Last Updated: February 22, 2021
Hamsters are popular household pets that tend to get lumped together with other rodent pets, like guinea pigs. While small rodent pets do have similarities, there are also many differences between them. But what about the food that they eat? Can hamsters eat guinea pig food? Is it healthy for them? The short answer is no, hamsters should not eat guinea pig food.
One guinea pig meal certainly will not make your hamster ill or harm them in any way. But pet hamsters should not be eating guinea pig food regularly. In this article, we break down the reasons and offer advice about what your hamster should be eating instead.
Why Can’t Hamsters Eat Guinea Pig Food?
Hamsters are omnivores, which means that they eat grasses, fruit, veggies, grains, and meat. Guinea pigs are herbivores, so they need no meat in their diets to thrive. Hamsters need much more protein in their daily diets than guinea pigs. Therefore, commercial food made for guinea pigs is not formulated the same as hamster food.
If your hamster is regularly fed guinea pig food for an extended period, they could become nutrient deficient and their health can suffer. Signs of nutrient deficiencies include dry and frail fur, lethargy, dehydration, and disinterest in playing with toys or interacting with family members. A veterinarian visit should take place at the first sign of deficiencies. A vet can help you plan and execute a proper diet for your little furry family member and get them back on the road to health.
What Hamsters Should Be Eating
Hamsters do eat some of the same things as guinea pigs, but they require fewer plant foods and more protein, so their food should be formulated accordingly. Here is what your hamster should be eating.
Hamsters should receive quality commercial food as their main source of nutrients. Commercial foods contain the right ratios of protein and grains that are necessary for a strong immune system and a healthy body. Some foods even contain dehydrated fruits and veggies for added nutrition, flavor, and texture. Many of these foods are made for both hamsters and gerbils because they have the same basic dietary needs. However, there are foods on the market that are made specifically for hamsters, like VitaSmart Complete Nutrition.
Fruits and Vegetables
Your hamster should also receive fresh fruits and vegetables every day as treats for nutrition and stimulation. Hamsters love eating small chunks of carrot, cucumber, celery, tomato, melon, bananas, oranges, and berries. But it is important to remember that a little bit goes a long way! Only feed your hamster a chunk or two of fruits and veggies every day to minimize the risk of digestion problems. Dried fruits and vegetables are also acceptable treat options.
Although hamsters do not have to eat meat if they are getting enough protein from quality plant sources, they do enjoy doing so, and there is no harm in giving them a small piece of chicken, ham, or steak as a special treat once or twice a week. Any meat that your hamster eats must be fully cooked, because they are prone to the same foodborne illnesses, like e-coli, as we humans are. Make sure the meat is completely cool before offering it to your hamster so they do not burn their feet or mouth.
Our Final Thoughts
Feeding hamsters is serious business. Without a proper diet, they cannot be expected to thrive and enjoy a high quality of life. So, they should not be fed like guinea pigs or any other animals. They deserve a diet that is tailored specifically to their biological needs. Luckily, it is not hard to keep a hamster well-fed! What kinds of foods does your hamster enjoy eating the most? We look forward to reading all about it in our comments section.
Emma is a freelance writer, specializing in writing about pets, outdoor pursuits, and the environment. Originally from the UK, she has lived in Costa Rica and New Zealand before moving to a smallholding in Spain with her husband, their 4-year-old daughter, and their dogs, cats, horses, and poultry. When she’s not writing, Emma can be found taking her dogs for walks in the rolling fields around their home…and usually, at least some of the cats come along, too! Emma is passionate about rescuing animals and providing them with a new life after being abandoned or abused. As well as their own four rescue dogs, she also fosters dogs for re-homing, providing them with love and training while searching for their forever homes.