Everyone enjoys a treat, but hamsters are just like humans and when given the choice will always sway towards the sweet option. But what treats are considered healthy for hamsters? Here we look at the best shop-bought titbits and homemade snacks that you can give your hamster.
What are the best hamster treats?
The best hamster treats are those we make ourselves using fresh fruit and vegetables. Shop bought alternatives can be tasty, providing they’re not packed full of sugar. Hamster treats should only be given in moderation, as part of a balanced diet.
Should you give your hamster treats?
Your hamster deserves love and affection, and of course a treat every now and again. Afterall, the odd titbit can help you develop a bond with your hamster and often assists with the taming process.
It is important, however, to remember that treats should be given sparingly and in addition to a balanced diet. Ideally, treats should form no more than 10% of your hamsters overall diet.
Healthy treats for your hamster
It is important that if we are going to be giving our hamster’s treats, that we stick to healthy options and offer them in moderation.
We recently discovered that our pet hamster Oscar has diabetes, so it’s becoming more important that we choose the right food options for him.
It might surprise most hamster lovers to learn that a lot of foods we consider to be healthy options for people are actually potentially toxic to our pets. Therefore, it is important that you don’t just reach for any piece of fruit, vegetable or wholegrain as some, such as tomatoes, beans and citrus fruits, can be fatal when placed in our hamster’s bin cage.
As an alternative to preparing hamster treats ourselves, many people prefer to indulge their furry friends with some shop-bought alternatives. But beware, as a lot of pet stores stock nutty nibble sticks and fruit-based treats that are actually packed full of sugar.
Hamster store cupboard favourites
There are many foods that we use on an everyday basis that make the perfect treat for your hamster. Grains such as nuts are great but beware of peanuts and sunflower seeds as these contain a lot of fat so offer them sparingly.
Vegetables are also good and the greener and crunchier the better. Broccoli and carrots are particular favourites in our house and are just as good for gnawing on as they are for eating. Cucumber and grapes are also tasty but due to their high water content, should be limited in the amount given. And strawberries and bananas provide good alternatives to the traditional slices of apples and bits of blueberries that generally get pushed through the bars.
If you are looking for something that can keep your hamster’s teeth in great condition, then hay and air cooked popcorn provide plenty for them to chew on.
Finally, if you have the stomach for it, why not catch some live crickets or mealworms to feed your hamster – as this would be considered a real treat.
Best shop-bought hamster treats
We all look for convenience these days, and rather than create our own treats we often look for a quick fix. In fact, my kids love visiting the local pet store and picking out packets of food that wouldn’t sound out of place on their own plates, such as hamster chocolate drops, muffins and doughnuts. But which treats are best to give and are these sweet indulgences good for our hamsters?
Sticks and chews are relatively common types of treats and work by attaching to the cage for our hamsters to nibble on. Whilst one advantage of these chews is that it allows your hamster to wear down its teeth, the drawback is often within the ingredients. In order for these chews to bind effortlessly together, honey is added, making these healthy sounding sticks a sweet option.
We recommend that you look for sugar-free sticks and only purchase those that state they are safe for hamsters. Don’t be tempted to pick up a pack advertised for small animals, such as chinchillas, guinea pigs and rabbits as they are larger in stature and can easily absorb higher levels of sugar and salt content.
We find that chocolate and yoghurt drops are the perfect titbit for scattering around Oscar’s cage and encourage him to naturally forage. Due to their size, they are easy to hide, and their sweet aroma soon sends his twitching nose into overdrive. Specially formulated, these little drops are made from vegetable oils so are perfectly safe for hamsters.
They do not contain any actual ‘cocoa chocolate’ so are fine to give sparingly. They also melt at a higher temperature than normal chocolate, so if pouched in the cheek they won’t melt and stick to the sides of your hamsters’ mouth.
Mealworms provide an excellent source of protein for your hamster and are pretty scrummy too – at least that’s what our hamster thinks. It’s the first thing to be scooped up in his little paws and he scrunches his eyes in delight when munching. And if that isn’t a conclusive 5* product review then I’m not sure what else is!?
As we are predominantly a household of females and incredibly squeamish, we prefer Oscar’s mealworms to be of the dried variety. But, like most of these recommended hamster treats, mealworms are high in fat content, so should not be given in excess and always as part of a nutritious diet in order to prevent obesity.
Homemade hamster treats
If you have the time and inclination, then why not bake some homemade hamster treats? They are cheap and fun to make, and it allows you to have complete control over the ingredients included. Here are a couple of our favourite recipes:
(1) Sesame Seed Muffins
Although we call these sesame seed muffins, you can basically include any of your hamsters favourite fruits, nuts and vegetables to ensure that these treats are made with love.
- Handful of sesame seeds
- ½ apple (grated)
- ½ grated banana (grated)
- 2 eggs
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. This is particularly important as when using eggs, you must always ensure that your treat it is cooked through. A well-cooked hamster treat should hold its shape.
- Beat your eggs until the whites are combined with the yolks.
- Mix your grated vegetables and sesame seeds together.
- Place some muffin cases into a muffin tray, and scoop in around one tablespoon of your veggie/sesame mixture.
- Pour your beaten eggs into the muffin trays so that they cover the veggies. Make sure you leave some room at the top of the cup, as the mixture will puff up when cooked
- Bake for 15-20 minutes or until cooked through.
- Let your muffins cool before adding to the cage. Remember to only give your hamster a limited amount of treats every day.
(2) Hamster cookie treats
Our hamster Oscar goes nuts for peanuts, so these cookies always go down a treat.
- ¼ cup oats
- 3 tbs water
- 1 tsp peanut butter
- 2 ½ tbs whole-wheat flour
- Preheat your oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Mix together your water and flour.
- Gradually add in the oats and peanut butter.
- Knead the dough in your hands – using a little extra flour if the mixture is too sticky.
- Roll the dough into little balls or if you have a small cookie or shape cutters you can use these instead.
- Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Make sure the cookies are well spaced apart when placed on the tray.
- Bake for 18 minutes, making sure to let them cool on a wire rack for added crunch.
Do different types of hamsters need different treats?
Whether you have a Syrian, Roborovski, Chinese or Russian, all hamsters love treats. And, although they have slightly different nutritional needs and tastes, on the whole, their diets tend to be very similar which is why pet stores do not stock hamster treats by breed.
It stands to reason, that the smaller the hamster, the smaller amount of food and treats required. Therefore, if you have a dwarf hamster, we recommend snapping treat sticks in half and reducing the number of mealworms accordingly.
We all like to indulge in our favourite snack every now and again, and there is no reason why your hamster shouldn’t be allowed a treat too. As hamsters, (in particular dwarfs), are prone to diabetes, try and steer clear of sugary snacks and if at all possible, look at making some tantalizing treats of your own.