If you’ve ever had some rat food laying around for whatever reason, you probably asked yourself “can my hamster eat rat food?”
And to that I say, there’s nothing wrong with doing that, but you should probably look for an alternative.
Hamster food and rat food have very different characteristics, and should not be fed to pets they aren’t meant for without proper supplementation. This prevents any possible problems that can be a result of this.
Rats and mice have specific dietary requirements that do not match with any type of hamster food. Some things found in hamster food, like fiber, aren’t common in rat or mice food.
Nevertheless, if you’re out of options, and rat food is all your pet store has to offer, there are a few things you need to know before serving it to your little furball.
Regular Hamster Diet
If you’re asking yourself whether rat or mice food is a good substitute for your hamster’s pellets, you’re not the only one.
Even I (after many years of owning and caring for hamsters) have asked myself this question.
There’s nothing wrong with doing this, but you should be informed about some differences between these two types of food so you better understand what you’re feeding to your hamster.
Hamsters usually get what they need from pellets and some occasional veggies and fruits. Some grains should be implemented as well, but most of their diet revolves around pellets.
These pellets are very similar to what small rats and mice eat as pets. You won’t find many differences if you read the contents of hamster food or rat food.
Regardless, there are some differences that you need to be aware of.
Hamster pellets are based on fiber because it’s the most vital part of a healthy hamster’s diet. Fiber helps regulate stool and digestive tract, because hamsters usually have weak tummies, and can have frequent tummy aches or cramps.
Some veggies and fruits are recommended precisely for this reason. If your hamster ever craves something other than pellets, good veggie options are:
- Brussel sprouts
- Split peas
- Collard greens
These are all rich in fiber and can be an excellent way of replacing pellets from time to time. I advise you not to do this often because if your pet gets used to this, it’ll start refusing regular food.
Some fruits you can also consider when searching for fiber-rich alternatives is:
- Bananas. See Also: Can Hamsters Eat Banana Chips?
All of these (except apples) contain a moderately high amount of sugar, and you should keep that in mind.
An unregulated amount of sugar in your pet’s diet can lead to diarrhea or other problems in their digestive tract.
In the long term, this shortens the lifespan of your pet and is generally not considered good to do regularly.
Rat and Mice Pellets
These (in contrast to hamster pellets) contain and are mostly made of things full of protein and sugar.
Mice, and especially rats, need a lot of protein because their digestive tract is revolving around getting energy from protein.
As I’ve said earlier, hamsters require a lot of fiber which (amongst other things) makes them herbivores.
Rats don’t need fiber because they are omnivores meaning they eat a mix of veggies, fruits, and insects or meat.
This makes the contents of rat and mice pellets much different from other food for pets that are not their size. This refers to pretty much all rodents kept as pets that are smaller than rats.
So can hamsters eat rat food even after knowing about these differences? Generally, they can.
Help, I’ve Fed My Hamster Rat Food!
If you were out of options in your local pet store at one point, and decided to buy your hamster some rat food, or even if you’ve ever mistaken rat food for hamster food, you shouldn’t worry at all.
Due to many companies that make hamster pellets also manufacturing rat food as well, you’re not the only one who’s ever mistaken those two.
This is completely fine, even if you’ve fed your hamster rat food.
The only problem with doing this comes when you do it long-term.
Let’s say you can’t find hamster food for months on end, and the only option is rat food. Is that a problem? Can hamsters eat rat food in the long term?
Yes – the only thing to think about if you decide to go this route is supplements. Your hammy needs some things that can’t be found in rat pellets. These are vitamins and minerals that can be supplemented with a few simple items from your pet store.
Some of the most important supplements to keep in mind if you decide to do this are:
- Pantothenic acid
- Vitamins A, K, D, E
These are some essential ingredients in your hamster’s regular pellets that it’ll miss if you feed it with rat food.
In my personal experience, these are not hard to find and should be used regularly when taking care of your pet, even if you feed it hamster pellets. You should consider this especially when your hammy gets a bit older and can’t consume as much food as it once could.
It’s imperative to supply your hamster with these supplements if it eats rat food regularly to prevent dietary problems and to lengthen the life span of your pet.
If you forget to do this, it can cause some serious tummy problems, the most common being indigestion.
This will happen due to a serious lack of fiber which is, as I’ve mentioned earlier, crucial for good digestion.
Needles to say, it’s easy to avoid these kinds of problems with just a few steps in your hamster’s feeding routine.
Hamsters and Rats
These two animals are pretty similar. This is one of the reasons they eat pretty similar foods, thus making it possible to feed your hamster rat food (pellets).
Both of these animals are rodents. They have their respective subcategories, but in essence, they are the same kind of animal.
Hamsters are from the Cricetidae family of rodents, and rats and mice are from the Muridae family.
These are pretty similar, even the Cricetidae family has some rats in them such as New World rats and mice.
This implies that all of these animals are closely related, thus having a really similar diet plan. In the wild, they eat pretty much the same things, but hamsters have much more grass and hay in their diet. This shows us that they tend to seek more fiber.
Learn More: Can Hamsters Eat Timothy Hay?
Even if I’ve just told you that hamsters and rats are not that different in diet and in general, there are some differences.
The first thing to note is the size difference. Hamsters can be much smaller in size than rats (depending on the kind of hamster). This indicates that rats eat a lot more, and need a lot more protein-based diet.
When talking about life span, it’s heavily dependent on how you treat your pet. Hammies can live up to two or three years. Rats are expected to live around five years if treated properly.
Don’t get me wrong, hamsters can outlive their lifespan expectations if they’re being taken care of and being kept in the right conditions.
All of this heavily influences their diet. Hammies are much more energetic, even though they’re smaller than rats. This is due to their feeding schedule that consists of eating more frequently, but much less food in one sitting.
If you’re still having doubts about the question can hamsters eat rat food, the short and safe answer is yes.
It’s true that there are some things you need to think about if doing this, but there are no catastrophic or (even negative) consequences of doing this.
The only thing you need to worry about is supplementing the missing goods your hammy isn’t getting when eating rat pellets or any kind of food meant for other rodents such as rats or mice.
Even this is not such a big deal because all of those supplements are easily acquirable in your local pet store or vet pharmacy.
So, if you’ve grabbed some rat food by mistake from the counter of your pet store and are wondering if it should go to waste, don’t be wasteful and feed it to your hamster!