Lots of hamster owners also have guinea pigs. So it’s understandable that from time to time a question arises – Can Hamsters Eat Guinea Pig Food?
After all, those foods look pretty similar! They even have similar packaging.
But unfortunately, they aren’t as alike as you might think. And neither are your two pets.
Let’s take a look at the nutrient requirements of the hamster and guinea pig and discover what does a hamster eat, what can’t hamsters eat and what is the best food for hamsters.
Can Hamsters Eat Guinea Pig Food?
Have you run out of hamster food? All the stores are shut and you don’t want him to wait until morning for a bite to eat? Then you might be tempted to give your hamster some of your guinea pig’s food.
If you’re keeping both a guinea pig and hamster, you may even be tempted to buy just guinea pig food for convenience or savings.
But these two rodents actually have different nutritional requirements for optimal health and for their safety.
Hamsters should not eat guinea pig food – here’s why.
Similarities And Differences Between Hamster and Guinea Pig
One notable difference between hamsters and guinea pigs is their cheeks.
Hamsters love to pack their faces full of food. Their cheek pouches stretch from the cheek to the shoulder. And when filled can double or even triple the size of your hamster’s head!
It’s a natural survival technique for hamsters to use their cheeks to carry food for hoarding (and keep some for snacking).
Guinea pigs do not have the ability to transport food in that way.
However, they do share the trait of having open rooted teeth, meaning their teeth grow constantly throughout their life.
This means both hamster and guinea pig diets must include hard foods appropriate for grinding teeth to a healthy length.
Fun Fact: Hamsters have 16 teeth; guinea pigs have 20 teeth.
More Differences Between Hamsters And Guinea Pigs
Hamsters are small rodents generally weighing no more than a quarter of a pound, while guinea pigs can weigh more than two-and-a-half pounds.
Therefore, the volume of foods each animal requires is different.
Lots of hay is a major component of the guinea pig diet, whereas it is only supplemental to a healthy hamster diet.
Hamsters are omnivores – they eat vegetables, fruits and meat.
Guinea pigs are strictly herbivores – non meat eaters.
Let’s take a closer look at the hamster diet.
What Does A Hamster Eat?
Because hamsters are omnivores, their diet includes a lot of variety.
An important staple of your hamster’s diet is a nutritionally balanced pellet or chow, such as Oxbow Animal Health Healthy Handfuls Hamster Food.
This highly-rated hamster food pellet contains 15% crude protein which is within the recommended range for hamsters.
This food also contains hay for fiber, oats and barley for energy. Not to mention canola for protein and required fat.
Pellets should be supplemented with a pre-mixed combination of seeds, grains and dried fruits and vegetables such as the popular Kaytee Forti Diet Pro Health Hamster Food.
This blend contains the necessary prebiotics and probiotics for digestive health and the hard, crunchy consistency vital to teeth grinding for optimal dental health.
Other Important Hamster Dietary Needs
Complement a balanced hamster diet by offering fresh fruits or vegetables every two or three days. Apples and spinach are good choices. Offer bite sized pieces in very small quantities.
Complete your hamster’s dietary needs with hay, such as Kaytee Timothy Hay.
Hay provides necessary fiber and variety to your hamster’s diet and offers supplemental materials for burrowing and storing food.
You can provide a handful of hay every two or three days.
Hamsters also need fresh, clean water. A bottle with a sipper is an ideal way to provide water to your hamster.
Do Hamsters Eat Meat?
As we noted, hamsters are omnivorous so, yes, they can eat meat.
In the wild, hamsters are opportunists who might eat small insects like crickets, mealworms and grubs.
Hamsters can also eat very small pieces of fully cooked, unseasoned chicken or beef. It is recommended to avoid pork for hamsters.
You may choose to feed your hamsters treats of insects or cooked meat, but with the protein provided in hamster food pellets, those additions are not required for optimal health.
Note also, hamsters bury, hoard and save food for later consumption and you do not want a piece of uneaten meat buried in your hamster’s cage.
Because they are so small, hamsters can become overweight quickly if they are given too many treats.
However, we like to spoil our furry friends and there are some healthy ways to do so.
Take the guesswork out of treat time and select treats specific to hamsters.
Yogurt based treats such as Vitakraft Hamster Drops, available in 3 flavors.
Or eCOTRITION Yogies for Hamsters, available in cheese and fruit flavors, are popular choices.
Always give small treat portions to your hamster to make sure he tolerates the food well.
What Can’t Hamsters Eat
Between pellets, seed mixtures, fresh fruits, vegetables and hay, your hamster has a lot of variety in his diet. But there are certain foods you should avoid.
For instance, you should not feed your hamster chocolate or other sweets. Processed people food (like bologna), citrus fruits, peaches, pineapples or raspberries are bad too.
Some experts warn against feeding too many seeds and nuts. So limit those to the amounts and varieties found in hamster mixtures like the Kaytee hamster food noted above.
It might seem obvious but you should also avoid giving your hamster stale food.
Since hamsters eat small quantities of foods, opt for lower weight bags of food.
You might save a couple of dollars buying bulk but smaller sizes will ensure food freshness lasts throughout feedings.
Can Hamsters Eat Guinea Pig Food?
Now we know more about what hamsters can and can’t eat, but can a hamster eat guinea pig food?
As we’ve noted, hamsters have a varied but particular diet. Guinea pigs have a much more restrictive diet.
They cannot eat dairy or meat products, they do not tolerate seeds well and they need to eat a lot of hay daily.
Your guinea pig’s diet will also include specially formulated food pellets.
Guinea pig food pellets are often indicated as appropriate for guinea pigs, rabbits, chinchillas and other small pets.
While a hamster is an “other small pet”, foods not specifically indicated for hamsters likely do not contain all the appropriate nutrients for your hamster.
Your hamster’s digestive system is delicate and may be upset by the introduction of non-hamster-specific food.
For example, guinea pig food is high in Vitamin C; quantities which are appropriate for them but could be harmful to your hamster.
Also, while any food can become impacted in your hamster’s cheek pouches, you can be more confident that foods specifically designed for hamsters will have less chance of damaging your hamster’s cheeks.
Summary – Guinea Pig Food For Hamsters
Hamsters and guinea pigs are similar pets with different dietary needs.
Hamsters are omnivores; guinea pigs are herbivores.
Hamsters store and hoard a variety of foods; guinea pigs eat mostly hay.
With so many excellent hamster-specific foods readily available at Amazon.com, there is no need to feed your hamster guinea pig food.
Ultimately, guinea pig food is not meant for hamsters and should not be given to them.
References And Further Reading
ASPCA, “Hamster Care Fact Sheet”
RSPCA, “How To Take Care Of Your Hamster”
The Humane Society of The United States, “Hamster Feeding”
Horton, S., DVM, Chicago Exotics Animal Hospital, “Hamster Care”
Horton, S., DVM, Chicago Exotics Animal Hospital, “Guinea Pig Care”