How Much Does a Hamster Need to Eat?
One of the natural wonders of the world is watching a hamster stuff his or her cheeks. They can carry the equivalent of their own bodyweight in their cheeks. Their food bowls are always empty. Depending on what species you have, they only weigh a few ounces. Where does all that food go? And are you feeding your hamster enough?
Hamsters put most of the food they come across not into their bellies, but into storage. In the wild, they can have several stashes to get them through lean times. Since they never know what tomorrow will bring, they are determined hoarders. There's no point explaining to them that they don't have to worry about food living with you. They won't believe you. They treat each morsel of food they come across as if it's the last.
This hoarding habit has actually saved the lives of humans, because wild hamster stashes get so incredibly big. One wild Syrian hamster had a stash that weighted 90 kg! The natives familiar with the habits of these champion pack rodents follow the hamster to his or her stash and break into it in order to survive hard times. The stashes are full of seeds, grains, pulses and root vegetables.
When you clean your hamster's cage or living quarters, you are bound to find small piles of food and treats. These stashes cannot be left indefinitely as they can attract bugs and mold. What I did when cleaning the cage was leave only one stash. But the next time I cleaned the cage, the previously saved stash was now ditched and another one was saved. If I couldn't keep track of the ages of the stashes, then I didn't take a chance and just cleaned everything out.
So, How Much Do They Eat?
Hamsters eat, on average, only about one to two tablespoons full of food per 24 hours. Everything else they avidly put into storage. The Syrian hamsters - the larger ones, also called Golden Hamsters - may eat a little more; the dwarf hamster species perhaps a little less.
Hamsters need a wide variety of food to stay happy and healthy. They are actually omnivores and thrive on all kinds of healthy foods. Never feed them sweets, raw kidney beans, onions or rabbit mix, please. And they will always put something away for later. You never know, there might be a blizzard or Act of God or something.
Since hamsters are nocturnal, most people give them their main feed at night, and perhaps a treat or just a couple of pinches of food in the morning. But no matter how little you feed them, hamsters will always hoard some of it. This activity of hoarding keeps them active and de-stressed. Although you might wind up throwing out a lot of the food you give your hamster, you still will have a happy, healthy hammy anyway, whether the food is eaten or stashed. So you still get your money's worth from the food even if a good bit of it isn't actually eaten.