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Can Guinea Pigs Eat Hamster Food? Risks, Nutrition, and More

Every pet owner knows (or should know) that their pet has a specific diet. For small pet owners, this is especially important when discerning differences between commercial food options for small rodents.

To the untrained eye, all small pet food can look the same. So, it’s no wonder people consider feeding guinea pigs hamster food. But no small pet has the same diet, and each species has a specific food formulation.

Two Guinea Pigs in a green meadow with flowers.
As a pet owner, it’s essential to know their dietary needs.

Can guinea pigs eat hamster food? Well, there are some risks and benefits involved in introducing hamster food to your piggy. So read on to find everything you need to know about what guinea pigs can eat and whether hamster food is one of them.

Guinea pigs and hamsters: what’s the difference?

Guinea pigs and hamsters can’t be all that different, right? They both have small ears, are small fluffy pets, and love to nibble on stuff. But that description greatly simplifies things. Their commonalities end in their size, diet, and behavior.


These small mammals branch off into different families of rodents. The hamster comes from the Cricetinae subfamily. They originated from parts of southeast Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

Conversely, the guinea pig is from the Caviidae family and the genus Cavia. Hence the name cavy or domestic cavy. These small pets are from South America.


Hamsters are small, averaging a length of six inches (15 cm), while guinea pigs are much larger, getting between eight and 16 inches (20 and 40 cm) long.


Hamsters are solitary and sometimes aggressive animals. They typically burrow chambers for nesting and food storage. They also have large cheek pouches that allow them to hoard food for hibernation. These little guys are also nocturnal and require a lot of exercise.

Guinea pigs, on the other hand, are incredibly social creatures that thrive in groups. They’re active during the day and spend much time grazing to keep their teeth short. So, guinea pigs and hamsters are different. Most importantly, they have completely different diets. 

Diet: Herbivores and omnivores

Guinea pigs are herbivores, while hamsters are omnivores. That means they have different nutritional requirements. 

Herbivores eat an entirely plant-based diet, while omnivores eat various foods like meat, vegetables, and everything in between. However, there are restrictions depending on the species. Mainly, omnivores have more options when it comes to food.

Two Guinea Pigs eating Lettuce.
Guinea Pigs are herbivores, and their diet is entirely plant-based.

These fluffy pets are sensitive regarding their diet, whether it be a pet hamster, guinea pig, or gerbil. It’s essential to ensure you feed them the right foods in the right quantities. Otherwise, your close companion may suffer several ailments due to inadequate nutrition.

It makes sense why there would be cause for concern if a guinea pig were fed an omnivore diet. In the next section, you can learn more about how hamster food affects guinea pigs.

What happens if guinea pigs eat hamster food?

Hamsters have different dietary needs than guinea pigs. As omnivores, they eat a diet incompatible with a guinea pig’s vegetarian nature. Hamster food generally consists of commercial hamster pellets, some fruits, vegetables, and meat.

Pellets are formulated to be a hamster’s primary source of nutrients at the perfect ratio of protein and grains. A good hamster diet also lacks the exact amount of vegetation and hay a guinea pig requires. So even if they love fruits and veggies, they eat far less.

Hamsters don’t need meat if they have protein in their pellets. But they can eat small pieces of chicken or steak as a treat. Eating meat is a definite no-no for your cavy, as ingesting meat would cause serious digestive issues.

If a guinea pig eats hamster food once, that likely isn’t a problem. However, substituting all of your cavy’s meals with hamster pellets is very dangerous. Guinea pigs need a lot of vitamin C in their diet but cannot produce it themselves. A lack of vitamin C can lead to scurvy and, eventually, death.

A hamster diet also doesn’t account for how much fiber, vitamin A, vitamin E, and vitamin D3 a guinea pig needs. In comparison, a hamster needs these vitamins in far smaller quantities. Because some of the essential nutrients and vitamins are lacking, this can cause serious health problems for your piggy.

How much hamster food can a guinea pig eat safely?

For a healthy guinea pig diet, they should only be allowed to eat small amounts of hamster food as an occasional treat. More than four ounces or (115 grams) isn’t a good idea due to your cavy’s different nutritional needs. Your piggy shouldn’t eat meat or too much fruit either.

Two honey colored guinea pigs eating food
Piggies should only be allowed to eat small amounts of hamster food as an occasional treat.

Some of what hamsters can eat does overlap with what guinea pigs eat, such as low-sugar fruits like apples and strawberries or vegetables like carrots and cucumbers. But hamster pellets are not formulated with guinea pigs in mind. 

