Last Updated on: 25th September 2023, 10:08 am
Owners are always looking for new and tasty treats they can give hamsters that might break up the monotony of eating the same foods daily.
Offering hamsters little tastes of the things you eat, like popcorn, in moderation isn’t an issue if the food has no extra oils, flavorings, or seasonings.
While popcorn is usually safe to give to hamsters, certain caveats apply.
Do Hamsters Like Popcorn?
Most hamsters love eating popcorn and will do so enthusiastically. However, each hamster has different taste preferences, so some won’t be as interested as others.
To determine if your hamster likes popcorn, pay attention when you give it a piece and see if it immediately gets eaten or is stored in its cheeks.
If your hamster likes taking food from your hand, you could offer it popcorn in the palm of your hand. If a hamster doesn’t like something, it’ll be unreceptive.
Can Hamsters Eat Popcorn?
Plain popcorn is 100% unprocessed whole grain. It’s high in soluble fiber, which benefits the digestive tract, promoting bowel movements and preventing constipation.
Popcorn contains polyphenols, which are an antioxidant that reduces inflammation. Polyphenols minimize the risk of cardiovascular disease and enzymes that can cause cancer.
Small amounts of folate, riboflavin, thiamin, niacin, B vitamins, magnesium, and iron are found in popcorn.
Popcorn prepared in an air popper is a low-calorie, low-fat snack that won’t cause weight gain. Just remember that hamsters are small animals, which should be reflected in the amount they’re fed.
Types of Popcorn Not Safe for Hamsters
There are so many kinds of popcorn available, and most of them aren’t good for hamsters to eat because they contain a lot of added extras that are bad for their health.
Even if you’ve run out of hamster food, never feed these types of popcorn to hamsters:
Popcorn with Butter
Hamsters shouldn’t eat popcorn with butter because it’s high in fat. Butter can cause your hamster to develop heart disease and high blood pressure (hypertension), increasing the risk of strokes.
According to the Public Library of Science, hamsters fed food high in fat resulted in weight gain, diabetes, and an increase in cholesterol and triglycerides.
There are likely small amounts of salt in many other foods you feed your hamster, so avoid giving your hamster salted popcorn. Excessive salt can lead to hypertension and kidney problems.
Between the salty butter and the salt itself, the hamster’s body would be overwhelmed with sodium, and it’d be drinking water constantly to flush the excess salt out of its system.
Caramel popcorn is quite tasty, and your hamster would probably agree, but caramel’s sugary, sticky content isn’t good for small rodent pets.
Hamsters would struggle to chew caramel due to its sticky and chewy texture. The caramel may cause digestive issues, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems, tooth decay, and obesity.
Sweet popcorn, or Kettle corn, is coated with sugar, salt, and oil.
It may be delicious, but giving it to a hamster isn’t recommended. Besides salt contributing to various health issues, the sugar content could rot the hamster’s teeth.
Hamsters shouldn’t be fed cheese popcorn because the cheese dust coating (pulverized cheese) is loaded with high-fat and unhealthy additives.
It might also contain flavorings, such as onion powder, which are toxic to hamsters. Onion contains thiosulfate, which can cause hemolytic anemia (red blood cell loss).
How To Feed Hamsters Popcorn
Aside from ensuring you only give your hamster plain popcorn that isn’t coated with butter or seasonings, be aware that the popcorn must be fully popped to minimize the risk of choking.
When preparing popcorn for a hamster, you should air-pop it to ensure all the popcorn kernels are fully cooked. Air-popped popcorn is cooked without any oils, butter, or seasonings.
Don’t feed hamsters microwave popcorn or popcorn cooked in oils. Although it’s convenient to prepare, microwave popcorn contains a lot of salt and butter.
Unpopped popcorn kernels would be difficult for your hamster to chew. Also, they sometimes have sharp points, especially if they’re only partially cooked and have broken open.
If your hamster eats those kernels, it could get cuts in its mouth, tongue, or cheek pouches, leading to a bacterial infection.
How Much Popcorn Can A Hamster Eat?
Hamsters can eat plain, air-popped popcorn as an occasional special treat. How much popcorn your hamster can eat depends on the type of hamster.
Campbell’s Dwarf Hamster
Adult Campbell’s dwarf hamsters grow to be about 3 inches in length. Because they’re so small, you should feed your hamster no more than 3 pieces of popcorn weekly.
Those three pieces should be cut in half, making them easier for a Campbell’s dwarf hamster to consume.
Chinese Dwarf Hamster
Chinese dwarf hamsters are 3 to 4 inches long when fully grown. They can eat three pieces of popcorn per week but only 1 piece at a time.
Robovorski hamsters are the smallest breed, reaching just 2 inches long when fully grown. You should only give Robovorski hamsters 1 or 2 pieces of popcorn weekly.
Cut the popcorn into smaller pieces to make it easier for your hamster to eat.
Syrian, or golden, hamsters are the biggest of the hamster breeds, with adults 5-7 inches long. Due to their larger size, Syrian hamsters can eat 3-5 pieces of popcorn each week.
Avoid giving them all 5 pieces at once, as it’s better to spread them out throughout the week so they don’t overindulge. Overfeeding popcorn to a hamster could deter it from eating its other food.
Unlike dog biscuits and chews, popcorn can be an occasional treat. While popcorn has nutritional value for humans, hamsters are unlikely to benefit as much because they eat so little.
That’s not to say that hamsters won’t benefit from eating plain popcorn, but they definitely won’t get the balance of nutrients they need to stay healthy solely from popcorn.