Table of Contents

Your Hamster’s Nutritional Requirements

In many countries, it is legally required to list down the ingredients of the product in order from most to least (this is usually based on weight). The guaranteed analysis (crude protein, fat, and fiber) is also usually legally required to be listed. This gives us an insight into how to interpret the food that we are feeding to our pets.

On a regular basis, we don’t typically stress over feeding pets (or ourselves) a certain percentage of protein, fat, and fiber. However, there are cases where it may be necessary such as choosing a daily food mix for our hamsters. Reading the nutritional label can help us make better and more informed choices for our pets and can give more insights to our veterinarians when they ask about our hamster’s diet. Thus, the general analysis and ingredients list is definitely still very important.

The general analysis requirement we are going to recommend should loosely be followed as it does not apply to every single hamster. This is because of the many factors that can affect a hamster’s nutritional needs (see our section on factors that affect nutritional needs). Unfortunately, there really aren’t a lot of studies done on hamster nutrition, and most of the studies done are based on Syrian Hamsters.

We divide this section into macro nutrients and micro nutrients. Macronutrients are the molecules that the body needs in large quantities (ex: carbohydrates, fats, and protein). While micronutrients are molecules that are needed in small quantities (vitamins and minerals).

Macro Nutrients


Every cell in your hamster’s body has protein; proteins are considered the building blocks of life. Your hamster needs protein in their diet so that their bodies can make new cells and repair cells. It’s also really important for their growth and development. Protein is a crucial part of a hamster’s diet, and a diet with insufficient protein can lead to certain issues such as growth problems and alopecia (hair loss).

In food, protein is broken down into parts called amino acids. These are found in different animal sources (such as meat) and also in plant sources (like beans, legumes, soy). They are classified into three different groups:

  1. Essential amino acids- These amino acids cannot be made by the body and are supplied from food.
  2. Nonessential amino acids- These amino acids are made by the body from the essential amino acids or in the breakdown of proteins.
  3. Conditional amino acids- These amino acids are needed when your hamsters are sick or stressed.

The amount of protein your hamster will need will vary on certain factors such as the type of protein in their diet and their life stage. For example, younger hamsters generally need more protein than older hamsters.

The recommended protein content for a hamster’s diet can vary. In a study called “Protein Nutrition of the Golden Hamster,” a range between 12-16% was sufficient for adult Syrian hamsters. A study by John Hamilton suggests a range of 15-20% protein is sufficient when natural ingredients are the protein source. In Syrian hamsters, diets with as low as 13.7% protein have also supported growth in Syrian hamsters.

The source of protein in your hamster’s diet can impact their protein requirements as well. Studies have been conducted with hamsters fed different types of diets including natural diets, purified diets, and chemically defined diets. This means that the protein content may vary depending on the diet composition.

According to Mulder’s book “Management, Husbandry, and Colony Health”, hamsters tend to grow better with soybean meal as a protein source compared to fish meal and wheat gluten. Soybean meal has been associated with increased weight gain and improved protein utilization. Soy protein has been found to have the ability to lower the progression of renal disease in rodents.

The protein content in your hamster’s diet can also impact the reproduction of your hamster. In some cases, diets with 18% crude protein have been found to support reproductive performance equivalent to or better than diets with 22-24% crude protein.

  • For hamsters under 6 months, we recommend they receive about 18-25% protein.
  • For hamsters between 6-18 months, we recommend they receive about 15-20% protein.
  • For hamsters above 18 months, we recommend they receive about 12-15% protein.

For hamsters with special protein needs such as hamsters with kidney disease, we recommend speaking to your veterinarian for the best available diet you can give your hamster.

