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Let’s find out: can guinea pigs eat hamster food?
People usually say that guinea pigs will eat anything you offer to them!
However, that is only partly true.
Guinea pigs are herbivores, which means they will eat anything leafy and green.
However, hamsters are omnivores, which means they eat anything and everything.
Well, almost everything.
Although both guinea pigs and hamsters are rodents, they don’t belong to the same family of rodents and have completely different dietary needs.
- Can Guinea Pigs Eat Hamster Food?
- Guinea Pigs
- Is Hamster Food Good for Guinea Pigs?
- Is Hamster Food Dangerous to Guinea Pigs?
- Are There Benefits to Feeding a Guinea Pig with Hamster Food?
- Can Guinea Pigs Eat Hamster Treats?
- Final Thoughts
Can Guinea Pigs Eat Hamster Food?
Guinea pigs need pellets, hay, and fresh vegetables.
If you own a hamster or are thinking about getting one, you should know that hamsters, too, enjoy pellets, hay, fresh fruits, and vegetables.
However, guinea pigs are herbivores and hamsters are omnivores.
Yet, that is not the only difference between these two types of rodents.
Before finding out whether guinea pigs can eat hamster food, let’s learn more about their differences.
It’s important to understand the origin, habitat, diet, and nutrition of guinea pigs and hamsters.
Though both belong to the family of rodents, there is a stark contrast in certain aspects of their existence.
This article can act as a guide for people who would like to own a guinea pig or a hamster.
Let’s first understand the origin of guinea pigs.
Guinea pigs, commonly known as cavy, are a part of the family Rodentia that comes from the high plains of South America.
It is said that, since this little cute creature used to grunt and squeal like a pig, British sailors used to sell one for a Guinea (English coin), so it started to be known as “Guinea Pig”.
Guinea pigs are low maintenance, social and docile pets.
They move slowly compared to other members of the Rodent family and so easy to hold and cuddle.
The average life expectancy of a guinea pig is 5 years, but it depends on various environmental and caretaking factors.
Mostly, their lifespan is from 4 to 8 years.
Guinea Pigs’ Habitat
Basically, habitat is the environment in which an organism reproduces and lives.
By knowing a habitat of a species, one can better understand its diet and nutritional needs.
In the wild, guinea pigs are found in grasslands, swamps, and rocky hillsides in open areas with plenty of vegetation.
Guinea pigs are also found inhabiting regions of varying altitudes from 300 meters to 3,000 meters above sea level.
They prefer abandoned burrows to reside although they themselves can dig their shelters.
Guinea pigs are social animals and live in groups or their own clans.
Yet, they are shy and tend to hide as they cope with several natural predators such as wild cats, coyotes, wolves, snakes, hawks, owls, and humans.
They are diurnal animals.
How can we create a habitat that perfectly suits our guinea pig pets?
Creating a natural habitat at home is always a difficult task; however, we can always try to get as close to that as possible.
Although guinea pigs are diurnal, when domesticated, they can be active at any moment during the day or night.
Additionally, guinea pigs are quite precocious and social; it is always best to own at least 2 guinea pigs because they tend to become lonely and depressed.
However, having two males is not advisable as they become territorial and the stronger one may kill the weaker one.
The best is to have 2-3 females that share the same space.
Otherwise, they can start breeding when they are only 4-6 weeks old, so better to neuter either the male or the female or both.
The habitat that you will create for your guinea pig has to be indoors to protect the little one from predators and harsh weather.
Types of Artificial Habitat
Generally, there are 4 types of habitat:
- A cage with closed bottom – the cages available in the market for one guinea pig are too small and can be used for a temporary purpose only
- A cage with wired mesh bottom – wire mesh floors can cause serious injury to a guinea pig’s tiny feet so the cage must have a solid bottom
- An aquarium – this is not the best habitat as they are difficult to clean, retain heat, and have a poor air circulation
- A dedicated room – in spacious houses, you can build an exclusive habitat for your guinea pigs
As timid creatures, they spend most of the time in the space designed for them.
