As a hamster owner, you’ll need to consider what to and what not to give them. It can be confusing with a lot of information, recommendations, and marketing out there. A lot of pets simply must have hay, so it’s only natural to question whether a hamster falls within the same category. I’ve conducted some research into the topic and would like to share this with you today. This way, you’ll know for good what to do when it comes to hay and your hamster.
So, do hamsters need hay? Hamsters do not need hay. They can survive perfectly safely without it. However, hay is a cost-effective food source that can provide plenty of fiber and nutrition. It is something that you can safely feed. Moreover, hay makes excellent bedding which you can use to keep their cage more clean and hygienic.
Let us now take a closer look at the topic in more depth. You’ll be discovering how hamsters typically do with hay along with the types of hay to get and other important considerations.
Is Hay Okay For Hamsters?
Hay is perfectly safe for hamsters. In fact, it is very beneficial. It has multiple uses being a food source, natural behavioral simulator, dental health promoter, and serving as soft fresh bedding.
Hamsters require a high fiber diet for digestive health and motility. Fresh hay is naturally very high in fiber and can be given daily.
Hay is very effective for promoting foraging behaviors and stimulation.
Hay also serves to maintain proper tooth wear, which will help to prevent dental issues like malocclusion (tooth misalignment).
Not all hamsters will care to eat hay, especially if they have other ‘treats’ available. However, it is important that you limit such treats to prevent obesity and other weight management issues.
When providing hay, hamsters do best and enjoy nibbling on Meadow, Timothy, and Orchard Grass; these are great choices.
They are generally more flavorsome types of grasses that a hamster will be more willing to eat.
You must make sure that you buy good quality fresh hay; you’ll want to look out for ones that are labeled dust-free.
The reason why you should get dust-free hay is that dust when inhaled can pose respiratory issues for your hamster. It’s especially dangerous for such small creatures.
Freshness is also crucial as this will ensure that it is appetizing to your hamster and that it remains nutritious and wholesome.
If you do have a stockpile of food/bedding for your hamster already, you can always mix hay into their bowls/cage when it is time to refill/clean.
The Glenway Animal Hospital is a big advocate of providing hay to your hamster and it is a good cost-effective way to promote optimal health and well-being.
Hamsters And Hay (What Hamsters Use Hay For And The Type Of Hay They Need)
While many animals require a daily supply of hay in their diet to survive, these include grazing livestock, cattle, horses, etc, house pets like rabbits and guinea pigs, this is not true for hamsters. It is not essential and you can get by without out.
However, hay is an excellent source of fiber and minerals. As previously mentioned, it can help to maintain a well-functioning digestive tract and it supports dental health.
While your hamster doesn’t need it every day, you can certainly offer it to your hamster as a healthy supplement, two or three times a week.
The choices of hay that are best to offer your hamster are:
Timothy hay is a high fiber grass, with low protein content, compared to other grasses. It supports good digestion, a healthy weight, and bowel regularity.
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Orchard hay is high in protein (10-12%), higher than other grasses in calorie content, it contains the same levels of calcium and phosphorus as Timothy hay.
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Meadow hay is more generic hay, it’s cheaper and more widely available than the other grasses.
Meadow hay contains a lot of variety, and your hamster can just pick the high-calorie bits and leave the rest, you must be vigilant, and see if this hay is right for your hamster.
Some owners give their hamsters alfalfa hay, but it is recommended to only feed alfalfa hay to young, pregnant, or nursing hamsters, as it has a very high calcium content. In excess this can be dangerous.
Can Hamsters Have Hay Bedding?
When it comes to choosing the right bedding for your hamster, it’s best to opt for soft bedding.
To test the softness of bedding material, you must check its water solubility. Bedding must be absorbent, for the health and safety of your hamster. This will also lead to a more pleasant smelling and favorable environment for your hamster and your home.
There is some discrepancy among hamster owners, whether hay should be used as bedding for their small pets.
Straw is definitely out of the question, as it is sharp and can hurt their little feet and eyes; it can also damage their food pouches.
Some owners say that hay is equally harmful to hamsters, but this is generally from poor quality hay that contains dust, or from specific cuts (like first cut Timothy) which is sharper.
So, if you do opt for hay bedding, be careful where you source it from. Ensure it is freshly cut and carefully handled.
You must choose soft hay, like Timothy, aside from its nutritional benefits, it makes wonderful bedding for your hamster.
Other Things To Consider About Hay
- When it comes to choosing bedding, there are two types of bedding materials you must consider. One is material that goes down on the bottom of the cage. The other is a nesting material that goes where they sleep. You must go with what is right for your hamster, it will involve a lot of trial and error.
- Your hamster may be allergic to certain materials, they may even be allergic to some types of hay. There are other factors to take into considerations, such as the type of hamster and cage that you have.
- If you own an energetic hamster, that likes to fluff their bedding a lot, a few inches of materials will suffice. Too much is better than too little, especially when the temperature of their room is cooler.
- Hamsters enjoy burrowing, it’s great for their well-being as this is what they would do in the wild. They love to create caves and tunnels, wherein they will store their food and even have a snooze. They are prey animals so burrowing is a great defense mechanism, they will do it in their cages too. You can help them by providing safe, and comfortable materials in their homes. Some owners say that hay helps to promote burrowing behaviors, as the tunnels and caves that they create, stand up much better with hay.
- When it comes to cleaning their cage, aim to do it, at least once a week. When you are cleaning, remove your hamster from their cage and place them somewhere safe such as a little play-pen. Always use safe, non-toxic cleaning cleaners (like this great brand on Amazon.
- Hay bedding that is wet and soiled should be removed straight away, and be replaced with clean fresh hay. This task must be done daily, and you will enjoy the company of a happy, healthy and playful hamster.
It’s common knowledge that hamsters are omnivores if you were to observe hamsters in the wild, they survive on a mix of insects and seasonal vegetation.
Pet hamsters require a diet that is similar to their wild counterparts.
You can purchase dry food that’s specially developed for hamsters, it will contain all of the vital nutrients and minerals your hamster needs to be happy and healthy.
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You must offer them small amounts of fresh fruit and vegetables, and to give your hamster a protein boost, you can offer protein-packed snacks such as mealworms, or eggs.
Hamsters, being small animals, have small stomachs, so, it’s crucial that you don’t over-feed your pet. You must provide them with a supply of fresh, clean water daily.
Hamsters do not ‘need’ hay. However, this does not mean that you should not provide it.
Hay comes with a range of benefits to you and your hamster and it is a cost-effective way to improve their health, well-being, and environment.
Hay is also cost-effective and enables you to ensure that your hamster is getting the fiber in the diet they need and the materials required to provide mental stimulation, soft bedding, and comfort.
Wondering else what your hamster may need? Well check out my other related guides below:
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.