Can Hamsters Eat Almonds?
Hamster nutrition is an important aspect that every hamster owner should understand. To begin with, hamsters are omnivores, meaning that they consume foods of both animal and plant origin. Their diets include a variety of seeds, fruits, vegetables, insects and other animal-based food. Even though their diet is varied, you must take care in deciding what you feed to them. So where does that leave almonds? While we know that a balanced diet is essential in ensuring that your pet remains healthy, some foods can also cause adverse reactions. So, can hamsters eat almonds?
The Nutritional Value Of Almonds
Almonds are among the most popular tree nuts in the world. And like many other nuts, they are rich in fats, antioxidants as well as vitamins and minerals. Though high in fat, these are monounsaturated fats, known as good fats.
In humans, almond consumption is associated with lower risk of heart disease. Also, they also contain minerals like manganese and copper and these help in energy production.
So, how do hamsters fit in? They can enjoy the health benefits of almonds as well but in moderation. For hamsters, we need to consider a few other things.
Hamster Digestive System and Almonds
To begin with, we will investigate hamster teeth. Hamsters have a pair of incisors, and back teeth called molars which they use to bite into hard foods such as seeds. Almonds can be pretty tough, but hamsters have been designed to tolerate them. Their stomach is split into two unique sections.
The first one contains bacteria which ferments the food that the hamsters eat. This is especially useful for fibrous foods like almonds. The other part of the stomach is similar to a human stomach, and it contains bacteria and enzymes which further digest the food they eat.
As you can tell, a hamster’s digestive system is well equipped to digest almonds safely. However, they may suffer from indigestion, which occurs if hamsters overeat too quickly. This may cause hiccups and can be potentially life-threatening. Hiccups are lasting longer than 24 hours and should be checked out by a veterinarian. Lethargy, or a hamster that’s sleeping more than necessary, is an indication of indigestion and you should have the vet check him as well.
While almonds can be safe for hamsters, different species may react differently. This is why it is essential to test and see if your hamster will tolerate almonds before fully integrating them into the diet. Starting with a small piece and watching for adverse reactions can help you assure that almonds are not harmful to them. Some adverse reactions may be lethargy, diarrhea, and indigestion.
Precautions for Feeding Almonds to Hamsters
While almonds are rich in nutrients, they do contain a cyanide compound. When you ingest it in specific doses, it can be fatal especially for a creature as small as a hamster.
This compound is found in bitter almonds, and 1 almond contains enough to poison a giant hamster. So, if you decide to serve almonds to your furry companion, ensure that they are the sweet variety. Such do not contain harmful levels of cyanide. This distinction can be found in the packaging of the almonds.
Always feed organic almonds to your pet. This is because the other varieties contain harmful chemicals such as pesticides and preservatives, and hamsters do not take these very well. Ensure they are unsalted and unflavored, as excess salt in the diet may lead to salinity poisoning.
Extra Precaution When Feeding The Small Ones
A small hamster should have no more than half an almond 2-3 times per week. However, a larger hamster should be able to tolerate a whole almond. It is necessary to monitor the quantity and frequency of almonds you feed to your hamster because of the high-fat content. High consumption can lead to obesity and other related health conditions.
You need to check the almonds before feeding them to your hamster thoroughly. Check for size, shape, and smoothness. Those with an irregular shape are usually bitter, and you should not serve them to your little hamster pet. It is even better to soak almonds in hot water for 15 minutes before feeding. This softens the skin so that you’re able to remove it, as the almond skin may cause digestive issues.
Do Hamsters Even Like Almonds?
Almonds are generally nuts, or more accurately, seeds. This means they fall squarely into the category of foods that hamsters naturally gather in the wild. Hamsters’ teeth are actually designed to bite into these kinds of food. Therefore, possible that if you did not already domesticate your hamster, it would be out in the wild filling up its cheek pouches with almonds and stashing them away. Evolutionary survival traits would have developed in hamsters. This has caused them to stay away from bitter almonds instinctively.
As for domesticated hamsters, you should treat them with a bit more concern, as you could suppress some of their survival instincts. Therefore, while almonds are inherently safe for hamsters, you need to take great care when you feed it to your pets.
Should There Be Alternatives?
Given the information presented so far, many hamster owners have made the hard decision to keep a strictly almond free diet for their pets. They just are not comfortable with feeding a potentially poisonous substance to them.
However, research has confidently made a distinction between the toxicity of bitter in comparison to the sweet almonds. Interestingly, the sweeter varieties are entirely safe. For hamsters, it is good to add some variety in the form of fresh food to their diet every now and then. If you use it sparingly or even as a treat, almonds will be a safe option. Most importantly, you should always follow the precautions.
If you are still uneasy about almonds, you can use some other nuts or seeds to diversify your pet’s diet. These do not carry the same risk of almonds and still will need to be researched regarding serving size and preparation.
In summary, it is safe for hamsters to eat sweet almonds. This is because it primarily falls into the category of hamster staple foods. Concerning physical capabilities, they have no problems chewing or digesting almonds.
Almonds also provide healthy vitamins, minerals, fats and antioxidants which add great nutritional value to your hamster. Some concerns with almonds include the risk of poisoning from bitter almonds, high-fat content and possibility digestion issues if you do not remove the skin.
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