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Can Hamsters Eat Pumpkin Seeds? Are Pumpkin Seeds Safe for Hamsters?

Nicole Cosgrove

February 18, 2021

Pumpkin seeds are a true superfood, packed with protein and other vital nutrients. They’re an excellent snack for humans, and they can be very beneficial to hamsters as well. In general, almost every hamster will enjoy having a few pumpkin seeds in their food, providing more benefits than meets the eye.

Pumpkin seeds are readily available at most grocery stores, but they’re just easy to make and prepare at home. If you’ve been considering adding them to your hamster’s diet, read on for more information about the benefits and side effects of pumpkin seeds:

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Can Hamsters Eat Pumpkin Seeds? Can All Breeds of Hamsters Eat Them?

Yes, hamsters can eat pumpkin seeds, and there are plenty of reasons for them to do so. They’re highly nutritious and can balance out your hamster’s diet, even with only a few seeds added per day. Pumpkin seeds are a great way to change up your hamster’s typical variety, especially to the larger species of hamsters. Even the pumpkin fruit is safe to eat, loaded with nutrients that your hamster will benefit from.

As with anything else, some foods are not as safe or healthy for the smaller breeds of hamsters. Thankfully, all species can eat pumpkin seeds, though Dwarf hamsters and other small breeds may struggle with the size of the seed. If you have one of the smaller varieties of hamster, it’s best to start off with one smaller pumpkin seed to ensure it can eat it safely and without choking.

hamster eating pumpkin seed
Image Credit: Mar lena, Wikimedia Commons

Are Pumpkin Seeds Healthy for Hamsters?

Yes! Pumpkin seeds are not only tasty, but they’re highly nutritious and can provide multiple benefits. They’re rich in antioxidants, magnesium, zinc, dietary fiber, calcium, and B12. These all play significant roles in your hamster’s health, including the immune system, digestive health, and even bone health. The seeds also naturally provide omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which are essential for your hamster’s overall health.

There are plenty of obvious reasons to give your hamster a few pumpkin seeds, but there’s one other reason: they help grind down their teeth. Hamsters that are kept as pets or in captivity need to have their teeth trimmed to prevent them from growing uncomfortably long. The pumpkin seed shells are tough enough to help grind down the teeth as they chew, which in turn helps keep the teeth at a comfortable length.

How Many Pumpkin Seeds are Safe and How Should they Be Prepared?

The number of pumpkin seeds you feed your hamster depends on what breed, especially for dwarf hamster breeds. If you have a smaller breed, only one or two pumpkin seeds should do. For larger hamsters, 2 or 3 pumpkin seeds will be enough. If your hamster has never had pumpkin seeds before, we recommend starting with half of a seed or one full seed. Introducing a new food item slowly will help prevent shocking the digestive system, as well as reducing the severity of an allergic reaction.

Both raw and baked pumpkin seeds are safe for hamsters, but baked seeds are preferred due to the hard shell. Baked seeds should be unsalted since salt can cause dehydration, which is much harder to detect early in hamsters. Flavored pumpkin seeds should be avoided outright, especially any with onion or garlic spices. They can be dangerous and even fatal for hamsters, so stick to plain, unsalted pumpkin seeds instead. If you want to feed raw pumpkin seeds, you can also try feeding a tiny amount of the pumpkin fruit with it. Pumpkin fruit is also healthy for hamsters, but it needs to be portioned properly to prevent digestive issues.

pumpkin seeds in a pot
Image Credit: Vural Yavaş, Pixabay

 

Are Pumpkins Related to Gourds? Are Gourd Seeds Safe?

Pumpkins are in the Cucurbitaceae family, which also houses gourds and squash. Gourds are, indeed, related to pumpkins, but that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily safe to eat. Some gourds are safe, and some are not, which can get confusing. We highly recommend sticking to pumpkin to avoid any confusion. Pumpkin seeds are also much more readily available than gourds and gourd seeds, making them the better option of the two.

What Should Not Be Fed to Hamsters?

Hamsters can eat a wide variety of things, from alfalfa hay to insects. They are opportunistic eaters and enjoy eating, but there are things that hamsters should not eat. Some food can be outright fatal, so it’s crucial to be able to identify safe and toxic food. Here is a list of foods that can be toxic to hamsters:

Toxic Foods for Hamsters:
  • Leaf/stems/Green parts of a tomato
  • Garlic, Onions, Peppers, Hot spices
  • ALL citrus fruits (oranges, lemons, grapefruit, etc.)
  • Almonds
  • Chocolate
  • Apple seeds/stems
  • Peach, Nectarine, Plum pits
  • Raw beans
  • Raw potatoes
  • Rhubarb leaves
  • Eggplants

Before feeding anything to your hamster, even commercial hamster pellets, always read the label to ensure it contains nothing toxic. When dealing with seeds, pits, leaves, and stems, it’s imperative to err on the cautious side since they can be quite toxic. Even though some seeds are not only safe but beneficial to your hamster, others can lead to toxicity and possibly death.

hamster munching pumpkin seed
Image Credit: Brynn Flynn, Flickr

About Hamster Diets

Hamsters are famous for their cheek pouches, which they happily use as storage for food in the wild. They fill their cheek pouches and go back to their dens, eating, or storing their findings. Their diet is mostly comprised of seeds, fruit, vegetation, and even insects, making them omnivorous scavengers. Hamsters only eat around 1 to 2 tablespoons of food a day and will store the rest in a hiding spot in case they can’t scavenge at a later time.

Your pet hamster needs to have a diet that reflects their natural one, which should include seeds, fruit, vegetables, and hamster pellets. The pellets should be bought based on age since pellets are made to ensure your hamster has a complete and balanced diet at its current life stage. Fresh, clean water should be available at all times as well, especially since hamsters are prone to dehydration.

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Final Thoughts

Hamsters love to eat and snack throughout the day, their meals ranging from small pieces of fruit to insects if the opportunity arises. Pumpkin seeds can help their diets quite a bit, especially hamsters being kept as pets. They’re easy to get and can be prepared raw or at home, making them an easy and inexpensive addition to your hamster’s meals.  If you’re considering feeding your hamster some pumpkin seeds, try adding one seed at a time and keep an eye out for any adverse side effects. You can even feed your hamster the pumpkin fruit, making pumpkin a versatile food for your pet.


Featured image credit: Dmitry Makeev, Wikimedia Commons | CC 4.0

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.