What and When to Feed a Guinea Pig


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Guinea pigs are known for many things. The most prominently known fact about them would be that they are socially active animals who are amazingly cute! Well, right next to it, will be the fact that they eat a lot. I mean, A LOOOOOOOT! Most of the foods that guinea pigs eat aren’t that hard to find in the local markets or e-commerce websites.

So there is no trouble knowing where to buy these foods, they are abundantly available. But there is one problem that most owners confront at the beginning of their wonderful journey with their guinea pig: not knowing the specific details about feeding a guinea pig.

With that being said and understood, nobody deserves to spend hours researching on the internet about that very problem. Nor do they deserve to waste time experimenting by themselves to find the right way to feed their pals.

You aren’t a scientist to do experiments, right? Because if you were a scientist, buying a guinea pig to be your pet wouldn’t have been your first choice, if you know what I mean! My point is, do not worry if you don’t know what and how to feed a guinea pig. You are not the only one! I have done some terrible mistakes in my path towards learning the answer to that very question. But I won’t let you make those mistakes! So here is my ultimate post on what and how to feed a guinea pig!

As always, this post is the dish made with my experience, my research online, and expert opinions from veterinarians as the ingredients! So, go ahead, enjoy it! Do leave your suggestions, feedback, and remarks in the comments section at the end of the post! I have tried to answer most questions regarding guinea pig feeding in this post, including what, when, where, why, how, how often, how much, and more! If you do have more questions apart from the ones answered here, you are free to ask them in the comments!

HAY – Hey Hey it is Hay Time, All the Time!

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The answer to the question of “what is hay?” is perfectly obvious. Hay is the grass that is dried after being mowed. It is the major fodder material for several cattle and pets.

But the question is to be approached with more than just the quest for a mere dictionary definition. Just because we have a million types of cereals all around the globe, does not mean that we will like every single one of those. In a similar manner, guinea pigs do not like every type of hay. Maybe the wild guinea pigs in their natural habitat would not mind about the specifications of the hay that they are eating. But now that they have been domesticized, they are spoiled (still awfully cute) creatures which demand better! In short, they are picky.

What is the Best Type of Hay for Guinea Pigs?

Of all the types of hay in the market, timothy hay is the best choice for guinea pigs.

Be sure to mention that your pet is a guinea pig when buying hay because different types of hay are to be used for different types of pet animals. A type of hay that is enjoyed by a rabbit need not necessarily have a similar liking shared by a guinea pig or a hamster or a white mice!

Apart from timothy hay, there are other types that include Oaten, Wheaten, Pasture, Paddock, Meadow or Ryegrass hays. All of these are recommended by RSPCA as types of hay that are good to be major parts of diet for guinea pigs.

Now, you know I love to get as detailed as possible when it comes to helping my fellow guinea pig owners. That is exactly why I am going to give tips on the type of timothy hay that you need to choose. Depending on their texture, timothy hay is of different types. They are named based on the order of their cut:

The first cut: This cut of timothy hay is filled with a lot of nutrients and complex substances. Our little guinea pigs do not have the digestive system that is complex enough to handle such substances.

The third cut: This cut on the other hand, is easily digested. But it is too easily digestible because it lacks the necessary nutrients. Moreover, they are easily exhausted by our pals, hence will need very loose purse strings!

The second cut: The obvious winner in this contest would be the second cut timothy hay which is neither too coarse nor too fine!

I recommend getting Western Timothy hay from a brand called Oxbow. It has the perfect cut for my guinea pigs and they enjoy it a lot! You can check out the price of this hay and read more about it on Chewy’s website here.

How Often Should You Feed Your Guinea Pigs Hay?

Your guinea pigs should have hay available to nibble on whenever they feel like it!

Hay is the one food that is most-loved by guinea pig. They do not care about which time of the day it is. They do not care about which time of the year it is. They just eat, eat, and eat when it comes to hay. I do say to all my readers and friends often that we should treat our pet animals, regardless of which animal they are, just like we treat our babies. Well, I know it sounds either hard to conceive or too zoophilic. But in this case, it pretty much is like that.

You know newborn babies. You have no idea when they will start crying for food. You gotta be always prepared to feed them when they do start crying for it. But sadly, you can’t be that prepared for a guinea pig feeding session. That is why it is better to leave them with abundant amounts of hay so that they are free to eat whenever they can. Because they don’t really have “3 meals a day” plan in place in their bio-clock!

How to Give Your Guinea Pigs Hay

As for guinea pigs, you have to fill their habitat with hay everywhere. To that end, I suppose I should define where the habitat should be, in order to avoid confusions.

Guinea pigs aren’t that comfortable with extreme temperatures. Moderation in everything is advised while choosing their habitat. And as a result of this, moderation in temperature and humidity is the one thing I’d have on my check-list while looking for a place to have my guinea pig feeders.

You can also use automatic feeders that you can find available on e-commerce sites as well as pet stores. While I’d recommend the maximum quantity that is feasible to you and viable for placing in the available space, moderation is appreciated even in this. Because some guinea pigs do get to get over-excited about their food containers. Since they are delicate animals who are vulnerable to injuries from falling off, do not get feeders that are more than twice their height. I recommend the following automatic feeder that’s available on Chewy, which you can read more about here.

