Most hamsters LOVE their snacks and it’s just so easy to want to give them a piece of whatever human food you are snacking on too. However, there are many foods that are safe and healthy for humans, but potentially harmful to your hamster. One common food, the tomato, is often in question: Can hamsters eat tomatoes safely?
Dr. Jess explains the answer below:
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.
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.
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
While many people think or consider tomatoes a vegetables, it’s actually a fruit.
More specifically, tomatoes are a type of berry which grows on a vine, AKA, the tomato plant and are a part of the same family as potatoes, chili peppers, and eggplants.
The most common varieties of tomato are those that are commonly used for cooking and are large, red, and juicy.
However, you can get them in different colors (such as yellow, green, orange, and even purple!), sizes from grape and cherry tomatoes to giant beefsteak tomatoes, and funny shapes!
Let’s look a little deeper into what tomatoes are comprised of so that we can better decide if they should be a part of your hamster’s diet.
Tomatoes can offer a range of important nutrients and health benefits to your friendly hamster friend, such as:
- High water content (about 95% water) which is good for keeping well hydrated
- A good source of vitamins A, C and B6
- Rich in the antioxidant lycopene, which may help prevent cell damage caused by free radicals
- Low in fat
- Source of fiber (helps in digestion and reduces some GI issues)
- A good source of potassium (helps prevent hypokalemia in hamsters, low potassium levels in the bloodstream)
Do Hamsters Eat Tomatoes?
Most hamstres will eat a tomato when offered one.
But just because hamsters DO eat tomatoes does not necessarily mean that this is the best or safest choice for your pet.
Can Hamsters Eat Tomatoes? Are They Safe?
There are some foods that us humans can eat that are actually toxic to your hamster and need to be avoided all together.
While there isn’t anything toxic to hamsters in the actual tomato fruit itself, you shouldn’t give them too much because problems may arise as I will discuss further down in this article.
You see, hamsters are herbivores and need a diet which is high-in fiber and low in sugar and fat.
They get their fiber supplied in the form of plants, such as hay which is a roughage that contains a lot of fiber.
This fiber is beneficial for two reasons:
- Dietary fiber keeps the hamster’s digestive system running smoothly (it’s the same reason why some people take a fiber supplement like Metamucil!).
- The physical roughage (hay) helps keep the hamster’s teeth healthy and worn down as their teeth are continually growing and need to be filed in order to prevent overgrowth.
So, long story short- Yes!
Adult hamsters can have tomatoes, IF given to them safely, and I’ll cover that in just a bit.
You do not want to feed the wrong tomatoes or the wrong amount or frequency, potentially making your furry friend unintentionally sick.
Can Baby and Juvenile Hamsters Eat Tomatoes?
Compared to their adult counterparts, baby hamsters have much more sensitive gastrointestinal systems.
Avoid feeding baby hamsters any kinds of fruits and vegetables until they reach 12 weeks of age to allow their stomachs to mature with them.
Then, when ready to introduce them to juicy fruits, take it very slowly, waiting at least 24 hours to observe any potential adverse side effects, before moving on and trying more of the same fruity snack or a different tasty treat.
Remember – baby and young, and juvenile hamsters have more sensitive digestive systems!
Wait 24 hours to see their reaction.
If everything is fine, you can move to the next treat.
Is The Rest Of The Tomato Plant Safe To Eat?
The green parts of the tomato plant – the leaves, stems, flowers, and green fruit contain a alkaloid chemical known as solanine which can produce a substance called tomatidine when digested in the hamster’s GI tract.
This toxin has the potential to cause health issues in your hamster if ingested.
Medical & Health Concerns of Feeding Tomatoes to Hamsters:
- Pesticides: Tomatoes should always be washed to make sure they are free of any pesticides or chemicals that could be harmful to hamsters.
- Parasites: Tomatoes should be checked over for parasites that can lead to potential parasite problems with your hamster
- Overly Ripened: Avoid rotten fruits that can cause diarrhea and gastrointestinal upset.
