Can Hamsters Drink Alcohol?

Hamsters and Alcohol

The story goes that hamsters can digest large amounts of alcohol without getting drunk. I wanted to find out if this is really true, why it would be true and if I could therefore give alcohol to my hamster. Let’s find out about hamsters and alcohol. 

Can hamsters drink alcohol? While hamsters can drink alcohol, are not likely to be aversive to it, and can process it quickly, hamsters really should NOT be given alcohol. In nature hamsters digest alcohol in fermented fruit, which is not the same as drinking alcoholic beverages full of additives.   

Alcohol and Hamsters – Can hamsters drink alcohol?

What happens if a hamster drinks alcohol? 

Research has been done on dwarf hamsters to find out the effect of alcohol on hamsters. It is known that hamsters consume alcohol in the form of fermented food in the wild. 

When the hamster was fed a high fat diet in the test; consumption of 15% alcohol reduced. However, their consumption of 30% alcohol didn’t. 

When the hamster was fed a high Carbohydrate diet the alcohol consumption was not affected. 

When the hamster was injected with ethanol, it caused significant dose-related motor impairment however, higher ethanol doses, orally administered did not have any effect on the hamsters.  

Ryegrass seeds (which are a large part of a wild hamster’s diet), supported ethanol fermentation in the tests. 

Is alcohol poisonous to hamsters? 

While alcohol itself doesn’t seem to be poisonous to hamsters many ingredients in modern day alcoholic beverages will be. The only way hamsters in the wild would have alcohol is via fermented fruit which is different to the alcoholic drinks humans consume. There are too many additives and too much sugar in many alcoholic drinks and if you care for your hamster, you let it stay well clear of alcohol.  

Is alcohol safe for hamsters? 

Wild hamsters which eat fermented fruit, eat large amounts of ryegrass seeds, which helps with the digestion of fermented fruit. Their bodies seem to have adjusted to this natural alcohol intake and studies on hamsters have shown they need large amounts of alcohol to show any effects. Having said that, just because you don’t see any obvious effects of alcohol intake, doesn’t’ mean there aren’t any or that it’s healthy for a hamster to consume alcohol. 

Can hamsters have beer, wine or spirits as part of a healthy diet?

In this easy overview you can see that alcoholic beverages are really not good for your hamster to consume. There are many healthy alternatives if you want to give your hamster a treat.

HealthyUnhealthySugar ContentFat ContentVitaminsGive how often?IssuesComments
BeerxHighLowMinimalNeverToxicAdditives and preservatives make beer really unhealthy for hamsters
WinexLowLowMinimalNeverToxicAdditives and preservatives make wine toxic for hamsters
SpiritsxLowLowMinimalNeverToxicSpirits have a very high alcohol content, and while hamsters might be able to break this down, the additives are still toxic
Fig. 1. Alcohol for hamsters – healthy or unhealthy?

What effect does alcohol have on hamsters. 

Unlike humans, hamsters don’t suffer hangovers. They also don’t grow beer guts. Or at least not from alcohol. The sugar in alcoholic drinks can cause a hamster to become obese of course. This is because hamsters are very capable of breaking down large amounts of alcohol in a very short period of time. Much quicker than humans for example. This of course is completely hypothetical as no pet hamster should ever be given alcohol. Even ethanol injections in lab hamsters are dubious in my view. 

While wild hamsters enjoy alcohol in fermented fruits, their diet makes up for this and they seem to thrive well regardless of the alcohol. Fermented fruit is obviously the most natural way of consuming alcohol, having said that, there is absolutely no scientific evidence that hamsters need fermented fruit in their diet to thrive or survive and pet hamsters have shown to be healthy without it. 

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Do hamsters like beer? 

It doesn’t seem that hamsters particularly like beer and quite frankly it’s not really something we should find out. While hamsters have been used in laboratory experiments and have been tested on their alcohol drinking abilities, beer is not something you want to offer your hamster. 

While hamsters can hold their drink, there is no suggestion this is healthy for them. On top of that there are many added ingredients in beer other than alcohol. It will have preservatives, additives, and lots of sugar. None of these are good for you hamster. 

