In the winter I am a massive tea drinker, although I do like to indulge in a steaming mug of hot chocolate around an open fire. And, as summer approaches a nice cooling drink of squash is the perfect thing to quench a thirst. But what about our furry friends? Are hamsters allowed to drink anything out of their bottles other than water?
Providing your hamster has a healthy diet, they will be getting all the nutrients they need and will happily thrive on drinking water. Changes to a hamster’s natural diet can be dangerous, so there is no need to supply them with any other types of drink.
Just because your hamster doesn’t drink that much does not mean they are not interested in water and that it should be substituted for something else. Afterall, nature designed wild hamsters to be able to go without water for long periods of time, whilst scouring the desert plains.
Can hamsters drink milk?
Hamsters are mammals and are weaned on their mother’s milk. That does not mean, however, that you should continue feeding them normal cow’s milk whilst in your care. Although milk is not toxic to hamsters, there are risks associated with feeding hamsters’ milk that you should be aware of.
Firstly, cow, goat, and even soya milk contain different levels of protein and fats to those found in a hamster’s own milk, which could affect their digestion. Plus, sudden changes to their diet can be dangerous for hamsters, often leading to diarrhea or dehydration.
Your hamster needs a dry, clean environment in which to live in, and if droplets of milk were to spill over it could cause their cage to smell, bedding to go moldy and as a consequence directly affect the health of your hamster. Milk that is not kept cool, can go off, making it unsafe for your hamster to drink.
The only time you should even consider giving your hamster milk is if it gets a cold. You could try giving a warm drink of milk and honey – but be careful to only give them a few mouthfuls. Ideally, this should be administered from your finger or via a small syringe/eyedropper so that it is given in a controlled manner.
How much water should a hamster drink?
All your hamster needs in order to remain hydrated are around 2-4 teaspoons of water a day (depending on their size and breed). This is why you probably refill their bottle each day, wondering if it has even been touched.
Tap water is fine, there is no need to buy specific bottled brands, providing it is not contaminated or polluted in any way.
Most hamsters tend to drink when they are awake, which is generally when you are asleep. But don’t forget that in addition to the small mouthfuls of water they are gently gulping back each evening, they will also be getting fluids through their food. Especially if you include watery fruits and vegetables such as cucumber or grapes into their diet.
Dehydration in hamsters
I have to say that peering through our bin cage, I often see Oscar huddled around his food bowl but rarely see him sipping on his bottle. Because our hamster looks fit and healthy, I know he is getting plenty of fluids, but if you are unsure you should check for dehydration. To do this:
- Mark their water bottle daily so that you can see if the level is going down.
- Pinch your hamsters’ skin lightly. Using your thumb and index finger gently pull some of the skin at the base of your hamster’s next to create a fold. If the skin does not ping back into place there is a good chance your hamster needs hydrating.
- Check their overall health. If your hamster’s eyes look sunken and dry and their fur is unkempt then your hamster may not have the energy to groom themselves.
- See if your hamster is starting to lose weight. If your furball is dehydrated then their tongue may swell, making it difficult for them to eat.
- Monitor their toilet habits. If they are urinating less and it is of dark color and strong smell, then this could be a clue that your hamster is unwell.
In order to rehydrate your hamster, you will need to get it to a vet as quickly as possible so that they can administer fluids. Do not try and force your hamster to drink water from a syringe yourself, as they will need a specific rehydration fluid that contains salts and sugars.
Choosing the right water bottle for your hamster
Although we now know that hamsters only need to be given water, it is important that it is replaced daily in order to keep it free from bacteria which could make your hamster sick.
The best way to offer water to your hamster is by using a water bottle as opposed to a bowl. This prevents the liquid from spilling everywhere and allows you to monitor just how much they are consuming.
Make sure that the bottle you choose is suitable for hamsters, as they are unable to apply a strong suction. They may also have difficulty in overcoming the resistance from the water flow intended for other larger animals.
If you have more than one hamster in a cage, then make sure you have the correct number of water bottles. Dwarf hamsters can be territorial too and might not want to share.
Although water may seem to some like a boring choice of drink for your hamster, it is all they require. In the wild, other options such as milk would not be available to them, and too much richness can massively affect their little tummies. So, keep things simple, and top up your hamster’s water bottles daily to ensure they stay well hydrated.