Is It Ok for a Hamster to Eat Cardboard?

You might be worried if it is ok for a hamster to eat cardboard after you noticed your pet chewing on a piece in their cage. We understand why you might be concerned!

We once had a Syrian hamster who managed to reach her paw out from her cage which was next to the window and grabbed the curtain. Not only did she chew a large hole in the curtain but she also took the material to her nest! We were a bit concerned, but we managed to find out quite a bit on the subject and are happy to share what we've learned with you!

Many hamsters eat cardboard, and that's ok. It's regular hamster behavior for them to eat cardboard they find in their cage, chewing on it and making nests with it. Most hamsters, regardless of breed, enjoy chewing and eating cardboard.  Depending on your hamster and what other materials are readily available in their cage, you might be surprised at how much cardboard your hamster will safely chew!

Having said that, ingesting certain types of cardboard materials might even make even make your furry little friend sick! We know you want to keep your hamster safe and healthy, so we created this article just for you! Keep reading to find out more such as what signs you should keep an eye on to make sure your hamster won't get sick from eating cardboard.

Little hamster looking up in cardboard side torn hole, Is It Ok for a Hamster to Eat Cardboard?

What types of cardboard are best for your hamster?

Although cardboard is easily accessible and very affordable for many people, a lot of hamster owners aren't aware that certain types of cardboard are harmful to hamsters. It's important to remember, not all cardboard is created equal.

A cute little hamster eating away pieces of cardboard

Not all cardboard is safe for your pet hamster. You should take a close look at anything you place inside your furry friend's cage because some materials might make your hamster sick.

Here's a handy list of essential items to look for before giving your hamster any cardboard:

  • Ensure the cardboard is free of chemicals, adhesives, and glue. Ingesting these types of chemicals can make your hamster very sick.
  • Remove any wax, plastic or glossy paper from the cardboard, these types of materials are not safe for your hamster.
  • The best type of cardboard to use is dye-free and isn’t glossy. The chemicals could make your hamster ill.
  • Don't use boxes that have been in contact with food, such as grocery store storage boxes for fruits and vegetables. There may be bugs, remnants of pesticides, or particles of food that are toxic to your hamster.

Why do hamsters like to eat cardboard?

There are a few, very healthy and natural, reasons your hamster might be eating cardboard. Chewing on cardboard serves a variety of purposes which keep your hamster active and happy as well!

Hamsters love to chew!

Hamster hiding behind her tube | Photo by Jeremy Noble
"[My hamster] hiding behind her tube... She loves the cardboard" | Photo by Jeremy Noble
Hamsters enjoy eating cardboard because they are natural chewers. They like chewing on a variety of materials which is great because it's beneficial for their health! Chewing will help your hamster wear down their teeth, so they don't get overly long which can be a hazard for your pet.

A bored hamster is an unhappy hamster

Hamsters need to keep busy, exercising not only their bodies but their minds as well. Your pet hamster probably does not want to sit around in their cage with nothing to do. They might find that having nothing to keep them occupied is stressful. By giving your hamster cardboard to gnaw on, you’re giving them purpose while keeping them happy and healthy!

Hamsters like to be creative

Cute Syrian hamster poking her head out of a nest of wood chippings

If you’ve provided your hamster with a storebought bed, you might notice your hamster will refuse to use it. That’s because hamsters love to make their nest! Hamsters enjoy scouring their habitat for materials they can use to make their bed.

What is my hamster doing with the cardboard?

Your hamster can do a variety of things with cardboard. They might be eating and ingesting the cardboard material you've placed in their cage. Your cute little pet may also be storing the cardboard in their cheek pouch, moving the contents to different corners of their habitats to create a nest. Hamsters love shredding cardboard to create bedding for their hamster homes. Whichever it is they're doing, both habits are healthy and natural!

Can my hamster overeat cardboard?

White hamster chewing a cardboard box

You might be concerned about your hamster's health if you've noticed a lot of cardboard is missing from a play structure you've created. Here are a few things you should keep an eye on if you suspect your hamster might be eating too much cardboard. If you do think your hamster is ill, it's essential to seek advice from a veterinarian.

