There is no getting away from it – cheese has become synonymous with rodents. From animations showing sweet mice nibbling on chunks of cheese to metal traps luring rats to their fate using large blocks of bait – it seems this creamy snack is simply irresistible.
But can hamsters eat cheese, and if so, should it be part of their staple diet?
Cheese is a perfectly safe snack to give your hamster, as it is full of protein, vitamins, and minerals. Hamsters can eat cheese that is low in fat and mild in taste, providing it is given in moderation, as these cheesy treats are high in calories.
When our elderly hamster Oscar became poorly, the only way in which we could administer his medication was via a piece of cheese. And whilst he could happily store chunks of cheddar in his cheeks to eat all day long, cheese is not something that they should be eating daily. Here we explain why!
Do hamsters like cheese?
Cheese is not a food source that wild hamsters have access too, foraging instead for fruit, seeds, and insects in order to get a good level of fats and protein within their diet.
Therefore, pet hamsters are not born with a natural craving for cheese, and just like humans, it can be personal preference as to whether they even like it.
To start with you should only try your hamster on small slithers of cheese as it is incredibly rich, and this will stop any stomach upsets from occurring. It will also help you to determine whether or not to roll out the cheese board on a regular basis as you will be able to see how quickly this cheesy treat is consumed.
If your hamster turns his twitchy nose up at a slice of cheese, make sure you remove it from the cage to prevent it from decomposing.
What types of cheese can hamsters eat?
Cheese is incredibly calorific so you should try and stick to those that are low in fat to prevent your hamster from becoming obese. These tend to be soft cheeses such as:
- Ricotta, and cottage cheese,
However, hard cheeses such as mild cheddar are fine to include too.
Try and steer away from cheeses that are high in saturated fat and salt such as parmesan, mature cheddar and even processed cheese. These types of cheese, if given too often or in large quantities, could increase blood cholesterol and increase the risk of strokes and heart attacks. They can also cause your hamster to experience dehydration and constipation.
Cheeses such as Stilton and Blue cheese are toxic to hamsters, so you should avoid them at all costs.
How much cheese can a hamster consume?
Your hamsters’ diet should be made up of 16% protein, and if you have a pregnant hamster, then they will require around 24% protein in order to keep up her strength. Cheese is also a great source of calcium.
Most dried pre-packaged food or hamster muesli will need to be supplemented with some form of additional protein source, and although most vets and external resources recommend snacks such as mealworms or boiled eggs, cheese can be a great alternative. For more information on what to feed your hamster, read our informative blog.
All species of hamsters, from Syrian to Dwarf, can eat cheese, however, dwarf hamsters are at a higher risk of developing hamster diabetes so should be limited on the amount of cheese given.
Ideally, you should only provide a couple of slithers of low-fat cheese or a teaspoon of cottage cheese per week, to your hamster’s bowl. As hamsters are only small, each portion of cheese should be no bigger than a raisin in size.
And remember, hamsters like to store food in their cheeks, the corners of their cages and sometimes even like to bury it, so do not give them too much, in case it goes off before your hamster gets the chance to eat it.
Can hamsters eat cheese puffs?
Many people assume that because hamsters can eat cheese that they are able to eat other cheese-flavored products such as cheese puffs. This is not true.
These cheese corn flavored snacks are of no nutritional benefit to your hamster and contain extremely high levels of sodium. A diet that is high in sodium can spike a hamsters blood pressure, leaving them susceptible to having a heart attack or stroke. It can also raise your hamster’s risk of kidney disease.
Therefore, we recommend dumping the junk and only providing your hamster with a diet that is full of fresh fruit, vegetables, and a little low-fat cheese.
Can hamsters eat dairy?
In addition to cheese, hamsters can also have low-fat or fat-free yogurt, but you should avoid unhealthy dairy products such as ice cream, which may be high in fat, sugar, and calories.
Although milk is not toxic to hamsters, cow, goat, and even soya milk contains different levels of protein and fats to those found in a hamster’s own milk. This can affect your hamster’s digestion and lead to diarrhea or dehydration, so, for this reason, we would recommend only giving your hamster water to drink.
Next time you head for the fridge to make yourself a cheese sandwich, consider sharing it with your furry friend. After all, most hamsters enjoy a small shred of cheese as an alternative snack, providing it is low in fat and eaten in moderation.