“Can Hamsters Eat Popcorn?” is part of our “keeping your hamster healthy” series. Find out the answer to the question: “Can you give hamsters popcorn?” and discover when and if it’s okay to share popcorn with your tiny friend.
You might be surprised that hamsters can indeed have popcorn, but only when it’s plain, fully popped, and in moderation. While popcorn does contain some beneficial nutrients, like potassium and folate, too much popcorn can contribute to unhealthy weight gain.
Plain popcorn for hamsters should be used as an occasional treat and not a part of their regular diet. Let’s take a look at the question, “Can hamsters have popcorn?” in a little more detail.
Is Popcorn Safe For Hamster?
Can you give hamsters popcorn? Yes, popcorn is safe for hamsters, but as we mentioned, only if it’s plain and fully popped. You should also take care to give popcorn in moderation.
When you’re feeding any type of treat to your pet, remember that they should get the bulk of their calories from their regularly scheduled meals. Feeding lots of treats or an imbalanced diet can result in your hamster having nutritional deficiencies.
Furthermore, the popcorn should be air-popped. According to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), studies have shown that the coating commonly found on the inside of microwave popcorn bags may contain unhealthy chemical compounds.
Let’s look at popcorn for hamsters in more detail.
Hamsters and Popcorn
Before we can determine if popcorn for hamsters is good or bad, we need to understand a hamster’s nutritional needs.
Hamster’s Nutritional Needs
First of all, hamsters are omnivores. They eat fruits and vegetables but also require quality protein in their diet. Secondly, hamsters only need to eat about 12 milligrams of food a day, so you can see how it would be very easy to overfeed your hamster with treats.
To get all the nutrients they need, their daily diet should include a teaspoon of fresh vegetables and pellets made of about 15 to 20% protein. They may also eat hay daily for additional fiber, which aids in their digestion.
Hamsters can also be offered a teaspoon of fresh fruit twice a week. As it is high in sugar, fruit should not be eaten on a daily basis.
High-sugar or high-fat diets are bad for hamsters and have been found to cause health issues like fatty liver and diabetes.
Popcorn’s Nutritional Value
Popcorn contains nutrients like vitamin A, folate, potassium, niacin, riboflavin, magnesium, calcium, and thiamin. It is also a good source of fiber and contains a small amount of protein.
Additionally, popcorn is a low calorie, low fat, and low sugar food when eaten plain. In fact, the only real unhealthy part if popcorn is the toppings you put on it.
So, can hamsters have popcorn? Are these nutrients helpful or harmful to hamsters?
A Hamster’s Diet And Popcorn’s Nutrients
Hamsters thrive on a diet that’s rich in fiber, as fiber aids in their digestive motility, and popcorn in high in fiber. Popcorn also contains nutrients that may be good for young or breeding hamsters, including vitamin A, folate, iron, niacin, riboflavin, and thiamin.
According to the book, Nutrient Requirements of Laboratory Animals (Fourth Revised Edition), vitamin A is essential for normal growth in hamsters. And in adult hamsters, a vitamin A deficiency was found to lead to the formation of stomach ulcers.
This study also indicated that a lack of folates in your hamster’s diet may contribute to their becoming anemic. And niacin, riboflavin, and thiamin all appeared to be essential for normal growth and development in young hamsters.
Furthermore, a serving of popcorn also contains the minerals calcium and phosphorus, both of which aid in normal bone formation and growth in baby hamsters.
Popcorn Has Some Nutritional Value
So, can you give popcorn to hamsters? Yes, you can. It even has some nutritional value for them!
On the other hand, although popcorn can lend a nutritional boost to your hamster’s diet when fed properly, there is the possibility for too much of a good thing.
Try to give treats sparingly and in small amounts. For hamsters, this means a few pieces of plain popcorn given every so often.
Why do Hamsters Like Popcorn?
It’s hard to speculate why hamster’s like popcorn without being able to ask them! But we can deduce that like any omnivore, such as humans, they enjoy a tasty treat now and then.
Popcorn is also similar to what a hamster would eat naturally in the wild, like seeds and grains. And as previously discussed, it does satisfy some of their nutritional needs.
Is Popcorn Bad For Hamsters?
