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Can Hamsters Eat Kale? What You Need to Know!

Nicole Cosgrove

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. 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!

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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:

  • Curly leaf
  • Bumpy leaf
  • Plain leaf
  • Leaf and spear (a cross between curly and plain leaf)
  • Ornamental (tougher leaves and far less palatable)
kale
Image Credit: Char Beck, Unsplash

Can hamsters eat Kale?

Yes, certain hamster species 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.

Kale is a great snack for hamsters because it is very low in calories — only 33 calories in a cup of shredded kale. In that cup, you’ll also get 5 grams of fiber, 47 grams of fat, and 2 grams of protein.

The main vitamin benefits of kale for hamsters are:
  • Vitamin A. This is especially useful for nursing hamsters, as a lack of vitamin A has been shown to cause slow development in baby hamsters. It is also good for their eyesight and may help prevent eye-related problems. Too much vitamin A is potentially harmful too, however, and may cause liver damage or a weakened skeletal structure.
  • Vitamin C. An essential vitamin for hamsters, vitamin C promotes healing and prevents scurvy in hamsters. This antioxidant also helps in destroying free radicals and enhances your hamster’s immunity.
  • Vitamin K. This is great for reproductive health in hamsters and promotes a regular growth rate in youngsters.

Kale also contains essential minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium and is rich in fiber for great digestive health. The high water content in kale is also great for your hamster’s hydration.

hamster eating kale
Image Credit: Patrik Lundquist, Flickr

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 fairly acidic and has high sugar content. This makes it unsuitable for certain breeds like Dwarf hamsters, which are more prone to diabetes, and it should not be given to them at all.

Syrian and Roborovski hamsters are fine with eating kale in moderation but can still potentially become overweight or get diabetes if given too much. Also, while the high water content is great, too much can cause diarrhea and potentially cause dehydration. Again, moderation is key.

kale sprout
Image Credit: Taken, Pixabay

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.

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Final Thoughts

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.

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.