Your hamster's food dish is full

Top view hamster near various food

If you notice a lot of cardboard missing from inside their habitat but your hamster isn't eating, it might be time to make some changes. Try removing the cardboard and observing your pet. It's possible they're just having too much fun shredding and are forgetting about eating.

Abnormal poop pellets

It is possible your hamster has ingested toxic materials left on the cardboard or may have a blockage from a foreign substance, such as glue. If you notice your hamster isn't pooping or they are experiencing diarrhea, remove the cardboard from your hamster habitat right away and contact a vet.

What are the benefits of my hamster eating cardboard?

By chewing on pieces of cardboard, your hamster is taking care of their dental health! Gnawing and munching on a variety of materials helps them keep their teeth short and healthy. When hamster teeth become too long, they can cause injury. If hamster teeth become overgrown, they can cause severe damage by puncturing their jaw.

A cute little hamster eating away pieces of cardboard

Some pet owners find it necessary to clip their hamster's overgrown teeth, but a more natural, less stressful approach is giving your hamster something to chew on, like cardboard, aspen wood shavings, or shelled, unsalted nuts.

How can I get my hamster to stop eating so much cardboard?

If you're worried your hamster might be overeating cardboard, you can distract your hamster from its new hobby.

Try new chew toys for your hamster to gnaw on

Adding a variety of materials to your hamster's habitat, such as apple branches, nuts in a shell (unsalted), and even hamster-safe dog biscuits (free from garlic, onions, and citrus fruits) can help keep your hamster entertained and preoccupied.

Give your hamster more reasons to explore

Provide new sources of play for your hamster, such as a new activity wheel. You can even hide treats and food pellets throughout their cage, like a game of hide-and-seek for your cute little critter.

Are toilet paper rolls safe for hamsters?

Hamster with the piece of paper in its mouth is sitting next to the wooden house in the cage

It's common for hamster owners to give their pets toilet paper rolls. They're convenient, easily obtained, and the perfect size for your hamster. Providing the toilet paper roll is free from dyes, and there isn't any glue stick to the roll, it's perfectly safe! Some hamster owners use toilet paper rolls as a tube for treats and others throw it in the cage and let their furry friends figure out ways to entertain themselves. Some hamsters will sleep in the roll while others choose to chew it. Either way, it's an affordable way to keep your pet entertained.

DIY hamster toys you can make for your pet!

Some pet owners make toys for their hamsters out of cardboard materials, such as wheels and hamster huts. Making hamster toys sounds intimidating, but we found some super easy crafts you can make that both you and your hamster will enjoy.

Cardboard tunnel

Make this structure by using a cardboard box, such as a shoe or tissue box, and a toilet paper tube. Cut a hole into the cardboard and insert the tube, and that’s it! You can use a small amount of non-toxic glue to ensure the pieces stay together. This tunnel is easy to make, and your hamster will like exploring it!

Treat box

Using an empty toilet paper roll, make several small cuts at each end, evenly spaced (generally eight cuts on each side). After you fold the flaps on one side, so the tube is closed, fill the container with treats that are hamster-safe, such as dried coconut and dry pasta. Repeat the same instructions for the other end of the tube. After you've closed the flaps on the roll, place it in your hamster's cage. The challenge of opening the sealed tube will be just as high as the reward for your hamster!

As long as you're careful it's clean and chemical-free it's ok to give your hamster cardboard, whether you've built a fun toy for them to explore or you're giving your pet a piece of cardboard to shred for their nest. Seeing your hamster so happy while they run and play with their new favorite toy will make both of you happy, I'd call that a win-win!

Love DIY? Check out our guide about building a DIY hamster cage.

Well, we can sum up that hamster chewing on cardboards is safe but there are other some health issues that you need to know. Check out 7 Hamster Health Issues Every Owner Needs to Know About, this does not pertain to the cardboard subject but you need to know these issues.

I have to say, hamsters eating cardboard is really cute, but you know what's even cuter? Feeding your hamster, check out How to Feed Hamsters.

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