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What You Should Know About Hamster Eating Habits

Updated on August 10, 2010

In my other Hub Page, What to Feed Your Hamster, I talked about the kinds of food that will make and keep your hamster healthy. Here you’ll learn about the typical eating habits of hamsters such as how they like to eat, where they like to eat, when they like to be fed, an how much they should be fed.

It helps to understand what the normal feeding habits are for your pet hamster. Once you know what’s “normal” you can set up a good hamster eating plan that will keep your hamster quite content. It will also make it easier for you to recognize when your hamster goes “off his feed” because of illness.

How Hamsters Like to Eat

Hamsters are hoarders. That means they like to hide their food. This behavior comes from their ancestors who lived in the wild and had to protect their food from other animals.

You can watch your hamster as he does this. When you put food out, your hamster will first gather the parts of it he or she likes best and stuff it into their cheek pouches. Your hamster can stuff food in until it looks like its cheeks will explode. Then it will run off to its food hiding place.

The hiding place is usually somewhere in the hamster cage bedding. Or it might use a toy that has some space inside it for food storage. Your hamster will take the food out of its cheeks and put it in its hiding place. Then it’ll come back to the food you’ve put out and do it all over again.

Let your hamster hoard its food. It gives the hamster a sense of security to know that he or she can always find some food if it gets hungry any time, day or night.

However, you should check your hamster’s food hiding places once a day. If you see any fruits or vegetables that are starting to spoil, take them out. If you don’t, your hamster may eat the rotten food and get sick.

Where to Feed Your Hamster

You’ve got to put your hamster food somewhere in the cage. That's usually in a feeding dish.  The most common types are heavy ceramic bowls. Why heavy? Because when it’s feeding time, your hamster may jump in the bowl to start picking out its favorite food. You don’t want the bowl tipping over with food flying everywhere. To help keep the feeding bowl in place, push it down so it’s held in place by the bedding material.

Do not put the feeding bowl near where your hamster goes to the bathroom. In fact, it should be as far away as possible. Your hamster likes separate areas for its different activities.

When to Feed Your Hamster

You don’t have to feed your hamster whenever its feeding bowl is empty. Remember, your hamster has probably stockpiled some food somewhere in the cage in case he or she gets hungry. Instead, plan on feeding your hamster once a day. Do this at the same time every day. If you start doing this when your hamster is young, he or she will soon learn when it's feeding time.

Hamsters are nocturnal, meaning they are most active at night. That doesn’t mean you have to get up at midnight to feed your hamster. Try feeding your hamster in the early evening, maybe around the time you eat dinner.

How Much Food to Feed Your Hamster

All hamsters don’t need or eat the same amount of food. The standard amount is about two teaspoons a day, but this can vary based on a number of factors.

  • Age: A young hamster, who is still growing, will eat more food than an older one.
  • Activity: Some hamsters just have more energy to burn. They spend a lot of time running in their wheel. This type hamster will need more food.
  • Temperature: If it gets colder, a hamster may start eating more because it thinks it needs more fat to protect itself from the cold. On the other hand, if it gets hot, a hamster will eat less because it knows it doesn’t need all that fat on its body.

Watch your hamster. See how much it eats immediately and how much it stores. Check its hiding places to see how much food is in storage. If your hamster is storing a lot of food, cut back on the amount you are feeding it.

Trying New Food

Hamsters like variety in their diet. That means different types of grains, seeds, nut, fruits and vegetables. But that doesn’t mean they like variety in the brand of store-bought food you get them. Once they are used to a particular dry mix, they may look at a different combination with a bit of distrust. You can tell because instead of running up to its food and stuffing its cheek pouches, your hamster will start sniffing through the new mixture.

The point is not to keep changing the type of food you feed your hamster. Once you find a brand or combination it likes, try to stick with it.

If you do want to introduce a new food mix or a new fruit or vegetable, you’re going to have to do it slowly. That means adding just a little of the new food each day until your hamster recognizes and accepts it. Watch to make sure the new food isn’t giving your hamster diarrhea or indigestion.

Summary

Knowing the feeding habits of your hamster will let you relax and stop worrying about what your hamster is going to do when it’s time to eat.  Then you can sit back, watch him or her eat, and enjoy the show.

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