Guinea pigs are social, intelligent creatures. They need to be fed on a specific guinea pig diet in order to thrive. And while there is no one food that will make them happy, they do have some unique dietary needs that you should follow if you want your pet guinea pig to live a long and healthy life.
The best way to feed your guinea pig is with hay (for teeth wear), fresh vegetables (to provide vitamin C), fruit (to provide B vitamins) and timothy pellets or alfalfa cubes for their main meal of the day (so they get protein).
In this article you will learn what is the best type of food to give a guinea pig. I will share what you need to know when feeding your guinea pig, including how much food it needs and when to feed it. My family has kept and bred guinea pigs for over 70 years, so you can be assured that we know what we are doing when it comes to guinea pig diet.
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What do guinea pigs eat in the wild?
Guinea pigs are natural herbivores and eat grasses, vegetables, fruits, and hay in the wild- pretty much any vegetation they can get their claws on. Guinea pigs in the wild will spend most of their day foraging for vegetation to eat. A guinea pig’s diet in the wild is mainly hay, root vegetables, and greens, the same as it should be in captivity.
What can I feed my pet guinea pig and how much?
Guinea pigs require a variety of food in order for them to have a balanced diet. If they don’t eat the correct proportions of each type of nutrition, they may become ill. A stomach upset in a guinea pig may lead to pricey vet visits later. You will want to feed and water them every day.
The preferred diet for guinea pigs is low-calcium Timothy hay and pellets. Hay and pellets should be supplemented with fresh, high-fibre food , such as vegetables, fruit, and grasses. Fresh vegetables can be offered once a day and should be equivalent to about one cup total per guinea pig per day.
Hay is the most important food for guinea pigs. They should have access to hay 24/7 so they can eat freely throughout day if they choose. Guinea pigs require this kind of fibre for proper digestion; therefore, it must be available at all times. Constantly eating hay also helps to wear down your guinea pig’s teeth (which just keep growing).
Make sure you purchase fresh, high-quality, clean hay that is dry, sweet-smelling and free of mould. Hay should be offered free-choice throughout the day.
If they are not given access to hay, guinea pigs can eat their bedding material which can cause an intestinal blockage.
What is Timothy Hay?
Timothy hay is a grass hay and comes from the tallgrass prairie and has a sweet smell to it. It has long, hollow stems that grow up to 60 inches tall with leaves that can grow up to 17 inches. The heads of timothy hay are usually 3-6 inches long and are densely packed with spikelets that flower when mature. It is high-fibre, low-protein, high energy with a good calcium to phosphorus ratio. It is great for your guinea pig helping to maintain a shiny coat, good digestion, bowel regularity, and a healthy weight. They will love it.
How long will it take for a guinea pig to eat their hay?
It will take your guinea pig about an hour to eat their body weight in hay! So keep it topped up every day, all day.
Choose pelleted food that has been veterinarian-tested and approved. Too much pellet food means they may not eat enough of their fresh foods so keep this at 1/2 cup per guinea pig per day.
Vegetables to feed your pet guinea pig include:
- Romaine lettuce (never iceberg lettuce)
- Carrots and carrot tops
- Broccoli spears
- Tomatoes (not the stems or leaves)
- Green and red bell peppers
- Other dark green veggies
Fresh, organically grown greens are the best option. New vegetables should be introduced to your pet one at a time.
Guinea pigs can eat fruits such as oranges, apples, pears, peaches, strawberries, blueberries and kiwis.
However, feeding a lot of fruit is not recommended for guinea pigs due to the higher sugar content. Fruit should be limited as an imbalance of intestinal bacteria may cause diarrhea. However, offering small, bite-sized portions of fruit occasionally will delight your guinea pig.
Some types of fruits to offer include those high in vitamin C such as oranges and kiwi, or high fibre fruits such as pears and apples.
Treats and chews should not exceed 10% of the guinea pig’s diet. Avoid seeds and skins when you feed treats such as apples and oranges.
What vegetables can be fed to your Guinea Pig?
Vegetables that can be fed to a guinea pig include romaine lettuce, carrot tops, peas, broccoli spears, spinach and other vegetables offered one at a time so as not overwhelm the appetite or intestinal bacteria.
You should be aiming to give your guinea pigs half a cup of vegetables per day, made up of a mix of the below (Table 1.).
|Yellow and green bell peppers||1 or 2 slices||once a day|
|Red and orange bell peppers||1 or 2 slices||2-3 times a week|
|Cabbage||2 or 3 leaves||twice a week|
|Zucchini||5 or 6 slices (100g)||daily|
|Spinach||2 or 3 small leaves||once a week|
|Broccoli||1 floret with stem and leaf||twice a week|
|Cauliflower||2 small florets and 2 small leaves||twice a week|
|Celery||1 or 2 slices||twice a week|
|Pumpkin||1-2 chunks||twice a week|
What Fruit Can I Feed My Guinea Pig?
