Kale is at the center of the new health food craze, often being used in green juices and smoothies due to its numerous health benefits for humans. Of course, we often want to extend these benefits to our pets, and you may have kale at home and be wondering whether this leafy green is safe to give your hamster.
Can hamsters eat kale? Is kale safe for your hamster? Yes! Hamsters can eat kale, and it will provide them with a host of nutritional benefits. That said, it should always be given in moderation.
In this article, we’ll look at the potential benefits of giving kale to your hamster, as well as pitfalls to watch out for. Let’s get started!
Kale at a Glance
Kale is a green, leafy, cruciferous vegetable with a wide range of health benefits. Kale belongs to the cabbage family and originates in the eastern Mediterranean and Asia Minor, where it has been in use since at least 2000 BCE. It is a hardy, annual plant that can grow easily in winter with a wide range of germination temperatures, making it an easy vegetable to grow at home.
There are several different cultivars of kale, differentiated by the length of stem, leaf shapes, and colors. These include:
Can Hamsters Eat Kale?
Yes, hamsters can eat kale safely and derive nutritional benefit from it, although they should only eat it in moderation. Be sure to serve them only the soft outer portion of the leaves and not the stem and watery inner section.
Both red and green variants of kale are safe for your pet. In addition to their safety of consumption, kale has the following nutritional composition1:
The nutritional analysis of kale reveals why it’s so popular among humans. It contains almost everything people desire in a vegetable: excellent hydration, fiber, amazing amounts of calcium, potassium, and other vitamins and minerals as well.
Most of these nutritional benefits can benefit hamsters too. However, too much of a good thing can be problematic for our rodent friends. Let’s explore why.
Potential Risks of Feeding Kale to Hamsters
While there are many potential benefits of feeding your hamster this cruciferous vegetable, there are risks and kale should only be given in moderation.
Kale is slightly high in compounds known as goitrogens. These compounds disrupt the production of thyroid hormones. Prolonged exposure to goitrogens prompts the body to increase the size of the thyroid gland to compensate for the low amounts of thyroid hormones. This can eventually lead to goiter. However, it is worth noting that the goitrogens in kale, while not necessarily ideal, aren’t exceptionally high. In addition, goiter might have a genetic component in hamsters.
Kale is quite rich in calcium, which can be problematic to hamsters if offered in excess. Calcium has shown to activate certain enzymes in a hamster’s body that are related to heart issues.
However, it is important to note that calcium is necessary for hamsters as well. Hamsters fed a diet supplemented with appropriate amounts of calcium had lower incidences of dental caries.
The calcium requirements of hamsters also vary according to their age and therefore, though kale does have high amounts of calcium, it is prudent to remember that this may not always be a bad thing.
How Much Kale Can Hamsters Eat?
Even if your hamster loves kale, around once or twice a week is more than enough for them. A piece of fresh, outer leaf kale approximately the size of your hamster’s head is a good general guide, and it’s better to be safe than sorry. Baby hamsters should not eat any kale at all.
Try giving your hamster a tiny amount, and watch how they react. If they do not show any signs of diarrhea or digestive issues, you can continue giving it to them in small amounts. Dried kale is also a safe snack in moderation because it’s easy to store, but of course, it lacks the benefit of hydration. With fresh kale, make sure to wash it thoroughly before serving.
In moderation, kale can be a nutritious snack for your hamster and potentially provide important vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, C, and K, and minerals like calcium, iron, and magnesium. As an occasional treat in addition to their standard diet, kale is perfectly safe for most hamsters, although it should not be given to dwarf species due to their propensity toward diabetes.
Featured Image Credit: etorres, Shutterstock