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What Can Guinea Pigs Eat? (Plus What Not to Feed Them)

Lesley is an artist and the author of a guinea pig care guide.

Guinea pigs can eat carrots, among many other fresh veggies. Learn more about what you can and cannot feed your pet.

Guinea pigs can eat carrots, among many other fresh veggies. Learn more about what you can and cannot feed your pet.

What to Feed Guinea Pigs

You may be thinking of adopting a guinea pig and want to know what they can eat, or perhaps you already have a guinea pig and are wondering if a certain food is okay to feed them.

We will discuss:

  • What guinea pigs can eat.
  • Which foods can make them sick.
  • Guinea pig favorites that may surprise you.
  • Safe foods for picky eaters.
  • What to do if you worry you've fed your pet the wrong thing.

These suggestions for different foods, kibble, and hay are based on my own experiences.

Fruits and Vegetables

Guinea pigs love fruits and vegetables, which is great because fruits and vegetables are an important part of their diet and keep them happy and healthy!

Different guinea pigs have different preferences, but generally, they love to sample a variety of different fruits and veggies. Carrots, peppers, and dark lettuces are a surefire hit with my guinea pigs. If you encounter a picky eater who won't eat fresh produce, ask your veterinarian about different types of Vitamin C-fortified pellets to make sure your little friend gets the right nourishment.

Here is a list of just some of the many fruits and vegetables that guinea pigs eat and that give them the best nutritional benefits. Fruits are high in sugar, so it's best to view them more as treats. Also, avoid any sudden major changes in your pet's diet until you know how their tummy reacts to things.

  • Red, green, or yellow pepper: Red has the highest Vitamin C concentration.
  • Carrots: Both the roots and green tops are perfectly safe to eat.
  • Apples: Just make sure they don't have any seeds.
  • Oranges
  • Leafy greens: These include red lettuce, Romaine, and Boston lettuce. Offer leafy vegetables in moderation to avoid diarrhea. Feed spinach a bit sparingly to avoid potential kidney problems.
  • Cucumbers
  • Broccoli: Offer in moderation since it can cause gas pain.
  • Green beans
  • Grapes
  • Bananas
  • Dandelion greens
  • Cherry tomatoes: Offer in moderation.
  • Cilantro
  • Parsley: Guinea pigs love either curly or flat parley, and it smells delicious when you're tearing sprigs off the bunch!

Never Feed These Foods to Your Guinea Pig

While guinea pigs do enjoy a variety of flavors and types of fruits and vegetables, there are some that you shouldn't offer. They are not all poisonous, but they should be avoided because they're either low in nutrients or produce gas and other tummy troubles. However, a few are very poisonous to your piggie.

As with the good foods list, this list is also not comprehensive, so if you're unsure, wait until you've either talked to a vet or asked someone who might know (like me!) before feeding your piggie.

Do Not Feed:

  • Iceberg lettuce: It won't kill your guinea pig if you give him or her a little piece, but it has virtually no nutritional value, and it is quite fibrous and watery. It's been known to give guinea pigs diarrhea. With the great selection of other more leafy, dark lettuces available, just avoid this one and go with one of the others.
  • Any type of cabbage: Like iceberg lettuce, a small piece is not likely to severely harm or kill your guinea pig, but it's very gassy and not good for their little systems. Stay away from it if you can.
  • Cauliflower: Also very gas-producing. Again, not poisonous.
  • Potato peelings: Toxins can exist in potato skins, particularly if they've begun to turn green, and can be poisonous.
  • Raw beans: This doesn't mean green beans. It means things like raw, hard kidney beans, split peas, pinto beans, etc.
  • Shelled nuts or seeds: Particularly things like sunflower seeds or 'bird seed'-type mixes, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, etc.
  • Rhubarb: The leaves of the rhubarb plant are poisonous, and the stalks are very, very sour.
  • Any type of meat
  • Dairy products: While many stores will offer yogurt drops and other "treats," dairy is not healthy for guinea pigs and can actually cause problems. Feed natural treats like veggies instead of store-brand treats. It's less expensive, and your piggie will be much happier.
  • Chocolate, coffee or other products containing caffeine
  • Alcohol: This should go without saying!
  • Hamster, gerbil, rabbit, or any other non-guinea pig food
  • Corn kernels: Popcorn isn't a very good idea, either. Guinea pigs choke easily.
  • Sugary foods
  • Ice cream
  • Processed or fried foods: This includes potato chips, nachos, or French fries.
  • Cheese
  • Anything spicy: Jalapeño peppers and anything with cinnamon.

