It is a question that will cross our minds eventually; can our rabbits eat other pet food? And what about hamster food specifically? Is this a good substitute long-term, or even an alternative from time to time? Here is what you must know.
So, can rabbits eat hamster food? Rabbits should not eat, or be given hamster food. Although they may try to do so or eat if offered, hamster food does not contain the right nutritional profile to meet their needs. While a very small amount may not cause any issues, in larger quantities it can cause digestive upset depending on the brand and ingredients.
It just really is not a good idea.
And as our rabbits are curious and will likely consume if available, this does mean we need to be particularly mindful and acquainted with the various brands and options.
Besides, it’s easy to pick up the wrong food at the store!
They can look very similar, after all.
Nevertheless, let us now take a closer look at why these foods really are not interchangeable and what this all means for the diet of our rabbit!
Is Hamster Feed Suitable For Rabbits?
Hamster food is not suitable for rabbits, either in the short or long term. Hamster food is designed to meet the nutritional requirements of an omnivore (which hamsters are), whereas rabbit food is designed to meet the need of a herbivore (which rabbits are).
If you look at the nutritional requirements of a hamster, you’ll soon find that hamsters consume seeds and grain in their natural habitat.
And at the same time, “too much green food can cause diarrhea”.
Back to rabbits.
The nutritional requirements of rabbits are entirely different.
Hay and/or grass, should “constitute the majority of a rabbit’s diet”.
Now, it stands to reason that as owners, we should replicate their natural feeding patterns.
And instantly we can see how a hamster will have a higher need for pelleted food than a rabbit would.
In fact, rabbits should not be eating much rabbit food either.
They only need a very small amount daily, and the focus really should be on hay/select leafy vegetables too.
But is hamster food that different from rabbit food and vice versa?
Let’s find out!
Is Hamster And Rabbit Food The Same?
Hamster and rabbit food are not the same; they both contain very different nutritional profiles to meet the needs of the animal they are designed specifically for.
In fact, it only takes a review of two of the most popular hamster and rabbit food brands to see this for ourselves:
Now, I have used two of the most popular feeds in their category for this comparison:
Vitakraft Premium Nutrition Hamster Food vs Vitakraft VitaSmart Complete Nutrition Pet Rabbit Food.
So different foods from the same brand:
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|
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|
Now on the face of it, they don’t look too different.
But upon closer inspection, they are:
The fiber content is between 7-12% higher in rabbit food!
And the hamster food is lower in protein and higher in fat too.
The rabbit food also has considerably more Vitamin A, Vitamin D3, and Vitamin E.
These are just the micronutrients.
If we actually compare the ingredient list of the foods, you’ll also see major differences.
I’m not going to list everyone as the list is pretty long.
But, the main ingredient in the hamster food is Milo and wheat.
Whereas in the rabbit food, you guessed it, it’s Timothy Hay!
How Much Hamster Food Can A Rabbit Safely Eat?
A rabbit will only likely be able to eat a very small amount of hamster food without experiencing adverse side effects.
And here is why.
Rabbits have a very unique and complex digestive system.
They have an unrivaled ability to process fiber and nutrients, but at the same time, this makes it essential we feed them appropriately and accordingly.
But let’s assume your rabbit did get access to some hamster food.
Maybe you even feed this accidentally.
What would happen?
Well, depending on the quantity consumed, your rabbit might suffer from an upset stomach.
They may experience pain, runny stools, and may become quite lethargic.
You’ll need to monitor them closely.
And it’s also a good idea to encourage water consumption (wet vegetables will be ideal here), as well as provide extra hay to help move the food through their system.
And if in doubt, or your rabbit does look in distress, do contact a vet.
But while this all sounds quite alarming, a small amount should not be a real cause for concern.
The issues with rabbits eating hamster food appear to be long-term and consistent feeding, where hay and vegetables are naturally displaced and that they need instead.
That being said, this does not mean you should ever attempt to offer even a small amount.
A sudden change in your rabbit feed can cause serious issues, according to VCA animal hospitals:
So the moral of the story – be extra vigilant!
What Foods Should A Rabbit Be Eating Instead
With all this in mind, you may be wondering what an optimal diet even looks like. Hopefully, you are already aware, but just as a reminder, let’s quickly run through the optimal diet for your rabbit.
The bulk and basis of your rabbit’s diet should be high-quality hay that should always be available.
As rabbits graze, and they have such a high requirement for fiber for healthy digestion, they need to be able to access this around the clock.
Now onto vegetables.
Safe and washed leafy green vegetables should also be offered daily, but be careful of some plants which can be poisonous.
Root vegetables and fruits should only be offered rarely and as treats.
If you do decide to offer pellets, be sure that they are designed and made for rabbits! Hopefully, that is a given by now.
And when feeding rabbit pellets, follow the manufacturer’s instructions and be mindful of serving sizes.
Only a very small daily amount of pellets is required, and even then, it will differ by each rabbit (their age, weight, health, etc).
Lastly, avoid sudden changes in diet.
Introduce new foods very slowly and over the course of days/weeks.
And at the same time, total food intake should be monitored and adjusted to prevent your rabbit from becoming overweight, or malnourished.
If you notice any changes in eating patterns, frequencies, or stools, be sure to contact your vet as soon as you can.
You may be tempted to give your rabbit hamster food.
Perhaps you’re on a budget, maybe you own both pets, or there is a lack of supply of rabbit food at the time.
Nonetheless, feeding hamster food to a rabbit is just not a good idea.
In the short or long term. In any amount ideally.
The accidental and occasional consumption should be okay (depending on the amount consumed), but generally speaking, this food is really not suitable for the complex dietary needs of a rabbit.
And it can result in serious issues.
Ultimately, a rabbit’s diet is complex in regards to its high requirement for fiber and specific nutrients.
It’s simple in regards to what you should be feeding them and when.
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.