It’s common for households to have hamsters and guinea pigs (in separate cages), so it can be tempting to feed the same food. Certainly, this would save time, money, and the need to store both kinds of food.
However, hamsters can’t eat the same food as guinea pigs. Feeding your hamster guinea pig food long-term can lead to health complications, such as malnourishment.
Guinea pigs have different nutritional needs than a hamster. So, the fortified vitamins, base ingredients, and even the shape of guinea pig food are 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 day-to-day diet.
Can Guinea Pig Food Kill Hamsters?
Feeding your hamster guinea pig food won’t cause it to become sick or die.
However, guinea pig food isn’t suitable for hamsters to eat over a prolonged period of time because guinea pigs and hamsters have different dietary needs and habits.
Guinea pigs are strict herbivores and get all the nutrients they need from plant-based foods, while hamsters are plant-favoring omnivores.
While they get most of their nutrition from plant-based foods, they still need food from animal sources. 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 your hamster’s needs in the long term.
Although guinea pig food isn’t toxic to hamsters, some foods are. The following foods that guinea pigs eat can be deadly to hamsters:
- Apple seeds
- Potatoes (raw)
- Beans (raw)
- 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 your hamster to supplement the diet.
This should be a short-term measure and not a permanent dietary solution.
Never feed your 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 the animal proteins crucial to a hamster’s daily meals.
According to Clinics in Chest Medicine, this impacts the digestive and cardiovascular systems. It also affects the respiratory system and the ability of the diaphragm to flex.
Vitamin C Issues
The issue with feeding hamsters guinea pig muesli is the high vitamin C and low fat levels.
Guinea pigs are vitamin C deficient, as their bodies can’t produce it. Guinea pig food, muesli, and treats tend to be fortified with extra vitamin C to keep them healthy.
This can cause upset stomachs in hamsters, as they receive an overdose of vitamin C. That can lead to stomach cramps and diarrhea, with the symptoms appearing over time.
Lack of Calories
A hamster has an increased need for healthy fats in its diet, and guinea pig food doesn’t provide enough calories per gram for a hamster 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
Guinea pig pellets can be quite large and sticky. If hamsters place guinea pig pellets or muesli into their cheek pouches, they may become stuck.
This can lead to oral hygiene and health problems if allowed to continue.
Can Hamsters Eat Hay Like Guinea Pigs?
While hamsters can eat hay like guinea pigs, this is rarely a true meal.
A hamster may chew on fibrous hay to take care of its teeth. Yet, hay has a relatively low nutritional value, so it’s not at the top of your hamster’s list of favorite foods.
Hay isn’t harmful to most hamsters in a nutritional sense, so there are no compounds that are toxic or disruptive to their health.
You can add fresh hay to your hamster’s cage. If you spread fresh hay with your 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 your hamster and prevent boredom. Avoid providing hamsters with straw rather than hay, as straw can cause injuries by poking or scratching your 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 specifically cleaned and screened to be safe for pets. You can spread this 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 foods that are poisonous to hamsters.
Although not deadly, guinea pig treats aren’t always suited for hamsters. Like most guinea pig foods, treats meant for guinea pigs are fortified with vitamin C.
Even if treats are given infrequently enough to avoid issues, too much vitamin C can upset a hamster’s stomach and lead to diarrhea.
So, it’s best to give guinea pig treats infrequently or not at all. Many brands sell treats designed for a hamster’s nutritional needs. If guinea pig treats aren’t ideal for you, consider providing small chunks of fresh fruit and vegetables.
While you shouldn’t give fresh food frequently or provide large amounts (due to hamsters’ tendency to hoard food), small chunks can 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 give your hamster fresh fruit too often. The high amounts of sugar in fruit can be harmful if ingested frequently or in excess.
Moderation is key, as this will allow your hamster to benefit from the flavor, vitamins, minerals, and texture. However, it won’t ingest too much sugar.