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Foods That Guinea Pigs Should and Should Not Eat

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Finatics is a loving guinea pig keeper. He loves sharing helpful tips and information with other cavy parents online.

Guinea pigs aren't the pickiest eaters, but there are certain foods that should be avoided to keep them in good health.

Guinea pigs aren't the pickiest eaters, but there are certain foods that should be avoided to keep them in good health.

What Can't Guinea Pigs 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 moderate amount of quality pellets, and a good source of vitamin C. An excess of anything (except grass hay) can be unhealthy for them, so make sure you give your cavies appropriate amounts of the right foods so they stay healthy and happy for years to come.

The Best and Worst Foods for Guinea Pigs

Foods to FeedFoods to Avoid

Grass hay

Salt licks or mineral blocks

Plain pellets

Animal byproducts

Fresh vegetables (and the occasional fruit)

Seeds with kernels that cavies can choke on

Daily vitamin C supplement

Veggies with a lot of calcium

Iceberg lettuce

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 better quality and sold for a lower price than packaged hay sold at pet stores.

This cavy is enjoying a delicious pile of timothy hay!

This cavy is enjoying a delicious pile of timothy hay!

2. Pellets

  • 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 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 balanced nutrition.
Carrots make for a delicious and healthy cavy snack so long as they are eaten in moderation.

Carrots make for a delicious and healthy cavy snack so long as they are eaten in moderation.

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:

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  • 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.

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.

© 2011 finatics


JACKSON on June 04, 2020:


Aurora on August 10, 2019:

I have two guinea pigs.they are super cute

H W on February 22, 2019:

Very helpful!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Guiana pigs rock on July 25, 2017:

Thanks for all the help and instructions on how to feed Guiana pig. I have owned my Guiana for a couple of months now, and a lot of things you mentioned that were wrong, I thought were right, such as pellet food with extra pieces of stuff, or only feeding my piggy vegetables every once in a while. You have really benefited my piggy. Thank you.

katelynn shockley on March 06, 2017:

i want one

hope i'll become a vet :) on December 02, 2013:

What should I do if my guinea pig, affectionately called Gina, simply does not want to eat a lot of her pellets?

Heidi Woodruff from Clarksville, TN on February 05, 2013:

I enjoyed your post regarding piggies. One of mine recently died, however, his brother did well adjusting. And they are cute, especially when they sqeek

Payton on December 29, 2012:

Ugliest picture I ever seen in my life ashey

finatics (author) on June 02, 2012:

@ashley call, yes, they certainly are! :)

Bob marley on May 26, 2012:

Thanks mon

Ashley call on May 02, 2012:

Guinea pigs are cute

finatics (author) on October 11, 2011:

Thank you, Siomara! It's true that pet shops that sell live animals are often just out to make a profit and give many owners false advice about how to care for their animals. I'm glad you enjoyed my article!

Siomara on October 07, 2011:

Excellent article!!! No one in the pet shop told me about all this things!

finatics (author) on July 14, 2011:

Thank you, priyankabd!

priyankabd from dhaka on July 11, 2011:

ohhh very nice

finatics (author) on July 10, 2011:

Thank you, thebluearatus, but it is not recommended to keep your guinea pigs outdoors. Please check out this link for reasons why:

thebluearatus on July 07, 2011:

Mine stays in the open garden, so it gets to eat a lot of green grasses and roots.

Thanks for the great article.

looking forward to read more of your work

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