If you have a hamster, you probably love preparing a variety of healthy fruits and vegetables for them to enjoy. If you also usually cook from scratch at home, then you might have a parsley plant on your kitchen windowsill or out in the garden.
But if you’re wondering whether it’s okay to feed your furry hamster friend this fresh-tasting herb, then you’re in the right place! In brief, parsley is safe for hamsters to eat, but only in small quantities. Let’s take a look at why.
What’s good about parsley?
Parsley contains carbohydrates, fiber, and protein. It’s also low in fat and calories and contains plenty of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, including:
Most hamsters love the taste of parsley, but don’t be tempted to overfeed them. It’s not a good idea to offer too much of this to your hamster in one go.
What’s bad about parsley?
Parsley can taste good to your hamster, but they should only ever be fed very small amounts. That’s because it’s acidic, which can affect their digestive systems.
Acidic foods irritate your hamster’s pouch, as well as their stomach and intestines.
Parsley is also high in calcium. This can build up in your hamster’s urinary system and cause bladder or kidney stones if they eat too much of it.
How to feed parsley to your hamster safely
If you’re ready to see if your hamster likes parsley, then start by feeding a tiny amount. We recommend half a leaf. You may also want to clear this with your vet first.
Watch your hamster’s activity and overall behavior over the next 24-48 hours, to check that they’re behaving as normal and haven’t developed any side effects.
It’s unlikely that parsley will disagree with your hamster’s digestive system, but signs to look out for include:
If your hamster develops any of the above symptoms, it’s best not to feed them any more parsley.
Make sure you wash the parsley before feeding it, as many farms use pesticides on their produce.
Hamsters love to hide and hoard their food, so always check your hammy’s cage and remove any fresh vegetables that they’ve hidden, so they don’t go bad. Your hamster probably has special hiding places, so once you’ve figured out where these are, you can quickly take out any vegetables that could spoil.
You can replace these with a few pellets of their regular food or a hamster chew, so your hammy won’t be too disappointed to find that their hoard has been raided!
Don’t offer parsley to your hamster at the same time as other calcium-rich vegetables, like broccoli or kale.
If your hamster has a history of bladder or kidney stones, then the high calcium content of parsley may trigger a reoccurrence.
How much parsley can hamsters eat?
Once you know that your hamster enjoys parsley and that it doesn’t negatively affect their digestive system, you can feed them two or four leaves a few times a week. You might decide to offer these still attached to the stalk, in which case, offer fewer leaves. Some hamsters love to chew on the tougher stalk section, so make a note if your hamster eats the stalk or leaves it alone.
Is flat or curly-leaf parsley best?
Either is fine! As long as you only feed the recommended amount to your hamster, they can have either flat or curly-leaf parsley.
Curly-leaf parsley can end up having more surface area on each leaf, so if you’re going to use this variety, it’s probably a good idea to give a little bit less.
Can hamsters eat dried parsley?
Yes! If you don’t have the gardening knack and prefer to use dried parsley, then this is absolutely fine to offer to your hamster. It may not taste as strong as fresh parsley leaves, but plenty of hamsters will still enjoy it.
You can sprinkle a tiny pinch over your hamster’s vegetable ration once or twice a week. You can also rehydrate dried parsley in a little water to emphasize the flavor.
A balanced diet for hamsters
Besides your hamster’s regular pelleted food, you should also provide your hammy with fresh vegetables, hay, and plenty of water. You may also choose to add hamster-safe fruits, like strawberries, but fruits aren’t essential to a hamster’s diet. Indeed, some hamsters, like dwarf hamsters, should avoid fruit because it contains a large amount of sugar, which can increase the risk of them developing diabetes.
Pelleted food should make up the majority of your hamster’s diet, and you should never feed them vegetables to compensate for a lack of nutrients in their pelleted food. Always choose the best pellets that you can afford, and make sure they’re recommended for your variety of hamster.
Hamsters can also have up to a teaspoon of vegetables every day. So, besides a leaf or two of parsley, you may choose to add any of the following:
If you’re concerned that your hamster is over or underweight, ask your vet for advice. Remember not to overfeed your hammy; a teaspoon of vegetables each day might not seem like much to you, but compared to your tiny hamster’s bodyweight, it’s more than enough!
Parsley and hamsters
Parsley is safe to feed your hamster in small amounts. Once you’ve introduced parsley into your hamster’s diet, you can offer them a few leaves a week alongside their usual ration of vegetables. Avoid feeding parsley with other calcium-rich vegetables, though, like broccoli and kale.
Supplements like parsley, other herbs, and vegetables should never be used to add nutrition to your hamster’s diet. Instead, they’re there for interest and enrichment. Your hamster’s nutritional needs should be met by a high-quality pelleted food and hay.
Don’t overfeed parsley, as the high calcium content can lead to bladder or kidney stones. If this is a health concern that your hamster has suffered from in the past, it’s best to give parsley a miss.
It’s a good idea to get into the habit of checking your hamster’s cage every day for fresh food, like parsley leaves, that they may have hidden. These can start to spoil otherwise.
Featured Image Credit: restyledliving, Pixabay