The Best Hay for Your Guinea PIg

Hay is a staple in a guinea pig's diet. They can honestly never have too much hay. In addition to Western timothy hay, there are other varieties with different nutritional properties, textures, and flavors. When guinea pigs are babies, they can have some alfalfa hay, which has a different balance of nutrients than the timothy hay that adult guinea pigs eat, but by the time they're full-grown guinea pigs, they should have mostly timothy hay—and lots of it!

Why Do Guinea Pigs Need Hay in Their Diet?

Guinea pigs have unique digestive systems that require a constant supply of fiber to help them digest their food and prevent impactions. Their stomachs go through a double digestion process. They eat once, digest their food, create soft fecal matter in a pouch in their rump, eat that, and digest it again. I know that sounds gross, but this is an important part of your piggie's health!

Guinea pigs will eat hay nonstop, but you don't have to worry because it will not make them fat. No amount of hay will put weight on a piggie because it's not actually fully digested into their body. It's used by their digestive system to "move things along."

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Read More From Pethelpful

Where to Buy Timothy Hay

You can find Western timothy hay in most pet stores, but you want to make sure that you find a bag that looks nice and fresh. Sometimes when I go to the pet store, I find bags of timothy hay that look more like straw. It pays to find a nice, fresh, green bag of hay. Your piggie will be so happy!

A great brand to go for is Oxbow. I discovered it online and then found that my vet used it, too, so it's definitely the cream of the guinea pig crop! Some of their products are carried in pet stores, and your vet may also carry these supplies, but it's very simple and affordable to order right through a website like Amazon. I found some of the products and have listed them below for you!

The Importance of Guinea Pig Pellets

It's completely possible to sustain your guinea pig solely on fruits, vegetables, and hay, but you want to make sure that you're feeding them enough vitamins and minerals. If you are thinking of skipping pellets altogether, speak with your vet about it first.

Assuming that you go the more traditional route of combining pellets with fresh vegetables and hay, here's what you need to know:

  • Don't feed your guinea pig anything with seeds. Even though there are "treats" marketed to guinea pigs on the shelves of pet stores, it's best not to buy them. These are unnecessary to a pig's diet and guinea pigs are prone to choking, so if it looks like birdseed or hamster food, move along to the next choice.
  • Most pet stores will carry a variety of brands. Even if a bag of pellets says that it's fortified with Vitamin C, do not take this as a replacement for vitamin-rich vegetables. We will cover Vitamin C in the next sections.
  • Guinea pigs cannot eat hamster, rabbit, or gerbil food. The nutritional balance isn't the same.
  • The best brand of pellets I've found so far is. once again, the Oxbow brand. My guinea pigs seem to like the taste the best, and this formula has a special type of Vitamin C that is meant to last a long time. My veterinarian has said in this case with the Oxbow brand. You could technically omit the other vitamin supplements in vegetables and the guinea pigs would be fine. But you want to feed them those anyway because they love them so much!
  • Unlike hay, too many pellets will make your guinea pig overweight. Some piggies will pick at their food and others will clean their plate! If you notice your guinea pig gaining weight, there are a number of things you can do to make sure it doesn't get out of hand, while still keeping them satisfied.

Guinea Pigs Need Vitamin C

Scurvy's not just for pirates anymore! We've established that guinea pigs love fruits and veggies. This is a wonderful thing because guinea pigs, like humans, are one of the few species of animal whose bodies aren't able to generate Vitamin C. If guinea pigs don't get enough in their diets, they can contract a condition known as scurvy. This can make a guinea pig very sick or even die, so it's important to get at least 10mg of Vitamin C into their systems each day.

