The chances are that when you are reading this article, you have just finished watching funny videos of fat hamsters on YouTube and get curious about keeping a hamster as a pet. And there are also possibilities that you are also planning to feed your fluffy one like that. But I have to seriously warn you that fat hamsters are not cute at all.
In this article, I will explain to you the serious consequences of obesity, then introduce some instructions on preventing obesity or losing weight.
Why everyone likes fat hamsters?
Understandably, you find fat, chubby hamsters extremely cute, because this is the instinct of human beings to be attracted by fluffy, tiny creatures with round, shiny eyes. But what you may not realize is that social media like Instagram and YouTube are immoderately catering for your preference.
You may check your timeline on these apps, and you will surprisingly find that there are such large quantities of fat hamsters that it naturally leaves you an impression that hamsters overweight is normal and common. This is just not right.
I think it is time for us to change our perspective in fat hamsters when we are clear that their popularity is an outcome of big data and social media so that we can have a healthier insight into feeding hamsters.
What disadvantages may obesity bring?
From my point of view, the basic rule of keeping a pet is to guarantee its health, and obviously, overweight is not any signal of good physical health.
- The primary consequence of obesity is diabetes.
As is well known, diseases combine the consequences of congenital gene and acquired factors, and diabetes is no exception even for hamsters. Most pet hamsters we keep are heirs or hybrids of Campbell’s dwarf hamster, so they carry the Campbell gene, which plays an important role in triggering diabetes. But carrying this gene does not necessarily end in having diabetes, overweight is the true factor leading to fatal chronic disease.
Many researchers have revealed the intimate connection between diabetes and overweight that fat hamsters have become the most common lab animals to research gene expression mechanisms. Therefore, it is unquestionable that controlling weight contributes to preventing diabetes for our fluffy friend.
- The second disadvantage of obesity is heart disease.
Hamsters are typical small size rodents, so their heart function is rather limited. Any extra weight could be such a burden for their circulatory system that they would choose to exercise less, and less exercise will cause even more fat accumulation. The vicious circle is hard to be broken, so it is necessary to control the weight in the first place.
- Obesity also harms our fuzzy friend’s spine.
Hamsters are born with spines for agility, which guarantees their survival in the wild. Fat accumulation exhausts their bone structure, and the worst consequence is paralysis, which is extremely painful for our fluffy.
These three disadvantages are most common among pet hamsters, and we need to keep in mind that they are far from all problems obesity may cause as I can name. There may also be dysfunction in the digestive system, fur, etc. Thus, it is extremely unwise to cater to your aesthetic preference by sacrificing our pets’ health and living quality.
How do I know if my hamster is overweight?
It has long been confusing for many hamster owners: Is my hamster too fat, or just fluffy? In fact, weighing the hamster is quite simple.
- Scale for humans is not appropriate because hamsters are too light, while the kitchen scale is a perfect choice.
First, check his chin to make sure that he did not hide any food. Then, get a salad bowl and put him inside. If he shows panic or scare, you may offer him his favorite toy or some dry grass to ease him. This is for preventing the hamster from sudden stress rather than escaping. The salad bowl is too deep and smooth for him to escape while offering good ventilation.
This bowl can be specially kept aside from those used in our meals and is easy to clean up. Thus, you will have the opportunity to weigh your fluffy every day to track his weight.
- As there are several species of hamsters and are in different sizes, the recommended weight depends on their body length.
Take the Syrian hamsters, the most popular pet species, as an example. An adult Syrian hamster should weigh an ounce for every inch of his length, so according to this theory, the healthy weight of an adult hamster is around 6 to 7 ounces. Correspondingly, the dwarf species are smaller, which means they will weigh lighter.
- As is well known, the life span of hamsters is rather limited. They will grow into adulthood shortly in three months, then the data above can be applied to tell if your fluffy are suffering obesity.
I also have to the point that a low level of obesity in their young period is quite normal because they are taking in large quantities of nutrition to grow up as soon as possible, you do not need to worry if your fluffy looks a little chubby.
How to prevent obesity?
