Foods That Guinea Pigs Should and Should Not Eat
As with any living animal, it is very important that guinea pigs are given a healthy, balanced diet. They do not require a particularly complicated menu, but they need to be given grass hay, healthy fresh vegetables, a small bit of quality pellets, and a good source of vitamin C. An excess of anything can be unhealthy for them (except grass hay), so make sure you give them a good amount of the right foods to keep your cavies healthy and happy.
Foods to Feed and Not to Feed to Guinea Pigs
Foods to Feed
Foods to Avoid
Salt licks or mineral blocks
Fresh vegetables (and the occasional fruit)
Seeds with kernels that cavies can choke on
Daily vitamin C supplement
Veggies with a lot of calcium
What to Feed Your Guinea Pig
1. Grass Hay
Quality grass hay is the most essential part of their diet, so there should be a constant supply of it.
Grass hay has many important health benefits:
- It is a good source of fiber.
- It wears down their teeth.
- It's a low-calorie food that is filling. This prevents your guinea pig from over-feasting on sugary pellets or veggies!
The most common source of grass hay is timothy hay, but another popular type is orchard hay. Many people mistakenly buy their cavies alfalfa hay. Constantly feeding this to them isn't healthy because it is too high in calcium, and too much calcium can lead to bladder stones. Alfalfa is a legume hay, which is different from the grass variety, and should only be given to pregnant or nursing sows or very young cavies.
The best place to buy your grass hay is from a local farm or feed store as it's generally a better quality and sold for a lower price than packaged hay sold at pet stores.
Note: Hay should be replaced often if it is not kept in a hay rack because many guinea pigs enjoy peeing or pooping where their food source is placed.
- Pellets should only be fed in small quantities (no more than 1/4 of a cup a day for each cavy).
- Many brands sell pellets that are alfalfa hay based. As discussed before, this is good for cavies under a year, but if they are older than that, you should only give them pellets that are timothy hay based.
- Make sure the pellets do not contain kernels as these can be a choking hazard.
- It is recommended to feed a pellet that is plain, with no extra seeds or tidbits, so that your guinea pig doesn't end up eating only the parts he likes. This can lead to an incomplete nutritional diet.
3. Fresh Vegetables and Fruits
- You should feed your guinea pig about one to two cups of fresh vegetables every day.
- You can occasionally give it a fruit. Fruits are high in sugar and should be given no more than once a week as a full serving.
- Vegetables provide many of the nutrients that a cavy needs to be healthy, but make sure you choose your cavy's main source of veggies wisely.
- The recommended main source of fresh food is dark, leafy vegetables, such as romaine lettuce or parsley.
- Kale is very healthy and high in vitamin C, but it is not a good choice as an everyday food because of its high amount of calcium.
- You should feed your guinea pig a wide variety of fruits and vegetables to ensure they are given a balanced nutrition.
4. Vitamin C
Unlike other rodents, cavies cannot produce their own vitamin C and have to be given it through their diet or with a supplement. My vet recommends giving guinea pigs a supplement to ensure they are getting enough vitamin C.
But, with that said, you should not put vitamin C drops in their water bottle. A guinea pig site called Guinea Lynx claims that:
- Water is vital to good health but because vitamin C changes the flavor, your cavies may drink less.
- Ascorbic acid degrades rapidly once added to water.
- Some cavies drink a lot and some very little, so it is impossible to know how much vitamin C your pet is getting.
The best supplements are either chewable tablets or a liquid vitamin C that can be fed using a syringe. My own cavies won't chew the tablets, but they enjoy the liquid treat they receive every day.
What Not to Feed Your Guinea Pig
You should avoid feeding your guinea pig the following foods:
- Salt licks or mineral blocks. These can cause a mineral buildup, which can lead to bladder stones.
- Animal byproducts
- Seeds with kernels that cavies can choke on
- Veggies like broccoli, which, in excess, can be unhealthy and cause gas
- Iceberg lettuce. This has no nutritional value and can be bad for the guinea pig's digestive tract because of its high water content.