Can Guinea Pigs Eat Hamster Food?
Is It Healthy or Safe?
February 11, 2022
As a guinea pig owner, you know guinea pigs have healthy appetites. If you’re not there to fill their food bowl and hay rack when it’s feeding time, they will let you know you’re late by wheeking like there’s no tomorrow.
But what can you do if your piggies are hungry and you realize you have run out of guinea pig food? The closest store only sells hamster food, so you’re thinking would it be okay to feed it to your piggies until you get your hands on proper guinea pig food.
- But can guinea pigs eat hamster food?
- Would that be a good option, or can hamster food be unsafe for your pets?
In this article, you will learn whether guinea pigs can eat hamster food and what considerations you need to make to ensure your piggies stay healthy. Let’s find out!
Can A Guinea Pig Eat Hamster Food?
To make it short and sweet no, guinea pigs cannot eat hamster food because the nutritional content is not suitable for them. Also, a sudden change in the diet may put your guinea pigs off food leading to more severe health problems.
Although hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils, rats, and mice are often grouped together as just “small animals,” they are very different species with very different nutritional needs. They are all rodents, yet their diets are not the same.
Often, you can find “small animal food,” which is claimed as safe and suitable for all small pets. However, you should never buy this type of food and rather choose species-specific foods instead to meet the dietary requirements of your pet.
Guinea Pigs And Hamsters Have Very Different Requirements From Their Diet
When it comes to hamsters and guinea pigs, they also have very different requirements from their daily diet:
- Hamsters are omnivores, which means they use both plant-based and animal-based energy sources. Their diet includes various things like vegetables, fruits, seeds, meat, grains, and nuts. As omnivores, hamsters also need about 15% crude protein from their daily food intake. For pet hamsters, about 90% of their energy comes from commercial hamster food, and only 10% of their diet comprises veggies, meats, and other such foods.
- Guinea pigs, on the other hand, are herbivores. They eat mostly hay and require very little protein from their food. What guinea pigs need instead is fiber. Most of that fiber comes from hay and fresh veggies, but guinea pig food is also made from timothy or alfalfa hay to add to the daily fiber intake.
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5 Reasons Why You Should Avoid Feeding Hamster Food To Your Guinea Pig
When you compare the dietary needs of hamsters and guinea pigs, you can easily see why hamster food is not something you should feed your guinea pig:
1. Hamster food does not contain enough fiber
First of all, hamster food is very high in protein and fats, while guinea pig food is high in fiber. Guinea pigs need a lot of fiber to keep their digestive system working and prevent gut stasis, which can be life-threatening.
Your guinea pigs should be getting most of their daily food intake from hay, which means they are getting a lot of fiber.
If your guinea pig is getting enough fiber, a little hamster food will not do them any harm. However, since hamster food does not contain enough fiber, feeding it regularly will cause digestive issues and other health problems.
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2. Hamster food may lead to obesity in guinea pigs
Secondly, because hamster food is higher in fat, it may lead to obesity in guinea pigs which are prone to weight gain and diabetes. You shouldn’t feed hamster food to your guinea pigs to ensure they maintain a healthy weight and are not exposed to health risks brought on by fatty food.
3. Hamster food is not always fortified with Vitamin C
Another thing to consider is that hamster food is not always fortified with Vitamin C. As guinea pigs cannot produce this vitamin in their bodies, they need to acquire sufficient amounts of it from their food. Although guinea pigs do get most of the Vitamin C they need from hay, veggies, and fruits, feeding them with hamster food could lead to Vitamin C deficiency.
Lack of Vitamin C will cause a disease called scurvy in guinea pigs. It is a painful disease that develops when a guinea pig doesn’t get enough Vitamin C from their food. The symptoms include:
- Weight loss
- Swollen joints
- Dull and rough coat
If you suspect your guinea pig could be suffering from scurvy, immediate veterinary attention is needed. Your vet will be able to treat your guinea pig with a Vitamin C supplement and help with the pain they are experiencing.
4. Seeds and nuts in hamster food can be dangerous
Guinea pigs have very delicate digestive systems, and the seeds and nuts often added to muesli-style hamster food may block the intestinal tract causing a possibly life-threatening impaction.
Seeds are also a choking hazard, as guinea pigs will not be able to chew on them properly. In this sense, if you really need to give your guinea pig some hamster food, pelleted food is a safer option.
5. Hamster food may cause digestive upsets
Hamster food is very different from what your guinea pigs are used to eating. Because cavies have such a delicate digestive system, a sudden change in their diet can easily cause stomach upsets like diarrhea or bloating.
