Is your hamster bored of eating the same food the same way?
Do you want to stretch your hamster’s problem-solving skills?
Read on to learn three simple low-cost methods
Hamsters are known for gathering food in big stashes. After all, that’s how they got their name (from the German for ‘to hoard’). They will empty a food bowl and take it to their store, but you don’t just need to put food in a bowl.
When you give your hamster the chance to seek out their food, you provide them with physical and mental exercise. It can even reduce bar chewing (for more tips to bar chewers, click here).
A hamster new to enrichment feeding may find it hard to access some ways of hiding food. So make sure there is ‘loose’ food that they can access as well.
1. Scatter Feeding
The easiest form of enrichment feeding you can use is scatter feeding. This is where you mix your hamster’s dry mix into the substrate covering the base of the cage.
You can bury food at different depths and in different areas, such as on platforms, to add mental stimulation. Even elderly hamsters enjoy this form of feeding. For very frail or unwell hamsters, you can limit the area you scatter the food, and don’t use too much depth or height.
2. Hidden Food
Empty cardboard packaging and tubes make great – and free – enrichment feeders.
Stuff them with food and nesting material, then fold them up. If your hamster is new to hidden food, you can poke a few holes in the box with a pencil to let the yummy scent out.
Is your hamster a gentle soul who doesn’t destroy boxes? Then use a paper bag instead!
For a more elaborate way of hiding food, you can make a hamster cracker.
Wrap a cardboard tube in some plain white paper. Fill with food and twist the ends. You don’t need to use any glue or tape.
For Syrian hamsters, remember to slit the cardboard tube lengthways so the hamster doesn’t get stuck.
3. Puzzle Feeders
Puzzle feeders get your hamster thinking and working out how to get the food. These are less easy to use safely in a cage, but it is possible. You can make a cardboard box maze, pushing tubes into holes in boxes. Hide food in some of box ‘rooms’ and nesting material in others. This is easiest to make for a dwarf hamster. For a Syrian hamster you could make an open top maze or give treats using a hanging kebab toy.
But I like using a bowl!
You may like the security of a food bowl where you can see what a hamster has taken. Different things suit different people and hamsters. Feel free to use a food bowl, but do consider adding in, even occasionally, some enrichment feeding.
Bowl or no Bowl?
What are your favourite ways of enrichment feeding your hamster’s main dry mix?
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in March 2019. It has been updated for clarity in May 2019.