Chocolate is delicious and fattening, and therefore the bane of my existence… but will it hurt your hamster?
Can hamsters eat chocolate? Hamsters cannot eat chocolate. It’s poisonous to them. Even a small piece of chocolate can make hamsters extremely sick and can cause death in large enough quantities.
There are many treats you can safely give to your pet hamster. Chocolate is not one of them, as it contains two substances that are severely toxic to hamsters (and most other animals): theobromine and caffeine.
Why Is Chocolate Poisonous To Hamsters?
Chocolate is toxic to hamsters because of the presence of theobromine and caffeine. These substances are toxic to most animals ‒ but they are especially toxic to hamsters (mainly because they’re so dang tiny).
What Should You Do If Your Hamster Eats Chocolate?
It depends on how much and what type of chocolate your hamster ate. milk chocolate is least toxic whereas baking chocolate is extremely toxic.
Keep a close eye on your hamster and see if there are any visible symptoms that shows any sign of sickness. Make sure you provide your hamster with plenty of freshwater and food.
It’s a good idea to provide them with a small amount of fresh vegetables as it may help flush their digestive systems.
Caffeine is a stimulant so you would expect them to be more jittery and moving around more than normal.
Hamsters don’t have the ability to throw up, but depending on how much they ate they will likely have diarrhea.
If you are very concerned and your hamster is showing signs of sickness, the best possible option would be to call or visit your local vets.
Why Theobromine Is Poisonous To Hamsters
Let’s start with theobromine, as it’s the more harmful of the two. Theobromine is an alkaloid contained in the cacao plant. The word “cacao” probably rings a bell: it’s the plant chocolate is made out of.
Humans can digest theobromine just fine. We’re large organisms, and we can take a ton of punishment when it comes to compounds that harm smaller creatures. If you or I were to “overdose” on chocolate, we might sweat, tremble, or get headaches. Definitely annoying, but nothing life-threatening.
Why is this the case? Well, we have an excellent liver that can metabolize theobromine quickly and efficiently. So give your liver a hearty thank you the next time your munching down on some chocolatey goodness.
Hamsters, on the other hand, cannot digest theobromine just fine. They are much tinier than humans, and they also metabolize theobromine much more slowly than we do. If a human and a hamster eats the same amount of chocolate, the hamster’s body will have to deal with a larger proportion of theobromine because of its slower metabolic processes.
One of the most common signs of theobromine poisoning in a hamster is an increased rate of urination. As the poisoning progresses, the hamster can quickly develop an irregular heartbeat, seizures, heart attack, internal bleeding, all of which can prove fatal.
Why Caffeine Is Poisonous To Hamsters
Caffeine is the other substance in chocolate you need to be worried about. While it’s not as toxic as theobromine, both are always present in chocolate, so you need to be worried about it affecting your hamster too.
Caffeine is a stimulant that impacts the central nervous system. While it can make us humans more productive and focused, it’s a bit much for our tiny hamster friends. Hamsters who ingest caffeine can experience a life-threatening increase in heart rate.
At the very least, they’ll be significantly distraught by the added stress on their heart and body. And the combined toxic effects of the theobromine and caffeine might be enough to take your hamster down, even if the amounts were small enough that they wouldn’t have been fatal had they been ingested without the other substance.
Moral of the story? Don’t give your hamster chocolate….or coffee for that matter, as it also has caffeine. But especially not chocolate.
Which Is More Harmful: Dark Chocolate or Milk Chocolate?
If your hamster gets its little paws on a chocolate bar, you should hope it’s milk chocolate instead of dark chocolate.
This is because dark chocolate is more harmful than milk chocolate for hamsters. It’s worse because it’s a more concentrated form of chocolate. There is much more cacao per square inch in dark chocolate, which means there is much more toxic theobromine per square inch in dark chocolate.
The difference is actually pretty astounding: dark chocolate has ten times the theobromine as milk chocolate. So if your hamster eats even a tiny, tiny bit of dark chocolate, the consequences will be severe.
If you’re at all concerned about your hamster getting loose and finding your chocolate stash, it might be a good idea to have milk chocolate in the house instead of dark chocolate. You’ll have significantly more time to rescue your hamster from a potentially fatal eating binge if it ever finds its way into your chocolate stores.
Is There Any Amount Of Chocolate That Is Safe For Hamsters?
No. As much as I’d love to share the joys of chocolate with every hamster around the world, I can’t advocate for even a single crumb of chocolate to reach their pudgy cheeks.
Even if your hamster doesn’t die from chocolate ingestion, there’s still a very high likelihood it will get quite sick. The ramifications from this could shorten its lifespan and quality of life considerably, even if death is not immediate.
I should also note that this includes all kinds of chocolate. I’m not just talking about dark chocolate and milk chocolate. White chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, Baker’s chocolate, and cocoa powder are all toxic to hamsters. In fact, semi-sweet chocolate, Baker’s chocolate, and cocoa powder are more toxic than dark chocolate ‒ which is really saying something, as dark chocolate is already significantly more toxic than milk chocolate.
How Do I Make Sure My Hamster Doesn’t Eat Chocolate?
Your hamster doesn’t have money, a means of transportation, or the ability to speak English… so you don’t have to worry about it driving down to the local market and picking up a Hershey’s Bar.
You do need to worry about leaving chocolate somewhere your hamster can get ahold of it though. This problem is compounded if you have small children who are apt to leave things lying around.
So here are my tips for ensuring your hamster isn’t poisoned by chocolate:
- Have a designated location for chocolate in your home. It could be a cabinet, or a jar on the counter. Make sure all chocolate that leaves that location is either eaten entirely or put back when you or your family are done picking at it.
- Explain very clearly to your children that chocolate will kill the hamster. Tell them not to leave chocolate lying around the house, and especially not near the hamster cage. Also make sure to emphasize that this includes chocolate-covered fruit, as some kids might think it’s fine to feed the hamster fruit (but forget about the oh-so-important chocolate coating).
- Supervise your children when they’re playing with the hamster. This should be done whether you’re worried about chocolate or not, but it’s another reason to keep an eye on hamster playtime.
What other foods can’t hamsters eat? You should avoid giving your hamster: Citrus fruits, almonds/peanuts, apple seeds, fruit pits, candy, high-fat foods and meat, tomato leaves, beans onions, and peppers.
What foods can hamsters safely eat? Some foods hamsters can eat are kale, cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, mango, peaches, raspberries, cherries, strawberries, and celery. Before giving your hamster foods you should consult the internet first.
How long do hamsters live when fed the correct diet? Syrian hamsters usually live for two to three years and dwarf hamsters usually live for one to two years, though a three-year lifespan isn’t unheard of.