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Home > Hamsters > Can Hamsters Eat Sunflower Seeds? Vet-Approved Nutritional Science & Info

Can Hamsters Eat Sunflower Seeds? Vet-Approved Nutritional Science & Info


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We all know that birds like seeds, but can hamsters eat them, specifically sunflower seeds? Yes! Hamsters tend to love sunflower seeds, and they might even be included in the pellet mix that you typically feed them.

For many smaller animals, seeds make great snacks. They are packed with fats and vitamins and are often quite nutritious. On the human side, seeds are typically relatively cheap to buy and easy to find at any pet store. Depending on what you want, you can even pick them up while grocery shopping.


Can Hamsters Eat Sunflower Seeds?

Yes, hamsters can eat sunflower seeds. In fact, they are usually a favorite treat for these fuzzy scamperers. Watching them eat seeds is quite a cute spectacle for us to watch, as they hold them in both paws and nibble away.

Moderation is key with sunflower seeds, as they are very nutrient dense. Hamsters are notorious for hoarding food, and may readily choose to hide sunflower seeds in their favorite den or resting spot to enjoy later in the day. Repeated consumption of these seeds alongside inadequate levels of exercise might lead to an overweight pet. Therefore, it is important to not offer them too many sunflower seeds.

hamster and sunflower seeds
Image Credit: Val Krasn, Shutterstock


The 2 Types of Sunflower Seeds

There are all kinds of sunflower seeds. Some of these come from slightly different plants, but most of the varieties have to do with how producers prepare them.

1. Striped Sunflower Seeds

Striped sunflower seeds
Image Credit: Csaba Nagy, Pixabay

These sunflower seeds have stripes running down the centers and sides. They are the most common type of seed that you can buy. Hamsters will almost always love them and they can safely eat a moderate amount.

2. Black Oil Sunflower Seeds

Black oil sunflower seeds
Image Credit: LeoNeoBoy, Pixabay

These are not as readily available for commercial consumption and usually cost more too. Black oil sunflower seeds have a much higher oil content and are “meatier” on the inside. Visually, they are entirely black and tend to be much thinner than striped sunflower seeds.

Out of the two, black oil sunflower seeds will be harder to find and feed your hamster. It is better for them to eat striped sunflower seeds, anyway, since (in most instances) they do not need the extra calories that black oil seeds have.

Beyond these two types of sunflower seeds, there are also various ways that sunflower seeds can be produced and packaged. They can be shelled or unshelled, and both varieties are safe for your hamster, though shelled sunflower seeds are arguably better because un-shelling them will occupy your hamster and improve their jaw and teeth health.

When buying sunflower seeds from the store, ensure that they are not salted. Salted sunflower seeds are quite popular for humans, but this extra sodium is not healthy for hamsters. At times, hamsters are also known to reject foods with salt in them.


Nutritional Benefits of Sunflower Seeds for Your Hamster

Sunflower seeds, when served in the right amounts, are a healthy snack for your hamster. They are loaded with minerals and nutrients that help improve your hamster’s overall health.

Key nutritional information of sunflower seeds (dried), per 100 grams (3.5 oz)
  • Water: 4.73 grams (g)
  • Carbohydrates: 20 g
  • Fat: 51.5 g
  • Protein: 20.8 g
  • Fiber: 8.6 g
  • Calcium: 78 milligrams (mg)
  • Phosphorus: 660 mg
  • Potassium: 645 mg
  • Sodium: 9 mg
  • Magnesium: 325 mg
  • Iron: 5.25 mg


Roasted sunflower seeds have a similar nutritional profile.

Key nutritional information of sunflower seeds (dry roasted, without salt), per 100 grams (3.5 oz)
  • Water: 1.2 grams (g)
  • Carbohydrates: 24.1 g
  • Fat: 49.8 g
  • Protein: 19.3 g
  • Fiber: 11.1 g
  • Calcium: 70 milligrams (mg)
  • Phosphorus: 1160 mg
  • Potassium: 850 mg
  • Sodium: 3 mg
  • Magnesium: 129 mg
  • Iron: 3.8 mg


There’s no clear winner between the two preparation types. As long as the seeds are not salted, the nutrients inside the seeds are beneficial to your hamster (in moderation).

hamster eating a sunflower seed
Image Credit: apple deng, Pixabay

Potential Dangers of Sunflower Seeds for Your Hamster

Sunflower seeds should be fed in moderation to your hamster so they do not suffer from adverse health issues. Too much of a good thing can most definitely be detrimental to their health.

The most significant risk of sunflower seeds, or any seeds for that matter, is the fat content. Sunflower seeds contain high amounts of fat. Though fats are necessary in a hamster’s diet, they can be detrimental in large quantities, as they can lead to obesity.

Sunflower seeds should be like dessert for your hamster. They can quickly fill up eating them, and doing so does not encourage a diverse, nutrient-rich diet.


Final Thoughts

Your hamster should get sunflower seeds as a treat after they have finished with their other food. If you don’t have your hamster on a feeding schedule, you need to be even more careful giving them treats.

The smaller the hamster is, the fewer sunflower seeds they should receive. Large hamsters, like Syrians, can eat around four sunflower seeds a day.

Robo hamsters are smaller, though not the smallest type of hamster commonly sold in pet shops. They should only get about two sunflower seeds each day.

Finally, dwarf hamsters should only get 1 sunflower seed every other day. They will get fatter on these seeds much faster and should be controlled closely. These little rodents are also much more susceptible to obesity, meaning any treats should be metered out sparingly.

If you enjoy giving your hamsters a treat now and then, they are bound to enjoy sunflower seeds. By restricting the amount that you feed them, you can keep them safe but still bring the joy of a tasty treat into their lives.

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