You may run out of bottled water, or the water running to a tap may be temporarily unavailable. A hamster may even refuse to drink water. In this case, what do you give your hamster to drink if not water?
You may consider juice, milk, flavored water, or fizzy drinks. All these are safe for humans, but will they make a hamster sick? If you choose the wrong liquid, it could have dire consequences.
To ensure the hamster remains hydrated, we must consider what liquids a hamster can safely drink.
What Liquids Can Hamsters Drink?
Of course, hamsters must drink water. Water is crucial to all life and promotes good health in hamsters. According to the CDC, water is essential for:
- Weight management
- Temperature control
- Lubricating and cushioning joints
- Protecting sensitive tissue
- Aiding digestion
- Keeping internal organs functioning
Nonetheless, there are other liquids hamsters can drink. As pups, hamsters drink their mothers’ milk. The natural juices found in fruit and vegetables are also hamster-safe.
Other drinks, like soda and flavored water, should be avoided. While they aren’t immediately toxic to hamsters, they often contain artificial flavors and chemicals that can interfere with their ability to process the liquid and fuel their metabolism.
Water should always be the primary choice of hydration, as it’s clean and chemical-free, and hamsters have evolved to rely on it above all other drinks.
How Much Water Do Hamsters Need in a Day?
As hamsters are small animals, their water intake is fairly low. However, that can change under specific circumstances. The amount of water a hamster needs per day is influenced by the following:
- Room temperature
- Humidity level
A healthy, mature hamster will need 10ml of water per 100g of body weight per day. Hamsters can reach around 7 ounces, or 200g, on average.
Most hamsters will need 20ml or 4 teaspoons of water per day. If the hamster exercises a lot or the room is particularly hot, this may increase drastically.
There’s water in fresh fruit and vegetables. If you offer these foods, a hamster may drink less. This is a sign that some water is being gained from day-to-day dietary habits and shouldn’t be a matter of concern.
What Do Hamsters Like To Drink?
Hamsters like to drink water primarily, but there are cases where they’ll seek other liquids.
For example, hamsters can show a preference for alcoholic liquids or high-sugar liquids like fruit juice. That doesn’t mean they should be drinking them, but they’ll crave them if given a taste.
Can Hamsters Drink Milk?
Once pups have reached adulthood, hamsters cease drinking milk and lose their ability to digest it as they did as pups. That’s true, even if it’s milk from another hamster.
According to the Journal of Comparative Psychology, female hamsters are better at processing lactose than male hamsters. However, milk isn’t a part of an adult hamster’s natural diet.
Aside from the hygiene issues of providing fresh milk in a cage, providing cow’s milk to an adult hamster could result in digestive issues, such as IBS.
Even if a hamster isn’t lactose intolerant, its stomach isn’t prepared to process a liquid it gave up on as a weaning juvenile. The symptoms of digestive distress or intolerance include:
- Stomach pain
Digestive issues can be serious for small animals with fast metabolisms, like hamsters. It can lead to diarrhea and escalate into malnutrition, dehydration, and fatality (if left untreated).
If you have hamster pups in your care, it may be necessary to provide milk. Baby hamsters can’t drink cow’s milk, goat’s milk, or animal milk.
They require a source that matches their mother’s milk. Assuming the mother hamster isn’t available to feed the pups, you need to find milk replacement formulas.
The most common and accessible milk replacements are KRM and Lactol. Though these formulas are designed for kittens and puppies, they’re also suitable for smaller animals, like hamster pups.
The milk replacement should be administered with an eye dropper or feeding wick every hour until the pups are 12 days old. Once hamster pups reach this age, solid foods can be introduced to their diet.
Do Hamsters Like Flavored Drinks?
There’s no evidence that ‘flavor’ motivates hamsters to choose what to drink; they choose whichever hydrating source is closest and easiest to reach.
Even still, hamsters respond positively to flavored drinks. If you’ve given the hamster cucumber- or squash-flavored water before, it may react eagerly if it sees or smells it again. Likewise, flavored drinks can incentivize a dehydrated hamster to drink more.
Just be careful to provide these drinks in moderation. Even if you use home-squeezed fruit juice, the natural sugar levels will exceed what a hamster normally encounters in its diet. This can lead to digestive and metabolic issues if provided regularly.
Avoid artificial flavorings, which often contain heavy amounts of processed sugar or chemicals.
Can Hamsters Drink Fizzy Drinks?
