Can Hamsters Eat Cheese?
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It's popular belief that small rodents love cheese. We've seen it in fairytale books and cartoon series. However, is it true? Can hamsters eat cheese?
When caring for a hamster at home, it's important to know what food is beneficial and what food is toxic to our little furry friends. This is why in this AnimalWised article we're going to answer this question and give more information about this topic.
What hamsters eat
Hamsters, like mice, are small omnivorous animals, meaning that they have the ability to digest practically any type of food of plant or animal origin. This is an evolutionary advantage since it allows this species to adapt to all kinds of environments and situations in case there is a shortage of food. This is the reason why we can find rodents in almost any environment.
Although hamsters are now domesticated, these pets may struggle with their limited freedom. That's why it's important for us to give them the care and attention they require, as well as provide them with a healthy and balanced diet. When it comes to feeding them, you should take the following points into account:
- Around half of their diet should be made up healthy commercial hamster food.
- 45% must be composed of raw vegetables.
- Lastly, you should provide a small amount of fruit (5%), as these contain sugar and are not recommended in excess.
Can hamsters eat cheese?
With that being said, when providing your hamster with a healthy and balanced diet, can you also feed them cheese? The answer is yes. Hamsters can eat cheese, although not excessively. Keep reading to find out more on the nutritional value of cheese for hamsters, how many times per week it can be given and lactose intolerance in hamsters.
Nutritional properties of cheese for hamsters
Now that we've established that hamsters can eat cheese, it's time for us to look into the nutritional properties of cheese. Firstly, giving your hamster a small piece of cheese is like giving them a treat. This will strengthen your relationship with them as they will associate you with good things. Now, let's take a look at the nutritional properties of cheese for hamsters:
- Contains protein: cheese is a nice option to provide your hamster with some protein. Around 15% to 20% of a hamster's diet should be protein. For pregnant females, this amount will be even higher. Make sure that your hamster's food meets this requirement. If it doesn't, you can supplement their diet with a little bit of cheese.
- Contains minerals: cheese is also a source of minerals, such as calcium, phosphorus and magnesium. All very important for a hamster's health and wellbeing.
- Contains saturated fat: although cheese has many benefits, it also has certain risk factors. Saturated fat is undoubtedly one of these risk factors for your hamster. When given in excess, cheese can promote obesity in your hamster as well as other health issues that accompany it. It's best to give low amounts of cheese to your hamster and opt for low-fat and low-calorie cheeses. A plus would be buying a cheese with no additives or dyes.
In conclusion, when given in low quantity, cheese is a great addition to a hamster's diet as it offers various nutritional benefits. Your hamster will also appreciate its taste. With that being said, cheese is not essential to their diet. A hamster can have a healthy and balanced diet without cheese.
Lactose intolerance in hamsters
Although your hamster may love cheese, their body may not react well to it. This is quite normal as in nature this species tends to feed on vegetables and, occasionally, on some insects or small reptiles. Cheese, on the other hand, is a man-made dairy product. Therefore, it's understandable if your hamster has trouble digesting dairy products once they've stopped being breastfed by their mother.
This is because milk contains a component called lactose which requires the intervention of an enzyme called lactase to process and digest it. However, this enzyme is not produced by all bodies in the same way or same amount. This is why there are some animals that cannot successfully break down lactose, leading to digestive issues. These animals are, therefore, lactose intolerant.
For this reason, when introducing cheese into your hamsters diet, it's important to do it in a progressive matter and observe how they react. If they have diarrhea or throw up, clearly, it's best to avoid this product in the future. If your hamster turns out to be lactose intolerant, fear not. You can always give them other healthy treats. Cheese is definitely not essential to their diet.
Learn more about a hamster's diet in our article about toxic food for hamsters to avoid.
How much cheese can I feed my hamster?
Given the high amount of lipids in the cheese, you should not offer your hamster this food every day, but rather between 1 or 2 times a week to prevent them from being overweight and having health issues.
When it comes to choosing the amount to give them at a time, it should be very small and proportionate to the size of a pea. Remember to start with an even smaller piece when first introducing this food into their diet. When you give cheese to your hamster the amount should be small enough for them to eat and finish it once given to them. Don't give them enough for them to store in their nest. This is because cheese can easily rot and can bring health issues if eaten rotten.
You may also be interested in our article about why hamsters bite their cage.
What's the best cheese to give to hamsters?
As we've previously mentioned, it's best to opt for low-fat cheese with no additives. For example, low-fat and unflavoured cottage cheese is a great option for hamsters.
This way we're able to provide our hamster with a nutritious treat while still being mindful of their health. Speaking of health, you might also be interested in our article about caring for a hamster's teeth.
If you want to read similar articles to Can Hamsters Eat Cheese?, we recommend you visit our Healthy diets category.
- Fritzsche, P. (2008). The hamster. Hispanic European.