Are sweet potatoes safe for hamsters to eat? The answer is yes, providing you remove the skin. Let’s have a look at the benefits of feeding sweet potatoes to you hamster, how and how much you should feed them and what the best diet is for a hamster.
What Are Sweet Potatoes?
Sweet potatoes are starchy tubers of the Ipomoea batatas plant. They can be boiled, fried, baked, steamed and even microwaved. Sweet potatoes have a light brown skin and deep yellow flesh.
They’re grown year-round in tropical and subtropical regions such as southern Florida, Hawaii and parts of India.
The sweet potato is not related to the yam; it’s actually an underground stem called a rhizome that stores nutrients for the plant during times of normal growth or cold weather. The root-like appearance (it is sometimes referred to as yam) and sweet taste make it popular around the world—in 2008 alone, there were more than 23 million tons of sweet potatoes grown.
Can Hamsters Eat Sweet Potatoes?
So can hamsters eat sweet potatoes? Yes they can, providing you remove the skin first. The skin is not healthy for hamsters as it could contains chemicals which are not good for them. It is recommended to boil and cool sweet potato before feeding it to your hamster.
However, the flesh inside is fine for them to eat.
While sweet potatoes are safe for hamsters to eat in moderation, there are some things about them which may be good or bad depending on your point of view.
Benefits Of Sweet Potatoes For Hamsters
The sweet potato is a wonderful food for hamsters to eat because it contains lots of vitamins and minerals, protein, complex carbohydrates and fiber which are all good for them.
Also, since they have a high energy density but low oil content so they provide calories without the same risks as other high fat foods such as nuts or seeds.
Risks Of Sweet Potatoes For Hamsters
While sweet potatoes are very healthy, there is a risk that they could cause an upset stomach or other digestive system problems if hamsters eat too much of them.
The reason for this is because the sweet potato contains a carbohydrate called beta-D-fructofuranoside which is not digested in the stomach and small intestine but it does ferment in the large intestine.
This can lead to gastrointestinal discomfort such as cramps, bloating and pain so if hamsters regularly have too many sweet potatoes then their diet should be balanced with foods which don’t contain this carbohydrate.
Also, since sweet potatoes do contain lots of carbohydrates then hamsters shouldn’t have too many as these types of food tend to make them gain weight quickly.
Just be careful not to overfeed your hamster sweet potato.
Possible Symptoms Of Overfeeding Sweet Potatoes To Hamsters Can include:
- Stomach pains or cramps
Hamsters are known for storing their food, and this can cause problems for a couple of reasons.
If any sweet potatoes are left uneaten in your hamsters cage, they could rot, start to smell and attract insects.
Your hamster may also store uneaten sweet potatoes in their cheek pouches, and it’s not uncommon for hamsters to develop abscesses, which can be sore for your pet.
That’s why it’s advisable to monitor your hamster when giving them sweet potatoes and immediately remove and discard any uneaten sweet potato from their cage.
How To Feed Sweet Potatoes To Your Hamster
You should chop off the skin and then steam or boil them for 5-10 minutes until soft.
Make sure you drain any excess water and remove the flesh from the skin before giving it to your hamster.
Do not cook them too long as this will destroy some of the vitamins and nutrients inside.
If you want to give your hamster a small amount of sweet potato as an occasional treat then once cooked make sure it’s cooled down enough before offering it to your pet as hamster’s don’t like hot food.
As with the introduction of any new food to your hamsters diet, if you are going to try feeding your hamster sweet potatoes, you need to monitor your hamster closely whilst eating them.
How Much Sweet Potato Can A Hamster Eat?
Even though sweet potatoes are safe for hamsters, it is still recommended that they should only be given as an occasional treat.
This is because the high quantity of carbohydrates inside them can cause weight gain and upset stomachs if given too often.
Although feeding your hamster some sweet potato as an occasional treat shouldn’t be dangerous it’s always worth discussing new foods with your veterinarian.
When feeding your hamster new foods, you should always start with a tiny amount to ensure that they like it, and that they don’t encounter an allergic reaction. So if you want to try feeding your hamster sweet potatoes then we would recommend giving a very small portion size, about the size of a teaspoon.
Another good way to work out what is the right amount of sweet potato to feed your hamster is to give them a portion they can comfortably hold within their hands.
Other Than Sweet Potatoes What Else Can Your Hamster Eat?
We have looked at if your hamster can eat sweet potatoes.
Other than good quality hamster food, what else could you be feeding your hamster?
Grains are a staple food for hamsters. You should give about a tablespoonful each day. Grains can be found in commercially prepared hamster mixes, providing protein and carbohydrates. Avoid overfeeding fatty nuts (peanuts and sunflower seeds), as they can cause obesity.
Fresh, organic vegetables are the best choice for your hamster.
If you’re not using organic produce, be sure to clean it properly to get rid of any pesticides.
Whilst most vegetables are generally safe for hamsters, dark green vegetables are the best choice, so things like;
- Broccoli spears
- Carrot tops
- Dandelion greens
- Romaine lettuce
Avoid iceberg lettuce and other high-water veggies or fruits (such as watermelon) to avoid stomach problems.
Like vegetables, most fruit is OK for hamsters in small portions, as a supplement to the usual diet.
Some good choices are;
- Apples (with pips removed)
Remember always remove any uneaten veggies or fruits from your hamster’s cage within 24 hours to avoid them going off.
Often overlooked for hamsters, hay is a wonderful gnawing food that can keep your hamster’s teeth clean.
Your hamster should always have access to fresh water, changed daily.
What’s The Best Diet For Hamsters?
If you have a hamster, you need to make sure that you are feeding them the best food possible.
We’ve discussed if hamsters can eat sweet potatoes, and whilst hamsters can eat a wide variety of things, their primary diet should consist of good quality hamster food.
There are a lot of options available for your hamster, but not all of them are good! If you want to learn more about the best hamster food, you can read our full review of the best hamster foods here.
If you just want to know what we recommend, it’s Kaytee Pro Health Hamster food.
The Kaytee Forti-Diet Pro Health Food was created by animal nutritionists to ensure that your hamster gets the correct nutrition within their diet.
To support digestive health, Forti-Diet Pro Health includes probiotics and prebiotics. This food is high in natural antioxidants for general health and immunity protection, as well as some bigger, crunchier pieces to promote dental health through natural chewing action.
- Larger, crunchy pieces supports dental health through natural chewing activity
- Prebiotics and probiotics to support digestive health
- Naturally preserved for ideal freshness
- A nutritionally complete diet for hamsters and gerbils
- All natural
In conclusion, can hamsters eat sweet potatoes?
If you want to feed your hamster a small portion of sweet potatoes as a special treat then they will certainly enjoy it.
However, we don’t recommend feeding your hamster more than a tiny amount as a one off, and we would recommend sticking to good quality hamster food for their main diet.
Now you know if it is safe to feed your hamster sweet potatoes. Just remember, always start by introducing a very small portion of sweet potatoes to your hamster, and look out for any signs of discomfort or unusual behaviour.
If your hamster has an adverse reaction after eating sweet potatoes, contact your local veterinarian immediately.