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Good and bad food for syrian/dwarf hamsters

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#1 Hamstermaniac15


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Posted 02 April 2012 - 08:57 AM

Hey guys so a lot of new owners like me certianly dont know all the veggies and food to give to our hamsters. Today i recieved an email from my friend claudie she runs an animal ahelter in new york and she loves hamsters. I recently told her that i have one dwarf and one syrian hamster. She sent me a list of food/veggies and it helped me a lot and im hoping this will help other people to.

thought I'd share with you some lists that were compiled by famous hamster experts David Imber and Jane Landis containing bad (potentially dangerous) food items for hamsters and another with good foods and treats. I think it's always fun to introduce a hammie to a new treat and see if he or she likes it (and "will he eat it now or pouch it for later?") but of course we want to make sure it's not anything unhealthy!
Following those lists below are David's and Jane's special home-made hamster diets, in case you'd like to try making your own (or give some of the ingredients simply as a treat):
Anyway, here are the lists:


sticky foods
foods with sharp edges
anything carbonated
anything with caffeine
onions, garlic, leeks, chives or scallions
avocado (somewhat controversial, tiny amounts infrequently may be OK)
hot peppers
fresh, dried or undercooked red kidney beans
raw potato (somewhat controversial, tiny amounts infrequently may be
OK, best to at least steam or microwave)
potato sprouts (eyes) or green parts
raw rhubarb or any rhubarb greens
tomato greens
sprouts from mung beans, lentils, chickpeas or other legumes (cooked
mung sprouts OK, but not very nutritious)
alfalfa sprouts
pits or seeds from cherries, apples, peaches, avocados or citrus fruits
raw peanuts (blanched OK)
bitter almonds
citrus or other acidic foods
foods prepared with salt, vinegar, sulfites or spices

Unhealthy, possibly risky:

artificial colors
artificial preservatives, especially BHA and BHT
saturated fats
hydrogenated fats
animal fat (naturally occurring is not too dangerous in tiny amounts)
meat or bone meal
meat or poultry byproducts (somewhat controversial, tiny amounts
infrequently may be OK)
yogurt drops or other pet store hamster treats (somewhat
controversial, tiny amounts infrequently may be OK) [NOTE FROM CLAUDIE : yogurt drops contain some form of sugar so note recommended for dwarf species prone to developing diabetes]
any lettuce in large amounts or that has not been very thoroughly cleaned
same for raw cabbage

Dangerous chew aids (it is good for hams to chew on some things for
dental purposes):

shells from any almond or black walnut
cherry and avocado branches (and some other tree branches)

Beneficial foods:
[NOTE FROM CLAUDIE WITH REGARD TO DWARFS: There isn't much mention of dwarf hamsters and diabetes in the lists below but, as you know, Russian Campbell's and Siberian Winter White dwarf hamsters (especially under a year old) have a distinct possiblity of developing diabetes, so it is important to limit their sugar intake as much as possible. So if you have either of those species of dwarf hamsters, we strongly suggest not including any of the fruit, or even vegetables such as corn and carrots which have a high sugar content, listed below.]

white-meat chicken
nutritional yeast (a pinch weekly)
soy beans (dry roasted or cooked)

When it comes to vinegar, citrus and other acids, it helps to
understand the hamster's digestive tract: Hamsters basically have
two stomachs. The first, the forestomach, is nonglandular -- that
is, food ferments there but isn't digested by strong acids like we
digest. That stomach isn't designed to handle acids, and they would
sit there during fermentation. It's a little like a rumen's (cow,
etc.) stomach, except the hams don't produce cud, of course. It's
reasonable to assume acids could damage tissues not designed to
contact them. The second part of the stomach works with only very
mild acids (pH is only a tiny bit higher than plain tap water),
since the first did so much of the preparation for complete digestion.

For DWARF hams under one year who may or may not be diabetic, it is
advisable to avoid foods with a high glycemic load
( http://www.mendosa.com/gilists.htm)

Part 2. Maniform Hamsteria's Template Daily Menu

* a dried bean assortment - In the grocery store we used to buy a
dried bean mix, usually called something like "16 bean soup mix". It
has no spices or flavorings, and is about 85 cents a bag. At this
point we mix our own, based upon what we know they like and don't.
Lately it's been heavier on dried peas and mixed lentils. We avoid
red kidney beans and limit other beans, so it's heavier on legumes.

* dry unflavored popcorn (they only eat the sweet, white part and
toss the rest). We limit this to a kernel or so a day

* a buckwheat groats and/or whole wheat grains

* quinoa

* a slice of raw or steamed, peeled carrot, sweet potato or similar

* a small piece of lettuce/cabbage or other green, leafy vegetable

* a chunk of tofu (absolutely central to our hams' diet)

* dried rolled oats

* pearled barley grains

* millet grains

* broccoli (they love the leaves too, which you would normally throw

* a few brown rice grains

* a raisin or two

* UNsalted nuts (usually a peanut or two, a cashew, the rare almond
or pine nut, and some soy nuts)

* a small piece of dried berry or fig

* a few sunflower seeds and a few pumpkin seeds (the latter is
actually a Japanese pumpkin called kabocha in most cases, and the
sunflower seeds are purchased).