Fruits are excellent sources of vitamin C, but they’re also high in sugar, which can cause problems in other areas, i.e., causing your guinea pig to gain weight or develop kidney problems. Always serve fruit in lower quantities than you would vegetables.
In Table 2 below, we’ve put together a list of suitable fruits, and with it the serving sizes and frequency to give your guinea pig.
|Apple||1 piece||once a week|
|Apricot||1 small apricot||twice a week|
|Banana||1 small piece (15g)||once a week|
|Blueberry||1 or 2||once a week|
|Cherry||1 remove pit first||once a week|
|Grapes||2 small grapes||once a week|
|Kiwi||2 slices||once a week|
|Orange||1 segment||once a week|
|Peach||1 slice||once a week|
|Pear||1 piece||once a week|
|Pineapple||1 chunk||once a week|
|Raspberry||1 small raspberry||twice a week|
|Strawberry||1 small strawberry and leaves||once a week|
|Tomato||1 or 2 slices||once a week|
|Watermelon||1 slice (no seeds)||three times a week|
What is the best complete food to give a guinea pig?
When looking for a complete food for your guinea pig read the ingredients. You’ll want one that is filled with antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids that can help support healthy skin and shiny coat. Check that the food contains vegetable pieces that encourage your guinea pigs to keep eating the necessary nutrients.
These are our favourite brands of commercial guinea pig foods available on Amazon :
Do guinea pigs need vitamin C?
Yes, guinea pigs require Vitamin C. Vitamin C and bioflavonoids help to keep the immune system healthy and your guinea pig will need some every day.
Grape-flavored Viralys supplement is one good source of vitamin C for guinea pigs with other vitamins A, D and E which come from vegetables, like carrots.
What should I give my guinea pig for snacks and treats?
Some types of fruits to offer include those high in vitamin C such as oranges and kiwi, or high fiber fruits such as pears and apples.
Other vegetables that contain less vitamin C but are still fine to feed as an occasional treat are:
What should not be in your guinea pig’s diet? Foods that are not safe for Guinea Pigs!
Don’t feed them chocolate, onions, garlic, mushrooms, iceberg lettuce, avocados, nuts, potatoes, seeds or corn kernels. Oats, seeds, nuts and dry cereals should be avoided because they are too high in carbs and fat.
Guinea Pig Food FAQs
Can guinea pigs eat hamster food?
Although a guinea could eat hamster food it is not a good idea. A hamster’s food is made of nuts, seeds, corn which are all choking hazards for your guinea pig.
Can guinea pigs eat raw zucchini?
Zucchini is a nutritious and safe food to offer your guinea pig. Zucchini has about the same amount of Vitamin C and calcium as squash, making it a good source of this vitamin and an acceptable option for guinea pigs.
Can I feed my guinea pig arugula?
Arugula is high in vitamins A and C that are both essential and beneficial to your guinea pig. Vitamin A is important for your guinea pig’s health, and arugula is a wonderful source.
Can I feed my guinea pig almonds?
In small quantities, yes. Almonds are a good source of nutrients including fiber and protein, but can also be harmful to your guinea pigs if they eat too many because the fat levels are very high and lead to rapid weight gain. Always grind them up before feeding. However, bitter almonds are poisonous.
Can you overfeed a guinea pig?
Overfeeding your guinea pig is very easy to do. They are constant eaters and it’s easy to give too much food. A guinea pig’s diet should be equivalent to 80% hay, 15% fresh vegetables and herbs, and 5% of commercial pellets. Overfeeding can harm your guinea pig’s digestive system and cause obesity. To avoid overfeeding your guinea pig, all you have to do is serve them the appropriate sized meals and cut down on non-essential sweet snacks.
Can a guinea pig survive without pellets?
Pellets are an essential part of a guinea pig’s diet which provide nutrients that can’t be found anywhere else. However in the short term if you are feeding hay and vegetables they will survive.
Feeding a guinea pig is not difficult, but it requires diligence. In general, feeding your guinea pig vegetables high in Vitamin C and fiber – such as carrots or cilantro – is a great idea. You must also keep their teeth healthy by giving them hay to chew on regularly.
Here is a quick recap of what you need to know about feeding your guinea pig.
1) You should always have fresh water in their cage for them to drink whenever they want it.
2) Your guinea pig needs Vitamin C every day – so give them some carrot.
3) Good quality hay must be available at all times, and can be supplemented by fresh grass occasionally.
Our guinea pig’s routine is a refill of hay in the morning plus daily pellets and half their daily veggies. At bed time we tuck them in with more hay and the rest of their daily veggie allowance to keep them busy overnight. Guinea pigs will get to know when it’s feeding time, so it’s a good idea to stick to a particular routine each day if you can.