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Can Hamsters Eat Popcorn?

Hamsters are one of the most loveable of all pocket pets, it’s easy to want to give them human foods we enjoy, like light, crunchy popcorn! However, many human foods are not safe for hamsters to eat. So, can hamsters eat popcorn? Dr. Jess explains it all below:

movie popcorn in red and white carton on blue background

What is a Hamster?

A hamster is a small rodent that is commonly seen as a pocket pet here in the U.S.  Hamsters are covered in a soft fur, with large eyes, round bodies, and short stumpy tails.  

They are quite active and can make great pets as long as you know how to properly care for them and all of their needs.

Hamster Basics:

Hamsters are small mammals.  Their coats are soft and come in many different coat colors and color patterns.  There are many different types and breeds of hamster.  

A common hamster is about 4-10 inches long, with some breeds shorter than that average and some breeds longer than that average.  

Adult hamsters can weigh anywhere from half an ounce to over 10 ounces, depending on age and breed of hamster. 

Hamsters are nocturnal, meaning that they typically sleep during the day and are active at night.  Therefore, if you or a family member is a light sleeper or has issues sleeping at night, it is not suggested to house your hamster in that same room, as they will be active during the night

A hamster’s teeth are continually growing.  Therefore as a reliable pet owner, you need to provide your pet hamster with materials to help them keep their tooth length at bay.

Hamsters are omnivores, eating both plant material and animal materials. 

In captivity, hamsters typically have a diet that consists of items such as hamster pellets, hay, grains and nuts, and fruits and vegetables, to name a few foods. 

No matter what you and your veterinarian decide is the best diet for your hamster, make sure that it is balanced for your hamsters lifestyle.

Hamsters have a cute personality.  Some are outgoing and friendly with others,while other hamsters like to live a life of solitude.  

Hamsters like to burrow and tunnel, so having some sort of tunnel system is fun for many captive, caged hamsters.

red and white hamster standing on arm of couch

What Do Hamsters Typically Eat?

These little buddies eat an assortment of things to keep them healthy and happy.

  • High-quality hamster food and Timothy hay should be the main staples of their diet.
  • Up to about 10% of their diet can be made up of an assortment of vegetables and fruits, with fruits and vegetables over 12-24 hours old being discarded as soon as possible.
  • Hamsters do best with diets low in fats and sugars. [source]
  • Clean, fresh, filtered water. ‘Fresh water‘ means that is is changed daily. ‘Changed daily‘ means that new water is placed into a CLEAN water dispenser!
  • Seeds and protein (in the form of hamster-safe insects and cooked hamster-safe meats) can also be given to hamsters in safe portions determined by your veterinarian

Lets Talk Popcorn!

Popcorn is corn that expands from the kernel and explodes into a puffed up form when heated.

Popcorn Nutrition:

WebMD states:

In addition to being high in fiber, popcorn also contains phenolic acids, a type of antioxidant. In addition, popcorn is a whole grain, an important food group that may reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension in humans. 

https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/health-benefits-popcorn#1

Popcorn is also a low calorie, low fat, and low sugar snack food when eaten plain, without toppings such as extra flavorings, butter, or salt.

The unhealthy part if popcorn are the toppings you put on it or the microwave bag with chemicals in it.

Low Calorie, Low Fat, Low Sugar:

In moderation, popcorn does not lead to diabetes, heart disease, or obesity, like some snacks can.

Popcorn is in fact a low calorie, low fat, and low sugar snack. Therefore, popcorn can make for a great small snack for hamsters as long as it is given in moderation.

High Fiber:

Hamsters need a diet that’s plentiful in fiber because fiber helps their digestive tract with keeping up it’s motility.

Fiber also aids in weight loss, making one feel satiated for longer than with lower-fiber foods, and may also help decrease the chances of some severe diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and overall obesity.

Popcorn also contains a good amount of fiber, which is an essential part of a hamster’s diet as it helps in maintaining their digestive tract and gastrointestinal health. [source]

Vitamins and Minerals:

Popcorn also contains vitamins and minerals that are necessary for a hamster’s continued health, including vitamin A, calcium, folate, iron, potassium, niacin, riboflavin, magnesium, and thiamin.

Antioxidants:

Healthline describes these polyphenol antioxidants found in popcorn as:

Polyphenol are linked to various health benefits. This includes better blood circulation, improved digestive health and a reduced risk of many diseases.”

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/popcorn-nutrition-and-health#TOC_TITLE_HDR_4

Antioxidants are thought to help reduce inflammation inside the body by binding (attaching) to and suppressing (decreasing) inflammation-promoting molecules known as free radicals. [source]

close up view of popped popcorn

Can Hamsters Eat Popcorn?

Well after learning about some of the health benefits and some of the risks that the consumption of popcorn brings with it , wouldn’t it be nice it you could just safely feed it to your hamster?

Well, you can…. in moderation.

