Are You Overfeeding Your Hamster?

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We all want our fuzzy little companions to be comfortable and happy. Who isn’t happy with a full belly? Not only is keeping your pet fed and watered essential to maintain his or her health, but it can also be cute to watch them try new foods and fill their little cheeks.

But how much is too much? Maybe your hammy has started to get a little chunky, and now you’re worried you might be feeding her too much. We’ve done some searching and have the best information for you.  

Since hamsters are natural hoarders, it can be very easy to overfeed your hamster accidentally. When a food bowl is empty, it doesn’t necessarily mean your hamster has eaten all of their food. On average, a hamster should eat about 1-2 tablespoons of hamster food in a 24 hour period.

This amount can be supplemented by fresh fruits and veggies that are safe for hamster consumption, as well as the occasional treat. Too much more than this amount means you’re overfeeding your hamster.

Now that we’ve established the typical amount your hamster should be consuming, let’s discuss hamster feeding in a little more detail. We’ll discuss what can happen when a hamster is overfed and answer some additional questions you might have. Keep reading. 

A cute white hamster eating his hamster food, Are You Overfeeding Your Hamster?

Why is it so easy to accidentally overfeed a hamster?

As we mentioned briefly above, hamsters are hoarders. In the wild, they are used to foraging for food and stuffing it in their cheek pouches to take back to their nests and families. These cheek pouches can hold up to half a hamster’s weight in food.

Interestingly, the word ‘hamster’ is a derivative of the German word ‘hamstern,’ which means ‘hoard.’  Many people will purchase hamsters without knowing this information. Because of this, they might think free feeding is the way to handle the hamster when, in fact, a quickly empty food bowl likely means your fuzzy friend has loaded the food into their cheeks and hidden it away in their nest. 

A cute little hamster eating pieces of crackers

How much food should a hamster have a day?

Your hamster should be getting roughly 1-2 tablespoons of food a day. If you have a smaller breed, such as a dwarf hamster, it’s best to start with just one tablespoon a day and go from there. If it seems there are a lot of excess seeds or hamster feed around the bowl, potentially, you are overfilling it.

For larger varieties, such as a Syrian hamster, start with two tablespoons and judge from there. Some larger hamsters might eat more than two tablespoons, but it’s a good starting point.

What happens if you overfeed your hamster?

Overfeeding a hamster can cause many issues varying from health issues to environmental concerns. Let’s discuss them in more detail.

Weight Gain

Hamsters have a chubby appearance, so it can be difficult sometimes to know for sure if your hammy is overweight.

The best way to know for sure is to observe your hamster and handle them as they allow. If you notice an overall change in appearance and weight, it’s time to cut down on the feeding or perhaps look at how much exercise your hamster gets.

A fit hamster will lead a longer and more vibrant life. If your hamster gets overweight, they can become sluggish and develop cardiovascular problems. 

View this hamster wheel on Amazon.

For more information, check out our post, “How Much Does a Hamster Weigh?”.

Heart Problems

Being overweight can put a lot of strain on your little buddy’s heart, causing him or her to go into congestive heart failure. This happens because so much stress has weakened the heart muscles and causes the blood not to flow properly.

Heart disease is more common in female hamsters, so be sure to observe your hamster closely and always be a vigilant owner. Some signs of heart issues can be swelling, respiratory distress, or lethargy.

Digestive Issues

Tummy troubles are a symptom of overfeeding you’ll notice pretty quickly. Overfeeding or overeating the wrong kind of food can manifest as diarrhea in your pet.

If you notice your hamster’s stool becoming softer than usual, it’s time to take stock of what they’ve been eating and how much. If you notice diarrhea, you should contact an exotic pets vet as soon as possible. 

Read more: Wet Tail Disease in Hamsters – Prevention and Treatment

Watching what your hamster consumes is especially important because they cannot throw up as many animals can if they’ve had something bad. 

Mold

Too much food can lead to too much hoarding. If copious amounts of uneaten food are left in the hamster’s cage, it can lead to mold or rot, especially if your hamster urinates on the unwanted food. This can cause the decomposition process to speed.

Always make sure you regularly clean your hammy’s cage and pay attention to where/how often they hoard their food.

A cute blonde hamster eating a big piece of nut

Nutritional Deficiencies

If your hamster is overfed, they can be quite likely to store away food they don’t like and only consume the food they do because they know more food will be coming soon. If this becomes a habit, they could potentially be missing out on a well-rounded diet.

For this reason, it’s best to feed your pet the most important foods first before supplementing with fruits or treats, which are high in sugar and not good for your hamster in large amounts. 

How often should you refill hamster food? 

The hamster’s primary food source of hamster food should only be filled once per day. Though it’s tempting to refill it more than once, especially considering we as humans eat three meals a day on average, free-feeding your hamster will lead to overeating or over-hoarding. 

View this hamster food on Amazon.

How much is too much to feed hamsters?

Feeding a hamster much more than two tablespoons of food a day is too much. In addition to giving hamsters too much food daily, giving hamsters too much of certain types of food can be hazardous to their health.

For example, high sugar foods like fruits or yogurt drops should only be given as a treat every few days – definitely not something to eat every day.

View these hamster treats on Amazon.

What should I feed my hamster to keep them healthy?

Hamsters need a standard diet of hamster pellets as their primary food source. These pellets should be supplemented with seeds, such as in the product linked above. Small amounts of fruits and vegetables – a teaspoon or less a day – and never strictly fruit or sugary vegetable) should be interchanged.

It’s important not to overfeed your hamster these fresh fruits and veggies as they can lead to health problems if they contain too much sugar.

Timothy hay is an excellent addition to their diet, and things like nuts or mealworms should be given as an occasional treat. 

View this Timothy hay on Amazon.

View these dried mealworms on Amazon.

To read more about what treats your hamster can have, check out our article, “What Treats Can I Give My Hamster?”.

In Closing

Though it can sometimes be difficult to tell if you’re overfeeding your hamster just by looking at it, you can learn quite a bit through observation. Clean your hamster’s cage often and check for food hoarding. Make sure they are getting a wide variety of food to keep them happy and healthy.

We want you and your fuzzy friend to have many happy years together, which can be achieved with the proper feeding habits. 

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