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Can Hamsters Eat Hay? Vet Approved Facts & FAQ

Keri-Beth Clur

By Keri-Beth Clur

Hay

Vet approved

Dr. Karyn Kanowski Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Karyn Kanowski

BVSc MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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As omnivores, hamsters in the wild have a diet that consists of plants and insects. However, domesticated hamsters primarily eat hamster pellets that you can find at your local pet store, along with some fresh vegetables and fruit. One of the many items scattered around your hamster’s cage is probably hay, which is often used as natural bedding. This hay has more than one use, though, so don’t be alarmed if you see your little pet nibbling on their “bedding” because hay can be safely enjoyed by hamsters.

In fact, eating hay provides your hamster with a number of benefits. Let’s take a look at why hay should definitely feature in your hammy’s life.

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The Benefits of Hamsters Eating Hay

Although pellets are a hamster’s primary food and provide most of their nutritional needs, it doesn’t require much in the way of chewing. When a hamster is enjoying a bit of hay, they are also working their jaws, teeth, and gums. Here are some of the main benefits of providing your hamster with hay:

  • It is high in fiber, which is great for digestive health and keeping your hamster regular, which will help prevent diarrhea.
  • It contains minerals that are beneficial to your hamster’s health.
  • It wears down their teeth. Hamster teeth never stop growing, and if they aren’t worn down through gnawing on certain substances, they can develop dental issues.
  • It is low in calories and a great alternative for obese hamsters that need to lose weight. It also helps regulate weight.

If your hamster doesn’t like the taste of hay and won’t eat it, it can still be used as an affordable bedding option, and most hamsters love burrowing in it. It also encourages mental and physical stimulation as hamsters will naturally forage and dig in the hay, preventing boredom and keeping your little pet excited and active. Some hamsters won’t eat hay but will still use it as something to gnaw on.

hamster in a hay
Image Credit: gashgeron, Shutterstock

The Downside of Hay

When considering adding hay to your hamster’s cage, you need to be aware of a few things.

Firstly, eating too much hay can cause issues with your hamster’s digestive system, such as diarrhea or constipation. Your hamster needs good-quality hamster pellets to be the foundation of their diet because they meet their nutritional needs. Hay needs to be consumed in moderation, as well as any fruits, vegetables, nuts, boiled eggs, or mealworms that you give to them as a treat. However, if your hamster is receiving the food they need, they won’t overindulge on hay; it’s not usually at the top of their list of favorite food items!

Secondly, hay can be dusty, which can cause your hamster to have breathing problems. Either opt for a dust-free option or air it out before placing it down in your hamster’s cage.

Lastly, hay can be hard. It might not be the whole bag of hay, but there are sometimes hard or sharp pieces that are uncomfortable for your hamster to burrow in and sleep on. The hard pieces also have the potential to injure your hamster. With this in mind, sift through your bag of hay and remove any harder pieces that may cause an issue.

Hay
Image Credit: JumpStory

Hay That Is Safe for Hamsters

Although most hay is safe for your hamster to eat, stick to common types that are trusted, tried and tested, and free from any harmful pesticides or chemicals. Different types of hay have similar nutritional benefits, but one type might have a bit more protein or calcium than another.

Common types of hay that are safe for hamsters are Timothy hay, Alfalfa hay, Orchard grass, and Brome hay. However, Timothy and Alfalfa hay are the most popular amongst hamster owners, and hamsters tend to prefer their taste.

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Conclusion

It is safe for hamsters to eat hay, and they can benefit physically and nutritionally from it. Hay contains fiber, protein, and minerals that are good for your hamster’s health. It can also be used to gnaw on, forage in, and sleep on.

Hay should never be used as a replacement for their commercial hamster pellets, but it can be enjoyed alongside it. A hamster’s diet should primarily consist of commercial hamster pellets because they give them everything they need nutritionally. However, treats such as boiled eggs, nuts, mealworms, fruits, and vegetables can be given in moderation.

 

Featured Image Credit: JumpStory

Keri-Beth Clur

Authored by

Keri-Beth is from South Africa and is a freelance writer who specializes in the pet niche. She has grown up with a range of pets, volunteered at countless pet shelters, and is highly passionate about pet care. Currently, Keri-Beth is raising two dogs - Benji, the Golden Cocker Spaniel, and Gracie, the Boerboel. With so much information out there, Keri-Beth has made it her mission to make pet care as easy and straightforwa...Read more

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