Pet Consider

Can Hamsters Eat Cherries?

Can Hamsters Have Cherries?

Though our ancestors’ companion animals subsisted on table scraps or whatever they managed to find around the backyard, most of us give our pets the perfectly-formulated, pricey product known as ‘pet food’. Dogs and cats, the two most popular types of companion animals, eat kibble, which is largely unrecognizable. A lot of kibbles are pressed into fun shapes, but, without scrutinizing the ingredients, we couldn’t begin to guess at what types of food they are made of. Hamsters, on the other hand, live on ‘hamster mix’ that is made up of small, identifiable foods—some of which we eat on a regular basis! Hamster chow, which vaguely resembles trail mix, includes things like sunflower seeds, corn, pumpkin seeds, oats, and chunks of dried fruit.

Since hamster chow contains dried fruit, it follows that chunks of fresh fruit would be great treats for our furry friends! But which fruits are safe for hamsters, which are nutritious, and which are poisonous? These food mixes often contain bits of banana, raisins, and pineapple, but what about more colorful fruits? Cherries are one of the healthiest fruits that humans can eat, but is the same true for our furry family members?  
Can you give your hamster cherries?

The answer is yes, hamsters can eat cherries in moderation. Fortunately, cherry flesh is totally nontoxic to hamsters—so don’t panic if your kids have just fed the family hamster a handful of cherries! These tiny little fruits are packed with vitamins, antioxidants, and other anti-inflammatory chemicals that may provide a little boost to your hamster’s health. Sweet, juicy cherries make a wonderful addition to any balanced hamster diet. The important thing is to make sure your hamster only eats fruit in moderation. Even if a diet chock full of cherries will not poison your hamster, it can cause upset stomach and long-term health problems. Only give cherries to your hamster in small quantities a few times a week. Make sure to remove the pit—it’s both toxic and a choking hazard.

Health Benefits?

CherriesThough seed mixes should make up most of your hamster’s diet, fresh fruits and vegetables play an important role in maintaining overall health. Cherries are an excellent option because they can nourish and excite your furry friend at the same time—they contain dietary fiber, Vitamin C, potassium, and disease-busting polyphenols that can protect overall health.

Fiber is an important part of maintaining digestive health. Fiber absorbs water and adds bulk to stool, encouraging fuller, softer, more frequent bowel movements. If your hamster is prone to occasional constipation, introducing more fresh fruits like cherries into their diet may help get things moving again. Just make sure your hamster has access to plenty of fluids to go along with their increased fiber intake, and be sure to consult a vet if their digestive problems become chronic or severe.

Cherries are powerful anti-inflammatory foods that may be able to reduce the risk of disease and, in some cases, alleviate symptoms of existing inflammatory illness. There hasn’t been a whole lot of research on the role that cherries can play in hamster health, but we may be able to use human studies as a guide. Studies performed on athletes have found that those who consumed cherries (particularly tart cherries) before exercise experienced less pain, less inflammation, and smaller recovery periods. Another small study performed on adult women found that consuming tart cherries regularly resulted in a significant decrease in inflammation. Cherries and other anti-inflammatory foods may be particularly useful for pets who have (or are vulnerable to) inflammatory diseases such as arthritis. By curbing inflammation in the body, these foods can reduce joint swelling, which can both alleviate pain and improve joint mobility.

Cherries also contain sterols that may help lower cholesterol, decrease the risk of heart disease and cancer, and improve urinary health—in humans, anyway. Research on hamster nutrition is sadly lacking, so we are forced to extrapolate from studies performed on other animals, but it appears that the antioxidants and anti-inflammatory chemicals in colorful fruits are beneficial for many different types of animals.

Things to Consider

Still, cherries are not miracle drugs, and they are not suitable for hamsters to eat in large quantities. Hamsters who eat too many fresh cherries in one sitting will probably suffer from upset stomach and diarrhea. Eating too many cherries in the long term can cause other health problems, including weight gain (which can quickly lead to obesity), insulin resistance, and even diabetes. If your hamster is already diabetic, or is on the pudgy side, consult a veterinarian before you give them fresh cherries. Cherries are quite high in sugar, so they may not be safe for some.

Final Thoughts

Overall, fresh cherries are a great treat for healthy hamsters. They are high in fiber, polyphenols, potassium, Vitamin C, and other cancer-fighting, anti-inflammatory chemicals. Finally, when feeding hamsters cherries, make sure to remove the pit—it’s both toxic and a choking hazard.

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