Wild hamsters enjoy a varied omnivorous diet, including berries, seeds, grains, smaller animals, and nuts. Captive hamsters don’t need to forage for food, but most hamsters still adore the taste of nuts.
Hamsters can eat Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, monkey nuts, pine nuts, pistachios, and walnuts. Hamsters can also eat unsalted peanuts.
An occasional sweet almond is OK as a one-off treat, but never offer a hamster a bitter almond as they contain cyanide.
Although hamsters can eat nuts, this doesn’t mean they can do so with abandon. Nuts are high in fat, so too many nuts will lead to weight gain and a lack of interest in other foods.
Are Nuts Good for Hamsters?
If you’re shopping for hamster food in a pet store, your eyes will be drawn to hamster muesli, which contains nuts and other nutritious ingredients.
Hamsters can be offered nuts as a complementary food and occasional treat, but certain caveats apply. As nuts are high in fat, they must be offered sparingly, and some nuts are healthier than others.
The good news is that a hamster’s digestive system will cope well with nuts. Hamsters will uncover, and forage for, nuts in the wild. Offered appropriately, nuts can be part of a pet hamster’s diet.
Can Hamsters Have Nuts in Shells?
Many nuts are housed in shells of varying toughness.
Before we consume nuts, humans break open these shells, which may not be necessary when offering nuts to a hamster. Assuming the nut itself is safe and non-toxic, so is the shell.
Hamsters have tough teeth that never stop growing. Consequently, hamsters need to wear down their teeth by gnawing on wooden toys, cage bars, or tough edibles.
Offering a hamster a tough nut encased in a rigid shell, such as walnuts, can keep a hamster amused for some time. Many hamsters will enjoy the challenge of breaking the shell open and eating the delicious food that lies within.
Be mindful of smaller nuts with softer shells, such as almonds. The cover may be bitten straight through by a hamster, creating a potential choking hazard.
Can Hamsters Have Salted Nuts?
Salted nuts, such as peanuts from a supermarket, aren’t suitable for hamsters. These nuts are packed with refined salt, which is harmful to hamsters due to the high sodium content.
Salted nuts contain additives and preservatives, most often magnesium carbonate, to prevent caking. Hamsters need a small amount of magnesium carbonate, but nuts contain too much.
As explained by the Journal of Comparative Physiology, hamsters process magnesium carbonate through the kidneys as urine. A balanced omnivorous diet will provide a hamster with all the magnesium carbonate it needs.
If you add salted nuts to a diet, additional pressure is placed on the hamster’s kidneys. These organs will struggle to keep up with the demands of the excess salt, leading to renal failure.
Which Nuts Can Hamsters Eat?
Many hamsters adore the taste of nuts and would enjoy them daily if given the choice.
Let’s explore whether various nuts are safe and healthy:
In humans, almonds are widely considered a superfood.
Nutrients confirm that almonds reduce cholesterol levels, promoting heart health. In addition, almonds contain antioxidants, magnesium, and Vitamin E.
The magnesium in almonds ensures that hamsters maintain strong bones, and Vitamin E controls blood sugar levels. As hamsters can be prone to diabetes, this is essential.
More than any other nut, almonds have warnings when served to hamsters. You can only ever offer sweet almonds to a hamster, never bitter almonds.
Sweet Almonds vs. Bitter Almonds
Sweet almonds offer all the benefits and high levels of fiber to aid a hamster’s digestion. They’re also fatty, so offer them in moderation. Shop organic to avoid providing a hamster with salted almonds.
You must avoid offering a hamster bitter almonds, as they contain amygdalin, a compound that breaks down in the body. As it does so, amygdalin releases several chemicals, including cyanide. One bitter almond releases enough cyanide to kill a hamster.
We should be clear that all almonds contain cyanide to an extent.
Science explains how the almond tree has mutated over time, reducing the amygdalin content in sweet almonds to tolerable levels. One sweet almond a week is safe for a hamster.
Brazil nuts are among the most nutrient-dense nuts.
