Shopping for hamster food can be challenging because of the limited options compared to dog or cat food. Given the similarities between hamsters and guinea pigs, many hamster owners wonder if they can substitute their hamster’s food with guinea pig food.
You can serve guinea pig food to hamsters as an occasional treat. However, hamsters should not eat guinea pig food regularly. Hamsters and guinea pigs have vastly different dietary needs, and guinea pig food won’t suit a hamster’s unique nutritional needs.
Hamsters shouldn’t eat guinea pig food for numerous reasons, and some people don’t even recommend using guinea pig food as treats because it isn’t suitable for storage in a hamster’s pouch. Keep reading to discover each animal’s unique dietary needs and why you shouldn’t feed your hamster guinea pig food.
Hamsters are omnivores, meaning they need both meat and vegetables in their diet. Timothy Hay is a popular ingredient in guinea pig food. And while a bit of hay in a hamster’s diet is beneficial in providing fiber supplements, hamsters need more than hay to survive.
Hamsters need significantly higher amounts of protein than their guinea pig counterparts, which is one reason their diet is so different. They also need more fat and less fiber than guinea pigs. A hamster’s diet should be rich in various fruits, vegetables, grains, seeds, and meat in order for it to have a healthy and well-balanced diet.
Guinea pigs are herbivores, meaning they can survive on only vegetables and don’t eat meat. Because of this, guinea pigs need significantly less protein than hamsters. Guinea pigs should eat a plant-based diet, completely free from meat.
Guinea pigs also have a problem producing proper amounts of vitamin C. Because of this, they need a diet rich in vitamin C. Their diet is also high in carbohydrates, and they consume many more carbs than is necessary for a hamster.
Guinea pigs also need a significant amount of fresh hay in their diets. It is an excellent source of fiber, which guinea pigs need a lot of. Eating Timothy hay helps aid their digestive system and helps limit their teeth growth. Guinea pigs are open rooted, meaning their teeth never stop growing. Guinea pigs, like rabbits, need to constantly nibble on something so that their teeth don’t overgrow.
Like hamsters, guinea pigs need fresh fruits and vegetables to stay healthy. They specifically need fruits and vegetables high in vitamin C. Citrus fruits like oranges or kiwi are beneficial for guinea pigs. Broccoli and red and green peppers are excellent vegetables that are a great source of vitamin C.
Leafy green vegetables are especially important for guinea pigs. Kale is a great vegetable suitable for both hamsters and guinea pigs. Both animals need only about a cup of fresh vegetables every day. Too much can be detrimental to the small animals.
Even though both hamsters and guinea pigs are similar and eat similar foods, their diets are not interchangeable.
Because of the animals’ various nutritional needs, hamster food and guinea pig food are distinctly different. While you could feed them similar types of human food, such as fruits or vegetables, packaged hamster and guinea pig food differentiate in purpose and nutritional value.
As previously mentioned, guinea pigs need higher levels of fiber in their diet. Therefore, guinea pig food is formulated with that need in mind. Much of their food contains higher levels of Timothy hay, which is known for being high in fiber.
Although hamsters can benefit from Timothy hay when sick or recovering from surgery, it shouldn’t be a prominent staple in their diet.
Packaged hamster food tends to be more well-rounded than guinea pig food since hamsters require a more complex diet. While guinea pig food consists of pellets of mostly Timothy hay, hamster food is made from both pellets, seeds, grains, and other nutrients.
Hamster food pellets are also formulated to provide additional protein, carbohydrates, fat, minerals, and other vital ingredients.
Here are a few of the reasons you shouldn’t feed your hamster guinea pig food, at least not regularly.
Guinea pig food is rich in carbohydrates and fiber, but they lack the necessary protein and fat that hamsters need in their diet. Timothy hay, which is common in guinea pig food, is used only as a supplement for hamsters. It shouldn’t be the main staple in a hamster’s diet.
Your hamster should get the majority of its nutrients from its hamster food. Although hamsters need various fruits, vegetables, and grains, those foods should only make up about 1/10 of their diet. The rest of your hamster’s food intake should be from commercial hamster food.
Because guinea pigs are herbivores, they don’t need as much protein as hamsters. Feeding your hamster guinea pig food consistently will result in a protein deficiency in your hamster. Hamsters need a significant amount of protein in their diet, and guinea pig food won’t provide enough to sustain your hamster.
Guinea pig food doesn’t have enough nutrients to sustain hamsters long-term. Hamsters are omnivores with complex dietary needs. Feeding your hamster only guinea pig food means that it won’t get all the protein, minerals, and vitamins it needs to stay healthy.
A malnourished and nutrient-deficient hamster is subject to various health problems. Your hamster will likely lose weight and suffer changes to its coat. Malnourished hamsters tend to have dry and brittle fur, and you might also notice a difference in their activity or energy levels. Undernourished hamsters will be more sluggish and uninterested in activities that generally excite them.
If you believe your hamster is malnourished or nutrient-deprived, seek help from a licensed veterinarian. Many vets across the United States can treat malnourished hamsters and help you choose appropriate food for them.
Major cities like Los Angeles, California, and Dallas, Texas, offer many veterinary clinics to which you can take your hamster for treatment.