Fizzy drinks are the least-ideal drink to offer a hamster, as they often contain artificial flavorings and intense amounts of processed sugar.
Too much sugar may cause a hamster to gain weight, experience diarrhea, or develop heart issues.
Likewise, xylitol is toxic to most pets, hamsters included. Despite being an alternative to sugar that’s often included in fizzy drinks, it can make a hamster sick.
Fizzy drinks present a unique danger to hamsters in the form of carbonation. The fizzy bubbles may result in a build-up of gas in a hamster’s stomach, causing bloating and pain in the first instance.
Later on, the gas build-up can lead to diarrhea, gassiness, and stomach cramping.
Can Hamsters Have Coca-Cola or Pepsi?
Never give a hamster Coca-Cola because it’s high in sugar, caffeine, and calories while boasting no nutritional benefits.
The water levels are negligible in comparison to the intensity of the ingredients. This makes it a poor choice for hydrating any animal, even if it tastes nice.
Coca-Cola (and sodas like it) have around 33g of sugar in every can, meaning there’s 2.8g of sugar for every fluid ounce.
The same is true for Pepsi, which has more sugar, caffeine, and calories, despite having less sodium.
The caffeine content in Coca-Cola and Pepsi can lead to digestive and metabolic issues. There are about 34mg of caffeine in a single can of Coca-Cola and 37mg in Pepsi, which is far beyond a hamster’s average tolerance threshold.
Can Hamsters Drink Lemonade?
Lemonade is worse for hamsters than Coca-Cola, whether it’s carbonated or not, because it contains more sugar. There’s 3.1g of sugar in each fluid ounce of the average store-bought lemonade.
Store-bought lemonade is often packed with artificial flavorings in place of the original, natural ingredients.
Some include caffeine as a way to improve its benefits for humans. Although homemade lemonade is safer, as you can exclude these ingredients, you should still avoid giving it to a hamster.
Can Hamsters Have Gatorade?
While carbonated drinks are bad for hamsters, sports drinks like Gatorade can be useful. For example, if a hamster is sick or dehydrated, Gatorade can aid in rehydration by providing liquid and electrolytes.
Provide Gatorade in moderate amounts and only when a hamster needs extra help rehydrating itself because Gatorade also contains about 21g of sugar in a 12 oz. bottle.
This excessive amount of sugar in a healthy hamster could lead to obesity. However, the added sugar in unwell hamsters can promote energy and necessary weight gain.
Gatorade contains higher levels of sodium than most other sports drinks. Also, it has artificial dyes to give each type its unique color.
The sodium can be useful to a sickly hamster since it’ll assist with its nerves, muscles, and ability to process and retain water. However, too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure (hypertension).
The dyes aren’t ideal, but they aren’t outright harmful. The amounts in a bottle of Gatorade are negligible in contrast to the total sum of the drink’s ingredients.
If you have a hamster struggling to drink or eat, using an eye dropper to feed it small amounts of Gatorade could help recovery.
Can Hamsters Drink Alcohol?
Normally, giving any pet alcohol is dangerous. However, hamsters are capable of drinking, digesting, and acting normally following the consumption of alcohol.
According to the International Review of Neurobiology, hamsters can process alcohol more effectively than the common lab rat. What’s more, the research shows that they prefer it to water.
Hamsters store fruit and grains that ferment over time and consume them as needed, so alcohol is a natural part of a hamster’s diet.
Can I Give My Hamster Beer?
Because hamsters can process alcohol, giving your hamster beer is unlikely to be harmful.
If you have an underweight hamster following an illness, providing small amounts of beer or stout will promote weight gain and offer hard-to-get minerals.
That said, don’t give a hamster beer if weight gain isn’t necessary. Too much alcohol has the same detrimental effects on hamsters as it does on humans.
How To Hydrate A Sick Hamster
At times, a hamster may refuse water or manifest signs of dehydration. These symptoms include sunken eyes, lethargy, weakness, and loose skin.
In such a case, offering high-calorie alternatives to water may entice it to drink. You could even provide fresh fruit and vegetables due to their high water content.
However, be wary if a hamster doesn’t drink or has become so lethargic that it can’t eat or drink.
This may include using an eyedropper or a small syringe to provide water or Gatorade by mouth. Surprisingly, water isn’t the best choice if your hamster is severely dehydrated, as it lacks the minerals and electrolytes needed for hydration.
Hold the hamster and place the dropper tip or syringe’s tip into its mouth. Repeat this process hourly until the hamster shows improvement.