Can Hamsters Have Blackberries?
Though many of us grew up with family dogs or family cats, for a large number of us, the first pets we were responsible for as children were hamsters. Because they are small, inexpensive, unobtrusive, and fairly low-maintenance compared to other animals (just feed them, play with them, and keep their cage clean!), hamsters are often the pet of choice for parents looking to give their kids the chance to learn how to take care of a living thing. They don’t require a lot of space, they don’t bark, and they aren’t too likely to maul your face off, so they seem quite child-friendly.
However, unlike dogs, they are not quite so forgiving of nutritional transgressions. Once we start sneaking them foods that aren’t hamster mix, we’re in dangerous territory. But some hamster parents seem to like giving berries to their pets. This is especially true for those pet parents who pride themselves on their whole food, natural diets. Strawberries and blueberries seem safe, but what about blackberries? They are known to be one of the healthiest fruits for humans, but are they as healthy for hamsters? Are they even considered safe for our tiny furry friends? Can you give your hamster blackberries?
The answer is yes, hamsters can eat blackberries in small quantities. Fortunately, blackberries are one of the many fruits that are safe for hamster consumption—there is no evidence that they pose any poisoning risk, so even a generous portion is unlikely to cause any serious or lasting health problems for your pet. If your hamster has been eating a lot of blackberries (even, perhaps, too many blackberries) lately, they will probably be just fine. If they eat too many blackberries in the long term, however, they may develop some health problems. Treat blackberries and other fresh fruits as desserts or dietary supplements rather than staples.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are the healthiest treats you can give your hamster on a regular basis. They are full of unique textures and flavors that will keep your pet excited, but they are also loaded with beneficial micronutrients, fiber, and phytochemicals. Because they are natural, whole foods, they are also likely to be easier on your hamster’s digestive system than certain processed foods—after all, your hamster’s wild ancestors were much more likely to stumble upon wild blackberries than man-made corn puffs that have been fortified with vitamins and dyed green!
Like other berries, blackberries have tons of antioxidants. Though some antioxidants (such as Vitamin C) play important roles in metabolic processes, they have benefits that have very little to do with metabolizing energy. Antioxidants have the unique ability to interact with highly charged particles, called free radicals, without becoming free radicals themselves. This is incredibly useful because free radicals, which are always present in your hamster’s body, are extremely reactive.
Left unchecked, free radicals react with pretty much any particles they come into contact with—and, when they exist in your hamster’s body, those particles are pieces of body cells. Sometimes, this damage is harmless. Sometimes, the damage destroys the cells outright. Sometimes, however, free radical activity causes genetic mutations that can eventually lead to health problems. Studies performed in humans and other animals have linked free radical activity to a wide range of common, devastating ailments, including arthritis, cancer, and even dementia. Supplementing your hamster’s diet with antioxidant-rich foods may help protect their body from damage caused by free radicals.
Things to Consider
Blackberries are juicy and sweet, which will make them perfect treats for hamsters who have sweet teeth. Unlike many junk foods, they are fairly low in calories and high in fiber and water, which can help keep your hamster regular. Their low calorie content makes them a diet-friendly treat, too, which is important because hamsters have such low calorie requirements. Your hamster is more likely to maintain a healthy weight eating the occasional fruity treat than loading up on junk foods. Blackberries are also much less acidic than citrus fruits, which makes them easier on your pet’s digestion.
Though most hamsters will digest the occasional blackberry just fine, fruits should still be given only in moderation. Fruits have a much higher water content than most of the standard hamster mixes that make up most of your pet’s diet, which can cause diarrhea in some hamsters. Watery fruits should be introduced to your pet slowly. Give them their first taste of blackberries, then wait 24 hours to see how they respond. If your hamster develops diarrhea, wait several days before you try to feed it to them again (in a smaller quantity). Also remember that fruits can fill up your hamster quite quickly, so only give them these treat foods after they have eaten their main meals!
Like most fruits, blackberries are safe for hamsters to eat in moderation. They are nontoxic, full of antioxidants, and usually well-tolerated in moderation. Just remember that too much fruit can cause diarrhea and nutritional imbalances in the long term.