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Wild Hamster Diet: Food List, Habitat and Nutrition

A wild hamster diet is vastly different than a pet hamster. It would be best if you didn’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 various foods, from seeds, insects, and nuts.

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

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What Do Hamsters Eat in the Wild?

hamster eating sunflower, what do hamsters eat in the wild?

Hamsters are omnivorous animals and eat various things in the wild, from seeds to insects.

In the wild, hamsters tend to be crepuscular, which means they are active in the 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 [1] because the fresh fruits they collect often ferment before they have the chance to eat them.

Compared to other animals, they have a pretty large liver to handle this metabolic processing.

Hamsters will eat much more than just fruits and grains in the wild. 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 wild hamsters will eat are frogs and lizards, and other small animals, including other hamsters.

Where Do Hamsters Live in the Wild?

Hamsters are found in several places worldwide, 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 teddy bear hamsters.

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

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

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

Being crepuscular [2] can avoid significant temperature extremes, which is crucial as they don’t handle drafts and colder temperatures well.

Rather than being stuck in the cold desert, they tend to be hunkered for the night before predators get active.

Hamsters are also sensitive to sounds, communicating primarily in the ultrasonic frequencies.

They also communicate through scent marking, and males and females will mark their territory with scent glands.

Males domesticated and in the wild will mark their territory after wetting down the fur over their scent glands.

In addition to using scent glands, females will mark their territory with other means, such as feces.

READ MORE: Can Hamsters Eat Cucumber?

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 your pet hamster consumes. Not just because of size difference but how they have been domesticated and raised.

Check: Can Hamsters Eat Almonds?

A Pet Hamster’s Diet

Hamster with pellets in bowl

Your pet hamster should have limited sugars, as they are highly 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

You can offer your pet hamster a diet of pellets, which is much more nutritionally balanced, but 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 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 regularly bringing fresh fruits and veggies to its cage, 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.

Take a look at this video to know what foods you should avoid when feeding your hamsters:

How Long Does a Wild Hamster Live For?

a hamster in wild, what do hamsters eat in the wild

Wild hamsters live for a variable 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 live longer than their smaller brethren.

The largest hamster globally is the European hamster, known by its scientific name Cricetus cricetus.

This hamster can live for eight years [3], which can get up to fourteen inches or 35 centimeters long.

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 brief 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 hamsters.

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 cage

Pet 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 live longer than dwarf hamsters [4], 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 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 essential 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 he has and make it easier for him to eat, and decrease his risk of getting an infection at his tooth root.

Are Hamsters Endangered in the Wild?

a hamster in the wild, what do hamsters eat in the wild

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

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 [5] 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 globally, 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 Brant’s hamster and the Romanian hamster.

The European hamster is an interesting case facing extinction in areas of its habitat range.

The IUCN has it labeled as a species of Least Concern because it is thriving in some regions of Eastern and Western Europe.

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

France is approaching the threat to 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 cage

If you want to keep your pet hamster healthy, there are various 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 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. Still, 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. Check our complete list of the best snacks for hamsters!

You can offer foods like apples or cherries for fresh fruits 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.

You can offer other vegetables to your hamsters, 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.

FAQs

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?

a hamster in the wild, what do hamsters eat in the wild

In 1939 humans started to domesticate hamsters. Hamsters live in the wild throughout Europe and in hot sandy areas. Wild hamsters were first found in Syria and live wildly in Romania, Belgium, Northern China, and Greece.

Are there hamsters in the wild?

Yes, over 20 species of wild hamsters live throughout Europe and Asia.

Resources

  • 1. Suk L. Alcohol Consumption in Syrian Golden Hamster A THESIS SUBMITTED W PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIRMENT FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF PHILOSOPHY IN BIOCHEMISTRY [Internet]. 1999. Available from: https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/48534506.pdf
  • 2. Gattermann R, Johnston RE, Yigit N, Fritzsche P, Larimer S, Özkurt S, et al. Golden hamsters are nocturnal in captivity but diurnal in nature. Biology Letters. 2008;4:253–5.
  • 3. How Long Do Hamsters Live? [Internet]. www.petmd.com. Available from: https://www.petmd.com/exotic/care/evr_ex_hm_how-long-do-hamsters-live
  • 4. Extra – All About Hamsters [Internet]. wp.wwu.edu. [cited 2022 Jan 3]. Available from: https://wp.wwu.edu/hamsters/extra/#:~:text=Syrian%20hamsters%20live%20for%20four
  • 5. IUCN. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species [Internet]. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2018. Available from: https://www.iucnredlist.org/
hamster eating wheat in the wild

Have you ever seen a wild hamster? Let us know your thoughts about them below!

Alina Hartley
Alina Hartley

Alina Hartley is a small-town girl with a ginormous love of bearded dragons. It all started with Winchester, a baby bearded who was abandoned at the shelter by his former owners because of a birth defect that caused one front leg to be shorter than the other. Alina originally went to the shelter looking for a guinea pig, but one look at Winchester and it was love at first sight. From that day on, Alina has dedicated her life to learning everything she can about bearded dragons. She loves helping new beardie parents start their incredible journey with these magnificent reptiles.
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