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Can Rabbits Eat Gerbil Food? [Is It Safe To Feed?]

Contemplating offering your rabbit gerbil food? Wondering whether it’s a good idea to do so? Well, this is what you should know before you do.

So, can rabbits eat Gerbil Food? Rabbits cannot, nor should not, eat Gerbil food; even in small amounts or even if given infrequently. Gerbil food is nutritionally imbalanced for rabbits and can result in an upset stomach with bloating and diarrhea if it were to be consumed. High-quality hay, safe vegetables, and specific rabbit pellets should be fed instead.

It’s easy to pick up the wrong food at the pet store.

We’ve all done it.

Besides, many brands and products look very similar – regardless of the animal, they were designed for.

Often, it’s just the image of the animal on the packaging itself that helps us to differentiate between them.

It’s an easy mistake to make.

Nevertheless, this does not mean you should proceed to feed – should you have already bought it.

Regardless of whether it’s going to cost you financially.

In other situations, you may just be curious about what else to feed your bun – perhaps you even want to save money on your pet bills.

Either way, do not feed your rabbit gerbil food.

Let us now explore why, in much greater detail!

Is Gerbil Food The Same As Rabbit Food?

Gerbil food is not the same as rabbit food; they contain very different ingredients to meet the nutritional needs of these two very different small mammals.

Perhaps the best way to see this is to compare rabbit and gerbil food side by side.

And if we take feeds designed for each animal of products from the same brand, we can get an understanding of how these foods truly differ.

For this comparative analysis, I have decided to use the Oxbow Essentials product line:

Note that this is hamster food as well, but more on that later.

Oxbow Essentials Rabbit Food 

Ingredients: Timothy Grass Meal, Soybean Hulls, Soybean Meal, Cane Molasses, Wheat Middlings, Sodium Bentonite, Soybean Oil, Salt, Lignin Sulfonate, Hydrolyzed Yeast, Choline Chloride, Vitamin E Supplement, Zinc Sulfate, Yeast Culture, Zinc Proteinate, Niacin, Copper Sulfate, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Manganous Oxide, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Thiamine Mononitrate, Magnesium Sulfate, Copper Proteinate, Vitamin A Supplement, Sodium Selenite, Manganese Proteinate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Cobalt Carbonate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Calcium Iodate

NameGuaranteed Analysis
Crude Protein14% min
Crude Fat2% min
Crude Fiber25.0% min
Crude Fiber 29.0% max
Moisture10.0% max
Calcium0.35% min
Phosphorus0.25% min
Vitamin A10,000 IU/kg min
Vitamin D3900 IU/kg min
Vitamin E190 IU/kg min

Oxbow Essentials Hamster Food and Gerbil Food

Ingredients: Timothy Meal, Pearled Barley (Rolled), Oat Groats, Canola Meal, Millet, Canola Oil, Wheat Gluten, Calcium Carbonate, Salt, Brewer’s Dried Yeast, Sodium Bentonite, Hydrolyzed Yeast, Mixed Tocopherols (preservative), Citric Acid, Soy Oil, Choline Chloride, Vitamin E Supplement, Zinc Sulfate , Zinc Proteinate, Niacin, Copper Sulfate, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Manganous Oxide, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Thiamine Mononitrate, Magnesium Sulfate, Copper Proteinate, Vitamin A Supplement, Sodium Selenite, Manganese Proteinate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Cobalt Carbonate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Calcium Iodate, Rosemary Extract

NameGuaranteed Analysis
Crude Protein15% min
Crude Fat4.5% min
Crude Fiber10.0% min
Crude Fiber 15.0% max
Moisture10.0% max
Calcium0.6% min
Calcium1%
Phosphorus0.4% min
Vitamin A10,000 IU/kg min
Vitamin D3900 IU/kg min
Vitamin E190 IU/kg min

Now, you could sit and sift through the full ingredient lists and make comparisons there.

And you would notice big differences.

But if we look at the nutritional content (which such ingredients equate to), we start to see the big differences.

For instance, the rabbit food is considerably higher in fiber. Between 14-19% higher, in fact.

Interestingly, its also higher in calcium too.

The gerbil food, on the other hand, is higher in protein, fat, calcium, and phosphorous.

We’ll soon see why this is the case.

And if you take a look at the pellets themselves, they are very different in shape and size too.

Maybe it’s a brand thing or a means of differentiating – but either way, it symbolizes the differences between these two foods.

Why Rabbits Shouldn’t Eat Gerbil Food

Rabbits should not eat gerbil food as it fails to meet their nutritional requirements. It also contains ingredients that rabbits are not used to and therefore can result in digestive upset if consumed.

