Hamster are easy to feed. Most species will eat a wide range of seeds and fresh foods, including green plants and fruit. The use of hamsters in laboratories has given us a clear picture of their nutritional needs and has, in turn, provided the financial stimulus for the production of pelleted diets for each species. These pellets contain all the known dietary requirements, but it is generally a good idea to supplement them with other foods. However, as laboratory feeds are not widely available to the pet keeper, it may be necessary to use rabbit pellets mixed with a variety of seeds and nuts as a substitute.
In addition to a basic seed ration, feeding your pet with various other foodstuffs will be beneficial. Wholemeal bread dried out in an oven and offered dry, is an excellent source of carbohydrate energy and. being hard, will also help to keep hamster's teeth in trim. Dog biscuits are also useful, especially if they are supplemented with vitamins and minerals, which are likely to be deficient in a diet made up mostly of seeds. Alternatively, in some countries, special vitamin and mineral chews are produced for hamsters. Similar products are also widely available in powder form. If you do use the powder, remember that it is best to sprinkle the required quantity over damp green plants, as it will not adhere readily to dry seed.
There is little nutritional value in lettuce, however, and other alternatives such as cress are preferable. You can give your pets cabbage occasionally, especially the coarser outer leaves, which are the most valuable in nutritional terms, and the coarse stems, which are a challenge for their teeth. However, as with all such foods, offer only a restricted amount, since regular usage of brassicas (cabbage family) could have a depressant effect on the thyroid gland.
If your pet hamster is not used to grass and plants, start with only a little at first, otherwise diarrhea is almost certain to result. Among wild plants that can be given in moderation are dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) and chickweed (Stellaria media). Some plants, such as buttercups (Ranunculussp. ) and ragwort (Seneciosp. ), are poisonous though, so only feed those which are known to be safe. Root vegetables such as carrots are also valuable as food items, being available throughout the year when plants and vegetables may be in short supply.
Always remove perishable food from the cage before it shrivels or becomes moldy. This is particularly important with bread and milk, which is sometimes provided for breeding hamsters to satisfy the higher level of protein they need in their diet. It is not essential, however, and is very messy if the food bowl is knocked over. Clean up any such spillage before it can turn moldy. If you make up a soft food of any kind for your pet, ensure that it is moist, but not awash with fluid.