Rabbits and guinea pigs have a lot in common.
From natural environment to foraging habits to behavior in the wild to their popularity as pets, it might seem to make sense that food made for guinea pigs could be good for rabbits too.
However, this is a slippery slope, as we will discuss further in this article.
Can Rabbits Eat Guinea Pig Food
In most cases, when there is a question about whether rabbits can eat guinea pig food, what is meant is pelleted foods formulated for the nutrient needs of guinea pigs.
In this context, it is okay to feed rabbits guinea pig food occasionally. But rabbits and guinea pigs do not have the exact same nutritional needs, so it is best to feed rabbits food formulated for their specific needs.
Learn About the Right Food to Feed Rabbits
In this YouTube video made by an experienced rabbit owner, you can learn about the right type of daily diet to feed your rabbit.
As you will learn, commercial or pelleted foods represent just one source of daily nutrition for your pet rabbit. Rabbits need lots of other types of foods to stay healthy and happy in a captive setting.
Differences in Feeding a Pet Guinea Pig Versus a Pet Rabbit
As Templestowe Veterinary Clinic explains, rabbits and guinea pigs do not have the exact same dietary needs on a daily basis.
This is true in terms of portion sizes as well as food types.
For example, where a guinea pig should consume about 70 percent of their daily caloric intake from hay, rabbits should take in 80 percent of their calories from hay.
Rabbits and guinea pigs also need different varieties of hay to stay at their healthiest. For guinea pigs, timothy hay is the best choice. For rabbits, oaten hay is a much better type of hay to feed.
Alfalfa hay is not a good choice for either pet guinea pigs or for pet rabbits. The main reason is that alfalfa is not actually hay!
Alfalfa is classified as a type of legume, or bean, as Mariposa Veterinary Clinic highlights.
A General Overview of a Pet Rabbit Daily Diet
If you are caring for a pet rabbit for the very first time, you might well be feeling a little anxious about whether you are feeding your new pet properly.
What should a pet rabbit be eating every day to stay healthy?
This diet is designed to simply give you a general idea of the food types and percentages for a pet rabbit.
Be aware that a pet rabbit’s dietary needs can and do change throughout life. A young rabbit might need to eat more than a senior rabbit. If your rabbit gets pregnant, she will need a different diet to stay healthy while she is pregnant.
Some rabbit breeds are also quite a bit larger than others and this should be factored in when planning your rabbit’s daily diet.
Here is what the RSPCA recommends for feeding an adult rabbit.
Fresh clean water should always be available to your rabbit.
To keep your rabbit from soiling their water, it is best to offer water in a drip bottle. If you can’t do that, a heavy bowl is the best choice but be sure to check the water frequently and change it as needed.
Hay and grass
As we mentioned here earlier, rabbits should be given plenty of fresh appropriate hay every single day.
A good rule of thumb is to offer a pile of hay that is roughly the same size as your rabbit.
Wherever possible, the idea is to give your rabbit living hay or grass to graze on. Do NOT give grass clippings from your lawn!
Hay and grass provide vital nutrients and also helps your rabbit wear down its continually growing incisors (front teeth).
Fresh salad greens
Salad greens offer micro-nutrients, hydration, and enrichment to your rabbit. You can offer herbs, weeds, lettuce varietals, and leafy greens.
One good fist-full of a leafy green mix daily is an appropriate general quantity for a healthy adult rabbit.
Try to offer at least five different varietals each week to make sure your rabbit gets as many micro-nutrients as possible.
When you first start offering fresh produce, however, offer a smaller portion and only give one varietal at a time. Wait 24 hours after the first feeding just to make sure your rabbit tolerates the new green well and there is no digestive upset.
Pellets formulated for rabbits
This category is where many rabbit owners get confused about whether a rabbit can eat guinea pig pelleted food.
If you suddenly run out of your rabbit’s pelleted food and you also keep guinea pigs, it is okay to offer your rabbit some of the guinea pig’s pellets in an emergency.
But the first chance you get, you should switch to pellets formulated for the nutrient needs of rabbits instead.
Muesli is not an adequate substitute for a complete and balanced pelleted food made specifically for rabbits. Rabbits will pick out the bits of muesli they like the most and ignore the rest, which makes for inadequate nutritional intake over time.
Rabbits can also benefit from other occasional treat foods. These treats can fill in any nutritional gaps and also provide environmental enrichment and excitement.
As VCA Animal Hospital points out, while many cartoons feature rabbits happily chomping on carrots, carrots are not actually all that healthy for rabbits.
While it is fine to offer an occasional raw carrot round as a treat, these high-sugar, high-carbohydrate vegetables may cause gastrointestinal distress and/or weight gain if fed too frequently.
Never feed your pet rabbit “people” food or any type of animal protein. Rabbits are herbivores (plant-eaters) and can only digest plant-based foods.
Special Dietary Needs of Young Rabbits
If your pet rabbit is still eight months of age or younger, your pet will need a different diet than what we just outlined. The diet template above is for an adult rabbit.
Young rabbits need more calories, protein, and calcium than adult or senior rabbits since they are still growing.
This is the only time in a rabbit’s life when it is not only safe but also smart to offer alfalfa hay or alfalfa pellets.
After your rabbit reaches the age of eight months, however, you will need to start transitioning your pet off of alfalfa entirely and over to an adult rabbit diet.
Special Situations for Rabbit Diets
As we mentioned earlier here, sometimes rabbits may require a special diet meant for short-term changes such as illness or pregnancy.
And sometimes as a rabbit gets older and becomes less active, you may want to reduce the daily caloric intake to avoid weight gain and stress on the joints.
If you think your pet rabbit may be pregnant or there is any type of medical or life stage issue going on, always consult your small mammal veterinarian for guidance.
Your veterinarian will be able to make a health assessment and recommend dietary changes to support optimal health.
Always Feed Rabbits Rabbit Food
In summary, rabbits and guinea pigs are different species with different nutritional needs.
This is why you always want to feed your rabbits food that is specifically prepared to be a source of complete and balanced nutrition for rabbits.