Inside the Artificial Habitat
Since it’s always advisable to have a minimum of two guinea pigs, a cage with a solid closed bottom of around 10-11 sq. ft (5ftx2ft or 4ft x2.75ft) is advisable.
Guinea pigs have shorter legs and cannot jump higher than 30 cms/11 inches.
So, a cage with a 15 to 18 inches high wall and an open top would be a good home for your guinea pig.
Guinea pigs need bedding in the cage so the floor of the cage must be covered with suitable mats, Timothy hay, shredded newspaper, or aspen shavings, and changed daily.
Yet, be careful when choosing a bedding for your pet; cedar and pine shavings are harmful as they release their treatment chemicals.
To feed your guinea pig, you need to have a robust bowl with a wide bottom that’s fixed to the wall so that your guinea pigs cannot spill the contents.
These cute little creatures have the habit of jumping in the feed bowl and spilling the food.
They are great water drinkers but they tend to sit in bowls, play with them and flip them.
However, they constantly need access to fresh and clean water, and you can easily purchase a water bottle that can be attached to the wall of your guinea pig’s cage.
For these reasons, you should keep the cage of your pet clean by changing the bedding once or twice a day.
Otherwise, your guinea pig will start to smell and might end up sick.
As guinea pigs are timid creatures and like to hide, they also need a hiding space.
A plastic tube, a small cane house, or a dried grass vase could be simple and good hiding options.
Guinea pigs like to play so you need to make sure that they have toys such as unprocessed wooden blocks, cardboard boxes, hard cane objects so they can also chew on their toys and prevent their teeth from overgrowing.
These creatures constantly eat when awake, urinate and excrete.
However, if you catch your guinea pig eating its own poop, don’t worry; it’s a common behavior for them as that is the way for them to restore nutrients.
Besides, they often make entertaining noises like wheeking while eating and purring when held.
Guinea Pig Diet
Guinea pigs are herbivores, so they feed on hay, grass, herbs, twigs, leaves, fruits, roots, berries, etc.
These foods are rich in fiber.
However, guinea pigs need vitamin C, which is one of the most significant nutrients that prevent them from getting scurvy, which is a potentially lethal disease for these cute beings.
Guinea pigs, just like humans, can’t synthesize vitamin C and depend on external sources such as vitamin C supplements.
The appendix, an off-shoot organ where the colon and small intestine merge, plays the main role in processing raw fiber and converting cellulose to glucose.
It is like a big fermentation chamber that is filled with lots of specialized bacteria.
Abrupt changes in the piggies diet cause disruption in the small intestine and the appendix and also obstructs fermentation in the appendix, which causes gas.
You should always pay attention to your pet’s stomach and poop as they can reveal whether your little rodent has any of the dangerous conditions that require immediate treatment.
At the end of the digestion process of your guinea pig is the formation of the cecotropes and the production of soft cecotropes in the colon.
Together they create soft droppings which are different from the hard pellets which come from the rectum.
A protective layer of mucous ensures that this soft substance is directed quickly to the anus.
Guinea pigs then eat the droppings which pass once more through the stomach and intestines and obtain vitamins and important proteins.
Nutritional Needs of your Guinea Pig
Guinea pigs need a balanced diet that should contain high levels of fiber.
Your pet should have unlimited access to Timothy hay, which is one of the best nutrients and also prevents the overgrowth of its teeth.
The teeth of guinea piggies constantly grow and they need adequate food that supplies them with the necessary nutrients and prevents dental problems.
If your pet’s teeth grow longer than they should be, it will create a disorder and harm the overall well-being of piggies.
Not only their overgrown teeth will cause them much pain but will also prevent them from eating and they can die of starvation.
For that reason, chewing toys, hard guinea pig pellets, plenty of hay and grass in their diet is important to make sure not only that they are getting the right nutrients but also to prevent their teeth from growing too long.
Additionally, apart from vitamin C and fiber, your piggies need other minerals and vitamins, such as vitamin A, which they require more compared to other rodents and rabbits.
Also, although your pet needs calcium, this substance can cause them much harm and create problems in their urinary tract.
Guinea pig pellets provide a proper nutritional balance of vitamins, minerals, and proteins.
