Hamsters love to chew on wood, food and cage bars, but is cardboard safe for them to chew on?
Can Hamsters Chew On Cardboard? Hamsters can chew on cardboard as long as nothing that could potentially hurt the hamster is on the cardboard such as printing ink, metal staples, glue, and tape.
Before you go tossing any old cardboard into their cage, you need to make sure the cardboard you’re giving them is safe and free of any toxins or dangerous attachments.
How To Make Sure The Cardboard Is Safe
While cardboard itself is safe for your hamster to chew on, there are often things attached to cardboard that can harm your furry little friend. Before you give your hamster any cardboard, you should check for the following hazardous items:
- Metal staples. These are by far the most dangerous cardboard attachment, as your hamster can attempt to chew them and cut itself in the process.
- Glue and other adhesive substances. While useful for humans, these substances can be composed of dangerous chemicals. If your hamster eats them, they can get quite ill.
- Tape. You’ll want to remove any tape on the cardboard because it can be difficult for your hamster to digest. The chemicals used to make the tape sticky can also be toxic.
- Food remnants. There are a number of food items that can make your hamster sick. If one of these types of food is on the cardboard you give your hamster, your furball could get sick.
- Glossy or dyed cardboard. While most cardboard is okay for your hamster to chew on, glossy or dyed cardboard is not okay. The chemicals contained in these special types of cardboard can be toxic to small animals.
Don’t worry too much if you do accidentally give your hamster something from that list though (except for the staples – those are definitely not okay). Hamsters are pretty good at knowing what is food and what isn’t.
If you give them some tape or glossy cardboard, they almost certainly won’t eat it. They’re just looking for something firm to gnaw on.
You also shouldn’t worry about giving your hamster colored cardboard. Again, they probably aren’t going to eat it, so the minimal amount of chemicals in the cardboard coloring should be a non-issue.
If you want to play it absolutely safe though, you can stick to giving your hamster plain old brown cardboard.
Why Does My Hamster Want To Chew Cardboard?
The main reason your hamster likes to chew on cardboard (and everything else) is that its front teeth, also known as incisors, never stop growing.
Evolution has given them a constant instinctual urge to gnaw on things constantly. By doing this, they can keep their incisors from growing too long.
It’s actually extremely important that they keep their teeth at a reasonable length. If their incisors aren’t kept in check, they can actually interfere with your hamster’s ability to close its mouth. This has all sorts of negative health implications:
- An inability to eat
- Cuts in the mouth and on the gums
- Extreme pain when the upper and lower incisors inevitably strike each other
- Broken teeth from improper chewing on hard objects (like cage bars)
Your hamster also likes to chew on cardboard because it makes for great nesting material. Unlike most of the other materials available to a hamster in it cage, cardboard is easily broken down into smaller pieces and makes the perfect nesting material.
DIY Cardboard Hamster Toys
If you need some cardboard for your hamster to chew on, here are a bunch of common household objects you can use:
- Toilet paper rolls
- Shoe boxes
- Cereal Boxes
- Pasta boxes
- Shipping boxes
- Product packaging
Health Benefits Of Chewing Cardboard
The primary health benefit of chewing cardboard is that it will keep your hamster’s incisors at a healthy length.
In addition to saving your hamster from painful cuts, this will also enable them to keep eating their healthy pellets and veggies, which will in turn keep them healthy and free of illness. It’s all cumulative… so make sure you give your hamster plenty of things to chew on!
It can also keep your hamster occupied though, which can help keep your hamster from becoming bored or depressed.
This is honestly a pretty minor detail, as most hamsters will find plenty to do whether they have cardboard or not, but it’s an extremely inexpensive way to add another fun activity to your hamster’s life, so you might as well throw some cardboard in their cage.
What other things can hamsters safely chew on? While cardboard is probably the cheapest and most readily available thing your hamster can chew on. Hamsters can chew on wooden chew blocks, mineral blocks, and unflavored dog biscuits.
What can’t hamsters safely chew on? Before giving anything to your hamster, you need to be careful of anything that can harm your hamster. Here’s a list of potentially harmful chew toys: popsicle sticks, plastic and anything sharp.
Does my hamster need something harder than cardboard to chew on? Cardboard makes for excellent chewing material, it’s on the softer side. Chew toys such as wooden blocks are more effective and healthier for your hamster’s teeth.