Should you be feeding your guinea pig hamster food? Can you even do so? This is precisely what I will be answering here today. And I won’t be keeping you hanging around either – besides, your guinea pig is hungry. So, let’s get into it!
So, can guinea pigs eat hamster food? Guinea pigs should not eat or be given hamster food. Although a small amount should do no immediate harm, hamster food does not contain the right nutritional profile to meet their particular needs. As such, overfeeding or regular consumption can result in negative health outcomes and the onset of digestive disorders.
I know this is not what you perhaps wanted to find out, but this is just the way it is, I’m afraid.
And the trouble is, our guinea pigs would likely eat hamster food if provided. So it’s not like we can even gauge their response.
We need to be mindful, and it’s essential that we understand what and why we should feed particular foods and not others.
Besides, offering hamster food can be an easy mistake to make.
It’s very easy to get the wrong food when shopping at the pet store.
I’ve done it.
They do look very alike.
Nonetheless, let us now explore the reasons why hamster food should be off the table for our guinea pigs and what this all means for their diet.
Why Can’t Guinea Pigs Eat Hamster Food?
Guinea pigs cannot eat hamster food because it is not designed nor formulated to meet their highly unique and individualized nutritional needs. This is primarily why you will find guinea pig pellets on the market – which can support their requirements when fed appropriately.
At this juncture, I think it’s essential that we point out a significant difference.
Guinea pigs are herbivores, and hamsters are omnivores.
What this essentially means is that guinea pigs are naturally and biologically driven to eat plant matter in their wild habitats.
Hamsters, on the other hand, are a lot more versatile in their feeding. They can, and do eat, both plant and animal matter.
This is a fundamental difference.
In fact, guinea pigs have an entirely different digestive system to that of a hamster.
They require vast amounts of fiber and roughage to function properly.
Their nutritional requirements can be “difficult to replicate at home,” but it’s essential that you do.
The diet of a guinea pig should therefore be comprised mostly of particular grasses, plants, and vegetables.
But in hamsters, this is simply not the case.
All of this fiber and roughage are not needed.
In fact, “too much green food” in the diet of a hamster would likely cause problems (such as diarrhea) and even deficiencies of their own (from the result of other displaced food).
And they need other nutrients too, like protein for optimal health.
Seeds and grains are, therefore, much more suitable for their nutritional needs.
In fact, guinea pigs have a much lower requirement for pellets than hamsters do for their own food.
So, not even serving sizes and frequencies are the same.
With all this in mind, we start to see drastic differences and why we would want to try and replicate their natural feeding patterns – even if we are keeping them as pets in captivity.
Let us now look at how different these two foods are.
Difference Between Guinea Pig And Hamster Food
Guinea pig pellets and hamster food are largely different; they both contain very different ingredients and, therefore, nutritional profiles.
Perhaps the best way to see this instantly is to compare two of the most popular foods for each rodent from the same brand: Vitakraft.
Here, we are comparing the Vitakraft VitaSmart Complete Nutrition Guinea Pig Food vs. Vitakraft Premium Nutrition Hamster Food.
Vitakraft Guinea Pig Food Nutrition
|Crude Protein||16% min|
|Crude Fat||2.5% min|
|Crude Fiber||22% min|
|Vitamin A||17,000 IU/kg min|
|Vitamin D3||1,700 IU/kg min|
|Vitamin E||90 IU/kg min|
|Omega-3 Fatty Acids||0.3% min|
|Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C)||300mg/kg|
Vitakraft Hamster Food Nutrition
|Crude Protein||13% min|
|Crude Fat||5% min|
|Crude Fiber||11.0% min|
|Vitamin A||5,000 IU/kg min|
|Vitamin D3||900 IU/kg min|
|Vitamin E||50 IU/kg min|
|Omega-3 Fatty Acids||0.2% min|
|Total Microorganisms||50,000 CFU/g min|
Instantly, you’ll notice quite the difference between them.
The guinea pig food has more protein, half the fat, and doubles the fiber compared to the hamster food (per serving).
Beyond this, it has considerably more Vitamin A, Vitamin D3, and Vitamin E!
But perhaps most importantly of all.
The guinea pig food has ascorbic acid (vitamin C), whereas the hamster food does not. And this is paramount.
Guinea pigs cannot synthesize their own vitamin C, like humans (unlike hamsters).
Therefore, they need to obtain it through their diet.
