Hamsters love to hoard their food. As humans, when we see babies that are “fat” for their size, we thought it’s cute. The same goes for pet animals like cats, dogs, or even hamsters. However cute they seem, it’s not good for hamsters to be overweight.
Domesticated hamsters can gain weight easily, which I will explain later why. In this article, we will cover many things such as reasons how hamsters become overweight quickly, the effects of this on their health and mobility, and of course answers and tips on how to help hamsters lose weight.
WILD HAMSTERS AND HOARDING
In the wild, it’s not easy for hamsters to find food for safety reasons. Hamsters are easy prey in the wild to snakes and birds of prey. For this reason, hamsters only come out at night to find food. During this time, a hamster can cover up to 21 miles a night (34 km).
Hamsters will collect food like seeds, nuts, dried fruit, or dead worms and place them inside their cheek pouches which stretch down to their hips. After a night-long of collecting, hamsters will come back to their living quarters and unload the found treasure in multiple separate chambers.
Hamsters have different chambers for food for safekeeping. In case predators or other hamster attack their living area, hamsters can head to their other food chambers and will not be left without food.
READ MORE INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT HAMSTERS
Do wild hamsters eat a lot
It’s hard to say if wild hamsters eat a lot, but let’s assume they do. Even though they consume too much food, they actually need it. Because of their nightly job to go around and find food, wild hamsters burn a lot of calories. This means wild hamsters do need to eat a lot to fuel for the night adventure.
This is the reason wild hamsters don’t really become overweight. Not only do they spend so much energy running, but they also dig underground and spend hours cracking out seeds and nuts to access the actual food.
HOW DOMESTICATED HAMSTERS GAIN WEIGHT
In the case of domesticated hamsters, the hoarding behaviour is not gone. Your pet hamster will still hoard food and have a high chance to overeat due to natural instinct.
The two main reasons hamsters that are domesticated gain weight much easier. One, the availability of food, and second, the lack of space or toys that stimulate them to move around.
A domesticated hamster doesn’t have to “work” for its food, which leads to easy weight gain. Not having enough toys to play with, your hamster will not have a chance to burn their extra energy.
WHY IT’S UNSAFE FOR HAMSTERS TO BE OVERWEIGHT
As you can imagine, excess fat and weight can lead to an unhealthy heart. If your hamster reaches an unhealthy weight, this can also be hard on its joints and legs. Which can lead to injury.
You will also notice that your hamster will be more recluse and less likely to interact with you or move around.
LEARN MORE ABOUT HAMSTER WEIGHT
HOW MUCH DOES A HAMSTER WEIGH
Depending on the hamster’s species, they can weigh between 25g-150g (.88oz-5.3oz). Syrian hamsters are the biggest type of domesticated hamster and Roborovski is the smallest one.
HOW TO HELP HAMSTERS LOSE WEIGHT
Even though food contributes a lot to hamsters’ gain of weight, never remove their food bowl from the cage. By doing this, you could stress your hamster. Instead, here are the things you can do to help your hamster lose some weight and reach a healthy lifestyle:
When I say food control, I don’t mean giving your hamster less food. Instead, you can carefully examine which food should be in your hamster’s food bowl. For example, dry mixes that you can buy from pet stores have so many things in them. That includes seeds, nuts, dried fruits, and pellets.
Dried fruits sometimes have sugar in them. This should not be in the daily food bowl. You can pick the dried fruits and hand-feed them 1-2 times a week.
Sometimes, dried mealworms are also in the dry mix. Mealworms are high in protein, but many “dried” mealworms are actually deep-fried which makes them high in fat and greasy too.
Mealworms are not staples in your hamster’s diet, they work more like treats. This means, dried mealworms don’t need to be in the food bowl, you can use them as treats which should be given 1-2 times a day with only 1-2 pieces each time.
Food that should be in the daily food bowls are nuts, seeds, corns, dried vegetables, and pellets that are specifically for hamsters.
At least twice a week, you should feed your hamster cooked food that is high in nutrition and protein, and maybe some healthy carbs. This includes boiled lean chicken, eggs, and tofu for a protein source. You should also boil vegetables like carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower. For healthy carbs, boiled pasta and boiled potatoes are good choices.
