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Factors that Affect Nutrient Requirements in Hamsters

There is no one-size-fits-all for hamster food. There are different factors that play an important role in how your hamster can accept food. This article will attempt to show you the different factors that affect your hamster’s nutrient requirements as well as examples of how it can be affected.


There are different genetic factors that may affect your hamster’s nutrient requirements. Some of these factors are their species, their sex, and other individual hereditary factors.

One example of how genetics plays a role in your hamster’s diet is how some hamsters became obese when fed a standard lab diet supplemented with sunflower seeds. Even though they ate roughly the same amount of calories, they still gained a significant amount of weight. Syrian hamsters also developed hyperphagia and obesity when fed high-fat diets, while another species of hamster only developed obesity and not hyperphagia.

An example of how your hamster’s biological sex affects their nutritional needs can be seen in a study done in 1982. Survival levels in female Syrian hamsters increased when dietary protein levels increased. However, for males, their survival levels increased when dietary protein levels decreased.

As demonstrated from these examples, food can affect your hamster in different ways based on their genetics and it’s important to keep this in mind when you feed your hamsters.

Stage of Life

Your hamster’s nutritional needs will change depending on what stage of the life cycle they are in. Newborn baby hamsters for example will still be consuming their mother’s milk. Older hamsters may require less protein consumption. Age can also play a role in how easy it is for your hamster to digest certain foods.

Pregnant hamsters may require extra protein, however feeding them too much protein may cause the pups to grow too large and could cause problems with the pregnancy. Your hamster’s diet may also affect the sex ratio your hamster gives birth to. Hamsters who are nursing their young should be given access to extra protein.

Environmental Impacts

In labs, hamsters are typically studied under controlled environments with minimal variations because they are typically used as test animals. However, in a natural setting, variations in environment are common. Different temperatures, stimuli, social conflict, length of day, and other environmental factors may change what a hamster needs.

An example of this is how some animals have a lower requirement for zinc because the zinc may have come from their cage. They may also ingest bedding or other materials that provide an unintended source of nutrients or toxins.

A study done by Smith et al in 1997 showed that young hamsters had higher cholesterol when they were fed an unhealthy diet, and when they were housed with other hamsters their cholesterol levels were even higher.

Lifestyle and Activity Levels

Your hamster’s lifestyle and activity levels also play a role in your hamster’s nutritional needs. For example, a hamster who is very physically active will need to consume more calories than a hamster who isn’t as physically active. This is because as they exercise they burn more energy and need to eat more food.

A study done by K. Borer in 1979 demonstrates this. They separated hamsters into two different groups: one group that remained sedentary and one group that had access to exercise. That experiment showed that hamsters who exercised tended to eat more food. The hamsters who had access to exercise were then retired and ended up gaining more weight than the hamsters who were already sedentary.


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