Wild Hamster Diet: Food List, Habitat and Nutrition

Wild Hamster

A wild hamster diet is vastly different than a pet hamster. It is important that you don’t use this article as a guide to feed your pet hamster. Check out our hamster diet guide to learn more about the correct diet for your pet hamster.

What do hamsters eat in the wild? Wild hamsters are omnivorous and eat a wide range of foods from seeds, insects, and nuts.  

Wild hamsters were first found in Syria and also live wildly in Romania, Belgium, Northern China, and Greece. They like to live in dry warm areas.

What Do Hamsters Eat in the Wild?

Isobel G Hamster EatingHamsters are omnivorous animals and eat a wide variety of things in the wild, from seeds to insects. In the wild, hamsters tend to be crepuscular, which means they are active in the time periods around dawn and dusk, which may help them avoid predators and temperature extremes.

Hamsters in the wild do a lot of foraging, just like your domesticated pet hamster does, but it tends to be on a whole other level. They will travel great distances to collect food, packing it into their cheek pouches to bring back to their burrows.

Your pet hamster’s wild cousins eat seeds, grains, and nuts. They will also eat fresh fruits and veggies.

Syrian hamsters are considered to have a tolerance for alcohol because the fresh fruits they collect often ferment before they have the chance to eat them. Compared to other animals their size, they have a pretty large liver to handle this metabolic processing.

In the wild, hamsters will eat much more than just fruits and grains. They will also catch and eat insects.

The biggest wild hamsters are large – much bigger than the dwarf hamsters often kept as pets, and they can also catch prey to consume. Some examples that wild hamsters will eat include frogs and lizards, as well as other small animals, including other hamsters.

Where Do Hamsters Live in the Wild?

Hamsters are found in several places around the world, such as Syria and China. The first known hamsters were caught in Syria, and they are generally referred to as Syrian hamsters, although you may also find some dubbed a teddy bear hamster.

Hamsters prefer to live in warm, dry areas, such as near the desert or steppes. They make elaborate burrows in the ground in which to live and store their hoard of food.

You can find hamsters in a range of places, however, not just the desert. For example, some wild hamsters can be found in Greece, Romania, and Belgium.

Hamsters have a tough time living in the wild, so it is amazing that some live for years in burrows. They don’t see very well, being both nearsighted and color blind.

By being crepuscular, they are able to avoid some major temperature extremes, which is important as they don’t handle drafts and colder temperatures well at all. Rather than being stuck out in the desert in the cold, they tend to be hunkered down for the night before their predators get too active.

Hamsters are also sensitive to sounds, communicating largely in the ultrasonic frequencies. They also communicate through scent marking, and males and females will mark their territory with scent glands.

Males both domesticated and in the wild will mark their territory after wetting down the fur over their scent glands. Females, in addition to using scent glands, will mark their territory with other means, such as feces.

How Does a Pet Hamster Diet Differ from a Wild Hamster Diet?

A Wild Hamster’s Diet

Wild hamsters consume seeds, nuts, grains, insects, small animals, fruits and veggies. This is vastly different from the diet that your pet hamster will consume, not just because of the size difference of some of the hamsters but how they have been domesticated and raised.

A Pet Hamster’s Diet

Hamster with chew toyYour pet hamster should have limited sugars, as they are extremely susceptible to diabetes, especially dwarf varieties. Hamster experts tout that hamsters should have a diet of about 16 percent protein and 5 percent fats.

Pellets: Your pet hamster can be offered a diet of pellets, which is much more nutritionally balanced than anything that his hamster cousins might forage for out in the wild. Pelleted formulations tend to be better than mixes that contain seeds, pellets and other components, because your hamster might decide to just eat what he wants to out of the mix, leaving the rest behind.

Hay: Your pet hamster should be offered timothy hay daily, which will help keep his digestive tract regular and keep his teeth worn down. Hay is not something available to wild hamsters, although they may eat grasses and plants to some extent.

Fresh foods: Your hamster has you to bring fresh fruits and veggies to its cage on a regular basis, so he does not have to go out foraging and collect a big hoard. Your pet hamster should not eat spoiled foods, which wild hamsters might have to consume.

Fresh water: Your pet hamster has access to fresh water every day, unlike wild hamsters who may have to get their moisture from the foods that they eat. If your hamster goes without water, he could die.

How Long Does a Wild Hamster Live For?

Wild hamsters live for a variable amount of time, but they can live longer lives than domesticated pet hamsters. The smaller the hamster is, the shorter its life expectancy generally is, so larger wild hamsters tend to live longer than its smaller brethren.

The largest hamster in the world is the European hamster, known by its scientific name Cricetus cricetus. This hamster, which can get up to fourteen inches or 35 centimeters long, can live for up to eight years.

Smaller varieties of hamsters tend to live for only two to three years.

Wild hamsters often have their life span cut short by predators, such as owls and foxes. These animals have adapted to have a very short gestation period, so their populations are often not adversely affected by the predators that hunt them.

That said, hamsters tend to be vulnerable out in the wild, especially the golden or Syrian hamster. They have lost much of their original habitats to human development and encroachment in their space.

How Long Does a Pet Hamster Live For?

Cute Hamster in cagePet hamsters tend to live for up to a few years in captivity, generally ranging from 1.5 to 3 years. Larger, golden or Syrian hamsters tend to live longer than dwarf hamsters such as the Campbell’s hamster or the Robo hamster.

