What is Poisonous to Guinea Pigs? (Foods and Toys to Avoid)


Guinea pigs are among the most popular indoor pets, especially in households with children. 

Healthy guinea pigs, also called cavies, can be very social and playful with their owners. They communicate by squealing and demonstrate their happiness by “popcorning” (bouncing in the air).  But as with many pocket pets, guinea pigs must be adequately cared for to ensure they live a full and healthy life.

What is poisonous to guinea pigs?  Guinea pigs are herbivores; therefore, they cannot eat anything derived from animals, nor can they be fed certain fruits, vegetables, and household plants due to their toxicity to cavies. Concerning toys, any item with a finish (paint, lacquer, varnish, wax) that can be chewed off and ingested or with small pieces that can be bitten off and choked on, should be avoided.

Because of their natural behavior, guinea pigs will try to eat anything that will fit in their mouths and will chew on anything in their cages. 

There is no way to train them out of this behavior, so it is best to adapt to them.  Read on to find out what is poisonous to guinea pigs, as well as the foods and toys that you should avoid giving them to help ensure that they live healthy lives.

What Foods are Poisonous to Guinea Pigs?

food-not-to-feed-guinea-pigs

The best pet owners are ones who take the time to learn about their animals, including their feeding habits and playing behavior. 

Guinea pigs are part of the rodent family, and they are the domesticated descendants of wild guinea pigs that roamed the forests and grasslands of South America, foraging for grasses and other wild greens for sustenance. 

Their nickname, cavy or cavies, comes from their scientific name, Cavia porcellus.

There are four critical facts to know about the eating habits of guinea pigs:

  1. They are instinctual foragers, meaning that digging and scrounging is in their DNA.
  2. Their teeth are continually growing, so their diet must consist of highly fibrous foods to help wear down their teeth naturally. Otherwise, they can have serious dental problems.
  3. They are voracious eaters that lack any sense of what they can and cannot eat. They will happily munch on a toxic food, utterly oblivious to the fact that it can kill them.
  4. They will chew on anything and everything they can get their little paws on.

With these characteristics in mind, guinea pig owners must be aware of the many foods that are harmful to the animal. Ingesting some of these will cause temporary digestive problems, while others are highly toxic to cavies and may lead to severe illness or even death.  

Here are some foods that are known to be poisonous to guinea pigs, broken down into categories:

Fruits & Vegetables

Contrary to what you may think, not all fruits and vegetables can be fed to guinea pigs, even though they are natural foods. As a general rule, fruits may be given (except bananas) to guinea pigs in small amounts (a tablespoon or two) several times a week as treats – but be sure to remove the seeds. Fruits that are high in natural sugar will do your cavy more harm than good when given in excessive amounts.

When it comes to vegetables, there are certain ones that you must avoid feeding your guinea pig at all costs. These include the following:

  • Avocadoes
  • Cabbage
  • Dried beans, corn, and peas 
  • Garlic
  • Iceberg lettuce
  • Onions
  • Potatoes
  • Radishes
  • Rhubarb and its leaves
  • Sweet peas

Seeds, Grains, and Nuts

This is another category of foods that are seemingly harmless because they are natural, but can be poisonous to guinea pigs and should be avoided:

  • Cereals of any kind
  • Grains
  • Nuts
  • Rice
  • Seeds of any kind

Household and Garden Plants

dont-feed-guinea-pigs-lilies

Even though guinea pigs foraged for grasses and greens in the wild before they were domesticated, there are a variety of household and garden plants that are highly toxic for them. There is an understandable temptation to feed leaves and clippings to cavies, but even if the plants are not poisonous themselves, they can have any traces of pesticides or herbicides on them that can harm your guinea pig when consumed.

