Can Guinea Pigs Eat Rabbit Food –
What You Should Know!
February 14, 2022
As a guinea pig owner, you know the drill. It’s feeding time, and your guinea pigs are not letting you forget it’s time for snacks by wheeking in their habitat.
You go over to the cupboard only to realize you have run out of guinea pig food, and you have four hungry eyes staring at you to let you know more food is needed in the food bowl.
Maybe the closest pet store only has some rabbit food, or you have some rabbit food you have been feeding to your bunny. In any case, you ask yourself can guinea pigs eat rabbit food, or could it harm your piggies?
Rabbits and guinea pigs seem to have diets that closely resemble each other, but as a responsible pet owner, you want to be sure. Good for you! It’s always better to be safe than sorry. We always recommend you check the suitability of each food item before feeding it to your pet.
But what about rabbit food? Is it safe to be fed to guinea pigs? In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know.
Can You Give Guinea Pigs Rabbit Food?
Differences In Diets Explained
Guinea pigs and rabbits are often grouped together with other small pet rodents like hamsters and gerbils and are considered ”small pets” in general. However, veterinarian Dr. Edele Grey points out, that first of all, rabbits are not rodents but lagomorphs. Secondly, all these species are very different in many ways, including what comes to their nutrition.
Because guinea pigs and rabbits are a bit bigger than some other small pets, they are sometimes considered to have pretty much the same needs. Often, they are even housed together, which is not advisable because they communicate differently and won’t be able to understand each other.
However, it is true that cavies and rabbits indeed share a similar diet.
Similarities of guinea pig and rabbit diets
Both species are herbivores, and they require unlimited hay or grass in their diet to thrive.
Hay is very important for both rabbits and guinea pigs. It provides the fiber needed to keep the digestion moving. Also, hay provides most of the nutrients that both cavies and bunnies need, and chewing on high-fiber hay keeps their open-rooted teeth trimmed.
In addition to hay, both rabbits and guinea pigs are fed food pellets, leafy greens, vegetables, and occasional fruits. They both also need unlimited fresh water.
Pellets are an important source of vitamins and minerals, as are leafy greens and vegetables. Fruits should be served in moderation because although they provide many vitamins, they also contain sugar, which is not healthy. Bunnies and guinea pigs are prone to obesity, so you should limit sugar in their diet.
In addition, not getting too much calcium is essential for both animals. This is because rabbits and guinea pigs are also both prone to bladder sludge and urinary stones.
Yet, although the diets seem very similar, there are also some differences that need to be taken under consideration when asking can guinea pigs have rabbit food.
Differences of guinea pig and rabbit diets
Here are the main differences between a guinea pig and rabbit diet that affect whether their diets and food are interchangeable:
- Guinea pigs need to get Vitamin C from their food because they can’t produce it within their bodies
- Guinea pigs also need more vitamin B than rabbits
So, if there are similarities and differences in the diets of guinea pigs and bunnies, what does it mean – can a guinea pig eat rabbit food? Let’s find out.
Can Guinea Pig Eat Rabbit Food?
To make it short:
No, guinea pigs should not eat rabbit food. Because rabbit food is not formulated to meet their dietary requirements and match their physiological needs, feeding rabbit food to your cavy could make them very sick.
7 Reasons Why You Should Avoid Feeding Rabbit Food To Your Guinea Pig
1. The question of Vitamin C
First and foremost, guinea pigs, just like humans, cannot synthesize Vitamin C in their bodies. They need this vitamin to come from their food, or they may develop Vitamin C deficiency, which may lead to scurvy.
To make sure guinea pigs stay healthy, their food is fortified with Vitamin C. Because rabbits can make their own Vitamin C, their food does not contain as much of it.
Although most guinea pig foods are fortified with Vitamin C, it oxidizes so rapidly that its value to your pig is negligible in most cases, and added vitamin C is advised through water supplementation daily.
Still, because guinea pig food contains more Vitamin C, it is not advised to feed rabbit food to your piggies.
2. Too little Vitamin B
When it comes to Vitamin B, there is a clear difference between rabbit and guinea pig foods. Rabbits need only 3 different vitamins from the B complex to come from their food, while guinea pigs need seven out of ten.
This means that rabbit food will not provide enough Vitamin B for your cavy. Because it is important to choose a commercial food that takes care of all of your pet’s dietary needs, you should not opt to feed rabbit food to your piggies.
3. Differences in crude fiber content
Cavies and rabbits have quite similar requirements when it comes to fiber content. Food pellets of guinea pigs should contain about 12-16% crude fiber, while rabbits need about 10-16%. However, guinea pigs are much more efficient in digesting fiber, and it is recommended to feed up to 25% fiber to pet rabbits.
Because rabbit food is very high in fiber and guinea pigs also need a diet with lots of it, rabbit food may be considered suitable for guinea pigs. A high-fiber diet reduces soft stools, prevents weight gain, keeps the bowel movements regular, and helps with bloating.
Yet, it is always better to feed any pet with species-specific food that has been specially formulated with their nutritional needs in mind.
4. Differences in protein content
Again, guinea pigs and rabbits have similar needs regarding protein. Rabbits need around 12-18% of crude protein, while guinea pigs need about 18-20%.
This means rabbits need less protein, but the difference is relatively small. Yet, feeding rabbit food for long periods could lead to weight loss. Also, especially young, growing guinea pigs need a lot of protein, so rabbit food is not ideal for them.
