Do hamsters eat bugs?

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Slimy, yet satisfying?

Anyone who has seen a hamster cram pawfuls of food into their mouth knows these critters have an incredible appetite. Watching them eat can be amusing. It can also be fun to bond with your hamster over apple slices or carrot sticks or… insects? 

Do hamsters really eat bugs? Yes, hamsters do eat bugs! I was surprised to learn that hamsters in the wild eat certain insects. Some options include waxworms, mealworms, crickets, and locusts. Pet stores can provide live or dried insects for people who wish to provide a diet as close to natural as possible. There are numerous reasons for or against adding insects to your hamster’s diet, including your own comfort level. 

Hamsters have a varied diet, but some things they eat may surprise you

Deciding to bring a hamster into your home involves many choices about blending your lifestyle and your hamster’s needs. Things to consider include how you will maintain your hamster’s nutrition without compromising your values, skimping on nutrition, or grossing yourself out.

Many people feed hamsters insects as a special treat rather than as a main staple, and in spite of their reputation for stuffing their faces, hamsters eat very little. 

Perhaps you’ve seen your hamster fill his jowls with sunflower seeds, corn kernels, and pieces of food. You may assume they are in constant need of food in order to feel satisfied. When you clean their cage, however, you will notice that much of what they stash in their furry cheeks is actually not digested all at once. (My guide to the best hamster cages here.) Rather, they will dig little storage areas in their cages and unload most of their tasty treasures for another time. 

As such, they don’t need to digest heaps of food  in order to remain healthy. It is good for their mental health to be able to indulge their hoarding habit, but this doesn’t require a hefty dose of meat or insects in their diet. Insects can be introduced into their diet as a treat. Hamsters also eat fruits, nuts, seeds and nutritionally balanced pellets.

Here’s a guide to the best hamster food when the time comes to choose one.

Should a hamster’s diet be part of your pest control?

Hamsters should not be counted on to be pest control. In fact, expecting hamsters to keep a home insect-free can be dangerous to your pet. Eating random bugs can make your hamster susceptible to parasites or diseases carried by insects. 

Hamsters in the wild would be able to capture and eat insects encountered in their native homes. This is not the same as running through your house chowing down on ants, beetles, and roaches. 

If you decide to include insects in your hamster’s diet, be sure to purchase them from a reputable source. This helps to guarantee that your hamster is not exposed to illnesses carried by random insects.

Happy tan hamster eating a seed while standing on a white background. List of hamster foods on the right

Stomach turning like a hamster wheel?

If the thought of feeding bugs to your hamster is making you feel queasy, you’re not alone. Many people, myself included, are not keen on the idea of giving live or freeze dried bugs to our beloved hamsters. Rest assured, a hamster’s dietary needs can be satisfied without including insects. 

Hamsters can be healthy and happy without bugs on the menu. Plenty of people prefer to feed their hamster companions a mostly vegetarian or vegan diet for ethical reasons. Hamsters can maintain health with plant or nut sources of protein. 

Hamster diet suggestions include commercial hamster pellets balanced with fruits, seeds, nuts and hay. In particular, Timothy Hay is ideal. Small amounts of lettuce and seeds are recommended.

Hamster favorites that won’t bug you include apple slices, carrots, dandelion, and cherries without seeds. Use these treats to supplement their regular pellets and hay. Hamsters are omnivorous, and so some people opt to give their hamsters small amounts of cooked fish or other types of meat. 

In general, avoid dairy, chocolate, pastas, breads, and crackers. This is tricky, because even some commercial ‘treats’ marketed for hamsters include things like yogurt. Dairy and excess processed foods can be harmful to your hamster. Remember, if hamsters evolved for generations wandering the desert, foraging for fruit, plants, seeds, nuts, and insects, there is no reason they suddenly need cheese, yogurt, or cookies. 

Conclusion

While many items on your hamster’s menu are familiar to the average human, understand that in the wild a hamster could get a hankering for crawly cuisine. If you decide to provide authentic dietary options for your hamster, this would include insects like mealworms, waxworms, and crickets. Your hamster can be healthy stuffing his cheeks with seeds, pellets and veggies, without involving insects.

References

Live Science – Hamster Facts: Diet, Habits & Types of Hamsters

Texas A&M – Bringing Home Your First Rodent