Not only is that product made of non-toxic material, but it is also sturdy enough to make sure your pal does not nibble out a piece from it!

Why is Hay Good for Guinea Pigs?

Well, it might sound redundant or even rhetoric if I say hay is absolutely necessary for a guinea pig to survive. We kind would have said that about dogs and raw meat once upon a time- before the existence of multi-billion dollar companies making processed foods for them.

To approach the question in hand without getting ahead of ourselves, it is safe to say the pet supplies industry that meet the needs and wants of guinea pigs are not as huge as the ones that revolve around dogs or cats.

Hay was almost a 100%, in other words, the only constituent of a guinea pig’s diet before their domestication. But thanks to the newly popping up diseases and need for a more qualitative way of life for domesticized pets, they need more than just hay. Nevertheless, we cannot ignore the major part that hay takes up. It still is recommended that 70% of a guinea pig’s diet should be of hay.

Given that guinea pigs are of traits that most concur with that of rodents, they are subject to never-ending growth of their teeth. Chewing on hay is what keeps that growth in check. Unless you want your guinea pig to grow their teeth the size of an elephant’s tusk by the end of their life, keep feeding them with hay making up 70% of their diet!

P.S: Their teeth do not make it to the size of an elephant’s tusk, at least not in one lifetime! I was making a point with vague specifics!

Water – Water, Water, Water Everywhere!

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Well, I guess it is safe to say everyone knows what water means. Nevertheless, I have the responsibility to define which type of water you need to use.

Just because sewage water is also water, it does not mean you should give that to your thirsty guinea pig, that is fairly obvious. Just like most living organisms, guinea pigs need fresh water. When people say we should derive benefit from anything that is abundantly available, I always counter them in my mind with this very point. Just because ocean water which is saline covers 97% of available water on earth, does not mean we should drink it! That bodes well for guinea pigs too!

How Often Should You Give Water to Your Guinea Pigs?

Your guinea pigs should have access to fresh water all the time.

It’s pretty much the same as with hay. Guinea pigs do not have a fixed plan as to when they should drink water. Even the most developed species on earth, we ourselves, do not have such plans in place! But what is fairly certain is the enormous thirst in guinea pigs. They are “hydroholics” if you will, although it is neither a defined nor an accepted term!

So making sure that your guinea pig has easy access to water for him/her to drink whenever they see fit, should be a priority. While metabolism itself is reason enough to intake necessary amounts of water, the result of metabolism, which is excretion, is also extremely vital. Without enough amounts of water, your guinea pig is prone to excretory tract infections or failure of the excretory system as a whole! And I am sure you do not want that to happen!

How to Give Your Guinea Pigs Water

In the cage, the automatic water dispenser can be hung on the bars.

Anywhere other than that, you must be careful with your choice of vessel. Using a plastic cup as a vessel to feed water to guinea pigs is the worst mistake that most owners make. Guinea pigs have incredibly strong and sharp teeth. They will practically eat anything in their sight. So you are safe from losing your guinea pig to a death caused by ingestion of plastic bits. It is better to use ceramic bowls with a thick bottom so that they cannot be turned over.

And do note that it is only for the outdoors because most automatic feeders need a place to be hung on, which is hard to find in an open area. Although I must warn you, having your guinea pig drink water that is kept outdoors in an open bowl could mean it is not drinking fresh water. Rather it would be contaminated with several germs and dust particles. That is the exact reason to use automatic water dispensers like the one here.

Why Should Your Guinea Pigs Drink Water?

I am going to keep the answer to this question short and sweet. Water, available only on our planet, is the reason for the very existence of every life form. Guinea pig is also a form of life. Ergo, water is essential for the existence of guinea pigs, as much as it does for the existence for every other life including us humans!

Fruits and Vegetables – Trick or Treat!

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Really thinking about it, it should be in the reverse order with a question mark in the place of exclamatory marks. “Trick or treat?: Vegetables and fruits!” Because if you need to teach your guinea pig to perform any trick, or if you wanna treat him/her for being a good pal, fruits and veggies are the way to go!

What Fruits and Vegetables Should You Feed Your Guinea Pigs?

There are several vegetables and fruits that are magical treats for your guinea pigs. Here’s a list of different fruits and veggies that is both  healthy and tasty for your guinea pigs.

Vegetables That You Can Give to Your Guinea Pigs:

  • Tomatoes (the fruit but not the leaves)
  • Sprouts
  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Capsicums
  • Radish
  • Lettuce
  • Mint leaves
  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Kale

Fruits That You Can Give to Your Guinea Pigs:

  • Berries
  • Apples
  • Melons
  • Papaya
  • Pear
  • Plum
  • Peach
  • Pineapple

How Often Should You Feed Your Guinea Pigs Fruits and Vegetables?

Everyday you are free to include fruits and vegetables in your guinea pig’s diet. The thing with guinea pigs is that they do not overeat even when you fill their bowl with excess amounts of food.

