Have you ever eaten a chocolate bar when you’re feeling down and noticed an upliftment in your mood afterward? It is because chocolate contains tryptophan, an amino acid that helps our brain in producing serotonin, also known as the “happy” hormone. That’s how chocolate makes us happy. But can this happy food be shared with our pet hamsters? Let’s find out.
Can hamsters eat chocolate? Absolutely not. Chocolate is unsafe for these rodents due to its contents: theobromine and caffeine. These substances can increase the heart rate of your hamster, make them over-excited, and can even kill them.
In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know about feeding chocolate to hamsters.
- Why is chocolate harmful to hamsters?
- Dark chocolate or milk chocolate: which one is safer?
- What about other chocolate products?
- What should you do if your hamster has eaten chocolate?
- Can you keep your hamster from eating chocolate?
Why is chocolate harmful to hamsters?
We often hear that chocolate is bad for most animals, but not so much for us. Have you ever wondered why? There are two contents of chocolate that make it toxic to animals: one is a stimulant, and the other is an alkaloid.
Let’s take a look at these substances and understand why they can harm your pets:
We’ll begin with theobromine, which is the more harmful one among the two. It is a bitter alkaloid compound that comes from the Cacao plant, the plant from which chocolate is made.
On humans, theobromine can have a positive effect when consumed in moderation; it can reduce their blood pressure levels, help them sleep better, and enhance their lung functioning. It also works as a mild stimulant, improving our focus and concentration.
Even if you eat too many chocolates, the worst symptoms you might have to suffer from are mild headaches, trembling, and sweating. Since our liver can metabolize theobromine surprisingly quickly and efficiently, its overconsumption will not have any severe consequences for you.
However, your little hamsters have a liver much smaller than your own and, thus, have a much slower metabolism. This is why, even if they consume a small amount of chocolate, they can still suffer from theobromine poisoning.
The first and most common symptom of theobromine poisoning in hamsters is frequent urination. But with passing time, you can also notice irregular heartbeats and seizures. In many cases, they also suffer from internal bleeding and might even have a heart attack.
When it comes to the health of your hamster, caffeine is not as lethal as theobromine. It is a stimulant that is present in chocolate.
When we consume caffeine, it impacts our central nervous system, making us more focused and productive. If we’re having too much caffeine, we might suffer from insomnia, anxiety, and at times digestive issues.
On the other hand, if a hamster consumes even a little amount of caffeine, the rate of their heartbeats reaches a life-threatening level. The stress that caffeine will exert on their body and heart can be draining; add that to theobromine, and it becomes a deadly combination for your little pets.
The conclusion is, the presence of theobromine and caffeine in chocolate is what makes it extremely harmful for hamsters.
Dark chocolate or milk chocolate: which one is safer?
We’ve established that chocolate should not be given to hamsters at any cost. However, if we’re talking hypothetically, between dark and milk chocolate, which one is less lethal to these little rodents?
In order to find an answer to this question, we need to understand the difference between dark and milk chocolate. Dark chocolate contains a much more concentrated amount of cacao (about 65%) than milk chocolate, in which milk is added to dilute the cacao. Therefore, dark chocolate has lesser fats and sugar.
However, the larger percentage of cacao means more theobromine and caffeine, which makes dark chocolate more lethal to hamsters than milk chocolate. The next time you come home to find your little pet munching on chocolate, you should pray that it is milk chocolate.
What about other chocolate products?
So far, we have learned that chocolate is off-limit for hamsters. But what about baked or processed foods that have chocolate in them. Are they safe or unsafe for these little rodents? Let’s find out:
Chocolate ice cream
Many pet parents claim that their hamsters love to have a bite of their ice cream. However, this is a careless practice that can have an adverse effect on their health. While hamsters can eat low-fat dairy products, ice cream is high-fat, high-sugar, and high-calories, all of which are bad for their health. On top of it, feeding them chocolate-flavored ice cream would be plain stupidity.
While hamsters can have plain, unflavored cereals occasionally as a treat, feeding them chocolate, or any other flavored cereal, is a bad idea. Cereals themselves have a low nutritional value for hamsters and should, therefore, be fed to them in extreme moderation.
All varieties of cookies, including the choco-chip ones, have far too much sugar for the little hamsters to handle. Thus, it would be best if you didn’t share this treat with them.
Many hamster-owners are used to sharing biscuits with their pets. But while a nibble of a digestive biscuit might not affect their health, feeding them biscuits that contain chocolate can make them very sick, not just because of chocolate but added sugar as well.
In fact, you should avoid feeding your hamster all kinds of biscuits, except the digestive ones occasionally.
The moral of the story is although chocolate-based products have a lesser quantity of chocolate than the bars themselves, they’re still toxic to hamsters and should carefully be kept away from them.
What should you do if your hamster has eaten chocolate?
Even if you’re a cautious pet-owner, you are still a human, prone to mistakes. Suppose one day you’re out and your pet manages to get its paws on chocolate, what would you do about it? We’re here to tell you how to manage this disaster.
The first thing you’d want to check is the type of chocolate that they’ve consumed. Is it dark or milk chocolate? Because like we’ve discussed above, milk chocolate is less harmful to them than the dark one.
The next thing you need to know is the quantity they’ve eaten. Have they eaten only a single cube or more? If the better half of the bar is missing, it could be serious and you need to take your pet to the vet right away. However, if they’ve had only a little, you should wait for about 6-8 hours.
During this time, you must keep a close eye on your hamster; keep checking for their heart rate and other signs like a seizure or jittery movement. Also, feed them plenty of food and water so that the chocolate might pass through their digestive system faster. Go for fresh veggies that can flush their digestive tracts.
You must know that hamsters cannot throw up. They can have a mild case of diarrhea, which is their normal reaction to chocolate. However, if it gets too frequent, seeing a vet would be a good idea.
Can you keep your hamster from eating chocolate?
Considering the fact that chocolate could be life-threatening to your hamster, you must be looking for ways of preventing your pet from eating chocolate ever. But how would you do that?
It is fairly. Although hamsters are nosy little creatures, there’s only so much they can do with their tiny size. Here are some quick pointers on how you can keep your little pets safe from chocolate:
- Have a single chocolate cabinet or jar at your home, with the understanding that no one will keep chocolate anywhere else in the house. It’s easier to keep a single location secured than multiple ones.
- If you have children, explain to them how chocolates can kill their pets and ask them to keep any chocolate bar or chocolate-based edible far from them. Also, monitor them whenever they’re playing with the hamster.
Frequently asked questions
Can hamsters eat cheese? Hamsters love eating cheese and can do so safely if fed in moderation. However, you must not give them cheese too frequently because while cheese is rich in protein and minerals, it also contains saturated fat in abundance that can make your pet obese.
Is it okay to feed fruits and veggies to hamsters? Yes. There are many fruits and vegetables that won’t harm your hamsters when fed in moderation, such as peaches, broccoli, berries and cherries, cauliflower, kale, mangoes, spinach, and cucumbers.
Conclusion: Can Hamsters Eat Chocolate?
While chocolate might be an irresistible treat for you, sharing it with your pet hamsters is a bad idea. It is because chocolate is outright lethal to hamsters; even a small amount of it can cause serious trouble for them.