Besides, rabbits are herbivores (feed exclusively on plant matter) and have “complex digestive systems”, after all.

Whereas gerbils are omnivores (that do best with both plant and animal matter) and they have their own very unique and specific nutrient requirements.

Just as is the case with hamsters.

This is precisely why you will often see gerbil food advertised for hamsters, by the way. That explains the “Hamster & Gerbil Food”.

This is precisely why you shouldn’t feed your rabbit hamster food either.

Nevertheless, gerbil food is often highly concentrated in seeds – with the specific purpose of adding additional protein and fat – both of which these rodents seek out naturally in the wild.

Here’s an interesting quote from PetMD on why this is the case:

It’s recommended that the mix contains around 14% protein. Anything less than that will likely need to be supplemented with other sources of protein, such as insects.

And then on to serving frequencies.

Gerbils (and hamsters) will often eat commercial feed more regularly.

On the contrary, rabbits should only eat a small amount of pelleted feed.

Even then, they must eat feed that has been specifically designed for rabbits that cater to their high-fiber requirements and highly unique digestive system.

Hay and grasses should make up the vast majority of the diet, as we shall see shortly.

And they don’t even eat food the same way either.

Gerbils are natural foragers and instinctual hoarders. They’ll save a lot of their food and store it away to eat when they like.

On the other hand, rabbits are grazers and need to eat constantly to keep their digestive system functioning optimally.

What Would Happen If A Rabbit Ate Gerbil Food?

How a rabbit would respond to eating gerbil food depends primarily on the age, health status, quantity of food consumed, and the type.

First and foremost it will likely not do a rabbit any good.

Besides, the food will typically be carrying ingredients your rabbit is not used to (mostly various seeds and nuts), nor is capable of safely digesting.

In fact, rabbits have very sensitive stomachs.

And gerbil food is largely inappropriate/inadequate, as we have seen above.

This veterinarian quote is particularly striking:

“If you introduce new foods too quickly, or feed inappropriate food choices, the rabbit’s normal digestive flora (normal bacteria) will be disturbed, gas- and toxin-producing bacteria can overgrow, and the rabbit may become very sick and possibly die.”

Now, the latter half of that quote does sound quite extreme.

Chances are, your rabbit should be okay if they were to eat a very small amount.

It is in larger quantities, or regular feeding, where the significant issues truly lie.

Nevertheless, you would still need to closely monitor them and their behavior following any consumption.

You would need to keep an eye on if they continue to eat and drink, and their general demeanor and posture to ensure they are not uncomfortable or in pain.

You should also be willing, and able, to contact a vet should you see any cause for concern.

Ultimately, you do need to take note and be sure not to offer gerbil food in any quantity.

What You Should Feed Your Rabbit

When it comes to feeding your rabbit, the emphasis should be fresh, high-quality, and wholesome hay. It should be given liberally and your rabbit should always have access to it.

This will provide your rabbit with the fiber they need for optimal digestion.

From there, a select number of safe vegetables can be provided.

Green leafy vegetables are best and should be offered daily.

Especially good vegetables to offer are romaine lettuce, mustard greens, carrot tops, watercress, beet, and broccoli greens.

Your rabbit can consume a lot of vegetables daily so long as they do not experience digestive upset and vegetables are not high in carbohydrates.

So, be mindful of root vegetables, including the carrot, parsnip, and potato. These should be fed sparingly, if at all.

Now onto pellets.

Pellets, or rabbit feed, can then be given. As you will know by now, it should be purposefully designed for them.

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions closely for feeding quantities and schedule, but you can also contact your vet here on their recommendation for your particular rabbit too.

Nonetheless, pellets should not make up the majority of your rabbit’s diet and should be fed in accordance with your rabbit’s breed, size, age, and health.

And finally, do be sure to keep the diet fairly consistent.

While variety is important, you do not want to make any drastic or sudden changes.

New foods should be introduced very slowly, one at a time.

Keep an eye on your rabbit over time and ensure they are a healthy weight.

If you are to notice any changes – be it in the weight, health, eating patterns, or toilet tendencies of your rabbit, it would be best to check in with a vet.

Finally

Gerbils are rodents. Rabbits are lagomorphs

Gerbils are omnivores and rabbits are herbivores.

These key distinctions say all that really needs to be said about feeding gerbil food to rabbits and vice versa.

They are very different animals with very different needs.

There is a reason why two different products, and feeds, exist.

So if you have already bought gerbil food that is no longer given, perhaps donate it to a nearby rescue or to somebody you know has gerbils.

Alternatively, don’t proceed to buy it or chuck it away.

This food just shouldn’t be given to your rabbit.