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Can Hamsters Eat Almonds? What You Need to Know!

Nicole Cosgrove

Your hamster loves his seeds and nuts, and almonds are known to be a healthy and nutritious snack for humans. But are almonds safe for hamsters to eat?

Can hamsters eat almonds? The short answer is yes but with some serious warnings. Sweet almonds are generally safe for your hamster, but bitter and salted almonds need to be avoided. We’ll discuss what to look out for and how much is okay, but almonds can be just as tasty and healthy of a snack for hamsters as it is for us.

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A Hamster’s Diet

Did you know that the hamster got his name from the German word “hamstern,” which means “to hoard?” These little guys were well named, given their habit of stuffing their cheek pouches full of food.

Hamsters are native to Romania, Greece, and northern China, but they were originally discovered in Syria, and in 1936, they were brought to North America. The hamster lives in warm and dry areas such as sand dunes, savannahs, and the outskirts of deserts.

Hamsters are omnivores and eat various seeds, grains, nuts, insects, vegetables, and fruit. The domestic hamster typically has its nutritional needs met with commercially made pellets specially designed for hamsters. They also eat an assortment of seeds in combination with small amounts of fruit, vegetables, and herbs.

So, we’ve established that nuts do fit into a typical hamster diet, but let’s have a closer look at almonds since that’s what we’re here for.

All About Almonds

Hamster in shavings
Image Credit: Martin Javorek, Pixabay

Did you know that almonds are grown on trees and are related to peaches and apricots, and they are 100% dependent on honeybees to grow? While the peanut is the most popular nut in the world (peanut butter, anyone?), the almond is the second most popular and definitely the healthier option.

One ounce of almonds contains 3.5 g of fiber, 6 g of protein, vitamins E, B2, copper, manganese, magnesium, antioxidants, and phosphorus.

Let’s look at the healthy wallop almonds provide:

  • Low in calories and high in nutrients.
  • Almonds are high in antioxidants that protect against disease and aging.
  • The magnesium helps improve blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.
  • Almonds are quite high in vitamin E, which can lower the risks of cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s.
  • Almonds can aid in weight loss by reducing hunger and decreasing calorie intake.
  • Almonds can reduce oxidized LDL cholesterol.

Almonds are considered the healthiest nut out there but are they safe and healthy for your hammy?

Almonds and Hamsters

The good news is, if you give your hamster the right kind of almonds, they will experience similar health benefits that we humans do.

  • Almonds are high in fiber, which can help your hamster’s digestion and will help prevent constipation.
  • Almonds can also lower your hamster’s cholesterol levels.
  • The same vitamin E that helps our blood sugar levels can also control your hammy’s, which is particularly helpful since hamsters are prone to diabetes.
  • Almonds aid in weight loss or maintaining a healthy weight.
  • The magnesium in almonds can help strengthen your hammy’s bones.

Clearly, almonds are amazing little nuts that can be an incredible health boost for people and hamsters alike. But what are the negatives?

The Downside for Hamsters

Unfortunately, almonds do have a negative side for hamsters. We’ll have a look at what kind of almonds you need to avoid and why.

Salted Almonds

Some almonds come salted or with added flavoring and additives, and while they are okay for people to eat (in moderation), they are definitely not good for your hamster. Too much salt can cause upset stomach, diarrhea, and dehydration for your hammy. Only give your hamster plain almonds with no added ingredients.

Hamster
Image Credit: dep377, Pixabay

Bitter Almonds

Avoid! Bitter almonds have a natural toxin that breaks down into cyanide by the body when it’s ingested. Cyanide is a deadly poison, and while you would need to eat 6 to 10 bitter almonds to feel the effects (50 bitter almonds can cause death for the average person), the hamster is tiny, and it wouldn’t take much for him to fall seriously ill or die.

Fat Content

Almonds contain a large amount of healthy fat, but this could still prove to be too much fat for your hammy if you give him almonds on a regular basis. Obviously, this can lead to obesity, which will prove damaging for your hammy’s overall health.

Choking Hazard

The smaller your hamster, the larger the chance that the almond could prove to be a choking hazard. Particularly if you’re giving your hamster almonds that are still in the shell. Consider cutting the almonds down in size before giving them to your hamster and keep an eye on him while he’s eating, especially if it’s a treat you haven’t given your hamster before.

Almond Guide

almonds
Image Credit: HVesna, Pixabay

If you’ve decided that you would like to start giving your hamster almonds, here are some tips for the purchasing and preparation of this delicious nut.

  • Organic: If you buy organic almonds, you’re ensuring that they will be safer for your hammy. Almonds that are not organic are more likely to contain small amounts of pesticides and chemicals.
  • Shape: Did you know that the shape of the almond can help you determine if it’s a sweet or bitter almond? Any almond that is a little fatter or wider looking or seems to have an inconsistent shape might be a bitter almond. Just be sure to only give your hammy the larger almonds that have that distinctive almond (or teardrop) shape.
  • Skin: The majority of the toxin found in almonds is contained in the skin. Removing the skin will decrease the cyanide found in the almond. You can accomplish this by soaking the almonds in hot water for about 15 minutes and pulling the skin off after the almond cools.
  • Amount: If you have one of the bigger varieties of hamsters (the Syrian, for example), you shouldn’t give him more than one almond every day. The smaller hamsters, such as the Dwarf Hamster, shouldn’t have more than half an almond per day. Overall, almonds shouldn’t be considered a part of your hamsters’ diet, but more of an occasional treat.

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Conclusion

After all of this information, the conclusion is that a moderate number of sweet almonds will be a safe and healthy snack for your hammy. Just follow the guidelines above and ensure any almonds you give your hamster are not bitter almonds or have any kind of flavoring or salt. Plain, organic almonds are best, and if you remove the skin, you are ensuring the safest treat.

If you are worried that your hamster isn’t feeling well after eating an almond, contact your vet as soon as possible. The health and safety of your little guy is of the utmost importance, and as long as you follow our advice, adding almonds to your hamster’s diet may just give his health the boost he needs. Plus, he’ll enjoy a tasty new treat.


Featured Image Credit By: Remi Yuan, unsplash

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.