It’s common for households to have hamsters and guinea pigs (in separate cages), so feeding them the same food can be tempting. Certainly, this would save time, money, and storage space.
However, hamsters can’t eat the same food as guinea pigs. Feeding a hamster guinea pig food long-term can lead to health complications like malnourishment.
Guinea pigs have different nutritional needs to hamsters. So, the nutrients (like fortified vitamin C), a lack of fat, and the size of guinea pig food is unsuitable for hamsters.
Although a hamster won’t suddenly die from eating guinea pig food once or twice, it shouldn’t become a regular feature of its diet.
Can Guinea Pig Food Kill Hamsters?
Feeding a hamster guinea pig food won’t cause it to die. However, guinea pig food is unsuitable for hamsters to eat over a prolonged period because the animals have different dietary needs.
Guinea pigs are strict herbivores, getting all the nutrients they need from plant-based foods, while hamsters are plant-favoring omnivores that eat some meats.
While hamsters get most of their nutrition from plant-based foods, they still need food from animal sources, as this is vital to their digestive system, organ function, immune health, and energy levels.
According to the Journal of Mammalogy, insects, larvae, dairy, eggs, and even raw meat can be a part of a hamster’s diet. Therefore, guinea pig food will not meet a hamster’s needs in the long term.
Although guinea pig food isn’t toxic to hamsters, some are dangerous. The following foods that guinea pigs eat can be deadly to hamsters:
- Apple seeds
- Potatoes (raw)
- Beans (raw)
- Bitter almonds
- Rhubarb leaves or raw rhubarb
So, while giving a hamster fresh food to supplement its diet is sensible, avoid these foods altogether.
Can Hamsters Eat Guinea Pig Muesli?
Hamsters can eat guinea pig muesli for a short time without harm. So, if you run out of hamster food but have guinea pig food in the house, you can give some to a hamster to supplement its diet.
This should be a short-term measure and not a permanent dietary solution.
Never feed a hamster guinea pig muesli as part of its regular diet, as this will cause the hamster to become malnourished from a lack of nutrients. In particular, muesli lacks animal proteins.
According to Clinics in Chest Medicine, this impacts the digestive and cardiovascular systems and affects the respiratory system and the ability of the diaphragm to flex.
Vitamin C Issues
The issue with feeding hamsters guinea pig muesli is its high vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and low fat levels.
Guinea pigs are vitamin C deficient because their bodies can’t produce it. Guinea pig food, muesli, and treats tend to be fortified with extra vitamin C to keep them healthy.
Too much vitamin C can cause upset hamsters’ stomachs, leading to stomach cramps and diarrhea.
Lack of Calories
A hamster has a greater need for healthy fats and protein, and guinea pig food doesn’t provide enough calories per gram to maintain a healthy weight.
Long-term feeding will cause the hamster to lose weight. This is dangerous, as hamsters weigh only a few ounces; dwarf hamsters are even lighter.
Texture and Consistency
Hamster food tends to be small and dry, consisting of seeds and small pieces of fresh fruit or vegetables; this allows hamsters to hoard their meals for later consumption.
Guinea pig pellets can be quite large and sticky. If hamsters place guinea pig pellets or muesli into their cheek pouches, they may get stuck.
Can Hamsters Eat Hay Like Guinea Pigs?
While hamsters can eat hay, it’s rarely a good meal.
A hamster may chew on fibrous hay to reduce the length of its teeth. Yet, hay has a relatively low nutritional value, so it’s not at the top of a hamster’s list of favorite foods.
Hay isn’t harmful to hamsters in a nutritional sense, so no compounds damage their health.
You can add fresh hay to a hamster’s cage. If you spread fresh hay with the hamster’s food, you can provide additional enrichment and encourage natural foraging behaviors.
The different textures will encourage the hamster to wear down its teeth on the rough material. It’ll also force the hamster to nuzzle through the hay to reach its proper food.
This will be stimulating for a hamster and prevent boredom. Avoid providing hamsters with straw rather than hay, as straw can cause injuries by poking or scratching the hamster.
Never bring hay in from outdoors, even if it looks fresh, as it may contain mites and harmful bugs.
Purchase bags of hay from a local pet store, as they’ll be cleaned and hamster-safe. You can spread hay in small amounts with food a few times a week.
Can Hamsters Have Guinea Pigs Treats?
Guinea pig treats are safe for hamsters as they don’t contain any poisonous substances.
Although not deadly, guinea pig treats aren’t always well-suited for hamsters. Like most guinea pig foods, treats meant for guinea pigs are fortified with vitamin C.
Even if treats are given infrequently, too much vitamin C can cause stomach problems. So, it’s best to give guinea pig treats infrequently or not at all.
Many brands sell treats intended for a hamster’s nutritional needs. If you don’t consider hamster treats sufficiently nutritious, consider providing small chunks of fruit and vegetables.
While you shouldn’t give fresh food frequently or provide large amounts (due to hamsters’ tendency to hoard food), small chunks make good treats. Vegetables that hamsters can eat include:
- Romaine lettuce
- Other dark, leafy greens
For a sweeter treat, you can also provide small amounts of fresh fruit, such as:
Although healthy in small amounts, you shouldn’t feed a hamster fruit too often. The high amounts of sugar in fruit can lead to weight gain and other health conditions.