Signs your hamster has a protein deficiency:

  1. Your hamster has a poor immune system
  2. Your hamster is feeling weak
  3. Your hamster is suffering from hair loss
  4. Your hamster has severe weight loss and lack of muscle mass (cachexia)
  5. Your hamster isn’t growing at a normal rate for their age
  6. Your hamster has a “fatty liver” (steatosis)
  7. Your hamster is suffering from skin diseases
  8. Your hamster has a lower amount of urea nitrogen in their blood


It is essential that your hamster has fat in your diet. Despite how many people understand the word, a reasonable amount of fat is vital and good for you and your hamster. Fat is a source of essential fatty acids. Because of fats, the body can absorb fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin A, vitamin D, and vitamin E.

Main types of dietary fat:

  1. Saturated Fats - This is one of the unhealthy fats and are usually solid when they’re at room temperature. Too much of saturated fat can lead to weight gain, heart disease, and other health problems. Certain foods such as butter, coconut oils, cheese, and red meat tend to have high amounts of saturated fat.
  2. Unsaturated Fats - These types of fats are usually found in plant-based foods like vegetables, nuts, and seeds. They can also be found in other sources such as in fish. It is usually in liquid form at room temperature. There are two kinds of unsaturated fats: polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats. They are defined by the number of double bonds they have. Unsaturated fats help boost good cholesterol (HDL) and lower bad cholesterol (LDL). They also help absorb vitamins like A, D, E, and K. Some foods that are high in unsaturated fats are nuts and seeds which we know your hamsters love.
  3. Trans Fat - Of all the fats listed here, trans fats are the worst. Trans fats are created when liquid oils turn into solid fats (such as from margarine or shortening). This type of fat may be found in many processed, fried, and packaged foods like commercially baked cakes, and anything battered and fried. Trans fats raise bad cholesterol (LDL) and lower good cholesterol (HDL), which can cause cholesterol to build up in the arteries and increase your hamster’s risk for heart disease.

According to Mulder, a diet of 4% fat has been reported to be adequate for growth. According to Paule Newberne and Robert McConnel, a diet of 4-5% has been found by studies to be sufficient for your hamster’s dietary needs. Fat levels over 5% have been associated with maximum growth in hamsters, indicating that higher fat content may promote better growth.

A study done by Gerritsen shows that a low-fat diet (4% fat) has been shown to improve symptoms of diabetes in Chinese hamsters. Specifically, a diet containing 4% vegetable fat has been effective in eliminating ketonuria (high levels of ketones in urine) in hamsters with diabetes.

Excessive levels of fat have been linked to increased mortality in hamsters. Hamsters fed high-fat (15%) diets containing cholesterol have developed symptoms of type 2 diabetes and obesity when fed these diets for more than three weeks. The combination of high-fat and high-sugar diets can also lead to body weight gain, body fat accumulation, impaired glucose tolerance, and diabetic symptoms in hamsters. In some cases, a high-fat diet can result in weight loss rather than weight gain, as it may damage your hamster’s kidneys.

According to the National Research Council, hamsters can thrive on diets ranging from 4-20% fat. A study was done on hamsters who, for over a year, were fed diets containing 20% fat and none of the hamster deaths were related to the fat load given to them. Additionally, when hamsters were fed diets with 20% ft for maintenance at a controlled intake of 10-12 grams per day, it tended to lessen obesity.

The type of fat your hamster is eating plays is important to consider. A study published by Berriozabalgoitia in 2023 suggests that different types and amounts of dietary fats can influence the development of artery-clogging in your hamster’s health. The study suggests that rumenic acid (found in milk fat) may have a protective effect against some of the damage caused by fats in the bloodstream (similar to the effect of olive oil).

The study also says that hamsters fed high-fat diets (both olive oil and milk fat) experienced an increase in the thickness of fatty streaks in their aortic arches (structures that are connected to the heart). This means that hamsters fed high-fat diets potentially develop risks for cardiovascular diseases.

A study by Yang et al published in 2017 was done on on obese hamsters. These hamsters were fed diets with different oil mixtures (5%, 15%, and 20%) that were all high in monounsaturated fatty acids and had a high ratio of polyunsaturated fats. The study showed that the obese hamsters given the 15% and 20% diet showed significantly lower blood cholesterol levels and higher insulin levels. The study also suggests that a high-fat diet that is high in monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fats had beneficial effects on maintaining blood lipid profiles and did not lead to significant body fat accumulation in obese hamsters.