As well as antioxidants, Brazil nuts are a great source of protein, copper, zinc, selenium, fiber, manganese, phosphorus, thiamine, magnesium, and Vitamin E.
Brazil nuts are larger than most alternatives and contain the most saturated fats. Consider cutting a Brazil nut in half before offering it to a hamster, especially a smaller or Dwarf breed.
Unsalted cashews are good for hamsters, with the usual fat content warnings.
Cashews are rich in vitamins, offering the same pros and cons as Brazil nuts, except for the mercury risk, as most cashews originate from India or the Ivory Coast.
Hazelnuts are the ideal nut for hamsters on a physical level.
They’re a perfect size and shape for a hamster to gnaw on and enjoy. Like all nuts, hazelnuts are fatty and need to be offered sparingly.
Hazelnuts are high in fiber and protein, ensuring your hamster will get energy and regular digestion. They’re also dense in omega oils, bolstering your hamster’s cognitive performance and antioxidants.
Hazelnuts contain copper, magnesium, thiamin, manganese, and Vitamin E.
Macadamia nuts are delicious but are similar to Brazil nuts and cashews in terms of saturated fat content.
Dwarf hamsters should avoid macadamia nuts as the risk of diabetes is too high. Syrians and other larger hamsters can enjoy an occasional macadamia nut.
In doing so, the hamster will receive large doses of phosphorus and calcium. This can be beneficial as, per the British Journal of Nutrition, hamsters sometimes struggle to absorb these bone-strengthening nutrients from traditional hamster foods.
Peanuts (monkey nuts) are the perfect-sized treat, but these small nuts come with a handful of warnings.
We’ve established that salted peanuts aren’t to be provided to hamsters, as the sodium within leads to kidney damage. Peanuts must be pure, with no salt or oil applied.
Peanuts can bolster heart health in hamsters. As per the Journal of Food Science, peanuts can slow down and reduce the risk of atherosclerosis – hardening of the arteries – in hamsters.
Pine nuts are commonplace in the wild, making up a sizable part of a foraging hamster’s diet.
They’re safe for occasional consumption by larger hamsters, especially Syrians, but less for Dwarf breeds. Pine nuts can cause diabetes in smaller hamsters.
Many hamsters love pine nuts as they’re naturally sweet.
Pine nuts also contain water, so they offer a little hydration to a hamster. The sugar content is a concern, so only provide pine nuts every 1-2 weeks.
Pistachio nuts are safe for small animals to consume under the right circumstances. It’s best to deshell pistachios before offering them to a hamster to avoid a choking hazard.
Pick up organic pistachios from a health food shop. Those sold by the bag in supermarkets are packed with sugar and salt, which are harmful to hamsters.
Organic pistachio nuts help your hamster stay alert, alongside offering healthy blood pressure, joints, bones, and digestion due to the fiber, potassium, and vitamin B6 in pistachios.
Pure walnuts (not roasted or salted) are among the best nuts for hamsters. As discussed, hamsters will enjoy playing with walnuts, working to crack open the tough exterior shell.
Once a hamster makes its way to the interior of the walnut, it will be rewarded with large amounts of magnesium, phosphorus, calcium, protein, and vitamins A, B1, C, E, and K.
These vitamins, minerals, and nutrients will strengthen a hamster’s skeleton.
What Nuts Can Hamsters Not Eat?
Two types of nuts are strict no-nos in a hamster diet. You must never offer a hamster salted nuts due to the sodium content or bitter almonds due to the presence of cyanide.
While all nuts are fatty and many are sweet, pecans are very high in sugar. This could inspire your hamster to hoard pecans, and these nuts spoil relatively quickly.
How Often Can Hamsters Eat Nuts?
Feeding your hamster nuts once a week is enough, especially if it gets nuts within its muesli. Too many nuts can lead to a nutritional imbalance or weight gain.
Hamsters love eating nuts, and there’s no harm in adding them to your hamster’s diet, assuming you offer them in appropriate quantities.