You or I might drink a glass of orange juice, eat a packet of fruit snacks, or take a multivitamin.

Guinea pigs can get their vitamin C needs through fresh vegetables. You may wonder whether crushing up a small amount of a Vitamin C pill into their water would be good for them, but this isn't advisable. Vitamin C is incredibly light sensitive, meaning it will lose its potency quickly when exposed to light.

Best Methods for Incorporating Vitamin C

The best ways to deliver this vitamin are:

  • Red pepper: These vegetables contain an immense amount of Vitamin C. Since some guinea pigs won't really take fondly to an orange, they're almost always ravenous for peppers.
  • Pellets: Some claim that they have "long-lasting vitamin C," but you have to be aware that the bags will have been sitting on a warehouse shelf for a long time before purchase. The Vitamin C may have been exposed to enough light and been sitting long enough to have been mostly if not completely depleted.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2007 southpaw23

Did you find this information useful? Please feel free to let me know your thoughts or questions!

Declan on March 09, 2020:

My guinea pigs are good love food nothing wrong with them. They are great. Keira here is the answer to your question can Guinea Pigs have watermelon? But with out seeds. it keeps them hydrated but in large amounts, they can cause tummy problems and even diarrhoea. The watermelon that you give to your guinea pig should always be seedless to prevent your pet from choking on a seed. It's best to feed your pet only fully ripe watermelon.

Maggie the pet lover on July 27, 2019:

Woah

Mollie on January 19, 2019:

How do i groom my guinea pigs?

They won't even allow me to take them out of their cage.

1 of them won't eat and we've had them a couple of days.

plebs rule on September 30, 2018:

how shoud i know what they should eat and not

Tigger 9032 on September 23, 2018:

What kind of fresh fruit and veggies can I feed my guniea pig.

Markisha on August 22, 2018:

My 2yr old gave my guinea pig a hot chip what do I do??

Sheamous1 on July 20, 2018:

Tanjie it sounds like the girls might have mites. Have them treated a couple times by someone like a local breeder or small animal vet. If that doesn’t work a small animal vet is recommended.

Tanjie on July 01, 2018:

My dtr & I adopted 2 female 3yrs old guinea pigs . oreo is,shading pretty bad . They scratch alot & always biting at themselves. When we visited them at the humane society, Oreo was shedding bad then . I didn't think anything of it. Cuz we had boys in the past . So I'm thinking she just need a really bath to wash away the extra hair & smell , cuz they smelt pretty bad as well. We only had them s week & Oreo is is so thin & Peanut butter is scratching & biting at herself as well . Oreo os greedy she's more than enough but her hart beats fast oh her hair I really ruff too . Peanut butter font eat much but she sneezes here & there . I'm worried about them . I called the place about them they told me to take them to the vet , which I already know. We love these,2 ladies very much & my dtr heart can't take them passing on .

Kim on April 08, 2018:

LOVE this site! For those of you wondering YES your piggies can eat watermelon but with no seeds or rine. Its really good in summer if they are outside because they have a lot of water (clues in the name people) Cucumber is also good in Summer. Hope you like readind my comment :P

Kiera on February 04, 2018:

I am hoping for a Guinea Pig from my parents but I have to know how to care for them and I do. But I have a question can Guinea Pigs have watermelon? But with out seeds.

BTS Army~Chan on October 25, 2017:

I love this page but my other family members ignores what I'm saying and feeds them Iceberg Cabbage! I even told them that I got it from a guinea pig expert but they DON'T listen "OH you just got it from internet AGAIN"and if they do THEY HAVE TO MAKE ME MAD

Ella on October 04, 2017:

Nice. I was already familiar with what they couldn't eat but I did learn a few new things! I never knew they could eat oranges!

Eli on January 03, 2017:

Love

jc on November 26, 2016:

hi.. i learned a lot but since i bought a guinea pig i feed them a lot of cabbage so my guinea pig will die?

and here in philipines i think in any pet stores they dont have grass hay or timothy hay is that ok even my guinea pig dont eat grass hay or timothy hay?