Losing weight is extremely painful as you may have experienced or even experiencing yourself, so preventing obesity in the first place is a better choice. Since the daily routine of a hamster is very simple, which basically consists of eating, sleeping, and playing. Among them, eating and playing are especially important to controlling weight, so we should pay our attention on them.
A healthy diet is the foundation for preventing obesity. According to the scientific data, the wild hamsters usually live much longer than those in captivity. Though there may be several reasons, diet is an unquestionable vital factor. Therefore, our basic rule of feeding is: eat what the wild hamsters eat.
- The first criterion of feeding a hamster is restricting the amount of sugar in his diet.
Pet in modern society often has pet food as the everyday staple, which consists of large amounts of starch, so that pet food can be more attractive to animals and easier to store. As a result, our hamsters are taking in much more sugar on average daily than in the wild.
Thus, I recommend that you should choose pet food carefully on Amazon. Hamster food consists of various kinds of nuts, fruit, and meat, with an appropriate proportion is your first choice. You may also choose to make hamster food yourself at home so that you can adjust the proportion according to your own hamster’s preference. But you have to be very careful in the whole process of making and storing the homemade food to avoid pollution or spoil, or it would be poison to hamsters.
What’s worse, some hamsters fail to develop a healthy eating habit because many pet owners may use snacks to attract their hamsters in order to place them in palms and give them a stroke. I strongly disapprove of this kind of behavior because it causes chaos in hamsters’ eating habits, and the snacks contain large amounts of refined sugar, which can be an extra burden for human beings, not to mention the small hamster. According to my own experience, one portion of a nutritious staple can fully meet the need for our fluffy, so there is totally no need to feed them extra snacks. Some fiber snacks for teeth grinding is ok.
- Protein is important, but not the more, the better.
I have to admit that protein is the most important part of the hamster’s diet, but many pet food corporations exaggerate the importance too much. Check the ingredients of the best sellers on Amazon, and you will be surprised to find that some even contain several kinds of deep processed meat products. Since there is no way for our tiny ones to become predators in the wild, I do not see any necessity in extra meat ingredients.
Too much protein not only increases the possibility of nephritis， but also contributes to obesity. When the protein is taken in is not consumed immediately, it will be turned into fat and stored in the body, which is commonly known as obesity. The plant seeds are rich in vegetable protein, which is much healthier than animal protein, and they can perfectly meet the basic need of our fluffy.
- Another common mistake hamster keepers usually make sharing their fruit with hamsters.
Under normal circumstances, their pet food contains dried fruit which is delicious and healthy. Fresh fruit is not appropriate for many reasons. The kernel may cause choke. Juicy fruit may cause diarrhea. Fruits without any kernel or too much water like avocado and coconut are usually rich in sugar and fat, leading to obesity. As a result, my advice is not to feed fresh fruit for your hamster.
Each hamster is different and characteristic. Some are lazy and maybe some love to exercise a lot.
For athletic hamsters, things become a lot easier. Just prepare all kinds of toys, and they can amuse themselves well. Keeping them busy is the best way to prevent obesity.
For the lazy ones, you will have to be a little more active than the fluffy ones. You can try as many kinds of toys as you can buy for them, including climb toys, biting toys, etc. His favorite toy may eventually pop up, and our fluffy will be active. If not, add exercising before or during his meal. For example, put one seed each time on the running wheel, or hide the food deep under the beddings so that he will have to dig. Since hamsters are usually timid creatures, it is normal for them not to be that active, and a little more exercise is enough to keep them away from obesity.
What if my hamster is already overweight?
The solution is simple: eat less and exercise more, the same as us human beings. Do not offer him too much food for every meal and clean their beddings often because hamsters have the habit of food storage.
But do not be harsh on your fluffy, once he shows anxiety or any stereotyped behaviors, stop your fitness plan immediately. Obesity may be harmful, but psychological issues are even more terrible. After all, happiness comes in the first place.
After reading this article, I am sure that you have already realized the disadvantage of obesity and are armed with the necessary knowledge to prevent obesity. As I have stressed, preventing is way much better than correcting. Just enjoy your time with your fluffy!