There are reports of hamsters living with people for up to seven years, but the Guinness World Record is held by a hamster that lived for 4.5 years. It was owned by a person living in the United Kingdom.

Many different things can affect your hamster’s life expectancy, including everything from genetics to what he eats every day. Feeding a balanced diet is one of the things we can do to help make sure our hamsters live as long as they can.

Sticking with pelleted food mixes gives your hamster something to gnaw on and wear his teeth down, as well as provide a balanced source of nutrition. Feeding fattening foods such as seeds or certain nuts within moderation helps to keep your hamster healthy.

Another thing that can affect your hamster’s life expectancy is proper veterinary care. If your hamster is feeling unwell, such as having diarrhea, it’s important to have him evaluated by a veterinary professional.

If your hamster doesn’t wear his teeth evenly, he will likely need to have his teeth dremeled or filed down by a vet. This will help minimize any discomfort that he has, as well as making it easier for him to eat and decrease his risk of getting an infection at his tooth root.

Are Hamsters Endangered in the Wild?

Hamsters are not considered endangered in the wild, but in some places, they are at risk of becoming extinct in their native ranges.

The IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, is a worldwide group that lists animals as threatened, endangered, extinct, or of least concern because there is minimal threat to their populations.

The IUCN lists the Syrian hamster, also known as the golden hamster, as vulnerable, which means that its population is rapidly shrinking, and it could soon become endangered. While this is the most common pet hamster in the world, its numbers are dwindling in the wild.

The IUCN also lists other hamsters as Near Threatened, which means that their populations are shrinking but not to the dangerous level of the golden hamster. These species include the Brant’s hamster and the Romanian hamster.

The European hamster is an interesting case that is facing extinction in areas of its habitat range. The IUCN has it labelled as a species of Least Concern because it is thriving in certain areas of Eastern and Western Europe.

In some areas, however, the European hamster’s population as dwindled to a mere fraction of what it used to be. In France, the hamster used to thrive, but its population has gone down to a mere few hundred animals.

France is approaching the threat to the animal’s extinction by developing more hamster friendly agricultural practices, such as planting fields with alfalfa rather than corn.

Pet Hamster Diet Dos and Don’t

Hamster in their cageIf you want to keep your pet hamster healthy, there are a variety of things to do as far as feeding him goes. First of all, you don’t want to overfeed your hamster; most hamsters only need one to two tablespoons of food mix every day to get all of the calories that they need.

Feed your hamster a pellet mix rather than a seed mix to ensure that he gets the nutrients that he needs. This balanced diet will prevent him from picking out only the seeds or pieces of food that he wants, leaving the rest behind that he needs to eat.

You don’t want to leave food out at all times for your hamster – he might take it and hoard it all around his cage. There’s also a chance that he will pig out and eat a great deal of the food, becoming overweight and at risk for developing diabetes.

You want to offer your hamster small amounts of hay regularly, and the best kind to offer is timothy hay. Other types, such as alfalfa, have too many calories and are too rich for your hamster to eat regularly.

You also need to make sure your hamster has access to water regularly to prevent him from getting dehydrated. Having access to water will help keep him from having his cheek pouches dry out, which can cause food to get stuck in them, which can be rather painful.

You should also offer your hamster fresh fruits and vegetables regularly, usually every couple of days, but you need to make sure that you don’t offer too much – a small amount, about the size of a raisin or bean, is enough for your hamster to snack on.

Speaking of snacks, stick with fresh foods that are safe for your hamster to eat rather than giving sugary treats such as yogurt drops.

For fresh fruits, you can offer foods like apples or cherries, without the seeds or pits. Use care if giving a melon as the high water content in these foods increases the risk of your hamster developing diarrhea.

Fruits to avoid include citrus fruits such as oranges. These can cause gastrointestinal upset and make your hamster very sick.

There are plenty of vegetables that you can offer your hamster. Leafy greens such as spinach or kale are very nutrient dense without having lots of calories; avoid iceberg lettuce though because it doesn’t have many nutrients and can lead to diarrhea in your hamster.

Other vegetables can be offered to your hamster, such as carrots and broccoli. These also provide something for your hamster to gnaw on, allowing his teeth to wear down.

Avoid giving raw potatoes, uncooked kidney beans, onions, garlic and other toxic foods. These can make your hamster very sick or even kill him.

In addition to the foods you feed, you need to make sure to offer your hamster items to chew on. You can purchase safe wooden sticks, blocks, and even houses for him to gnaw on and keep his teeth worn down appropriately at your local pet store.

Related Questions:

Why do wild hamsters live longer? Wild hamsters live longer due to their diet in the wild and the amount of exercise they get compared to pet hamsters.

Do hamsters exist in the wild? in 1939 humans started to domesticated hamsters. Hamster live in the wild throughout Europe and in hot sandy areas. Wild hamsters were first found in Syria and also live wildly in Romania, Belgium, Northern China, and Greece.

Are there hamsters in the wild? Yes, there are over 20 species of wild hamsters that live throughout Europe and Asia.

Charlotte Silcock

Charlotte lives in the United Kingdom and has worked in animal shelters looking after small animals. She owns a hamster as well as a dog and a cat and hopes to spread her knowledge about rodents to help other pet owners.

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