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Can Hamsters Eat Rabbit Food? What You Need to Know!

Nicole Cosgrove

June 18, 2021

Perhaps you own both a rabbit and a hamster, and you’re wondering if they can share the same food. Or maybe you accidentally purchased rabbit food for your hamster, and you’re not sure if you can feed it to your hamster.

Can hamsters eat rabbit food? The short answer is yes, but with several caveats. While some rabbit food is okay for hamsters, but other kinds should NOT be given to your hammy. We’ll look at what rabbit food is okay and what is not okay when it comes to the health of your hamster.

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A Hamster’s Diet

Hamsters got their names from the German word “hamstern,” which translates to “to hoard.” These little critters were aptly named, given their custom of stuffing their cheek pouches chock-full of food.

Hamsters are native to Greece, Romania, and northern China, but they were initially discovered in Syria (one of the most popular kinds of hamsters is the Syrian). In 1936, they were brought over to North America, and they live in dry and warm areas such as savannahs, sand dunes, and the edges of deserts.

The hamster is an omnivore, which means she eats a variety of plants and meat. This includes various grains, seeds, nuts, fruit, and vegetables as well as insects. The domestic hamster will usually have her dietary needs met with pellets made specifically for hamsters. They can also eat a variety of seeds combined with a small number of vegetables, fruit, and herbs.

So, we’ve established a typical hamster diet, and now we’ll have a look at a rabbit’s diet to give us a better idea of how it compares to the hamster.

Hamster in a slinky
Image Credit: Kim Green, Unsplash

A Rabbit’s Diet

Rabbits have been around a long time and were thought to have been domesticated, both as a food source and as household pets, as far back as the Middle Ages (but possibly even longer ago). Rabbits can be found worldwide, but all breeds of the domestic rabbit originated from the European rabbit. There are approximately 305 breeds of domestic rabbits found in about 70 different countries around the world.

Rabbits are herbivores, which essentially means they only eat plant-based food and absolutely no meat. The domestic rabbit’s diet consists primarily of high-quality grass hay (oat, Timothy, wheat, meadow, paddock, pasture, and ryegrass hays) or grass and makes up about 80% of their diet. Lucerne (alfalfa) and clover hays need to be avoided as they are high in protein and calcium and lead to urinary stones. The rest of their diet consists of vegetables and leafy greens (bok choy, Brussels sprouts, celery, broccoli, etc.) as well as some treats (fruit, carrots, sweet potato, etc.) and rabbit pellets.

Rabbit Food Safe for Hamsters

Now that we’ve had a look at what hamsters and rabbits eat, we’ll break down what kind of rabbit food hamsters can actually eat safely.

There are a variety of foods that are safe for both rabbits and hamsters, so we’ll take a look at some of these.

Grass Hay

Most of the types of grass hay that are safe for rabbits are also safe for hamsters. It helps to promote foraging behavior, adds fiber to your hammy’s diet, and aids in wearing down their teeth. Timothy, orchard, oat, and meadow hays are all fine for your hamster to eat. They can also eat alfalfa hay, which is one type of grass hay that rabbits actually can’t eat.

hamster standing on its hind legs
Image Credit: Frenjamin Benklin, Unsplash

Vegetables

Hamsters can eat almost all of the same vegetables that rabbits are able to eat.

  • Romaine lettuce
  • Dandelion greens
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots and carrot tops
  • Kale
  • Cucumbers
  • Bell peppers
  • Herbs (basil, oregano, parsley, mint, rosemary)
  • Bok choy

All of these vegetables are safe for both rabbits and hamsters, but some of them should only be eaten in moderation.

Hamster eating broccoli
Image Credit: tanya_morozz, Shutterstock

Fruit

There are also a number of fruits that are safe for both rabbits and hamsters to eat.

  • Strawberries
  • Apples (no seeds)
  • Bananas
  • Pears
  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries

Again, like the vegetables, fruit should be given to either the rabbit or hamster in moderation. You should also avoid any fruit or vegetables that have a high water content like watermelons or iceberg lettuce. These items can potentially cause diarrhea in your hamster.

Now we’ll have a look at what kind of rabbit foods are not safe for hamsters to eat.

White hamster eating raspberry_PiotrLukasik_shutterstock
Credit: PiotrLukasik, Shutterstock

Rabbit Food that Hamsters Need to Avoid

Unfortunately, certain rabbit foods are not good for hamsters. We’ll have a look at what kinds of food you need to avoid and why.

Vegetables

Some vegetables are not safe and should be kept away from hamsters.

  • Potatoes
  • Eggplant
  • Iceberg lettuce
  • Rhubarb
  • Mushrooms

These vegetables (yes, rhubarb is a vegetable) aren’t good for your hamster and should be avoided. If your hamster manages to nibble on one of these, she should be fine but just keep an eye on her to be sure.

Fruit

Most fruit is acceptable for both rabbits and hamsters, but there are a few to be aware of that you shouldn’t give to your hamster.

  • Watermelon (except in very small amounts)
  • Citrus fruit (grapefruit, oranges, tangerines)
  • Avoid grape and apple skin and seeds

Most other fruit is okay but should be given in small amounts and only as a treat on occasion.

Rabbit Pellets

There are hamster and rabbit pellets, so shouldn’t they work for either species? The answer is a definite no. Pellets are made with each specific animal’s dietary needs in mind. The hamster and the rabbit are different enough from each other that they should only eat pellets made for their own species.

Different brands of rabbit pellets will have a variety of ingredients that might not be good for your hamster. Don’t forget that hamsters are omnivores in comparison to the herbivore rabbit and therefore require higher protein content in their pellets. It is recommended that hamster pellets should contain 15 to 20% protein, and they need to have the right amount of fiber to aid digestion (a lot of rabbit pellets are higher in fiber than what is appropriate for hamsters).

hamster eating commercial food
Image Credit: Frenjamin Benklin, Unsplash

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Conclusion

The final takeaway from this article should be that you need to stick to foods that are meant only for hamsters to eat. Not only do they have different dietary needs (omnivore vs. herbivore), but they are completely different species (hamsters are rodents and rabbits are lagomorphs) and are different sizes (while rabbits can be small, hamsters are clearly much smaller). If you follow our advice and consult with your vet if you’re thinking of adding new food to your hamster’s diet, your hamster should be just fine.

If your hamster eats a new food, just be sure to watch her carefully, and if you notice her looking uncomfortable or she appears to be ill, take her to your vet as soon as possible. Just as long as you avoid rabbit pellets and give your hamster the occasional vegetable or fruit, your hamster will not only enjoy a tasty new treat, but she can enjoy the many health benefits.

Featured Image Credit:  PardoY, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.