* fresh pear or apple slice, often a piece of peach, a grape, a
cherry (pitted), assorted berries, snap pea or string bean

* On occasion, unsweetened, dried banana chips, apricots,
strawberries blueberries or whatever dried fruit is available; Also
occasionally, plain, steamed chicken, poached tuna.

* whenever available, the seeds from melons, pumpkins and squashes,
esp. when they're fresh and moist. They also get a bit of the
pumpkin when we have it.

* when we have pasta they always share - it's a favorite

* every few days, each ham gets a "niboshi" - a dried sardine.

* a spoonful of Hazel Hamster mix

Naturally, this mixture varies from time to time, depending upon
what's available, what we're eating, their own preferences and whatnot.


Part 3. Jane Landis' Best Ham Diet Ever!

A good staple mix and lab blocks (if you can get high-quality, fresh
ones) are excellent diet staples. I keep a lot of hamsters, most of
them rescues, many of them seriously ill and injured. They have
specific and varied needs, so I customize their diets. I start with
the basics and add from these dry foods:

Grains - wheat germ, barley, brown rice, buckwheat, chana dal,
quinoa, rolled oats and/or oat bran, good dried corn (for Syrians),
unpopped popcorn (a favorite of my Roborovskis), tiny uncooked elbow
macaroni and plain puffed Kashi. I use cereals like Rice Krispies,
Cheerios, Chex and the other Kashi varieties just as treats, because
of added sugar, salt and preservatives.

Beans/legumes - navy, red, pinto, black, pink, white, lima, split
peas, black-eyed peas, lentils, chickpeas

Seeds - sesame, safflower, watermelon, squash, pumpkin and flax

Nuts - roasted, unsalted peanuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, Brazil
nuts, sweet almonds out of the shell. These nuts are 50-70% fat, so
these are rare treats, and I give them in small pieces. If they're
shelling them themselves as a chewy, they usually only get to small
amounts at a time, but I remove them for a while if they're too fast.

Hay - high-protein alfalfa for youngsters and lower-protein timothy
for oldsters. They use the soft parts to nest in and munch, but I
take out short, hard pieces that might damage pouches.

Start small and slow with new foods, especially fresh foods. It's
fine to give a little more once you know they don't have any problem
with it, but I still try to be careful that they don't ignore the
basics of a balanced diet. Some of mine like freshies so much they'd
eat nothing else if I gave them enough.

It's really hard to remember to make bits small. Pea-size portions
for dwarfs and say, lima bean-size ones for Syrians are handy rough
gauges for me. They're good sizes to offer as treats, and it's easy
to picture them with that handful. I'd rather give too little
produce rather than too much. And remember if you're also giving
tofu, chicken, egg, yogurt or cottage cheese to count that as moist

It's a good idea to feed fresh food outside the cage so it's not
hoarded away to spoil later.

Once you know freshies don't give them any tummy troubles, you can
offer a couple selections in that same small portion sizes. Mine all
like variety, and it's nice for me that they don't get tired of the
staples I always have on hand that way.

I've read that a healthy adult hamster eats an amount equal to about
10% of its body weight each day. That makes sense -- a little more
for active hams and youngsters, a bit less for seniors. But their
native diet would be much heavier on dry, dense elements compared to
a diet too heavy in produce, which is largely just water.

Fresh favorites include:

Vegetables - green beans, spinach, kale, broccoli (especially leaves
and sprouts), celery and its leaves, carrots and their tops,
parsley, radish, turnips, corn, red or green cabbage, bok choy,
arugula, radicchio and cauliflower

Fruits - blueberry, banana, strawberry, apple (no seeds), pear,
peach (no pit), any melon, papaya and sweet tomatoes that aren't so
acidic. I also feed dehydrated banana, apple and papaya if they have
no added sugar, preservatives or sulfites.

Protein - tofu, steamed chicken, cooked egg white (white is protein,
yellow is fat), non-fat cottage cheese, non-fat plain yogurt, low-
or non-fat cheese and light fish. No excess fats, undercooked meat
or fish, or spiced foods.

Starches - steamed rice, cooked pasta, baked or boiled sweet potato
or potato, air-popped popcorn, whole-grain bread crust.

Seeds - fresh seeds from pumpkin, melons and squash. To use these
dried in our hamster mix, I buy them roasted or roast them to
prevent mold, and store them in the fridge to prevent rancidity.
It's usually a lot cheaper to do it myself, since they enjoy all
these foods too. Seeds are about 50% fat on average, so I'm a little
stingy with these large ones.