Popcorn has its merits as a snack for humans and hamsters alike, but there are some limitations. Popcorn (or any other snack, for that matter) that is loaded with salty, sugary, buttery, and fattening toppings lends extra calories and fat to your hamster’s diet.
Just as humans are prone to weight gain and health problems after consuming indulgent foods over time, hamsters are also prone to obesity, heart disease, and even diabetes if their diet is too high in fat and sugar.
Hamster Health Issues
According to a study conducted in 2011, the hamster cardiovascular system is actually quite similar to that of a human, meaning that many of the heart health issues that we face can be seen in hamsters.
When hamsters in the study were fed a high-fat, high-cholesterol diet, they developed fatty liver and diabetes. Since hamsters are prone to diabetes, it should go without saying that sugar should not be a part of their diet.
Long story short, popcorn is bad for hamsters only when it’s smothered in unhealthy toppings or given in large amounts. With that in mind, let’s talk about when popcorn is good for hamsters!
Is Popcorn Good For Hamsters?
There is nothing wrong with popcorn for hamsters when it is prepared correctly and serve only as a special treat.
Popcorn contains some of the nutrients that hamsters need and fiber that is beneficial to their digestive system. But while it has some nutritious value, it is not the ideal food to be added to their regular diet.
The fact that it is low calorie and it is low in fat and sugar is what makes popcorn for hamsters a good snack. In small and infrequent quantities it does not contribute to obesity, heart disease, or diabetes, like some other sugary or fatty treats do.
Overall, popcorn is a safe and healthy treat that hamster cans eat on occasion.
Hamsters And Other Variations Of Popcorn
We’ve answered the question, “Can hamsters have popcorn?” But popcorn comes in many different preparations. Are they all safe for hamsters?
Can hamsters eat salted popcorn? Can hamsters eat sweet popcorn? What about the kernels? Can hamsters eat popcorn kernels?
Let’s find out what might be safe and what might be hazardous for your hamster to eat.
Can Hamsters Eat Buttered Popcorn?
Buttered popcorn contains high amounts of fat.
Considering that hamsters have a tendency toward weight gain, feeding hamsters popcorn with butter is not a good idea. Plus, a high-fat diet can lead to fatty liver and heart disease in hamsters.
Can Hamsters Eat Salted Popcorn?
No, hamsters should not eat salty popcorn.
While it’s common for some types of pet rodents to have a salt lick or mineral wheel in their enclosure, hamsters actually don’t need supplemental salt in their diet.
Just like people, hamsters may develop age-related disorders. As we mentioned before, hamsters may develop heart disease and diabetes, but they are also prone to renal (kidney) failure.
And similarly, to people, increased consumption of fats, salts, and sugars may lead to the earlier onset of these diseases. Therefore, it’s best to leave your hamster’s salt consumption to the salt that they get in their pellets or block.
Can Hamsters Eat Cheese Popcorn?
Even though you can safely give bits of cheese to a hamster as a treat, it’s not safe to give your hamster cheese popcorn.
This is so because the orange “cheese dust” on cheese popcorn is actually pulverized cheese that’s been combined with a lot of fattening additives like oil, sugar, and salt, to name a few.
As we mentioned previously, hamsters are incredibly prone to weight gain. Thus, they should not be given super sugary or fattening treats.
Furthermore, the “cheese dust” on cheese popcorn likely contains garlic powder and onion powder, both of which are toxic to hamsters.
Can Hamsters Eat Sweet Popcorn?
Sweet flavored popcorn, like kettle corn or caramel corn, are also a big no-no for your hamster.
Sugar contributes to weight gain and diabetes. It is also not good for hamster teeth as sugary foods can cause their teeth to rot.
Can Hamsters Eat Popcorn Kernels?
Hamsters eating popcorn that has been fully popped is fine. But what about unpopped kernels?
Hamsters can have the corn cobs (popped or unpopped) that are sold by pet stores and that are intended for small animal consumption.
However, you should never give a hamster “regular” popcorn kernels that are found at the bottom of your popcorn bags. They can easily choke on those kernels.
Additionally, due to their strong hoarding instinct, hamsters may feel inclined to stash multiple popcorn kernels in their cheek pouches, where the kernels may become stuck and cause a cheek impaction.
