsters because their kidney cannot efficiently process it.
Processed meats such as bacon and ham, especially in cans, have a lot of salt and spices. Stuff like luncheon meat, smoked meat, or corned beef should be removed from your hamster’s food inventory as well.
When it comes to beef, can you give them a steak? Steak comes in different forms like smoked, grilled, with a sauce or ground steak molded into a solid shape. These forms are not recommended for your hamsters.
Beef should only be served as it is and cooked coming from lean cuts. Stay away from trimmings because they are usually high in fat.
Precautions should be done when giving the safe meat options as they are very high in proteins and fat. It should be considered as a treat and not be fed daily.
A recommended once a week ration should be done to prevent your hamsters from getting overweight. An overweight hamster would be at a high risk of different types of diseases and may cause them to not be able to groom properly.
A pregnant hamster is in a different situation as they need more proteins than normal hamsters. You can increase pregnant hamsters’ intake of protein because it is needed for the proper development of the babies inside their womb.
- Hamsters eat at least every 2 hours in a day when they are awake; same as that of gerbils and guinea pigs. Hamsters in captivity should have at least one to two tablespoons of food a day. Take this into consideration when giving them meat as it is better to give them a variety of food to provide a balanced diet.
- Cut the meat into small chunks for easier digestibility in hamsters.
- Rinse the meat well prior to cooking to remove the excess grease.
- Remove any leftover meat in their food bins because it easily gets contaminated due to its high protein and moisture which is a good breeding ground for microorganisms.
- It is not true that giving them meat will make them more likely to be cannibals. Hamsters occasionally eat their young when they feel threatened in their environment. Adding meat to their diet doesn’t have anything to do with it.
- Other sources of protein include egg (scrambled or boiled egg), dried grasshoppers, plain tofu, low-fat plain yogurt, and lab blocks.
- When introducing a new type of food in the diet, offer it slowly at first and observe if there are any negative reactions. Do not change your hamster’s diet abruptly as it may cause stress to your pet.