According to Bastias-Perez in her work “Dietary options for rodents in the study of Obesity” published in 2020, several studies suggest that the type of fat plays a crucial role in the development of obesity as not all fats lead to obesity. She writes that the main contributor to obesity is really the profile of the fatty acids in the diet rather than the energy content of the ingested fats.

She says that most studies used in dietary-induced obesity the diets contain high amounts of saturated or trans fats because these fats are very effective in inducing obesity and other metabolic diseases. However, oils rich in monounsaturated fatty acids have been shown to have health benefits and abilities that counteract obesity.

A study done on rats by Nicole Stott and Joseph Marino in 2020 showed that a 45.5% high-fat diet rich in monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids did not cause an increase in body mass, and a similar finding was also shown in mice. However, a 45% lard-based diet in rats caused hepatic steatosis, increased liver mass, and increased hepatic TAG content. These rats also became obese and had reduced insulin sensitivity.

In your rodent’s diet, you want them to consider the types of fat they are ingesting. Diets that are higher in fat but contain good unsaturated fat are better than diets high in saturated or trans-fats. If you are unsure of what kind of fats your hamster is eating, it is safe to stick to a level between 4-10%.

Signs your hamster has a fat deficiency:

  1. Your hamster isn’t growing at a normal rate for their age
  2. Your hamster is developing ulcers
  3. Your hamster is suffering from hair loss
  4. Your hamster has scaly skin
  5. Your hamster is secreting earwax
  6. Your hamster has pale kidneys


Carbohydrates are an important part of a hamster's diet. Carbohydrates provide your hamster's body with glucose that is then converted into energy. Your hamster needs this energy so that their bodies can function. The most common forms of carbohydrates are sugars, fibers, and starches.

There are even studies that show that diarrhea can be prevented by the inclusion of certain carbohydrates like rice flour, lactose, and fiber. This is because diarrhea may be the result of an insufficient amount of carbohydrates in your hamster’s diet. In Syrian hamsters, a diet containing 35-40% has been observed to support satisfactory growth levels.

The quality of your carbohydrates is important. The healthiest sources of carbohydrates are unprocessed (or minimally processed) whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and beans. Unhealthy sources of carbohydrates are from things like white bread, pastries, and other refined foods.

There are two types of carbohydrates.

Complex Carbohydrates
These are also known as polysaccharides. They are considered “complex” because of their more intricate structure when compared to “simple” carbohydrates. They usually have three or more linked sugars.

Complex carbohydrates are better for your hamsters and have been shown to improve the growth, reproduction, and lifespan of the hamster. They are usually digested more slowly and provide a slower release of glucose in the bloodstream. The term “complex carbohydrate” refers to any starches including their refined forms. Whole-grain foods and starchy vegetables are usually absorbed more slowly than refined carbohydrates.

Refined carbohydrates just mean carbohydrates that have been processed. In grains, they strip out the kernels and bran leaving the starch behind. Because the fiber is removed, the body breaks down these carbohydrates more quickly. Sometimes, it can even raise blood glucose levels as quickly as simple carbohydrates.

Simple Carbohydrates
These are also known as “simple sugars” and are easily digestible molecules composed of one or two sugar units. These carbohydrates are quickly digested and result in a rapid increase of glucose in the blood stream.

They are found in a variety of food such as fruit, vegetables, and milk and usually taste sweet.

There are two main types:

  1. Monosaccharides (Single Sugars) - These include glucose, fructose, and galactose
  2. Disaccharides (Double Sugars) - Sucrose (table sugar), lactose, and maltose

Simple carbohydrates can still be refined such as in processed sugars like high-fructose corn syrup.

