Last Updated on: 24th September 2023, 10:35 pm
You may assume that hamsters and rabbits can share their meals. Indeed, a cursory glance at their pellets can leave you thinking they already eat the same food.
However, rabbits and hamsters are distinct species. They’re classified separately, with hamsters being from the order Rodentia and rabbits being from the order Lagomorpha.
Much of the confusion is because rabbits shared the same taxonomy as rodents until 1912 when they were moved to a new order (Lagomorpha).
Because of this crucial difference in genetics, they have different nutritional requirements.
Giving a hamster rabbit food won’t immediately harm it, but it can upset its stomach and deprive it of the essential nutrients it needs for long-term survival.
Is Rabbit Food Safe for Hamsters?
Rabbit food isn’t safe for hamsters, especially in the long term, because rabbits and hamsters have different dietary needs.
Hamsters are omnivores, so they eat meat and plants, while rabbits are herbivores, so they only eat non-animal protein, like vegetables and fruits.
If you give a hamster rabbit food, it’ll have excess nutrients it doesn’t need, leading to health problems. Likewise, rabbit food can also cause nutritional deficiencies.
Let’s look at the daily dietary needs of hamsters and rabbits:
The nutritional value of a hamster’s or rabbit’s diet varies based on age, activity level, and health.
For example, pregnant hamsters require more protein than usual to give birth to a healthy litter and survive the pregnancy. However, pregnant rabbits need more leafy greens, not protein.
What Happens if My Hamster Eats Rabbit Food?
How a hamster reacts to rabbit food depends on several factors:
- Amount of rabbit food it ate.
- Underlying health.
- How long has rabbit food been eaten?
If the hamster only ate rabbit food once, it shouldn’t have any long-term effects.
While rabbit food doesn’t provide hamsters with sufficient nutritional value, it doesn’t contain anything explicitly harmful or toxic.
Eating rabbit food harms a hamster’s health, as it lacks the nutrients it needs or contains too many nutrients that hamsters’ bodies produce themselves.
Here are the nutrients hamsters need that they can’t get from rabbit food:
As hamsters are omnivores, they need protein and sometimes eat meat.
According to The Journal of Nutrition, hamsters need 15-20% protein daily in their meals to grow optimally, develop their muscles, and give birth safely.
Rabbits are herbivores and don’t eat animal protein, so their food contains little protein. Without protein, young hamsters stop growing and may develop life-shortening health conditions, such as:
- Heart problems.
- Tiredness and fatigue.
- Loss of appetite.
- Weakened immune system.
- Poor digestion.
- Difficult pregnancies.
Rabbit food contains lots of fiber, which is more than hamsters need.
Rabbits need soluble and insoluble fiber to solidify their stool. Loose, watery stools are hard to pass, and because rabbits only ever eat vegetation and fruits, their stool isn’t as solid.
Hamsters have the necessary gut microbiome to digest protein and animal fat and pass a solid stool. Because of the fiber in rabbit food, eating too much interferes with the hamster’s digestive system.
Vitamins and Minerals
Rabbits and hamsters need different amounts of vitamins and minerals to be healthy. In rabbits, vitamin D is the most common deficiency because it’s synthesized through sun exposure.
However, rabbits mostly stay indoors, so they often don’t get enough sun. Sun deprivation isn’t an issue for hamsters because they’re crepuscular creatures, so they don’t synthesize vitamin D that way.
The most common deficiency of hamsters is vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps reduce free radicals. Being such small animals that burn through a lot of energy in their daily life, hamsters have an abundance of free radicals that quickly degenerate their cells.
Hamsters need vitamin E to live longer. According to The Journal of Nutrition, Syrian hamsters struggle within 4-18 weeks if they have a vitamin E deficiency.
Rabbit food and hamster food are recommended with these differences in mind. They contain different types of vitamins tailored to the dietary needs of rabbits and hamsters.
Do Rabbits and Hamsters Eat the Same Food?
Hamsters can’t eat store-bought rabbit food. If the packaging says it’s for a specific animal, you should only give the food to the animal specified.
There are some natural foods that you can feed hamsters and rabbits, including:
Can Hamsters Eat Rabbit Treats?
Hamsters can’t eat rabbit treats. Like rabbit food, they contain nutrients that hamsters don’t need, meaning long-term consumption has unintended health consequences.
While not meant to replace rabbit pellets, many treats contain vitamin D to prevent deficiencies. Even if you give a hamster its normal hamster food and an occasional rabbit treat, this can still be detrimental.
Too much vitamin D causes hypercalcemia, where calcium accumulates in the bloodstream. Vitamin D toxicity is a serious health problem that leads to bone pain and kidney issues like calcium stones.
It’s tempting to feed a hamster rabbit food, especially if you’ve run out of hamster food or money is tight. Unfortunately, giving hamsters rabbit food has long-term health consequences.
Always feed hamsters foods that meet their dietary requirements. Hamsters aren’t long-lived animals, so you must do what you can to maximize their longevity.