5. Digestive upsets
One very good reason for not feeding rabbit food to your guinea pig is that cavies have very delicate digestive systems and get tummy upsets easily. Suddenly changing to a new food could easily lead to diarrhea and an upset stomach.
6. Risk of GI stasis
Also, as guinea pigs are picky eaters, a sudden change in their daily feed could put them off food and lead to not eating. Because not eating can quickly cause GI stasis that can be fatal, suddenly changing to rabbit food could be dangerous.
7. There’s nothing toxic about rabbit food, but…
As such, there is nothing toxic about rabbit food that could harm your guinea pig. However, because of the differences in nutritional composition, rabbit food is not ideal for guinea pigs, and you should refrain from feeding it.
If your guinea pig is fed a balanced diet of fresh grass hay and a variety of healthy greens and veggies, a little rabbit food won’t harm them or cause nutritional deficiencies. Still, we always recommend choosing a species-specific and high-quality guinea pig food to feed to your pet.
You May Also Like: Can Guinea Pigs Eat Hamster Food?
Can Guinea Pigs Eat Rabbit Hay?
Rabbit and guinea pigs are both herbivores, and hay should make up 80-90% of their daily food intake. It is vital for them nutritionwise, but high-fiber hay also keeps their digestion moving and prevents serious gastrointestinal issues like gut stasis. Hay is roughage these animals can graze on, but chewing on it also helps keep their teeth in good condition.
It all comes down to the variety you choose and your pet’s age.
Both species require unlimited hay to munch on, and timothy hay or another grass hay such as orchard or oat hay is recommended for adult guinea pigs and adult rabbits alike.
Again, legume hay, such as alfalfa which is higher in protein and calcium, is recommended for both young guinea pigs and bunnies. It will support the growth of their muscles and bones.
Feeding alfalfa hay is not advised for adult piggies and rabbits, as a high-protein diet may lead to weight gain. At the same time, the high calcium content may cause bladder sludge or urinary stones.
Unlike rabbit food, rabbit hay can be fed to guinea pigs. Actually, there isn’t even specific hay for rabbits and guinea pigs. It all comes down to the variety you choose and your pet’s age.
- If your guinea pig is under the age of 6 months, you can safely feed legume hay like alfalfa or clover.
- If, however, your guinea pig is grown up, grass hay is the one you should choose.
Good varieties include:
- Timothy hay
- Orchard hay
- Oat hay
- Barley hay
Also Read: Best Hay For Guinea Pigs in 2022
Can Guinea Pigs Eat Rabbit Pellets?
Ok, so guinea pigs and rabbits share a similar diet, and both are fed mostly hay. But how about commercial small pet food? Can guinea pigs eat rabbit food pellets?
The answer is no; guinea pigs should not eat rabbit food pellets. Although guinea pigs and bunnies do have very similar dietary requirements, guinea pigs cannot synthesize Vitamin C and need to acquire it from their food. Guinea pig pellets are a source of Vitamin C, and rabbit food pellets do not contain enough of this vitamin to meet their nutritional needs.
Interestingly, a little extra Vitamin C will not harm rabbits, which means you can feed a bunny with guinea pig food for a short time. However, the opposite is not advised.
Vitamin C is very important for guinea pigs. Not getting enough of it from their food may lead to a painful disease called scurvy. This disease is caused by Vitamin C deficiency and can be lethal if not treated in time.
Commercial pellets are not an important source of Vitamin C as it oxidizes quite rapidly, and therefore, you should always ensure adequate intake of Vitamin C by supplementing the water.
However, because lack of Vitamin C is dangerous, it is better to choose guinea pig food rather than rabbit food.
The symptoms of scurvy include
- weight loss
- pain in joints
- dull and rough coat
- dental problems
If you notice any of these symptoms, please get your pet checked and treated by your vet. Your trusted veterinarian will also be able to advise you on how to provide enough Vitamin C for your guinea pig in the future to prevent malnutrition.
Other reasons to not feed rabbit food to your guinea pigs are:
- Rabbit food doesn’t contain enough Vitamin B for cavies and could lead to vitamin deficiency.
- A sudden change in the diet could cause stomach upset and lack of appetite in your guinea pigs. Both are potentially dangerous health problems, so it is better not to risk it by suddenly feeding rabbit food.
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Bottom Line – Can Guinea Pigs Eat Bunny Food?
Guinea pigs and rabbits both make lovely pets. They both also love to munch on hay, and they both eat pellets and fresh veggies in addition. In many ways, they are similar when it comes to their food, but not so that their daily diets would be interchangeable.
To sum things up, guinea pigs cannot eat rabbit food. Although rabbits can eat guinea pig food, the opposite is not recommended because piggies need a lot more Vitamin C and B in their diet, and commercial guinea pig food has been formulated accordingly.
Having a taste or eating rabbit food for a day or two will not harm your piggy if they like it and they are getting all the nutrients they need from hay and veggies. Still, we recommend always sticking to guinea pig food because it’s guaranteed to meet your pet’s nutritional needs.
To make sure you’re feeding your guinea pig species-appropriate food, learn more about Feeding Your Guinea Pig, Best Hay for Guinea Pigs, and Best Commercial Guinea Pig Foods.
A recent study (2019) indicated that it might be ok to feed guinea pigs rabbit food that has been supplemented with vitamin C. However, I recommend that you only feed your piggy a commercially produced guinea pig-specific pelleted feed.
Piggies are extremely picky feeders, and the smallest changes can prompt a hunger strike. In addition, rabbit foods only need to provide 3 out of the 10 B vitamins, while piggies need 7 of these from their food.
– 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.