However, although pellets also are a great source of nutrients, piggies shouldn’t feed on pellets only.
Instead, you should also offer them fresh and natural foods such as leafy greens, carrots, and bell peppers.
Guinea pigs might become obese if you don’t pay enough attention to their eating habits.
Best Natural Foods for Guinea Pigs
Leafy green vegetables such as lettuce, broccoli, and kale are excellent sources of vitamin C.
Moreover, your piggies will enjoy plenty of other fresh vegetables such as carrots, zucchini, or bell peppers of all colors, spinach, broccoli, artichokes, tomatoes (no leaves), kale, peas, carrots, parsley, cucumber.
Yet, make sure you are feeding your piggies with the food they can eat, as many vegetables are actually harmful to your pet’s health such as onions, raisins, garlic, tomato leaves, tulips, daffodils, etc.
You should regularly feed your guinea pig pets with fresh fruits.
However, be careful of the type of fruit and of the quantity because fruits contain sugar, which can cause harm to your pet.
Likewise, your piggies can eat oranges but only in moderation, not more than a bite or two, because of the acid they contain.
Fruits such as peaches, kiwi, papaya, pears, blueberries, strawberries, and apples are safe for your pet.
Hamsters are small rodents commonly kept as house pets.
Although hamsters live in the wild in some European countries such as Greece, Romania, and Belgium, they are also native to northern China.
They live in warm, dry areas such as steppes and the edges of deserts.
According to the Louisiana Veterinary Medical Association, the first domesticated hamsters that came to the United States in 1936 were from Syria.
Compared to other rodents, hamsters have short tails, stubby legs, and small ears.
They greatly vary in color and size, as they can be as long as 2 inches and as big as 13 inches.
Additionally, the average life expectancy of hamsters is 2 years.
Hamsters have been extensively used in laboratory experiments for research and modeling human conditions.
Hamsters are nocturnal animals that store their food.
While guinea pigs are social and live in large groups, hamsters are territorial and solitary rodents.
When the temperature gets around 40ºF, hamsters go into hibernation and wake up only to eat.
Being omnivores, in the wild, hamsters eat meat as well vegetables, seeds, grass, nuts, insects, etc.
Besides, hamsters can store food in their cheeks up to 20% of their body weight.
They have the habit of tunneling, burrowing, and storing their food.
If you keep a hamster as a pet, you can feed it with commercial foods (processed foods like pellets) as well as fresh vegetables and fruits.
Is Hamster Food Good for Guinea Pigs?
Yes, a guinea pig can eat hamster food, but not all food that a hamster can eat.
Hamsters and guinea pigs have different physiological and nutritional needs and different anatomy.
Besides, hamsters are omnivores and guinea pigs are herbivores.
In other words, your hamster can eat meat and fresh vegetables and fruits, but a guinea pig cannot eat meat.
Moreover, a hamster is comfortable in a warmer environment while a guinea pig can die when the temperature rises above a certain level and feels much more comfortable in cooler climates.
The main sources of hamster food in captivity are nuts, seeds, corn, and crunchy foods.
While seed-like foods are a part of a hamster’s diet, seeds can choke a guinea pig.
Therefore, never feed your guinea pig with seeds.
Some More About Hamster Food
Let’s see what are the gains of hamster food for guinea pigs.
Guinea pigs eat guinea pig pellets, fresh vegetables, and fruits, and it’s extremely important for them to get enough vitamin C every day.
However, guinea pigs cannot eat meat and many types of vegetables and fruits.
Yet, both hamsters and guinea pigs can and should eat hay every day (especially timothy and alfalfa hay) as both equally need foods rich in fiber, as it improves digestion.
Another benefit of hay is that it is low in calories so it enhances weight control.
Also, you can use hay as bedding for your guinea pig and hamster as well.
It is important to know that hay from the field can contain parasites and that straw has sharp ends that injure your pets.
Instead, purchase hay at your local pet store or Amazon.
Another similarity between guinea pigs and hamsters is that both shouldn’t eat much sugar.
Natural food such as fruits and veggies can cause diarrhea, so limiting the amount of these foods to a small cube of apple, carrot or cucumber is quite sufficient for their daily needs.