Avoid feeding the following household and garden plants to your guinea pig:

  • Daffodils
  • Foxglove
  • Lilies of any kind
  • Nightshade
  • Shrubs, especially hemlock and privet

Man-Made Foods (Processed)

When it comes to toxicity, processed foods may be the most dangerous of all to guinea pigs. For families with young children, special attention must be given to ensure that the little ones are not sharing their toddler snacks with their furry little friend.  

The following are particularly poisonous for guinea pigs:

  • Biscuits and crackers
  • Bread
  • Chocolate of any kind
  • Dairy products
  • Peanut butter
  • Potato chips
  • Pickled foods of any kind
  • Sugary foods

Additionally, foods derived from animals should never be fed to guinea pigs as they are strictly herbivores and cannot correctly digest animal material.  Furthermore, guinea pigs tend to overeat, which can lead to obesity and heart ailments, so it is essential to remove uneaten food from their cage.

What Foods are Safe to Feed my Guinea Pig?

The primary staple of healthy guinea pig’s diet is hay, specifically Timothy hay, which provides essential roughage and nutrients. Guinea pigs also need vitamin C, which can be provided to them in the form of specially formulated guinea pig pellets. The occasional safe fruits and vegetables will round out a well-balanced diet to keep your cavy healthy and well-fed.

What Toys Should be Avoided?

toys-to-give-guinea-pigs

Not only are guinea pigs voracious eaters, but they also love to chew things.  This is a necessary behavior considering that their teeth continue to grow throughout their lifetime. Chewing, biting, and gnawing on toys helps keep their teeth length in check and prevents future dental problems.  Because of these instincts, however, the pet owner needs to ensure that only cavy-safe toys are placed in the cage.

Guinea pigs are naturally playful, and keeping them active is key to their health and well-being.  If you have a guinea pig, toys are a must. 

Here are a few helpful guidelines when choosing safe toys for your guinea pigs:

  • Avoid toys that are finished with paint, varnish, stain, or lacquer, as these are harmful substances that can be ingested by your guinea pig when biting, chewing, or gnawing on them.
  • Avoid toys that are assembled with glue, which may be toxic if ingested, or held together with small staples or nails, as these may also be ingested or choked on.
  • Avoid toys that have small parts that can be bitten off because they may pose a choking hazard for your guinea pig.
  • Avoid toys with plastic components since little pieces can be chewed off and swallowed (even if the plastic itself is nontoxic, it may cause injury passing through the guinea pig’s digestive system).

Are There Toys that are Safe for my Guinea Pig?

When it comes to safe toys to occupy and entertain your little friend, there are plenty of options available. The most important thing to remember is that these toys will be bitten, chewed, and gnawed on from the moment you place them in the cage with your guinea pig. It is safe to assume that whatever material the toys are made from will eventually find their way into your cavy’s mouth.

Natural fiber balls are great for guinea pigs, as are natural chew toys of various shapes and sizes.

Final Thoughts on Guinea Pig Care

While guinea pigs can provide endless entertainment and even companionship to a loving owner or family, they do require a certain level of responsibility in their feeding and care. In particular, a guinea pig owner needs to be acutely aware of what can and cannot be fed to cavies. 

Knowing their unique dietary needs will ensure that your guinea pig will live a full and healthy life while providing you the joys of guinea pig ownership along the way.

25 thoughts on “What is Poisonous to Guinea Pigs? (Foods and Toys to Avoid)

  1. Great page thankyou. Ive kust adopted 4 girl guinea pigs. They are very skittish and nervous but Im assuming they will settle. Is there anything I can do to help this? Is it ok to feed them bell peppers if I remove the aeeds? Thankyou

    1. Yes! You can feed them bell peppers. They do have a higher sugar content so I would only give each of them a sliver or two a day. Guinea pigs are nervous anytime their surroundings are changed so they should calm down. I would make sure they have enough hidey holes for each of them to be able to nest as this helps A TON with initial nerves. Also lots of good food and quiet surroundings will help them to realize they are not in danger and start to acclimate to their new home. Sometimes it can take up to 6 months for them to fully warm up to you especially if they are young. Be patient, and don’t ever chase them with your hands. If you want to pick them up, it’s best to find a spot where they’ve already cornered themselves and pet them for a moment before gently lifting. This will help them warm up to you. Don’t hold them for more than a few minutes at first as they will be very nervous. Sit next to the cage with a book or some other activity for as long as you can until they seem warmed up to you. Again, this can take months but be patient! Good luck to you and your new babies!