Can Popcorn Treat Health Problems Hamsters?
Popcorn is not known to treat any health issues in hamsters. They can benefit from some of the vitamins, minerals, and fiber in popcorn, but those benefits are not specific to popcorn. Your hamster can receive them from other foods as well.
Can hamsters have popcorn? Absolutely. Can it provide any special or unique health benefits? No.
Can Baby Hamsters Eat Popcorn?
Baby hamsters start off getting all their nutrients from their mothers. As they slowly start to ween, it is recommended to give them pellets, wheat germ cereal, or millet.
However, popcorn doesn’t make the list. It’s important with any baby animal that it gets the nutrients it needs to grow and thrive. Treats, such as popcorn, may fill up their tiny tummies and leave them lacking in essential nutrients.
Additionally, popcorn may also be large and difficult for them to eat. Wait until your hamster is a bit older and eating a regular diet before introducing treats like popcorn.
Can Dwarf Hamsters Eat Popcorn?
It’s hard to imagine, but dwarf hamsters are a tinier and more delicate version than regular hamsters. A piece of popcorn can possibly be a full meal deal for dwarf hamsters.
So can Dwarf Hamsters eat popcorn?
It’s not too difficult to answer the question, “Can Dwarf Hamsters eat popcorn?” because, besides their size, they are not so different than regular hamsters.
Yes, they can eat popcorn for the same reasons and with the same concerns as we’ve discussed. But with the one stipulation of portion size.
Adjusting Popcorn Portion Size for Dwarf Hamsters
The key to answering the question, “Can dwarf hamsters eat popcorn?” is to adjust the portion size for the size of the dwarf hamster.
The smallest dwarf hamster may grow up to two inches long and weigh just 14 grams and will typically be fine eating around 14 grams (one tablespoon) of food per day.
An average popped kernel is about 0.147 grams. Therefore, you can keep this in mind when considering how much popcorn to give them as a treat in addition to their regular food.
So to answer the question, “Can Dwarf Hamsters eat popcorn?” Yes, but be sure to adjust the portions so you don’t overfeed them.
Can Hamsters Eat Popcorn Every Day?
Can you give hamsters popcorn on a daily basis? Well, you can, but it’s not recommended. Popcorn for hamsters is recommended as a treat and not a staple.
They should only be given a few pieces every now and then. As has been emphasized, too many treats can contribute to weight gain and serious health issues, Also, if your hamster fills up on treats, they may not eat their regular food and end up with some nutritional deficiencies.
Hamster Popcorn Treats
Hamsters can only eat air popped, plain popcorn that is fully popped. No other preparation is good or safe for them to have.
Alternatives To Popcorn For Hamsters
If your hamster likes popcorn, maybe they will enjoy these healthy treats too! Remember, all treats in moderation.
Can Hamster Eat Popcorn? Summary:
So, can hamsters have popcorn? Yes, they can, with a few provisions. It should be plain, air-popped, and given just a few pieces at a time.
Fattening or surgery toppings are a no-no for hamsters since they tend to gain weight easily and are prone to heart disease and diabetes.
Can you give hamster popcorn kernels? Certainly not. You should never give a hamster unpopped kernels, as they could present a choking hazard or damage your pet’s cheek pouches.
Treats like popcorn should be given in moderation.
Ultimately, popcorn for hamsters is a perfectly safe and healthy snack that you can share with your pet on occasion.
References And Further Reading
- Barrell, Amanda. 2019. “ Is popcorn a healthy snack?.” Medical News Today.
- Bhathena, J. K. et. al. 2011. “Diet-induced metabolic hamster model of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.” Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity: Targets and Therapy.
- Brown, S. 2012. “Small Animal Nutrition.” House Rabbit Society.
- Glenway Animal Hospital. Accessed 2019. “ Frequently Asked Hamster Questions.”
- Karababa, E. 2006. “ Physical properties of popcorn kernels.” Journal of Food Engineering.
- National Research Council (US) Subcommittee on Laboratory Animal Nutrition. 1995. “Nutrient Requirements of Laboratory Animals, Fourth Revised Edition.” National Academy Press.
- PDSA. Accessed 2019. “Your hamster’s diet.”
We have extensively revised and updated this article for 2019.