Next Read: Can guinea pigs eat apples?

Are there any benefits to feeding guinea pigs hamster food?

While there is conflicting information online, the consensus among veterinarians is no. There are no benefits to feeding guinea pigs hamster food.

While you can occasionally offer small quantities to your cavy, overdoing it is not a good idea. Remember that guinea pigs are herbivores and have different nutritional needs than hamsters.

Health risks if your guinea pig regularly eats hamster food

If your guinea pig regularly eats hamster food, it will suffer from several health issues. Hamster food is formulated for omnivores and lacks vitamins crucial to guinea pig health.

There is no vitamin C in hamster food. Without the correct amount of vitamin C, your guinea pig will become vitamin C deficient and have digestion issues. Hamster food also lacks fiber. Guinea pigs need a lot of hay to keep up their high-fiber diet, which hamster food cannot provide. 

Hay makes up 75% of a guinea pig’s diet. It keeps their digestive systems moving and gives your cavy a way to keep their teeth healthy. Feeding your cavy hamster food can lead to an overgrowth of teeth which can cause mouth ulcers and also impact negatively on their digestive system.

What happens if your guinea pig eats too much meat?

Your guinea pig should never eat meat. If your guinea pig has eaten meat for some reason, seek medical attention immediately. As hamster food has trace amounts of meat, it’s best to steer clear of this food source for your furry friend.

What happens if my guinea pig isn’t getting enough vitamin C?

The result of a chronic lack of vitamin C in guinea pigs is vitamin C deficiency. Symptoms include patchy coats, depression, lethargy, and even death. This is one of the reasons why hamster food isn’t ideal for your little piggy.

Differences between hamster pellets and guinea pig pellets

Guinea pig pellets are formulated to contain around 14% protein, 25% fiber, and plenty of vitamin C. The key vitamins in guinea pig pellets include vitamin A, vitamin E, and vitamin D3.  

Hamster pellets usually contain 11% fiber, a minimum of 13% protein, and no vitamin C. Hamster pellets also include a minimum of 5% fat, whereas guinea pig pellets only have 2,5% fat.

A grumpy guinea pig.
Guinea pig’s pellets contain protein, fiber and a lot of vitamin C.

Best natural foods for guinea pigs

If you want to spice up your pet’s diet, add different fruits and vegetables. Thankfully, there are many fresh produce options suitable for your guinea pig.

Just remember that guinea pigs can be fussy if they’re not used to new foods. So, slowly implementing new foods is the best way to get them to try new things.

Many small pet owners worry they’re not supplying the right food or that it might be unsuitable for their cavy. This section will tell you exactly which vegetables and fruits your cavy can eat.

Note: Make sure to keep unlimited access to both hay and fresh water. A no-drop water bottle is perfect for your guinea pigs, so they always have clean water.

Fresh vegetables

The aim of introducing a variety of vegetables to your pet is to ensure an adequate vitamin C intake as well as enrichment. Leafy greens should make up most of your vegetable mix, but other veggies are welcome too.

The aim is to ensure your guinea pig isn’t overeating sugar and getting enough nutrients. The variety of textures also offers enrichment to your pet, which will keep them happy. Here is a list of the best daily vegetables for your cavy:

  • Spinach
  • Parsley 
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Cilantro 
  • Tomatoes
  • Herbs
  • Carrots 
  • Green bell peppers
  • Zucchini 

Fresh fruits (in moderation)

Fruits should be implemented in smaller amounts due to their high sugar content. So, it’s advisable to feed your guinea pig lower-sugar fruits that also have vitamin C in them. However, an occasional treat as a part of a well-balanced diet won’t do any harm. Here is a list of fruits your guinea pig can eat:

Guinea pigs and hamster food: final thoughts

Guinea pigs can have a small amount of hamster food, but it’s not necessary for their diets. Overfeeding your cavy the wrong food can lead to serious health problems. An abundance of hay, fresh veggies, and good-quality fruits will ensure proper nutrition for your guinea pig.

Portrait of a beige American breed of Guinea pig close up
Taking proper care of your small pet’s diet is always necessary.

Vitamin C deficiency is a severe concern for guinea pig parents, and hamster food is inadequate in providing enough. Keeping your piggy on a healthy diet is the best way to ensure optimal health and long life.

For more information on keeping your furry friend happy, why not read about the best bedding for your guinea pig?

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