Make the bedding deep
Hamsters love to burrow under the bedding. Make sure that your hamster’s bedding is at least 5 inches (for Dwarf) and 8 inches (for Syrian). The deeper the bedding, the deeper your hamster will dig, which equates to a moving and active body.
If you have a massive cage, you don’t need to fill all parts with bedding. This is one of the most common mistakes new hamsters make. You actually only need to put bedding where your hamster sleeps. In this area, you should also add the hides and sleeping dens.
For example, only 1/3 of the cage should be covered in bedding, you can use bendy bridges, cardboard, or stones to make division and help hold up the bedding. The rest could be a play area, food and water corner, and sandbox.
Scattering food means hiding food under the bedding inside your hamster’s cage. Not only your hamster will have fun finding them but also forces them to move around and burn those extra calories and energy.
Upgrade to a bigger cage
I know someone gets tired of hearing it – but hamsters need a big and wide cage (not a tall cage). But seriously, a big cage is a key to making your hamster happy. With a big cage, not only you can make deep bedding but it also means you can add so many toys that will help and stimulate your hamster to run around, burrow, and play which will be a great way to lose weight.
For starters, a suitable large hamster wheel is great. But that shouldn’t be the only toy inside your hamster’s cage. Let’s say you have a good-sized cage, now you can add a flying saucer, hamster tunnels, and some climbing platforms and ladders for hamsters.
With lots of toys, your hamster can play around and experiment so much. With things to climb on, this is a great way for your hamster to stay active and move its body.
Provide plenty of chew toys
I know this sounds like the opposite of what we are trying to achieve here, but hear me out. Hamsters love to chew on something. Chewing helps them trim their teeth but also keeps them super busy.
In the wild, hamsters will chew on hard nuts like almonds and cashew for hours. These food are healthy and give them good energy but at the same time burn their calories. When chewing on something, a hamster’s attention is 100% on that food or toy. They will give all their energy to their heart’s desire.
If you give your hamsters good chew toys, they can work on them for hours and keep their mind away from eating other food. However, make sure to only give them the healthy treats for hamsters and avoid sweet treats.
Free roam or playpen time
Free roam is when you take your hamster out of its cage and let them run around your house or room for 10 minutes. If this is not possible, you should get a hamster playpen. A playpen time lets your hamster have a break from its usual environment but also gives your hamster a new area to explore.
A new playground for a hamster means a place to run around, explore, and satisfy their curiosity. I recommend you take your hamster out for at least 10-minutes a day. You can set up some toys in the playpen (no need to add bedding there) like tunnels, mazes, and a running wheel. This is also a good time to spend time with your pet hamster and tame them.
Remove old hoarded food
Hamster cage spot cleaning should be done 1-2 times a week, during this time, you can tidy up the cage, replenish the food bowl, and change the sandbath. During this time, you can also remove the old hoarded food.
Hamsters will keep making new “chambers” for hoarded food, if they have dozens of them, well, that’s a lot of food to eat. The only safe way to do this is to take your hamster out of the cage, and then examine the bedding slowly.
First, check how many food chambers there are and remove about half of them. So, if there are 6 food chambers, remove 3 of them. Make sure to put everything back together to avoid stressing your hamster. This should only be done once in 2 weeks or during the deep cleaning of the cage.
Redo the interior of the cage
Once in 3 months, you can move things around your hamster’s cage but don’t move all of them. For example, you can change the location of the running wheel and the climbing platform. By doing this, your hamster’s curiosity will perk up and invite them to run around the cage and play with their toys.
However, please don’t do this too often or move too many things at the same time, too much change stress your hamster.
Hamsters are cute animals and surely, they look cuter with those big cheeks. However, as a responsible pet owner, you are in charge of keeping your pet’s health in check. Letting your hamsters get too overweight can only be dangerous for them.
A healthy hamster is not just a happy hamster, keeping your hamsters healthy, you can help them live a long life with you.
I hope that you found this article about how to help hamsters lose weight helpfully. If you have other tips that we didn’t mention, leave us a comment below.