Andrea on May 26, 2016:

Hi I was wondering can you give guniea pigs watermelon without seeds?

shaggy1978 on December 21, 2014:

can guinea pigs eat Asparagus?

craftybegonia from Southwestern, United States on October 14, 2014:

Very informative. Those are really cute little fellows for sure!

Socialpro54 LM on June 27, 2013:

This is an informative lens, it's very thorough and so well done!

anyavnclv lm on June 19, 2013:

Thanks for the info! I will forward this link to my sister so she can better care for her Guinea Pigs.

Meganhere on June 02, 2013:

Guinea pigs are great pets for children. I love them.

Cynthia Haltom from Diamondhead on May 10, 2013:

I was unaware that there are so many food that are harmful to guinea pigs. This is very useful information that I can share with my grandson.

Margot_C on April 19, 2013:

I had no idea there were so many things you shouldn't feed your guinea pig. Some of them were no-brainers, but a couple were surprises. Thanks for being such a good advocate for these little guys.

Faddyswooshpets on April 18, 2013:

Hi I never knew Guinea pigs had such extensive diet. I thought it was just water, hay, lettuce and pellets. Thank you.

southpaw23 (author) on March 27, 2013:

@taemeiser-wagner: Hi there! Sadly graham crackers aren't in a guinea pig's natural diet. For something crispy and sweet as an alternative, you could try a small slice of apple! Thanks so much for your question and best of luck with your new peegs! <3

Maria Burgess from Las Vegas, Nevada on March 13, 2013:

Very thorough outline on what it takes to properly care for a guinea pig. I have had 3 and I absolutely love these creatures! Thanks for sharing this helpful lens!

2LilPiggies on March 07, 2013:

Hello my husband bought our sons a guinea pig each for their bdays a couple weeks ago. We got a mommy and one of her babies well within the last week the mommy has got super huge. She's doubled in sized we feed her the food were suppose to and only give them carrots and slicesof apple as treats. Could she have gotten pregnant before we got her?????? The baby is still the same size so I know were not over feeding them. Please help!!!!

JeffGilbert on January 31, 2013:

This is great info. Very well researched and also from speaks from personal experience. Great lens!

taemeiser-wagner on January 15, 2013:

Can guinea pigs eat graham crackers? Im new "mom" with 2 pigs.

kiernanmay317 on January 14, 2013:

i have a guinea pig and i love her SOOO much and i do not want her to get hurt or feel bad so i loved this cite personally (her name is Cinnamon but i can't feed her cinnamon) (this is just for laughs)

shannon-l-nolder on January 09, 2013:

@LilacsintheRain: but a cage and bring the guinea pig inside or it will die

soniathereviewe1 on December 27, 2012:

We are guinea pig freaks too. :-) RIght now we only have 1, and she's enjoying life with 2 male bunnies. Guineas are such gentle creatures. :-)

soniathereviewe1 on December 27, 2012:

We are guinea pig freaks too. :-) RIght now we only have 1, and she's enjoying life with 2 male bunnies. Guineas are such gentle creatures. :-)

Simplesimone on December 22, 2012:

Thanks for posting all the things a guinea pig can eat. My six year old nephew is getting two for Christmas, this has been a very helpful lens.

Rockbleeder on December 21, 2012:

Thanks for this article. I had a guinea pig before but I left it to my parents' house. It died after some months. I still don't what caused its death.

Dianna206 on December 18, 2012:

I found a brand of guinea pig food that includes pumpkin seeds. Not the salted kind of course, but it has all kinds of things mixed in it in addition to the pellets. My guinea pig actually picks out the pumpkin seeds first and eats them! On this lens, you say that it's not good for them. Should I pick them out of the bag or something? Thank you!

avigarret on December 16, 2012:

This is a terrific and extensive lens that should be read by all owners of Guinea Pigs. Not only will it prolong the lives of these adorable bastards, but also make their lives more enjoyable.