It is important that the source of carbohydrates in your hamster’s diet is not mainly fruit, as a diet containing mostly fructose (60%) has led to the development of obesity, hyperinsulinemia, and hypertriglyceridemia. Hamster diets containing mostly fructose or lactose had a higher mortality rate than hamsters fed glucose or sucrose as the main source of carbohydrates. When fed a high-fat and high-carbohydrate diet, hamsters are prone to obesity and can develop insulin resistance.

We recommend sticking to a food mix that has whole grains and doesn’t include unnecessary carbohydrates like added sugars, flaked and refined cereals, and grains. Fresh fruit in small amounts can be given in moderation but dried fruit included in a food mix should be avoided.

Signs of Carbohydrate Imbalances in your hamster:

  1. Your hamster is experiencing diarrhea
  2. Your hamster is losing weight
  3. Your hamster has low blood sugar
  4. Your hamster has a lack of energy


Fiber is essential for proper digestion in hamsters. Without fiber, waste cannot be properly eliminated from the body. Fiber is a long molecule that can be found in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, seeds, and nuts. It is actually a type of carbohydrate.

Fiber has been shown to support the micro-organisms in the gut. Diets enriched with fiber have also been shown to help decrease the risk of coronary heart disease in hamsters by increasing the rates of HDL (good cholesterol). Studies have shown that food containing 4-5% fiber has been adequate for normal growth, however many hamster forums recommend a higher range of fiber.

Diets that contain starch or lactose may not require any additional fiber supplementation because these ingredients have been found to support favorable microflora in the colon.

Low-fiber food can contribute to stomach issues. It has been shown that diets with no fiber that contain high levels of refined sugars have been associated with higher mortality rates. Mice maintained on low-fiber diets showed impaired cognition and had problems performing their daily activities.

We recommend hamsters get at least 5% fiber, but should aim for a range of 10-15%.

Signs your hamster needs more fiber in their diet:

  1. Your hamster is constipated
  2. Your hamster has a poor immune system
  3. There is a change in your hamster’s appetite
  4. Your hamster appears lost in a familiar environment or is having trouble recognizing you
  5. Your hamster has problems doing their usual activities
  6. Your hamster is disoriented or more irritated



Vitamin A

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that is important for the immune system, reproduction, growth, and vision. In hamsters who are nursing, a small amount of vitamin A is fundamental for growth.

For hamsters, their vitamin A requirement seems to only be slightly higher than the vitamin A requirement for rats. Good natural sources of vitamin A are green leafy vegetables and yellowish vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, and squash.

If your hamster has too much vitamin A, they could develop liver problems and in worst-case scenarios, they could die. They can also develop a weakened skeletal system. For pregnant hamsters, too much vitamin A can cause serious birth defects in the baby.

Signs of Vitamin A Deficiency in your hamster

  1. Your hamster has coarse and sparse hair
  2. They have an eye disease called Xerophthalmia
  3. They have stomach ulcers
  4. If your hamster is a baby, they are not growing at a usual rate
  5. Your hamster is experiencing weight loss

Vitamin B

Vitamin B is a group of vitamins (B-complex) that helps with your hamster’s metabolism. The B-complex are all water-soluble, meaning that they can’t be stored in the body and must be consumed as part of a healthy diet.

There are actually eight types of B vitamins that make up 8 out of 13 essential vitamins:

  1. B1(Thiamin)
  2. B2 (riboflavin)
  3. B3 (niacin)
  4. B5 (panthothenic acid)
  5. B6 (pyridoxine)
  6. B7 (biotin)
  7. B9 (folate acid)
  8. B12 (cobalamin)

Vitamin B can help with stress in your hamster, it is also considered an essential vitamin. Your hamster needs vitamin B for building DNA components and proteins. Each type of vitamin B plays a different but critical role in keeping your hamster healthy. vitamin B2 will help with your hamster’s vision and their skin. B6, B9, and B12 help with healthy brain and nerve function. And B7 helps with your hamster’s fur and nails.

