Can Hamsters Have Cilantro?
When we were children, we added extra flavor to our food by adding less-than-healthy, often calorie-dense flavorings and toppings. A kid who discovers that their breakfast, lunch, or dinner is too bland will immediately reach for ketchup full of high fructose corn syrup, fatty ranch dressing, chocolate syrup, whipped cream, or, if they are feeling particularly refined, straight-up sugar or salt. As kids, our parents had to monitor us whenever we reached for the sugar bowl or the salt shaker. The idea of using a little pepper to make our food taste better did not occur to us. If we could not smother it in table salt or cane sugar, we did not want anything to do with it.
Then we become adults who have to cook for ourselves and monitor our own eating habits, and everything changes. That is when many of us truly discover herbs and spices! These plants are loaded with flavor, yet low in calories, sugar, and sodium that can expand our waistlines and lengthen our list of chronic health conditions. They also provide way more variety than salt and sugar ever could. Whereas table sugar tastes pretty much the same no matter what you do with it, herbs and spices come in so many varieties that the possibilities seem endless.
One of the most popular herbs is cilantro, which often shows up in soups, salsas, guacamole, hummus, and countless main dishes, but generally is not eaten as a snack like carrots or cauliflower. This can make it a little difficult to get leftover cilantro out of your fridge. If you have already done your cooking and you have found yourself with a bundle of cilantro and nothing to do with it, it may be tempting to pass it off on your pet hamster. But is this safe? Can you give your hamster cilantro?
The answer is yes, hamsters can consume small amounts of cilantro on occasion. Though some herbs and spices are poisonous to our pets, cilantro is not one of them—there is no real risk of toxicity associated with giving your hamster a couple bites of fresh cilantro from time to time, or even regularly. Cilantro and other herbs are flavorful leafy green vegetables that can provide a modest boost of various vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants for your precious pet hamster. Herbs are an excellent way to mix up your hamster’s diet and add a little flavor to their food without greatly increasing their caloric intake. As long as you give this and other fresh fruits and vegetables to your pet hamster in moderation, they should stay happy and healthy.
There have not been any studies on the effects of cilantro on long-term health in hamsters, but they may be able to enjoy some of the same health benefits of cilantro that humans can. As omnivores who tend to eat like herbivores, hamsters are perfectly equipped for extracting valuable micronutrients and phytochemicals from plant foods like cilantro.
So, what is cilantro good for? Digestion, for one. Like all leafy greens, cilantro contains large amounts of dietary fiber, which is a crucial component of maintaining a healthy digestive system. In order to keep their gastrointestinal tract flowing properly, they have to eat moderate amounts of high fiber plant foods, and cilantro is an excellent option. The fiber in a serving of fresh leafy greens aids digestion by soaking up water, which can help prevent constipation by introducing fluid into the colon and producing softer, fuller, more regular stools. The important thing is to make sure that your hamster has plenty of water to go along with their high fiber diet—a diet that is high in fiber yet lacking in water may actually worsen constipation.
Fresh vegetables, including herbs, are also excellent treat options if you are worried about your hamster’s weight. Whether your furry friend is looking to maintain their weight or drop a little bit of body fat, high-fiber, low-calorie foods like cilantro make excellent treats. These foods are low in sugar, fat, and calories, yet high in fiber, which means that they can take up a lot of space in your hamster’s stomach without actually providing a large amount of energy. This means that your hamster gets to enjoy a snack and a full stomach without taking in a significant number of calories!
One of the biggest benefits of fresh leafy greens, of course, is their antioxidant content. Cilantro is full of chemicals that have antioxidant properties, which are believed to protect against a wide range of diseases. Antioxidants aid the body by neutralizing dangerous, highly charged particles called free radicals, which can cause genetic mutations that lead to diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and even arthritis. Left to their own devices, free radicals can wreak havoc on your hamster’s body. By increasing your pet’s antioxidant intake, you can help protect them from free radical activity.
Things to Consider
Though cilantro makes a great treat, anything can be harmful if you feed it to your hamster in large quantities. Giving your pet too much of this fresh herb is likely to cause upset stomach and diarrhea, which can easily turn into more severe health problems if they are allowed to persist. It is also worth noting that fresh herbs should only make up a small part of your pet’s diet—hamsters who eat too much fresh produce and too little hamster mix will develop nutritional deficiencies that can make them grievously ill.
Finally, make sure to remove any uneaten cilantro from your hamster’s cage after four or five hours. Hamsters are hoarders, and they may hoard uneaten herbs if you leave them sitting in their cage too long. This can be dangerous if the cilantro spoils before they dig it up and eat it. To head off food poisoning, just get rid of anything they don’t eat immediately!
In conclusion, cilantro is a safe food for hamsters to eat in moderation. It is high in vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber that can help support a healthy digestive system. Just remember to use this and all fresh herbs as treats or supplements rather than dietary staples—most of your hamster’s calories should come from store-bought hamster mix.