That’s right, feeding a small amount of popcorn as a treat to your hamster on occasion is totally fine and they will likely LOVE you for it!

Moderation = A couple little bites of popcorn is enough for one hamster.

If your pet does not eat all of their snack within 12-24 hours, then you need to dispose of it for them.

They will likely not eat it after that time period, and it will only sit in their cage and get old and eventually become unsafe to eat.

You should feed these few small pieces of popcorn no more than about 2 times per week and no two days in a row.

Do Hamsters Like Popcorn?

Yes they definitely do!

Popcorn is like potato chips to hamsters!

But popcorn can be harmful to some pets. Is it toxic to hamsters too?

Is Popcorn Harmful to Hamsters?

Yes, it can be.

Remember that too much popcorn fed to these little buddies can give them side effects like an upset stomach, gas, bloating, and diarrhea.

This can lead to a multitude of problems including things like dehydration and electrolyte imbalances that could impart a trip to the veterinary clinic for your pocket pet vet to fix.

Some popcorn can have spices, salt, or butter on it that can severely harm or even kill your hamster.

But just as it’s not good for us to have too much fat or too many carbs, neither is it a good idea to give loads of to your hamster.

So too much popcorn, especially anything other than plain popcorn, could mean detrimental effects to your buddy, such as diabetes or obesity.

Feed popcorn in moderation!

So yes, consuming popcorn has its risks.

Can Hamsters Eat Popcorn Kernels?

Another issue is popcorn kernels…….

No, your hamster should not eat popcorn kernels along with their pieces of popcorn.

Popcorn kernels are small, hard, and slippery – the perfect combination of ingredients to turn into a choking hazard.

These hard kernels are also a threat to your hamster’s teeth too. When biting down on a hard corn kernel, your pet could very likely break, crack or chip a tooth.

orange hamster covering their eyes with their front paws

How Much Popcorn Can Hamsters Have?

Popcorn is best reserved as a special treat for your furry friend.

Therefore it is important to not overfeed popcorn to your pet.

A limit of 1 teaspoon worth of popcorn, offered to your hamster properly (more on that in a second!), is all that should be given at one time.

If you have a dwarf hamster or just a smaller-sized hamster, feed up to 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon of popcorn to your hamster.

Popcorn should be given at a maximum of 1-2 times per week.

orange hamster looking outside of his opened hamster cage

How To Serve Popcorn To Your Hamster:

Make sure to introduce any new foods, including popcorn, to your hamster slowly and in small bite-sized amounts.

If your furry friend shows any signs of digestive discomfort, loose stool, diarrhea, or decreased appetite, stop feeding them popcorn immediately and contact your local veterinarian.

Be sure to give your hamster only fully popped, plain, air-popped popcorn. Do not feed your hamster microwave popcorn from a bag.

Don’t forget to check for and remove any sharp slivers from the kernel or any pieces that might get stuck in their cheek pouches. 

movie theater popcorn in red and white striped carton on blue background

How To Serve Popcorn to a Hamster

Active Time: 3 minutes
Additional Time: 2 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Difficulty: Easy
Estimated Cost: 3.00

It's easy to want to give a hamster human foods we enjoy, like crunchy popcorn! But many human foods are not safe for hamsters to eat. Dr. Jess explains how to properly feed popcorn to your hamster here!

Materials

  • plain air-pop popcorn kernels

Instructions

    1. Be sure to use only fully popped, plain, air-popped popcorn. Do not feed your hamster microwave popcorn from a bag.
    2. Pop the popcorn kernels according to package directions.
    3. Allow to cool down to room temperature, allowing 2-5 minutes for it too cool.
    4. Remove any sharp slivers from the popped kernel you are preparing to give to your hamster or any pieces that might get stuck in their cheek pouches. 
    5. Break the piece of popcorn into smaller bite-sized pieces.
    6. Serve these small pieces to your hamster.
    7. Monitor your pet for any adverse effects.

Notes

Contact your veterinarian before changing parts of your pet's diet. Stop the feeding of asparagus immediately and contact your veterinarian if any signs of ill health appear.

How Often Should Hamsters Eat Popcorn?

Your hamster can have their popcorn pieces as a snack one to two days a week.

These days should never be back-to-back. In fact, the days should be spread out a few days apart from one another.

Alternative Foods For Hamsters:

Popcorn Wrap-Up:

Your cute little hamster deserves the best – best home, best health, and best treats.

Weigh the pros and cons of feeding popcorn to your hamster before tossing them a tasty snack, and if you do decide to give them a treat, remember, it’s safe in moderation.

Treating your pet to some of your favorite snacks, like popcorn, is just fine as long as that popcorn is prepared properly, served correctly (correct amounts and correct pacing), and only to healthy hamsters.

If you have any questions or concerns, contact your local vet before feeding popcorn to your buddy.

veterinarian signature

The information provided in this article is not a substitute for professional veterinary help.

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