Feeding Tips

Store Bought Treats

There are lots of yummy treats your hamster will love that you can find at your local grocery or department store! We don't recommend purchasing any treats from the pet store that are specifically made for hamsters--they tend to be high in sugar (especially bad for dwarves) and contain added colors. They also don't usually have nutritive value, and only exist to look cute.

Unlike us, your hamster thinks that spinach and cookies are equally exciting. For this reason, it is an awesome idea to feed fresh foods instead of pet store treats. Here are some ideas below!

Healthy Purchased Snacks

  • Baby rice or oatmeal cereal
  • Baby puffs and cookies--available in the baby food section
  • Baby food--read the ingredients. Do not use anything with onion, garlic, or something labeled "spices." Refrigerate after opening and toss after 48 hours (see our tip section!)
  • Applesauce--no spices or sugar added
  • Plum Kidz Organic fruit and vegetable shreds--available at Target
  • Dog treats--anything without added spices, such as:
  • Milk bones
  • Buddy biscuits
  • Cookies from the Petco treat bar (we love the holiday ones!)
  • Plain cereals, such as:
    • Cheerios​
    • Rice Krispies
    • Shredded Wheat 
  • Whimzees--vegetable based dog chews available at Petco
  • Freeze dried chicken dog treats
  • Mild cheeses


Healthy Fresh Foods

Foods to Avoid​

  • Almonds (Contains Cyanic Acid)
  • Apple Seeds
  • Canned food
  • Candies
  • Chips and Junk food
  • Pork
  • Potatoes (Raw)
  • Raw Kidney Beans
  • Eggplant
  • Fool’s Parsley
  • Grape Seeds
  • Avocado (Contains Cardiac Glycosides)
  • Raw Rhubarb
  • Tomato leaves
  • Oranges or Tangerines (no citrus fruits)
  • No watermelon (the water content is high causes diarrhea)
  • Cherry Stone
  • Peach Stone & Leaves
  • Apricot Stone
  • Lemon or Lime
  • Jams and jellies
  • Spices
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Leeks
  • Scallions
  • Chives
  • Pickles

Protein Foods

  • Cooked Ground Beef--rinse well in hot water to remove any grease
  • Cooked Chicken or Turkey--steamed or baked, skin removed
  • Low Fat Cottage Cheese
  • Fish Cod--cooked, with bones and skin removed
  • Grasshoppers--from the pet store, not outdoors
  • Mealworms--from the pet store, not outdoors
  • Crickets--from the pet store, not outdoors
  • Eggs--boiled or cooked
  • Plain Tofu
  • Plain Low Fat Yogurt
  • Other Treats​​
  • Buckwheat
  • Cooked Plain Brown Rice
  • Cooked Pasta--wheat or spinach is preferred
  • Dry toast--Helpful for diarrhea
  • Flax seed
  • Nuts--no almonds
  • Sesame Seeds
  • Soybeans--roasted, no salt
  • Squash seeds
  • Lentils
  • Oatmeal--dry, prepared, or soaked in lowfat milk
  • Nutritional Yeast
  • Bran and Wheat Germ--feed and remove quickly; it goes bad fast
  • Peanuts--unsalted
  • Alfafa
  • Unsalted Popcorn--no butter
  •  You can freeze leftover baby food in an ice cube tray to avoid wasting it. Defrost in a small, microwave safe dish for 20-30 seconds. Frozen food should last up to 3 months.
  • You can purchase frozen fruits and vegetables to defrost at your convenience if you do not want to keep a variety of fruits vegetables in your home at any given time. Two of our personal favorites are Trader Joe's shelled edamame and their veggie mix.
  • Scatter feeding is a fun way of keeping your hamster entertained. Rather than placing their food in a bowl, scatter it across their cage. This mimics a more natural environment and gives them some environmental enrichment. You can also do this with a seed mix as a special treat!
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​Fruits

  • Apple--seedless
  • Banana
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cherries
  • Cranberries
  • Grapes--seedless
  • Lychee
  • Mango
  • Melon
  • Peaches--no stone
  • Plums--no pits
  • Raspberries
  • Raspberry Leaves--helpful for diarrhea
  • Strawberries
  • Vegetables​
  • Asparagus
  • Bean Sprouts
  • Bok Choy
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage--limited amounts
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Chard
  • Chestnuts
  • Chickweed
  • Chicory
  • Clover
  • Corn on the Cob
  • Cucumbers
  • Dandelion Leaves
  • Edamame
  • Endive
  • Green Beans
  • Kale
  • Parsnips
  • Peas
  • Radicchio
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Squash
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Sweet bell Peppers
  • Swiss Chard
  • Turnip
  • Water Chestnuts
  • Water Cress
  • Zucchini

What should I feed my hamster?