I believe these treats to be especially beneficial, and feed them
purposefully: blueberries and spinach (studies showed the
antioxidant balance in them to be associated with longevity in
rats), apple (especially beneficial to gestating, nursing and baby
hams), hazelnuts in the shell(the nut has been shown to reduce tumor formation in rats and the shell is a prized chewy), lean, cooked white-meat chicken, tofu, and nutritional yeast (from the health-food store, a pinch weekly, not
the same as yeast for baking).

One of the favorite "recipes" here is veggie yogurt -- finely minced
favorites tossed in a little bit of plain yogurt (the
health-food-store kind, not the overprocessed grocery-store kinds
with few if any live cultures).

Another favorite is very thick grits, oatmeal, baby cereal or
unsweetened breakfast cereal in a little milk -- each with or
without a little mashed fruit or vegetables.

A few ground peanuts, raisins, dried fruits and/or other favorites
mixed with rolled oats, wheat germ and just enough water can be
pressed into cookies and baked for a few minutes for yummy birthday

For chewies to help keep their teeth trimmed, my hams usually have a
chunk of carrot or a nut in the shell, and always and a dog biscuit.

I avoid dog biscuits with garlic, onion, garlic or onion powder,
charcoal, animal fats, BHA, BHT and artificial colors. I limit ones
with honey or molasses. Some dog bones contain vinyl and other
plastic polymers, and I don't give those. They're probably not
harmful, but I prefer to feed food. Some have very high protein
levels, and I don't leave them available full-time. I like Nylabone
Edibles (carrot, peanut and spinach are high-protein, and fruit
flavors are potato-based and thus low in protein), and Nylabone
Pop-Pups, which they can chew as is (very hard) or you can microwave
to a crispier, lighter texture. For seniors I'm spoiling rotten or
for birthdays and special occasions, I use lightly sweetened ones
like Waggers Originals PB Roundies Classic Dog Treats and Wellness
Wellbar Healthy Dog Treats (Yogurt, Apples and Bananas flavor).

Other dangerous chewies include cherry, black walnut and avocado branches
(and some other tree branches).

Clean cardboard from food packages or TP or paper-towel rolls (no
coatings, metallic inks or glue), Popsicle sticks and wood chews
work for some hams too. They prize the sticks from our veggie corn dogs.

Don't give sticky foods, foods with sharp edges, carbonated drinks,
caffeine, chocolate, onions, garlic, leeks, chives, scallions,
avocado, eggplant, hot peppers, red kidney beans, raw potato or any
sprouts or green parts of a potato, raw rhubarb or any rhubarb
greens, tomato greens, sprouts from mung beans/lentils/chickpeas or
other legumes, pits or seeds from cherries/apples/peaches/avocados,
raw peanuts, acorns, bitter almonds, buckeyes, citrus fruits or
other acidic foods, and foods prepared with salt, vinegar, sulfites
or spices.

I avoid artificial colors and preservatives (especially BHA and
BHT), and I don't feed pet-grade foods containing animal fat,
meat/bone meal and meat/poultry byproducts.

A hamster and a little imagination make a wonderful combination --
enjoy every minute!

#2 Imi&Cinni


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Posted 02 April 2012 - 02:59 PM

Thank you! I'm sure that will help many people. :)

#3 Owned


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Posted 03 April 2012 - 12:35 PM

Thanks for all that food for thought (pun intended)...

Anyway, I give my Robo dwarf hamsters baby cereal occasionally, and they seem to like it, but I'm a little leery of the high iron content. It seems you can't buy any baby cereal anymore that's not iron "fortified". (I tried just plain Quaker oatmeal, but my "kids" don't like it very much).

I agree that blueberries would be good, and might increase life span...unfortunately my "kids" just aren't very fond of blueberries. They nibble at them a little bit, and that's all.

I'm also a little leery of spinach. While it has lots of good stuff, it's also relatively high in oxalic acid and it seems to have an above average ability to absorb heavy metals, e.g., mercury, lead, etc., from soil. (Although like lots of other things it's probably ok in moderation, and I probably worry too much).

#4 Hamstermaniac15


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Posted 04 April 2012 - 01:10 AM

No probelm feel free to PM me if you have any questions!

#5 emilystar


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Posted 04 April 2012 - 03:02 AM

That's a very good list :) I didn't know about blueberries increasing their lifespan. Off to feed Poptart a blueberry.

#6 Lillias


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Posted 13 November 2012 - 04:43 PM

Blueberries have been shown to lower cholesterol in hamsters.

#7 erin198


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Posted 20 December 2012 - 02:15 AM

got to go buy some blueberrys. My hamster LOVES walnuts