Although hamsters would eat carrots all the time, pay attention: carrots contain much sugar so neither guinea pigs nor hamsters should eat them unmonitored.
Feeding Hamster Food to Guinea Pigs
Hamster food is not enriched with vitamin C, which is an important substance in the guinea pig diet.
Additionally, vitamin C is an important cofactor in the production of several enzymes and tissues, particularly collagen.
Excellent dietary sources of vitamin C include spinach, parsley, tomato, bell peppers, etc.
If your guinea pig doesn’t get enough vitamin C, it can develop a series of symptoms such as lethargy and unwillingness to move, painful joints, weight loss, dental issues, bruising or hemorrhage, diarrhea, and alopecia.
Scurvy is a lethal disease that sufficient amounts of vitamin C easily prevents.
In other words, piggies need a balanced diet with 10 mg/kg of vitamin C daily.
Also, the need for vitamin C doubles or triples for pregnant females.
For that reason, guinea pig food contains vitamin C supplements, while hamster food doesn’t.
So, if you feed your guinea pig with hamster pellets, your cute little rodent can die in less than two weeks.
Guinea pigs need a greater amount of folic acid and compared to other rodents and a lesser amount of Vitamin D.
So, hamster food has less folic acid and more amounts of vitamin D, which is another problem as feeding your guinea pig with hamster food creates an excess of vitamin D in their bodies.
Is Hamster Food Dangerous to Guinea Pigs?
Again we have to draw your attention to the fact that seeds are perfectly safe for hamsters but can be lethal for guinea pigs.
So, while your hamster eats seeds, your guinea pig cannot.
Likewise, while a hamster can eat cooked chicken and cooked beef, never try to feed a guinea pig with meat or with any other cooked food.
Not only cooked meat is good for a hamster but it’s also extremely dangerous for a guinea pig, as piggies cannot digest meat and cooked food.
Also, piggies need greater amounts of vitamin C and folic acids, but not as much vitamin D.
Hamsters need just the opposite.
Therefore, feeding your guinea pig with hamster food is not a good idea.
Yet, if you decide to feed your guinea pig with hamster pellets, then do so in very limited quantities and seldom.
Are There Benefits to Feeding a Guinea Pig with Hamster Food?
As we have stated that you can feed your guinea pig with hamster food in extremely limited quantities and rarely, we have to conclude that no, there aren’t any benefits to feeding your guinea pig with hamster food.
Although there are certain advantages to hamster foods for other gerbils, there aren’t any benefits to guinea pigs.
Hamster food is commercially prepared considering the physiological needs of the hamster and not other animals.
Ideally, you will feed your piggies with their own food, designed to suit their own dietary needs.
There is plenty of food to chose from so you could easily avoid commercial pellets for your piggies.
In fact, different species of animals have their own nutritional needs.
In this case, we are talking about two completely different types of gerbil that greatly differ physiologically.
Can Guinea Pigs Eat Hamster Treats?
You shouldn’t feed your guinea pigs with hamster treats.
Just as guinea pig food and treats are designed for the best nutritional balance of piggies, hamster food and treats are designed for hamsters.
The health of your piggies depends on the balanced diet that revolves around hay, fruits, and vegetables and they should not be fed with commercial food made for other rodents and rabbits.
Guinea pigs shouldn’t overeat, but it’s important to provide the proper balance of commercial food, hay, and natural food such as fresh vegetables and fruits.
Commerical foods for hamsters and guinea pigs are based on either alfalfa or Timothy hay that, ground up and mixed with various other ingredients and supplements, is formed into easily-digestible pellets.
Both animals can consume hay in large amounts as it contains much fiber, essential for their wellbeing and good digestion.
However, hamster food cannot provide all the necessary nutrients your guinea pig needs; additionally, it contains nutrients that are essential for hamsters but not safe for guinea pigs.
On the other hand, guinea pig food contains ingredients that are not necessary for a balanced diet of a hamster.
So, overall, although guinea pigs can eat hamster food in moderation and rarely, piggies should never eat meat and seeds, which are good for hamsters.