Are Hamsters Omnivores, Herbivores, or Carnivores?

Many people have questions about the diet of hamsters. One of the most frequently asked questions is whether hamsters are omnivores, herbivores, or carnivores. This is an understandable question for people to have. After all, hamsters are part of the rodent family which includes animals such as rats and guinea pigs. Rats are omnivorous while guinea pigs are herbivorous. Where do hamsters fall on this scale? 

Today, we’re going to take a closer look at the diet of hamsters to figure out the answer to this question.


The diet of a hamster

In the wild, hamsters eat a variety of grains, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and fruits. In addition, they also eat insects, frogs, lizards, and other small animals when available. In captivity, they should eat a diet that’s quite similar. Nevertheless, many hamster owners choose not to give their hamsters frogs, lizards, or insects.

As we can see, hamsters eat a large variety of foods that consist of animals as well as plants. They’re not particularly picky about what they will eat.

Are hamsters herbivores?

The oxford dictionary defines a herbivorous animal as “an animal that feeds on plants”. However, I would say that definition is lacking. After all, omnivores also feed on plants, but they’re not herbivores. The real definition of what a herbivore is should be: “An animal that feeds exclusively on plants.”

Herbivores come in a wide range of sizes. From the tiny grasshopper to the mighty elephant, herbivores are found all throughout the animal kingdom.

Because hamsters eat a diverse range of plants as well as animals, they can not be classified as herbivores.

Nevertheless, because hamsters naturally eat a diet that consists of a large part of plants and seeds, it is possible to feed your hamster a vegetarian diet. In fact, many people don’t even know that hamsters eat insects and other small animals in the wild and feed their hamsters nothing but plant-based foods.

It is possible for hamsters to survive and live a long healthy life without ever eating any insects or meat. However, do make sure that they get the protein and other nutrients they need from other sources such as commercial hamster pellets.

Are hamsters carnivores?

Carnivores are animals that cannot survive without eating meat. Examples of carnivores are cats and alligators. As you might’ve guessed from comparing your cute little hamster to the aforementioned animals, hamsters are not carnivores. They do not hunt animals, instead, they’re more opportunistic eaters. They’ll eat a bug or a frog if they come across one for an easy meal and a good source of protein but they do not necessarily need it to survive.

While it’s true that hamsters can eat and digest meat, it’s definitely not their primary food source so they’re not carnivores.

A question that often follows after people learn that hamsters can eat meat is whether they’re cannibals. The answer to this question might be a bit shocking. Sometimes, hamsters do indeed eat other hamsters. Luckily, this does not occur frequently. It sometimes happens when mother hamsters eat their babies. They do this because of stress, fear, scent confusion, a lack of food, or an inability to care for all the babies.

Are hamsters omnivores?

Being an omnivore means that you can eat and digest plants as well as animals. Examples of omnivores are raccoons and humans. 

Now that we’ve established that hamsters can eat plants, but are not herbivores, and can eat meat, but are not carnivores, only one option remains: They’re omnivores!

Hamsters are omnivores because they can derive nutrients from plants as well as animal-based foods. Like many other rodent species such as rats and mice, they’re highly opportunistic eaters. They’re not very fussy about what they will eat. 

In the wild, the hamster’s meat intake comes from small critters such as insects. In captivity, you can feed them insects as well but they can also eat small quantities of meat such as chicken or fish. In addition, they can also eat eggs.

Are all hamster species omnivorous?

Yes, all the hamster species that people keep as pets are omnivorous. All these hamster types have largely the same diet although Syrian hamsters should eat larger quantities than the smaller types because of their larger size.

Can I feed my hamster a vegan diet?

Hamsters are omnivores but they do not necessarily need meat in their diet in order to survive and thrive. It’s possible to raise a hamster on a diet that consists only of plant-based foods. However, it is very important to ensure if you do not feed your hamster insects or meat that you make sure they get enough protein from other sources. According to Bishops Stortford Veterinary Hospital, hamsters need at least 16% protein in their diet so make sure that they reach at least those levels. They can get their protein from specialized hamster pellets which are optimized to contain optimal nutrition for them.

Foods that hamsters can eat

If you’re curious about some of the foods that hamsters can eat, here are just a few of them.

Fruits: Apples, berries, melons, bananas, mangoes, grapes.
Vegetables: Asparagus, carrots, artichokes, leafy greens, broccoli.
Nuts: Walnuts, cashews, peanuts.
Meat: Chicken, turkey, fish

Foods to avoid feeding your hamster

While hamsters are omnivores, that does not mean that you can feed them anything you want. There are certain foods that should be avoided because they’re not good for hamsters. These foods include:

Foods to avoid feeding to a hamster ❌
  • Apple seeds
  • Raw beans
  • Raw potatoes
  • Citrus fruits
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Rhubarb
  • Chocolate
  • Junk food
  • Sugary or salty food

Final words

Hamsters are able to eat meat as well as plants. Because of this, they have a diet that’s quite similar to our own! You and your hamster are both omnivores and because of that, you’re able to share a lot of your favorite foods with your furry friend.

Nevertheless, while there’s a lot of overlap between the human and the hamster’s diet, always make sure that you do your research before feeding them a new type of food. Many foods that we eat on a daily basis are okay for them to have, but some, like garlic and onions, have to be avoided.

Sharing food with your hamster is a great and fun way to bond with them, so enjoy!

Jesse A.