Every day, include one cup of the food bowl with fruits and veggies. Leafy greens like romaine lettuce, kale or parsley are supposed to be the major part of the fruits and veggies that your pals get. Carrots, zucchini, and sweet potato are not recommended for regular feeding. They are best of use to your guinea pig when they are given only once or twice in a week.

Why is Fruits and Vegetables Good for Guinea Pigs?

Just like how we cannot manufacture all necessary amino acids in our body ourselves and have to intake them via diet, guinea pigs have some nutritive needs that cannot be met by their metabolism without intake via diet. The most important one of such needs is vitamin C. Guinea pigs need vitamin C for their survival. While there are artificial pellets available in the market, some amount should also be taken in via diet.

That is where fruits and veggies come in. Of course, those were the sole source of these nutrients when guinea pigs roamed around minding their own businesses in their natural habitat. But when in a domesticized and protected environment, they do not indulge in the level of physical activity as they normally would. That means that their metabolism levels will be slower. That means they cannot eat as they would normally do. That is why it is important to limit the number of fruits and veggies you give them.

The thing with fruits and vegetables is that they are good. But too much of anything is good for nothing. That suits perfectly in this case. Because fruits and vegetables are rich in carbohydrates or sugars. These are not only hard to digest, but also essential for healthy weight gain and functioning. So when you give them too much of it, they find it hard to digest.

That leads to problems in the digestive system, eventually higher sugar levels in the blood, highly frequent excretion, dormancy, and ultimately the obsoletion of the existence of a pet at all!

Supplements – Little Pellets of Life!

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The supplements that you need to give your guinea pigs are the third most important constituents of the diet plan for your guinea pigs. They are not only easily available but also easily accepted by guinea pigs.

In the case of guinea pigs, the market surrounding them for pet supplies has not advanced as much as it has for dogs and cats like I said before. These are the baby steps that are being taken to create a diverse commercial paradise for your guinea pigs. Their activeness, their emotional health, their basic functions are not viable unless their supplementary needs are met by us.

While talking about fruits and veggies I told you that they are also sources of such supplementary nutrients. But as said earlier, the amount of sugar or carbohydrates clearly outweighs the amount of the supplementary nutrients such as vitamins and minerals like calcium or magnesium.

How Often Should You Give Supplements to Your Guinea Pigs?

That really depends upon the particular product you buy for your pals. Follow instructions provided on the back of the pack or inquire with a veterinarian.

Where to Buy Supplements?

Even though it is less known that it is very essential for guinea pigs to have these supplement pellets, it is widely available across markets. Most pet stores have a variety of collections that you can choose from.

I usually buy the Kaytee Forti-Diet Pro Health which is a bag of pellets that includes all the important vitamins and minerals that your guinea pigs need! You can check out the price of the pellets on Chewy here.

Related Questions

Why does my guinea pig show aversion to food?
There are two most-probable reasons for this. One is that your guinea pig is full and you are feeding it with more than what it asks for. The other reason is that it could be sick. To be on the safer side, it is better if you take your guinea pig for an examination to a veterinarian. Better wrong than sorry!!

My guinea pig eats its own poop. Is it bad?
Guinea pigs tend to eat their own poop sometimes. It is considered normal. When God created different species, he made sure not everyone would be the same! Or maybe guinea pigs are related to Bear Grylls! They, in fact, have to eat their own poop sometimes to maintain their health and digestive metabolism.

Guinea pigs produce two types of poo:

A shiny, smell pellet called “caecotrophs’” This is the kind they eat. This type of poop is a result of eating high-fiber foods. Without proper digestion, these get excreted, but still with a lot of fiber, which is essential for guinea pigs. So they re-eat it, re-digest it, hence getting the maximum nutrients!

A hard dry pellet. They don’t eat this kind of poo. It is the regular one that is the excreta after digestion of regular fiber foods. This can be cleaned.

How do I introduce a new food into my guinea pig’s diet?
To answer it in one word, gradually! If you feed them with a type of food every day, and suddenly change it in one single day, they probably will not touch the new food even if they like it.

Guinea pigs are fans of patterns. So, introduce the new foods in fractions. Reduce the regular food by 10% in quantity, replace it with the new food. So now it is 90% old and 10% new. Continue this for a week. Then make it 80% old and 20% new in the second week. Then make it 60% old and 40% new during the third week. Then make it 40% old and 60% new in the fourth week. In the fifth week, you can change the food. I know, high-maintenance! That is why I suggest starting off with the right diet plan since the beginning because change is pretty hard!

References

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=guinea+pig+supplements&ref=nb_sb_noss_2
https://www.pdsa.org.uk/taking-care-of-your-pet/looking-after-your-pet/small-pets/your-guinea-pig-s-diet
https://kb.rspca.org.au/knowledge-base/what-should-i-feed-my-guinea-pigs/
https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/guinea-pig-feeding

Niklas

I love animals! I grew up with everything from dogs and cats to rabbits and guinea pigs. I enjoy learning about pets and to share what I learn with others.

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