Feeding a rabbit naturally comes with various questions, particularly on what foods are and are not suitable. But what about guinea pig food, or pellets, specifically? Can you provide these as an alternative – either as a once-off or as a long-term replacement? This is essential to be aware of.
So, can rabbits eat guinea pig food? A small amount of guinea pig food occasionally should do no harm to a rabbit. Although, this food is not ideal, nor should it be offered as a long-term food source. Instead, it’s important that hay forms the majority of the diet, with appropriate amounts of formulated rabbit feed that have been tailored precisely for their nutritional needs.
That’s the way to look at it.
And not something you really should be giving out of choice.
With this in mind, let us now explore why these foods are designed differently and what this all means for feeding our rabbits!
Are Rabbit And Guinea Pig Pellets The Same?
Rabbit and guinea pig pellets are not the same; they are both formulated to meet the individual and unique needs of the animal they designed for. For instance, guinea pig food is typically fortified with Vitamin C, whereas rabbit food is not.
Perhaps the best way to confirm this is by comparing rabbit and guinea pig food side by side.
Specifically, comparing the nutrition found in two of the more popular feeds for each pet – Vitikraft Complete Nutrition:
And it’s a useful comparison because they are foods from the same brand:
Vitakraft Rabbit Food Nutrition
|Crude Protein||14% min|
|Crude Fat||2.0% min|
|Crude Fiber||18% min|
|Crude Fiber||23% max|
|Vitamin A||12,000 IU/kg min|
|Vitamin D3||1,000 IU/kg min|
|Vitamin E||70 IU/kg min|
|Omega-3 Fatty Acid||0.2% min|
|Total Microorganisms||50,000 CFU/g min|
Vitakraft Guinea Pig Food Nutrition
|Crude Protein||15% min|
|Crude Fat||3.0% min|
|Crude Fiber||18% min|
|Crude Fiber||23% max|
|Vitamin A||10,000 IU/kg min|
|Vitamin D3||1,200 IU/kg min|
|Vitamin E||80 IU/kg min|
|Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C)||300mg/kg|
|Omega-3 Fatty Acid||0.3% min|
|Total Microorganisms||50,000 CFU/g min|
So, if you were to go through each nutrient one by one, you’d see they are quite different.
The protein and fat are lower in rabbit food, as well as the Vitamin E and Vitamin D3.
But the rabbit food does have more calcium and vitamin A.
But here’s the significant difference.
The rabbit food does not have any ascorbic acid or vitamin C.
Whereas the guinea pig food is abundant in it.
But more of that in the next section.
What you need to know at this juncture is that these foods are nutritionally very different and there is a reason for this.
Besides, these are just the micronutrients.
If we were to compare the ingredients found in the food, you would also find big differences too.
The list is extensive, so it’s best to check the packaging directly here rather than read through it here.
But due to both animals having a large requirement for fiber – it’s no real surprise interesting that both foods are mostly made up of Ground Timothy Grass Hay!
Is Guinea Pig Food Suitable For Rabbits?
While guinea pig food may be able to provide some basic nutrition, it should not be fed consistently to rabbits. It’s not a suitable food source, and it can cause issues if fed in excess or over the long term.
And that is down to the high vitamin c we referenced earlier.
Now, there is a major difference between rabbits and guinea pigs here.
Guinea pigs, like humans, cannot make their own.
They need to obtain it from their diet.
Rabbits are very different here.
They actually produce it themselves!
And there is no evidence that they can even absorb it from their food, should it be given.
That being said, it’s a controversial topic.
And there is a link between excess vitamin c being converted to oxolates and later, kidney stones or damage. As the University of California points out:
So it’s best not to feed guinea pig food to your rabbit too often, especially if it has been formulated with additional vitamin C – which most, if not all brands, do.
How Much Guinea Pig Food Can A Rabbit Safely Eat?
How much guinea pig food a rabbit can safely eat will depend on their age, size, health status, and the quantity consumed. That being said, a small amount should not cause any adverse side effects. In larger amounts, or if it is the first time a rabbit has consumed it, digestive upset may follow.
Now, the reason why the odd, occasional feeding of guinea pig food for a rabbit should not be a major cause for concern is due to the somewhat similar dietary requirements they do share.
Let us quickly run through it.
For instance, both animals require high amounts of fiber and do best with liberal amounts of hay, with supplementary vegetables in the diet.
They are both herbivores by nature, with a large requirement for fiber for their complex digestive systems.
Plus, hay also has the beneficiary effect of grinding teeth down naturally, where both experience consistent growth.
But even here, rabbits do actually have a higher need for hay; they do actually need to consume more than guinea pigs. And they tend to prefer timothy hay, whereas guinea pigs tend to prefer meadow grass hay, generally.
And then onto vegetables; both animals should consume a variety of safe vegetables, with green leafy greens being favorable.
In this regard, guinea pigs do need more vegetables and can consume a little more fruit than rabbits.
So with all this in mind, you can see how the foods designed for each animal would be somewhat similar.
But, we’ve already touched on vitamin C being a major issue.
But there is also another one to consider here.
And that is to do with new foods and changing foods.
If you were to introduce new foods too quickly, it could upset a rabbit’s normal digestive flora.
The result can be gas, diarrhea, pain, and discomfort.
In worst-case scenarios, bacteria can overgrow, and the rabbit can become very sick – even die.
So, if your rabbit was to consume a lot of guinea pig food all at once for the very first time, you need to be particularly careful and vigilant in the hours following.
Monitor your rabbit, and if you notice any changes to the stools, their behavior, or demeanor, it’s probably best to contact a vet.
What Food Should A Rabbit Eat Instead?
The ideal diet for a rabbit is one that is based on high-quality hay. This should be constantly available throughout both the day and the night as rabbits are grazers and need to be consuming fiber continuously to support their digestion.
From there, certain vegetables can be offered daily. Dark leafy greens are particularly beneficial; romaine lettuce, bok choy, mustard greens, carrot tops, cilantro, watercress, basil, kohlrabi, beet greens, broccoli greens, and cilantro are all ideal here.
Root vegetables and fruits, on the other hand, should only be fed sparingly.
Now onto the pelleted/formulated feed itself.
Ensure, first and foremost; you offer your rabbit food designed for them. That is best, as we have discussed here today.
Now, remember, rabbits do not need to eat a lot of formulated feed.
It should only make up a small proportion of the diet.
The manufacturer should provide suitable instructions on the back of their packaging, although you can always discuss dietary needs with your vet.
Neverthless, formulated feed should be given in accordance with the rabbit’s age, weight, and general health status.
And one quick reminder.
Do not change, or introduce new foods, too quickly.
And keep an eye on what your rabbit is eating, when, and how much.
Ensure your rabbit says at an optimal weight; that is appropriate for their age and breed.
And if in doubt; about anything diet or health-related, do contact your vet.
Guinea pig food is far from ideal for rabbits.
It’s not as inappropriate as, say, hamster food is for rabbits, but it still does not sufficiently meet the nutritional needs of your bunny.
And while a small amount here and there should not cause issues, over the long term, consuming it can lead to issues.
Especially in relation to the high vitamin c.
And on the same lines of reasoning, here’s something else to quickly consider.
And that’s feeding the food in reverse. So, feeding rabbit food to a guinea pig.
That’s much more challenging on a guinea pig.
And this again is down to the vitamin c component.
If a guinea pig does not obtain enough through diet, it can be fatal.
They cannot manufacturer it themselves like rabbits, so you need to ensure they are consuming enough. And they are getting it through the diet specifically.
A vitamin c deficiency in guinea pigs can be fatal.
Just something to bear in mind if you currently own both pets.
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.