What Kind of Wood Is Safe for Hamsters to Chew?

By Todd Bowerman

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Hamsters love to gnaw on things, and it’s not just for pleasure -- a hamster’s teeth continue to grow for the length of its lifespan. It’s critical to the health of your hamster to provide him with something to gnaw on to keep his teeth filed down. Before you head out into your backyard with an axe, however, you’ll want to develop a better understanding of what types of wood are safe for hamsters to ingest. The right wood makes all the difference.

Chew Sticks

Most pet stores offer a variety of chew sticks designed for hamster consumption. These products are free of dangerous chemicals and additives, and generally are made out of balsa wood or pre-cut twigs. Chew sticks are low in cost and come in bundles, making them one of the easiest solutions for providing your hamster with something safe on which to gnaw. If quality is a concern, check a holistic pet store for organic chew sticks.

Natural Woods

Of course, there are no chew sticks in the wild. If you want to give your hamster a more natural gnawing experience, offer him some freshly cut wood from nearby trees. Small twigs from fruit trees are an excellent option; hamsters particularly enjoy wood harvested from pear and apple trees. One important note: Be careful to avoid trees that have been treated with pesticides or chemicals, as these can cause serious health problems in your hamster.

Woods to Avoid

Just as you should avoid any wood from a tree that has been treated chemically, a few natural woods pose a hazard to a gnawing hamster. Cedar and pine branches contain naturally-occurring oils that can make a hamster sick. Poisonous trees, such as the yew and oleander, also are unsafe for consumption. If you’re unsure about any particular type of wood in your yard, speak with a veterinarian before feeding or stick with chew sticks from the pet store.

Substitutions

All hamsters must gnaw on something to keep their teeth healthy, but a select few will not enjoy gnawing on wood. If the hamster begins gnawing on his cage or other items, he could end up with damaged teeth and other complications. If your hamster isn't a fan of wood, try store-bought hard hamster treats or small, flavorless dog biscuits. As with any peculiar behavior, talk to your vet if your hamster suddenly loses his desire to chew.

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