Conversely, your hamster can also get overnourished by consistently eating guinea pig food. Guinea pig food tends to contain more vitamin C than is necessary for hamsters.
Most hamsters don’t have a vitamin C deficiency because their diet is rich in it. Consuming too many nutrients or vitamins can give your hamster an upset stomach, just like in humans.
Avoid over nourishing your hamster by feeding it specific hamster food and keeping track of the number of nutrients and minerals in each serving. An overnourished animal can suffer ill effects, just like a malnourished animal.
Hamsters are famous for storing large amounts of food in their cheek pouches. Hamsters store food in their cheeks to transfer it from one place to another. They can fit so much food in their mouths that their cheeks end up being up to three times the size of their face.
It’s important to remember that hamsters often store food in their cheeks when selecting their food options. Guinea pig food is often too sticky or too large for a hamster to keep in its mouth. Sweet or sticky foods like guinea pig pellets can damage a hamster’s cheek pouches.
Additionally, sticky food tends to go bad quickly and can rot in a hamster’s mouth, which leads to mold and bacteria. Many fresh fruits or vegetables are not suitable for hamsters to eat for this very reason.
Be mindful of the types of food or treats you’re feeding your hamster and if it will be safe if your hamster decides to store the food in its cheek pouches.
Bananas, kale, strawberries, and guinea pig pellets are examples of food that can spoil inside a hamster’s mouth. Although these are acceptable as occasional treats, you should monitor if your hamster stores the food in its pouches so that it doesn’t go bad.
Many people warn against using guinea pig food as treats because it’s possible that the food could spoil inside a hamster’s mouth.
Here are the best food options for your furry little friend.
The majority of your hamster’s diet should be from commercial hamster food. Premium hamster food is your best bet for feeding your hamster. Several professional brands specialize in high-quality hamster pellets made explicitly for hamsters.
Feeding your hamster high-quality hamster food is essential for maintaining its health and overall wellbeing. Aim for a food-specific for hamsters; rich in vitamins, grains, and minerals.
These foods should also contain the right amount of protein, carbs, and fat appropriate for hamsters. Most of the ingredients should be natural; avoid synthetic and artificial materials.
Avoid commercial foods that have a high filler content, such as Timothy hay. While Timothy hay is an excellent asset for sick hamsters or hamsters that need additional supplements, it should not be the main ingredient of hamster food.
If Timothy hay is listed as a top ingredient in your hamster food, it’s likely filler, and you should reconsider your food choice.
Meat is an excellent source of protein for your hamster. Your hamster must get about 15% crude protein in its diet. It’s sometimes tricky for hamsters to get protein from plant sources, especially if you’re not feeding your hamster a high-quality food blend.
If you think your hamster needs more protein in its diet, offer your animal a piece of cooked meat, such as turkey, chicken, or ham. The meat must be fully cooked so that your hamster doesn’t get sick.
Undercooked or raw meat can be detrimental to humans, and hamsters are prone to the same bacteria and illnesses that can infect humans who eat such foods.
Take your hamster to a vet if you think it has consumed raw or undercooked meat. Even smaller towns, such as Bowling Green, KY, have vets that can treat your hamster if it gets sick with E. coli or another type of infection.
Meat also makes a great, healthy treat for hamsters. You can cut off a small bite from your dinner plate and offer it to your hamster. Make sure it’s cool enough for your hamster before serving it to them.
Hamsters eat a lot of grains in the wild, so their diet should be rich in healthy grains even if they are in captivity. Aim to feed your hamster healthy grains and seeds that will enrich them. Some good options include the following:
- Sunflower seeds
- Whole grains
Hamsters are omnivores, so fruits and vegetables are still a large part of their diet. Look for commercial foods that have a high fruit and vegetable content. Fresh fruits and vegetables are also appropriate to feed your hamster, but only in moderation.
Be careful not to feed your hamster too many fresh fruits because of the high sugar content. Some fresh fruits and vegetables can give hamsters diarrhea or cause other stomach problems.
Fresh fruits and veggies make excellent treats for hamsters, or you can add them to your hamster’s main meals. Cut the produce into small portions so that you don’t overfeed your pet. Just a tiny serving by human standards is a significant portion for a hamster.
Try offering your hamster any of the following:
Though not produce, even part of a boiled egg is an excellent healthy treat for a hamster.
Although hamsters and guinea pigs have many similarities, you shouldn’t feed them the same food. They have entirely different dietary needs, and you should adjust their food accordingly. Guinea pigs need significantly more carbs, fiber, and vitamin C than hamsters, and their commercial food caters to those needs.
Feeding your hamster guinea pig food can result in over nourishment or malnourishment. Hamsters are omnivores, and they also need protein and healthy fat in their diet to stay healthy. Guinea pig food will not provide these nutrients, and they could end up malnourished as a result.
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My name is Everly. I am a Milwaukee-based mom of 2 and have been a proud owner of many hamsters throughout my life. Like many of us, my introduction to hamsters happened when I was very young. My family saw several hamsters come and go through the years, and I enjoyed playing with them, but I never fully appreciated them until I grew up and my own children decided to jump on the hamster bandwagon. At that point, I was determined to learn all I could about caring for these adorable pets. Read more