Hamsters are omnivores, so good natural sources of vitamin B in your hamsters are boiled unseasoned white meats. Other natural sources of vitamin B are green leafy vegetables, nuts, and yeast. Hamsters fed a diet high in soybean protein and cornstarch showed a mild vitamin B deficiency.

Since Vitamin B is water soluble, most of the extra vitamin B your hamster takes will pass naturally out of the body. However, it is possible for your hamster to have too much vitamin B where toxicity can occur. Too much vitamin B is bad for your hamsters and can cause diarrhea, nausea, cramps, and irritability.

Signs of Vitamin B Deficiency in your hamster

  1. Your hamster is experiencing weight loss
  2. Your hamster has matted or unruly hair
  3. They have crusted lesions on their lips and mouth

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that helps the body control infections and healing wounds. It is also a powerful antioxidant and can help with your hamster’s overall immune system.

Good natural sources of vitamin C are cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbages, Brussel sprouts, and cauliflower. Other sources include most fruits like kiwis and strawberries.

Signs of Vitamin C Deficiency in your hamster

  1. Your hamster has scurvy
  2. Your hamster is experiencing fur loss
  3. Your hamster is feeling lethargic
  4. Your hamster squeals or seems to be in pain when touched
  5. Your hamster is experiencing weight loss
  6. Your hamster is hunched over when walking
  7. Your hamster wobbles when they walk

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps the body absorb and retain calcium and phosphorus. Vitamin D can also help reduce cancer cell growth, control infections, and reduce inflammation. Vitamin D can also prevent a bone disorder known as rickets.

Your hamster can get vitamin D naturally from green vegetables or egg yolk. If your hamster has too much Vitamin D they may suffer from diarrhea or weight loss.

Signs of Vitamin D deficiency in your hamster

  1. Your hamster has rickets
  2. Your hamster doesn’t have enough calcium in their blood (hypocalcemia)

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is essential to the hamster diet. Vitamin E is an antioxidant and plays a vital role in protecting your hamster’s various cells and membranes. It helps prevent myocytolysis (significant damage to the muscle cells of the heart) and can reduce fatty streak accumulation. It is also really good for your hamster’s skin and fur.

The usual cause of a vitamin E deficiency is from having an improper diet. Excess fat in your hamster’s diet can also trigger a vitamin E deficiency. Pregnant hamsters and young hamsters are more prone to vitamin E deficiency.

In a Vitamin E deficient diet, a hamster may seem like they’re growing normally at first, but they usually collapse or even die 4-18 weeks later. A pregnant hamster who does not receive enough vitamin E is also at risk of losing their babies.

Hamsters that have collapsed from a Vitamin E deficiency can usually be saved with the administration of Vitamin E. The best way to prevent Vitamin E deficiency is to give your hamster’s a balanced diet. However, in certain cases your vet may prescribe your hamster with Vitamin E supplements.

Good natural sources of vitamin E are vegetables like spinach and broccoli. Almonds and sunflower seeds are also good sources of vitamin E, but your hamster shouldn’t have too much or they could become obese.

Signs of vitamin E deficiencies in your hamster

  1. If your hamster is a male, his testicles are deteriorating
  2. Your hamster isn’t growing at a normal rate for their age
  3. Your hamster’s muscles aren’t working as they should. They may seem weaker or slower.
  4. Your hamster has anemia
  5. Your hamster has inflamed mammary glands (mastisis)
  6. Your hamster has muscle paralysis
  7. Your hamster has stiff joints or is unable to walk
  8. If your hamster was pregnant, they gave birth to stillborn pups

Vitamin K

Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin that supports good reproductive health in hamsters. It helps make proteins that are needed for blood clotting and to help with the building of bones.

Your hamster can get vitamin K from natural sources such as carrots, broccoli, peas, spinach, and other green leafy vegetables. Your hamster also gets a good amount of vitamin K from coprophagy.

Signs your hamster has a vitamin K deficiency

  1. Your hamster is experiencing blood clotting
  2. Your hamster has internal hemorrhages
  3. Your hamster has weak bones


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