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Hamsters and Cheese – Do you know which kind is safe?

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Whether you are already the proud owner of a hamster or are thinking of becoming a pet parent to a little furball, you might be curious about what one feeds a hamster. If you grew up watching any cartoons, you likely associate cheese with mice, gerbils, and hamsters. However, like any animal, hamsters have specific dietary requirements. 

hamster eating cheese

So can hamsters eat cheese?

Hamsters can eat cheese. However, they should only consume a small amount occasionally. Also, some hamsters are lactose intolerant. Therefore, it is best to slowly introduce cheeses into a hamster’s diet.  Then evaluate the hamster to ensure there are no digestive issues or allergies. 

Any curious and caring pet parent will want to be fully informed on which foods their fur buddy can and cannot eat.

Hamsters must eat certain foods that they would find and naturally eat in the wild. However, that’s not to say they can’t have a hamster-friendly snack from time to time!

General Guidelines for Feeding Hamsters

Unlike dogs, which are estimated to have befriended humans thousands of years ago, hamsters, historically, were not taken in as pets until the 1940s. (source). Because of this, their diets have not evolved beyond that of what they traditionally eat in the wild.

Hamsters are technically omnivores; however, their diets do closely align with herbivores.

To ensure their digestive tracts function properly, it’s imperative you learn what foods your hamster can and cannot eat so that you do not cause unnecessary strain on their little bodies.

wild hamster

These fluff balls eat whatever they can find (and can digest). The precise diet of a hamster varies depending on its location (climate, foliage, etc.) However, we do know most of a hamster’s diet consists of plant matter: nuts, grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Their diets also should consist of around 15%-20% crude protein (source), which they source from things in the wild like insects, worms, frogs, and lizards. In the wild, hamsters are scavengers just like mice and gerbils. 

Do Not Over Feed

Hamsters have a tendency to hoard their food if given too much. When over-feeding, it may seem like your hamster has eaten all its food, but it might, in fact, be hiding it. 

Do Hamsters Even Like Cheese?

Hamsters, while adhering to a specific diet, do vary hamster to hamster in their likes and dislikes. Some hamster pet-parents report that their furball babies love cheese. Others say their hamsters will sniff it and turn up their nose.

The only way to know if your particular hamster likes cheese… is to offer it some cheese. 

How to Feed Cheese to your Hamster

We do recommend adding any new treats or meals gradually to avoid potential tummy issues (and to watch for allergies.) Start with a test. Give your hamster the tiniest morsel of cheese. If they continue to eat and behave normally, then you can feel free to add cheese to their diet.

Hamsters should not, however, be eating a ton of cheese. Cheese should only be fed to your hamster occasionally and in exceedingly small amounts.  

Go Slow

A good rule of thumb: if you notice your hamster is showing signs of loss of appetite, allergies, or lack of fluid intake, stop feeding them cheese immediately. If these issues persist, contact your vet.

Make it Fun

Once you know your furry friend is all about that cheese, you can sneak small crumbs of it at the bottom of their regular meals or hide it under objects they can easily maneuver (to make it a fun little reward.)

Reminder: check to make sure your hamster actually consumed the cheese in their habitat. Cheese is perishable, and you don’t want to leave it in their cage un-eaten for too long.

Frequency

The same way a human shouldn’t be eating ice cream for every meal. In terms of frequency, we’re talking once per week. Not once per day.

The Kind of Cheeses to Feed a Hamster

Hamsters should only eat cheeses that are low in fat and mild. None of that sharp, full-fat cheddar! Hamsters are also able to eat small amounts of cottage cheese.

Is Cheese Good for Hamsters?

Some commercial pellet foods and hamster diets are missing animal fat and crude proteins that hamsters need in their diets. In this respect, cheese can be a good (occasional) addition to their diet.

As I mentioned earlier, hamsters do need their diet to consist of between 15-20% protein. Pregnant and nursing female hamsters need even more protein (around 24% of their diet.)

Mama hamsters can certainly benefit from some low-fat cheesy morsels here and there. 

Cheese is, however, highly caloric. It is for this reason that cheese cannot be a staple of your hamster’s diet, but merely a delicious infrequent treat.

Also, some hamsters are actually lactose intolerant and find cheese hard to digest. 

Alternatives

Some good crude protein and animal fat alternatives are mealworms (which can be purchased from a local pet supply and food store) and boiled egg. 

Additionally, here are some highly-rated, tasty hamster treats we can’t recommend more:

Are Cheese Puffs Okay?

hamster with a cheese puff

Low fat, mild cheeses are okay for hamsters to eat here and there. However, human snacks like cheese puffs are a definite no.

Firstly, cheese puffs aren’t even good for humans, let alone a tiny hamster whose wild diet relies heavily on nuts, seeds, veggies, and fruit. 

Cheese puffs are heavily processed and contain elevated levels of sodium, which is bad for hamsters to ingest. Plus, cheese puffs only have trace amounts of protein, not nearly enough to justify feeding it to a hamster. 

If, for some reason, you think your hamster has ingested cheese puffs or any similar kind of processed cheese treat, observe your hamster and make sure they aren’t showing signs of dehydration or stunted appetite. 

What Else Should Not Be Fed to Hamsters?

It’s important to recognize the other no-no’s on the “don’t feed to hamsters” list:

  • Grape and apple seeds 
  • Fruit skins (like apple skins)
  • Rock fruit pits (like peach pits)
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Chocolate
  • Eggplant
  • Bread
  • Alcohol

Hamsters do eat nuts and seeds, but it is crucial to know which kinds they can ingest and which they cannot.

Peanuts and almonds are very caloric and high in fat (so should be avoided), though they aren’t ‘toxic’ per se, they just exceed the daily diet’s number of calories a hamster needs. 

The Key Take Away?

Hamsters can indeed eat tiny amounts of low-fat, mild-tasting hard cheeses, in addition to cottage cheese. However, cheese should only be fed to a hamster occasionally and in very small amounts–generally speaking, maybe once a week. 

Remember to always introduce new foods slowly and observe your hamster for any digestive issues before continuing to feed. 

Cheese is not the same as cheese snacks, however. Do not feed processed foods like cheese puffs or the like to your hamster.

Processed foods are high in sodium and calories and can not only be difficult to digest but can have harmful side effects for a hamster. Always consult your vet if you fear that your hamster has ingested something on the list of things one cannot feed a hamster.

There are many other treats and diet-appropriate treats your hamster can eat. Always start by offering them foods that are part of their primary diet (nuts, seeds, veggies, fruits, bugs.) After that, then you can look at things like low-fat, mild cheeses.

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