Unlike dogs, cats, and other more common pets, hamsters have unique needs and you can’t take a “one-size-fits-all” approach when caring for them. Knowing exactly what your hamster needs is what will make you the most responsible pet owner, ever.
Hamsters belong to the Rodentia order of the Mammalia class and as such, they usually thrive on a diet of seeds, grains, nuts, and occasionally fruits and vegetables. Hamsters in the wild also eat small animals such as frogs, lizards, and insects.
A pet hamster’s diet should consist of at least 17-19% protein, 4-7% fat, and 6-15% fiber. The healthiest foods that a hamster can eat contain the right amount of all three of these nutrients.
Is Peanut Butter Healthy or Safe for Animals?
Peanut butter is a treat that a lot of owners love to give their pets. Peanuts provide Vitamin B, Vitamin E, and Niacin to the body. What the majority don’t know is that many commercial peanut butter contains Xylitol, which is a sugar-free synthetic sweetener.
This chemical is safe for human consumption but extremely toxic to animals. Just to give you an idea of how dangerous Xylitol is for other pets; it’s 100 times as toxic as chocolate to dogs.
The reason that Xylitol is so potent for animals is that it is very quickly assimilated into the bloodstream, which stimulates the release of insulin from the pancreas. Because of this rapid influx of insulin, the blood sugar level in the animal can rapidly decrease within an hour.
Even small amounts of Xylitol ingested by dogs or cats can cause seizures, liver failure, or death. Symptoms of Xylitol poisoning can include vomiting, weakness, difficulty walking, lethargy, and tremors.
Thankfully, there has been an increase in awareness about Xylitol in the past years, with many commercial manufacturers opting to use a different sweetener for their peanut butter. Therefore, it’s safe to say that animals can eat peanut butter as long as it’s Xylitol-free.
But Can I Feed It to My Pet Hamster?
So, we’ve learned that peanut butter that has Xylitol is toxic for dogs and cats – but what about hamsters? Does Xylitol have the same effect on them as it does on the other animals?
Here’s the answer.
As of this writing, the effects of Xylitol on hamsters and other small animals have not been well-documented.
However, that doesn’t mean that your hamster has to miss out on eating peanut butter. It simply means that, just like with dogs and cats, you’ll need to avoid brands that have Xylitol just to stay on the safe side.
For your reference, we’ve included some of the brands that you should stay away from:
So yes, hamsters can eat peanut butter as long as it’s Xylitol-free. But with Xylitol now out of the way, let’s take a look at some other ways that peanut butter can affect hamsters negatively.
Hamsters have small pouches on the insides of their cheeks which they use to gather and transport food. Since peanut butter is very sticky, it can easily get trapped inside these pouches and cause severe problems for the hamster.
To avoid this, never give them plain peanut butter directly from your finger or a spoon.
A good way to feed them is to smear it on a stick and let them munch it off the stick. You can also mix it with slices of fruit and put it on water-soaked bread.
Another factor to keep under consideration is food allergies. Many mammals are prone to having allergic reactions to human food, so if it’s your first time feeding your hamster peanut butter, give a very small amount to test.
Peanut butter contains high amounts of lectin, which in humans, can potentially cause health issues such as arthritis. Simply regulate the amount of peanut butter that you feed your hammy on a daily basis and you should be fine.
As always, moderation is the key. While you may not be able to resist the adorable look on your hamster’s face while they snack away on a generous helping of peanut butter, be aware of the potential consequences that such indulgence can have. Read the labels on bottles of peanut butter when grocery shopping and check if they’re Xylitol-free.