If like me you’ve had a hamster for a while or if you’ve recently bought a new hamster and all you’ve given your hamster so far is water, you might wonder what else can hamsters drink.
Should you push the boat out and give your hamster a refreshing drink of milk in a bowl or some fruit juice in their water bottle? Or should you just stick to plain old corporation pop? Well, let’s find out shall we?
Hamsters can drink other fluids apart from water. Naturally, they drink their mother’s milk when they are born. However, after weaning, hamsters should drink only water. Water is the perfect drink for hamsters as it contains all the vitamins and minerals they need to survive and stay hydrated.
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Can hamsters drink milk?
Hamsters are not vegetarian, they are omnivores which means that they can eat meat, plants and vegetables. This means that they can potentially drink milk and eat cheese.
So, is it okay to let hamsters drink milk?
Yes, technically hamsters can drink milk because it isn’t toxic to them, however there are a few issues with giving milk to your hamster.
The first issue is that milk can go off very quickly, so it’s not something you can put into a bowl for your hamster to knock over.
The second issue is that introducing milk to your furry friend is a sudden change to your hamster’s diet, which is something you want to avoid. Sudden dietary changes such as these can lead to diarrhoea and dehydration which can be potentially fatal.
At the very least it could give your hamster an upset stomach. Here are some of the things to look out for in case this happens:
- Difficulty breathing
- Loss of appetite
- Huddling in a corner
- Discharge around nose or eyes
- Weight loss
There are of course other things to look out for, though these are some of the main things.
On the contrary, a healthy hamster is generally very active and curious and their coats and eyes are bright and smooth.
One final point about milik is that other than the milk provided by the hamster’s mother, milk is not a natural part of a hamster diet after weaning.
However, if you happen to find yourself in a position where you are looking after baby hamsters, then you need to contact a vet asap to find out the best milk formula.
You can’t simply use cow’s milk because it is very different to hamster milk. You need to use milk that is as closely matched to the mother’s milk as possible.
Can hamsters drink juice?
Hamsters eat fruit and vegetables all the time, especially in the wild, however, they are very sensitive to the acidic and sugar contents of all fruits.
So what about fruit juice?
Hamsters should not drink fruit juices because they simply contain too much acid and sugar which can be harmful to a hamster’s stomach.
The reason sugar is harmful to hamsters is because too much sugar leads to diabetes and obesity.
Acids on the other hand can irritate a hamster’s stomach and this can lead to sickness and diarrhoea.
Having said that, I’ve recently come across a study that has shown that berry juices can prevent early atherosclerosis in hamsters. This is basically a disease in which plaque builds up inside of arteries.
Although there clearly are some benefits to hamster’s drinking juice, there are too many drawbacks. To help keep your hamster healthy and for added peace of mind, I recommend that you keep providing your hamster with clean, fresh water.
Hamsters and alcohol
I can’t believe I’m writing about this, but whilst doing some research for this article, I found that there were some interesting Google searches and articles around hamsters and alcohol. So I thought I’d share them with you.
One of the articles I came across was this article from Scientific American.
In a nutshell, it referenced this study which found that syrian hamsters have a remarkable tolerance to alcohol.
In the study they gave set dosages of ethanol to hamsters to see how much ethanol would be required to affect their motor skills.
What they found was that hamsters can have up to ten times the amount of ethanol as humans can without behaving drunk!
Interestingly, I came across another study which shows that given the choice between water and alcohol, hamsters actually prefered alcohol.
So I guess what we can draw from this is that alcohol is not toxic to hamsters (at least in moderation). In fact, they drink alcohol regularly in the wild when the fruit that they store away for the winter ferments and produces ethanol.
Although hamsters are able to metabolize alcohol quickly (and therefore able to drink humans under the table!), the study did show that alcohol does have negative effects, as you’d expect.
Such effects include disrupting the hamster’s natural activity patterns and affecting their body clocks to name just a couple.
But please don’t give your hamster alcohol, it has no health benefits whatsoever. Hamsters can derive everything they need from water.
Tap water or bottled water?
Now that we’ve established that you should give water and only water to your hamster, should you give your hamsters tap water or bottled water?
As long as the water in your area is safe to drink for yourself then it’s absolutely fine to give tap water to your hamster.
We’ve been giving our hamster Richmond water from the tap from day one and he has been absolutely fine. In fact he’s thriving.
If you can provide filtered water, that’s even better as that will really help to minimize any contamination.
But if you think about it, wild hamsters will drink water that isn’t as pure as tap water.
Hamsters find water to drink on the ground in the form of puddles or they will find water droplets on plants leaves or grass.
So I really wouldn’t over think this and personally, I wouldn’t go out and buy bottled water especially for your hamster.
Do hamsters drink a lot of water?
Hamsters originate from desert or semi-desert environments and therefore live in places where it is very dry and very hot for most of the year.
Therefore they don’t have much access to water.
However nature allows them to go for a long time without water or very little and because of this, hamsters only need about one teaspoon of water per day.
If you think about it, that is a very tiny amount and will hardly be noticeable simply by looking at what your hamster has drunk from the water bottle.
If you are concerned that your hamster isn’t drinking and you think you might need to check for dehydration, one simple thing that you can do is pinch a bit of soft skin on your hamster.
The best place to do this is the skin behind the neck which is known as the scruff.
What you need to do is pinch the skin gently and then let go of it. If it snaps into place quickly then your hamster is not dehydrated.
However if your hamster is dehydrated what you will notice is that the skin will slowly move back into place and you may even see your pinch marks.
If your hamster is dehydrated then you need to get it to the vet to get some checks done.
Water bottle or water bowl?
So should you use a water bottle or should you use a water bowl?
Well hamster can drink out of either. The problem with water bowls though is that it can collect bacteria. Water bowls can also be spilt and in extremely rare cases your hamster can potentially drown in them.
When using a water bottle ensure that you replace the water in the bottle every day as this will prevent bacteria from building up inside the bottle.
Also when placing the bottle inside the cage, ensure that it is in a position whereby your hamster doesn’t have to get into an awkward position in order to access it.
There are several water bottles that you can buy for hamsters but personally I wouldn’t go for anything fancy.
Instead, go for something simple like this one on Amazon (#CommissionsEarned).
I might seem like a good idea to offer your hamster something different other than water to break up the monotony, but water really is a perfect drink for your hamster.
Hamsters are very sensitive creatures and they are particularly sensitive to drastic changes in their diet, so it’s best to avoid drinks like fruit juices and milk.
Hamsters are sensitive to the sugar and acidity in fruit juices and cow’s milk is not the same as a milk that they would receive from their mothers. Not only that, there is the risk that if it gets split, the milk can go off very quickly and can be potentially harmful to your hamster.
So keep it simple, make sure your hamster has fresh cold water in its bottle everyday and be sure to put the bottle in the cage at an angle where they can reach it easily.
This will help to keep your hamster healthy and hydrated.