- Processed Tomato Products: Canned or cooked tomatoes are full of sugar, can contain chemicals, and are higher in acidity if cooked, so avoid feeding any type of tomato product besides ripe and clean tomatoes to your hamsters.
- High Sugar Content: Tomatoes are also high in sugar. Too much sugar is bad for hamsters and can lead to digestive problems such as upset stomachs and diarrhea.
- Weight Problems: Too many sugary treats can lead to issues such as obesity, dental problems, and diabetes in hamsters.
- Solanine/Tomatidine Toxicity: As discussed earlier in this article, the green parts of the tomato plant is toxic to hamsters. The ingestion of the plant, leaves, flowers, stems and/or vines can manifest as diarrhea, bloat, and stomach pain in your hamster.
- Baby Hamsters: Baby hamsters have a more sensitive digestive system than adults do, and therefore you shouldn’t give your hoppy pet any fruits or vegetables until they reach around 12 weeks of age.
Can Hamsters Eat Cherry Tomatoes?
The good news is that cherry tomatoes, yellow tomatoes and other tomato varieties are safe for hamsters to eat!
Just remember to feed them to your hamster in moderation and none of the green parts of the plant.
I will discuss how to feed these types of tomatoes to your hamster in the next section below.
Can Hamsters Have Tomato Juice?
No way. Many of these products contain chemicals or preservatives, spices, and increased sugar content, compared to a fresh, ripe tomato.
Can Hamsters Eat Tomato Paste or Tomato Sauce?
Again, no way. Many of these types of products contain chemicals or preservatives, yummy spices, and increased sugar content, compared to a fresh, ripe tomato.
Can Hamsters Eat Tomato Soup?
Nope, nope, nope. Again,many of these products can contain chemicals or preservatives, spices, and the possibility of an increased sugar content, compared to a fresh, ripe tomato.
How To Feed Tomatoes To A Hamster:
First step to focus in on is the serving size that you are giving your fur baby.
Depending on your hamster’s size, the average tomato portion should be about the size of one cherry tomato and should only be fed about 1-2 times per week, definitely not on a daily schedule.
Remember that tomatoes should be limited to a special treat only because of potential digestive and other assorted health problems.
Moderation is key here!
- 1 ripe tomato
- cutting board
- kitchen knife
- food-safe storage container
1. Remove the tomato stem, leaves, and/or vine from the tomato fruit as they can be poisonous.
2. Wash the fruit thoroughly to get rid of any chemical, pesticides, or pests.
3. Cut the tomato in slices and then into bite-sized pieces.
4. Remove any seeds.
5. Prepare an amount equivalent to the size of a cherry tomato to give to your rabbit, keeping in mind not to feed any rabbits with health issues or whom are not full grown.
6. Place any leftover tomato you may wish to keep in an airtight food-safe storage container in the fridge until ready to use.
Consult with your local veterinarian before adding or switching up your pet's diet. If your pet shows signs of adverse reaction to their diet, contact your vet immediately.
Here are my recommended steps when feeding tomatoes to hamsters:
- Remove the tomato stam, leaves, and/or vine from the tomato fruit as they can be poisonous.
- Wash the fruit thoroughly to get rid of any chemical, pesticides, or pests.
- Cut the tomato in slices and then into bite-sized pieces.
- Remove any seeds.
- Prepare an amount equivalent to the size of a cherry tomato to give to your hamster, keeping in mind not to feed any hamsters with health issues or whom are not full grown.
- Clean up any juicy spills or splatters immediately as to not make any messes with your hamsters fur – they typically do not enjoy wet fur!
Find Out If Hamsters Can Eat…
Hamsters can have small pieces of ripe, clean tomato in moderation.
Too much tomato can cause a minacherie of health problems for the hamster.
Do not feed immature hamsters or hamsters with underlying health conditions tomatoes even as a treat.
If you have concerns regarding feeding your hamster tomatoes, contact your local veterinarian beforehand.