    1. Iceberg lettuce will not kill them, but it might give them some tummy upset. There is not enough nutritional value and too high of a water content in iceberg so I would watch them carefully for the next few hours for any weird poops or difference in behaviors.

    2. 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.

  2. thank you.I really needed this because one of my guinea pig lizzie chews ON EVERY thing. and it is so good to know that I have did every thing so well because a 10 year old like my self mite of done every thing that they weren’t souposed to do. oh and anna can you tell me if this cage is good for my 2 guinea pigs.Kaytee Open Living Habitat 60″ x 30″. just search it up on amazon and tell me because I really like how much space it has because lizzie is bad and so she jumps out of her gage and young summer follows lizzie everywhere and so they just run around my room at night. So I was really thinking if they have more space they won’t go out of there cage,and insted stay in the cage and play in there.

    also I am using my dad name and email. but my real name is Naiomi.😊😊

    1. Yes it works great I have one for my guinea pig and he loves it his name is stripe and I have the open living cage but mine is 24×48 and thats just for my 1 so I think the 30×60 for your 2 would be great

  3. I recently got a pig.didnt know that 2 is nesacerry due to sadness issue.I want to get another soon as possible but i needed to read up on some knowledge of how to pick a good one so they will get along.Im kinda worried that they may fight or not be friendly .Whats the best way to introduce these 2 so it wont be a blood issue

  4. So I just bought a female baby pig and she is so shy! I got her for my son and I read on Google it was ok to feed them banana! I gave her some today! Is that ok? Idk what to do! Also how can I get her to warm up. I have to put a blanket over her cage so she will come out to eat and drink. If the blankets not over her she refuses to come out idk what to do. When I was a kid I had one who was very outgoing and loved being held but this one is so shy. Any tips is much appreciated!

    1. Do not cover the cage, I was told this by a vet they need ventilation. Once she gets used to her surroundings she will come out of her shell. Bananas are fine in small amounts as treats. You should lean towards more veggies. Look up what veggies are okay for guinea pigs.

      1. I looked it up and Google says you can cover the cage but only a little bit so the guinea pig can get some air like the spot ware it likes to sleep thats all I did with mine until he got use to me

    2. Watch Saskia on LAguineapigrescue on YouTube and she teaches you how to tame your guinea pig and everything else you need to know about piggies. Enjoy : )

  5. I rescued a female pig 2-3 yrs ago and now I have to find her a new home for . My asthma has gotten a lot worse lately and she is partly the reason. If anyone can help me out that would be great

    1. Try switching to orchard grass from Timothy hay. I thought I had developed allergies and asthma to my piggies, but it was the grass. Since we’ve switched I’ve had no issues.

  6. Our guinea girls are in a double-decker hutch with a ramp. To make the ramp less steep we have raised it up & put a wood block as a step up to it. We have now added a brick as an additional step. Will my guineas gnaw on the brick & would it be harmful to them?

    1. They shouldnt chew at it, but i would keep a close watch and ee if they try to. If they do, i would replace it with a wood block of some sort that would be safe for them to chew on. If they only chew at th brick a little it shouldnt hurt them, but if they chew a lot of it i would get them checked out just to make sure. Just keep an eye on them though and it should be good.

  7. My ginnie is pregnant i have her and her mate in the same cage should saeperate them when sge is about to give birth?

  8. My grandma fed my guinea pig garlic. Though I believe he only too about two bite. He is doing good and is alive but his poop is soft. What should I do??

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