The girls here at the CHA only recommend Harlan Teklad brand foods. For young Syrians under 1 year of age, we suggest their 8640 formula. For all dwarves and older Syrians over 1 year of age, we suggest the 2018 formula. 

What makes these formulas so great? First, Harlan Teklad is laboratory quality. This means that it is formulated for testing animals. Why is this a good thing? In laboratory tests, nutrition cannot be a variable, as it could affect the results of the experiment. So, these foods were formulated with the exact nutritional needs of the animal in mind, and it seeks to meet or exceed them. This keeps the animal in good condition and helps to maintain proper weight. It also uses ingredients that are more appropriate to the species.

Another reason we love Harlan Teklad blocks is because it eliminates the possibility of malnutrition that is often facilitated via seed mixes. If you had the option of eating a cupcake or a salad every day, you would be likely to pick the cupcake more often than not. Hamsters think the same way! They will pick out all the yummy stuff from their seed mix and leave the rest behind. Unfortunately, whatever is left is often the healthiest and most nutritious part of the diet. By giving blocks, they cannot pick their favourite parts out and are forced to receive a balanced diet. Lastly, because of the hard and crunchy nature of the blocks, it also helps keep the teeth trim.

So for all of these good qualities, you might expect a hefty price tag. Actually, Teklad is probably the most affordable option and is cheaper than any other food on the market. You can purchase it from us at any of our shows (just let us know you want some beforehand!) and we charge $15 for a 10 lb bag--that's a 6 month supply. Alternatively, you can order the 2018 formula from www.weecompanions.org (an awesome small animal rescue) for $2/pound plus shipping. 

We are not paid, either monetarily or in product, by Harlan Teklad. We simply purchase it for use by our own animals, but can only get it in 33lb bags. We decided it was so great that we wanted to make it available for others who may not need it in that large of a quantity. All the money we receive goes toward putting on our shows!

What shouldn't I feed my hamster?

One food that we have to speak against in particular is one that is extremely popular--and that is Oxbow. It is currently used, recommend, and sold at Petsmart. It uses hay as the main ingredient, which is something hamsters simply get no nutrition from. If you examine the criteria, it only offers 14% protein! Tekled, by comparison, offers 18% in the 2018 formula and 22% in its 8640 formula. Hamsters can starve to death from that kind of malnutrition. For this, and several other reasons that we cannot discuss publicly, we strongly, STRONGLY discourage feeding Oxbow.

It's really very difficult for us to recommend feeding any pet store food. Small animal formulas are simply not regulated well enough. While we suggest feeding blocks, the only ones available in stores is the Kaytee Forti-Diet, which we personally don't feel is all that great. There are small, colored pieces added and the ingredients are iffy in terms of their nutritional value. In the same breath, we cannot recommend any seed mixes as a staple diet for the reasons mentioned above. They also tend to be much, much lower in protein. Seed mixes can be given as a treat and to enrich the diet, however. Just be sure to purchase a simple mix without extra goodies such as dried fruits. (See our tip section for a fun suggestion!)

There are a few store treats to avoid too. These include edible logs and houses marketed as Snack Shacks. These are made of sawdust flavoured with hay, honey, and peanut butter. However, their core ingredient, sawdust, is neither edible nor digestible and many animals have died from these products. In addition, yogurt treats from the store should be fed in moderation due to sugar content.

Food choice is a personal decision for every hamster owner, so if you have any specific questions, please contact us.

How much should I feed?

We practice free feeding at the CHA. When the bowl is empty, fill it up. Hamsters build stashes of food to save for later and by doing this, you force them to eat some of their old food from there. If your hamster is overweight, we suggest looking for a different formula rather than limiting their food. Limiting food can be dangerous to the delicate balance of nutrition that hamsters require.

Water--bowl or bottle?

We use bottles exclusively at the CHA. We feel it is safer because if your hamster were to fall in and get wet, it would be incredibly dangerous for them. Hamsters can catch cold easily, and this can lead to many medical problems and possibly to death. Please use a bottle for your hamster.

Feeding FAQ's

California Hamster Association

Snacks and Treats