And they need quite a lot of it to prevent deficiency – between 10 and 30 mg/kg daily for good health.
So, it’s essential that your guinea pig gets this important vitamin – and pellets can contribute to this total.
If we were then to compare the active ingredients of both products, we’d see stark differences too.
As the list is quite long, I’ll just include the first 5 (most abundant) ingredients below:
- Vitakfraft guinea pig food ingredients: Ground Timothy Grass Hay, Soybean Hulls, Dehulled Soybean Meal, Heat-Processed Soybeans, Flaked Peas,
- Vitakfraft hamster food ingredients: Milo, Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal, Ground Corn, Wheat, Wheat Middlings.
Very different, right.
And can you see that timothy hay in the guinea pig food – that’s the fibrous grass that these cavies need, unlike hamsters, who can do better with wheat.
How Much Hamster Food Can A Guinea Pig Safely Eat?
A guinea pig is only likely to be able to eat a small amount of hamster food without experiencing immediate negative side effects. At the same time, prolonged or consistent feeding will likely result in nutritional deficiencies, obesity, and other related issues.
This may all seem quite dramatic.
But the truth is, guinea pigs just do not have the means to be able to process this food very well.
And it is true that different guinea pigs will respond differently, especially depending on age, weight, and other health conditions.
But on the whole, guinea pigs are not going to do well on this particular food.
And this is why.
Guinea pigs have an intricate and complex digestive system.
Besides, in the wild, they survive on a diet of mostly grass – it’s quite energyless and very undigestable in its raw state.
This explains the teeth, but they also have a large intestine and a sac called a caecum which is loaded full of microbes and breaks down all of this fibrous matter and extracts nutrients from it.
But with this in mind, it’s crucial guinea pigs eat appropriately, or this system can be disrupted.
But let’s assume your guinea did eat some hamster food.
Perhaps you gave some; maybe they got access without your knowledge.
Either way, what would happen?
Well, a lot will depend on the amount they ate.
If it were to be in a large serving, chances are it could cause digestive upset.
Pain, bloating, running stools. This may even be met with lethargy, a lack of interest in their hay and other foods, etc.
And if you were to notice any of these symptoms, you should absolutely contact a vet.
But while this sounds quite concerning, a small amount should be okay. Not that you should ever feed it.
Besides, a sudden change in the diet can cause illness.
So the main takeaway is that hamster food should not be purposefully or regularly given.
What Should You Feed A Guinea Pig?
Chances are, you know what an optimal diet is already. But I’ll quickly run through the basics and how to incorporate guinea pig pellets and feed accordingly.
The majority of your guinea pigs diet, up to 80%, should be from fresh hay.
It should always be constantly available, along with fresh water.
This will help aid your cavies’ digestion and support their natural teeth-grinding.
From there, you should include some vegetables, with a particular focus on those that are vitamin C rich.
Leafy greens, such as Kale and Broccoli, are excellent sources of Vitamin C, along with red or green peppers. Other green vegetables should be emphasized too.
Romaine lettuce, red and green leaf lettuces, kale, cilantro, and parsley are ideal, but do be sure to provide a variety.
And be careful with some leafy vegetables, like spinach too. Not all should be fed so routinely.
About one cup in total per guinea pig per day is a good amount of vegetable to offer.
From there, it’s onto the commercial feed or guinea pig food (pellets).
Your guinea pig will only need around 1/8 cup of pellets once a day, although do follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Fruit should be considered an occasional treat, once or twice per week at most, due to the high sugar content.
A small slice of apple, a couple of blueberries, or a cut-up strawberry are good options.
Sugar-rich and acidic fruits, like pineapple, should be fed less frequently but are okay from time to time.
The same could be said for certain grains, such as corn too.
Hamster food is far from suitable for a guinea pig.
So while you may own both pets and want to keep costs down, there is no guinea pig food available, or you were just naturally curious – the truth remains.
It’s just not advisable to do so.
Even in small amounts.
While accidental consumption will hopefully not cause any serious side effects, it certainly can, and you will need to monitor your guinea pig closely in the aftermath.
To summarize, a guinea pig’s diet is rather complex. It is hard to replicate at home because they are mostly grass-grazers in the wild.
It’s no wonder they have evolved a complex digestive system to extract nutrients from this kind of food.
The same cannot be said for hamsters.
And thus, commercial food is designed purposefully to be very different for each of these pet rodents.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.