Also, because guinea pigs are picky eaters, they may not want to eat the new food. If they have hay to feed on, they will survive on it for a while. But if your piggy stops eating altogether, it may lead to GI stasis, which can potentially kill your guinea pig.
So, feeding hamster food to your guinea pig is not recommended and is even possibly dangerous. But what do you need to know about the risks?
Can Hamster Food Kill Guinea Pigs?
Yes and no. If you were to feed your guinea pig some hamster food, there is nothing toxic in the food that would kill a guinea pig. However, hamster food is not suitable for guinea pigs, and feeding it to your piggies on a regular basis will lead to health issues and even death.
- Hamster food is low in fiber. If you are feeding your guinea pig unlimited hay, you don’t need to worry about fiber. However, if your piggies are not getting enough fiber as it is, hamster food may make the situation worse. The lack of fiber can quickly lead to gut stasis, which can be lethal if not treated in time.
- Hamster food is high in fat and protein, which may lead to weight gain and even diabetes. Diabetes can also be fatal when left untreated.
- Since hamster food is not always fortified with enough Vitamin C, feeding it to your guinea pigs could lead to Vitamin C deficiency and scurvy if they don’t get it from other foods they are provided. Scurvy can be deadly, so it’s always better to be safe than sorry and stick with species-appropriate foods.
- Lastly, hamster foods contain seeds and nuts, which your guinea pig could possibly choke on. Also, seeds and nuts are hard to digest and could, therefore, cause a gastrointestinal blockage that can kill your pet if not treated in time.
As you can see, although hamster food is not toxic for guinea pigs, it may still cause health issues that can be fatal. With that in mind, we highly recommend you only feed your guinea pig with foods that have been specially formulated with their natural diet and physiological needs in mind.
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Can Guinea Pigs Eat Hamster Treats?
No, guinea pigs should not eat hamster treats. Again, there is nothing toxic for guinea pigs in hamster treats, but we highly recommend choosing treats that have been tailored for guinea pigs or are suitable for small pets in general.
What it comes down to is the ingredients and healthiness of the treats.
Many hamster treats contain seeds and nuts, or they are coated with honey. Because guinea pigs are prone to weight gain and diabetes, these fatty and high-sugar treats aren’t ideals for them.
Also, as many hamster treats contain seeds, they should be avoided. Guinea pigs are not able to chew the seeds properly, so they may pose a choking hazard. Also, seeds and nuts are hard to digest and may cause an impaction or gut stasis in guinea pigs.
That being said, many hamster treats won’t harm your guinea pig, and hamsters actually often enjoy treats formulated for guinea pigs. What it comes down to is the ingredients and healthiness of the treats.
Your guinea pig is best off with treats that are high in fiber and low in sugar and protein. Timothy hay-based treats are the best option, as are fresh veggies and fruits. We also recommend natural ingredients, colors, and flavors in treats.
These are some of our favorite guinea pig treats:
- Oxbow Simple Rewards Baked Treats (check the product details here)
- Kaytee Timothy Biscuits Baked Treat (check the details here)
- Vitakraft Guinea Pig Orange Drops Treat (read more here)
* We may earn a small commission on purchases made through our links. Learn more.
Bottom Line – Can Guinea Pigs Have Hamster Food?
The bottom line is that guinea pigs should not eat hamster food. Although none of the ingredients are harmful or toxic as such, guinea pigs and hamsters have very different needs when it comes to their diet, and their food is not interchangeable.
If you give your guinea pig some hamster pellets, they will not suffer any harm. Yet, feeding your piggies with it for a longer period can quickly lead to nutrient deficiencies and poor health.
As herbivores, guinea pigs need a diet that is rich in fiber. Unfortunately, most hamster foods do not meet this requirement, and they also contain too much protein and too little Vitamin C considering the dietary demands of your piggy.
We strongly recommend against giving your guinea pig any muesli-style hamster food, but if you have run out of guinea pig food and you only have hamster pellets, feeding them for a few days until you get more guinea pig food should not be a problem.
However, if your guinea pig has access to unlimited hay and highly nutritious fresh veggies, you don’t have to worry about skipping pellets for a day or two.
Read Next: What Should Guinea Pigs Eat? Vet Explains
The most apparent difference between guinea pigs and their hamster cousins is that piggies are herbivorous and need high fiber diets, while hamsters are omnivorous and have a more varied diet.
Commercial hamster pellets are relatively high in fat compared to guinea pig pellets and shouldn’t be fed to piggies due to the risk of obesity alongside nutritional imbalances.
– Dr. Edele Grey, DVM
NOTE: Advice provided within this article by FeedingMyPet.com is not a substitute for veterinary advice. Please discuss your pet’s specific dietary needs (based on his breed, weight, age, and health status) with a veterinarian.