Wild hamsters enjoy a varied omnivorous diet, including berries, seeds, grains, insects, and nuts. Captive hamsters don’t need to forage for food, but most still like the taste of nuts.
Hamsters can eat Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, monkey nuts, pine nuts, pistachios, walnuts, and unsalted peanuts. An occasional sweet almond is okay as a one-off treat, but never give 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 disinterest in other nutritious foods.
Are Nuts Good for Hamsters?
If you’re shopping for hamster food at a pet store, your eyes will be drawn to hamster muesli, which contains nuts and other healthy ingredients. A hamster’s digestive system copes well with nuts.
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.
Can Hamsters Have Nuts in Shells?
Hamsters have tough teeth that never stop growing. Consequently, hamsters must wear down their teeth by gnawing on wooden toys, cage bars, or tough edibles.
Offering a nut encased in a tough shell, such as walnuts, can keep a hamster amused for some time. Many hamsters enjoy the challenge of breaking the shell open and eating the food within.
Be mindful of smaller nuts with softer shells, such as almonds. A hamster may bite through the shell and create a potential choking hazard.
Can Hamsters Have Salted Nuts?
Salted nuts are unsuitable for hamsters due to their high sodium content. Excessive salt can lead to high blood pressure (hypertension), which can result in strokes and heart disease.
Salted nuts contain additives and preservatives, like magnesium carbonate, to prevent caking. Hamsters need a small amount of magnesium carbonate, but nuts contain too much.
The Journal of Comparative Physiology explains that hamsters process magnesium carbonate through the kidneys as urine. A balanced omnivorous diet provides a hamster with magnesium carbonate.
If you add salted nuts to a diet, strain is placed on the kidneys, which will struggle to keep up with the demands of the excess salt, eventually leading to renal failure.
Which Nuts Can Hamsters Eat?
Many hamsters adore the taste of nuts and would enjoy them daily.
Let’s explore whether various nuts are safe and healthy:
Nutrients stated 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 because it assists with calcium absorption, and Vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects the cells from damage.
You can only ever offer sweet almonds to a hamster, never bitter almonds.
Sweet Almonds vs. Bitter Almonds
Sweet almonds have 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.
Never feed a hamster bitter almonds because 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 per week is safe for a hamster.
Brazil nuts are among the most nutrient-dense nuts. As well as antioxidants, Brazil nuts are a good 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. So, cut a Brazil nut in half before offering it to a hamster, especially a dwarf breed.
Unsalted cashews are good for hamsters, with the usual fat content and weight gain warnings.
Cashew nuts are a good source of healthy fats, proteins, dietary fiber, antioxidants, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and iron. However, they’re relatively high in sodium.
Hazelnuts are the perfect size and shape for a hamster to gnaw on and keep its teeth filed down. Like all nuts, hazelnuts are fatty and must be offered sparingly.
Hazelnuts are an excellent source of thiamin, vitamin B6, folate, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants (vitamin E, selenium, flavonoids, and phenolic acids).
They’re high in monounsaturated fats and low in saturated fats, which can reduce bad cholesterol levels and keep the heart healthy.
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 elevated. Syrians and other larger hamsters can enjoy an occasional macadamia nut.
In doing so, the hamster will receive large amounts of phosphorus and calcium.
This can be beneficial as, per the British Journal of Nutrition, hamsters sometimes struggle to absorb phosphorus and calcium bone-strengthening nutrients from traditional hamster foods.
Peanuts (monkey nuts) are an ideal-sized treat, but these small nuts have drawbacks.
Salted peanuts aren’t to be given to hamsters, as the sodium within leads to kidney damage. Peanuts must be pure, with no salt or added oil.
Peanuts can bolster the heart health of hamsters. According to the Journal of Food Science, peanuts can slow down and reduce the risk of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
Hamsters love pine nuts because of their sweet, nutty, and buttery texture.
Pine nuts are healthy for hamsters because they’re high in antioxidants (polyphenols, flavonoids, and carotenoids), monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, and omega-3 fatty acids.
They’re a source of nutrients, including magnesium, iron, phosphorus, zinc, and vitamins A, C, and E.
Hamsters enjoy pistachios due to their nutty, salty, and slightly sweet taste.
Pistachios are high in protein, which is essential for maintaining muscle mass and bodily tissues. They also contain lots of fiber, which is needed for the digestive process and for preventing constipation.
They’re a rich source of nutrients, including thiamin, vitamin B6, phosphorus, and copper. They also contain plant compounds, such as phytosterols and antioxidants, which fight antioxidants.
It’s best to deshell pistachios before offering them to a hamster to avoid a choking hazard.
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.
What Nuts Can Hamsters Not Eat?
Certain nuts shouldn’t be fed to hamsters. Never give a hamster salted nuts due to the risk of strokes and heart disease. Also, bitter almonds should be avoided due to the presence of cyanide.
How Often Can Hamsters Eat Nuts?
Feeding a hamster 1-2 nuts once a week is enough, especially if it gets nuts in 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 some to a hamster’s diet.