Is beer poisonous to hamsters? 

The ingredients in beer will be poisonous to your hamster. Your hamster will be best off drinking fresh chlorine free water. If you really wanted to give your hamster a different drink, you could offer low fat milk as a treat.  

Do hamsters like alcohol? 

While most animals will be put off by the smell of alcohol, hamsters are not. Should you spill a bit of an alcoholic drink near your hamster, there is a good chance your hamster will have a little sniff, a possibly a little taste. However, just as alcohol is no good for humans, it’s no good for hamsters either. Just because their bodies can process it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t take a toll on their bodies. And where hamsters have a sensitive digestive system and a short lifespan to match, why not enjoy life with your hamster and make it as pleasant and as long as possible. This means feeding your hamster healthy foods and fresh filtered water. Is beer bad for hamsters? 

What do I do if my hamster has had alcohol? 

If you find your hamster at the bottom of your beer glass, burping and satisfied, you might think the end of your hamster is near. Luckily hamsters have a very high tolerance for alcohol and it’s likely your hamster is going to be absolutely fine. All you can do is watch your hamster and make sure it doesn’t develop any signs of illness or distress. As with humans, alcohol will pass through the system with time. 

How do hamsters get alcohol in the wild? 

In the wild hamsters consume alcohol by storing ripe fruit which ferments before it’s consumed by the hamster months later. Hamsters seem to have adapted to eating fermented fruit and now have a high tolerance to alcohol. 

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Why do hamsters have such a high alcohol tolerance? 

Hamsters are by nature omnivores which means they eat fruit, vegetables, meat, seeds and nuts. In the wild hamsters will find food and store it for later.  This includes fruit. When overripe fruit is stored for later, it will ferment which means it now contains alcohol. So, when hamsters come back for the food at the end of fall or in winter, the fruit has had enough time to ferment. It’s probably completely by accident that hamsters stumbled across the natural byproduct of fermentation, and possibly the complete lack of food has led to the hamsters eating fermented food rather than discarding it. Whatever led the hamster to eat fermented – alcohol-laden fruit, it has led to hamsters having a high alcohol tolerance.  

What is a hamsters alcohol tolerance 

Most hamster breeds have very large livers which will help digest alcohol. There might also be a naturally build up tolerance due to wild hamsters eating fermented fruit as part of their diet in the leaner months. 

Researchers at the University of Anchorage Alaska tested dwarf hamsters to see what their response would be to different levels of ethanol. Ethanol is a form of alcohol found in beverages like wine, beer and liquor.  

As it turns out, hamsters have a much higher alcohol tolerance than humans. 

Hamsters can consume a whopping 7.5g/kg of alcohol before they show any signs of drunkenness.  

Humans on the other hand are too drunk to drive after consuming 1g/kg! 

That’s a massive difference. So next time your hamster offers a drinking contest, know your numbers! (that’s a joke – never give your hamster alcohol!) 

Can I give my hamster alcohol? 

No. DO NOT give your hamster alcohol. You don’t need to share your beer or your glass of wine with your furry pet. Scientists believe that hamsters have adapted to alcohol consumption in the wild, but that doesn’t mean your pet hamster is going to benefit from alcohol consumption. Besides that, remember that you are not giving pure alcohol. You are giving your hamster a highly processed alcoholic beverage which is as healthy to your hamster as it is to you. (Hint: it’s not). 

What can hamsters drink besides water? 

If you really want you hamster to have something else to drink other than water, then you could offer your hamster some low-fat milk. I have successfully given my hamster some of my green smoothie. The only ingredients were vegetables and fruit so I knew it would be healthy for my hammie. Just a bottle lid full is enough and of course remove any leftovers after a couple of hours. 

What foods and drinks are healthy for hamsters to consume?

There are many foods hamsters will really enjoy which are good for them so they can live a happy and healthy life. As hamsters are omnivores, they will eat many different vegetables, fruits, seeds and nuts and the occasional insect. Find out what they can eat in our healthy foods for hamsters guide here.

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