What Do Guinea Pigs Eat and Why Does it Matter?

What do Guinea Pigs Eat
The cute and adorable guinea pig is one of the favorite pets in the world. In this article, you can find out what foods guinea pig can eat, as well as the foods that need to be avoided.
Did You Know?
A guinea pig's teeth grow continuously throughout its life. But the act of grazing or grinding helps wear down the teeth and maintain their correct length.

Guinea pigs, commonly known as cavies, are rodents of the family Caviidae and genus Cavia. The scientific name of guinea pig is Cavia porcellus. Guinea pigs have no relation with pigs, neither do they come from Guinea. Instead, they are considered as the descendants of a related species of cavy like, Cavia aperea, Cavia fulgida, or Cavia tschudii, and they originated in South America.

Once known only as a model organism for biological experimentation, guinea pigs are currently quite popular in Western countries as household pets. A guinea pig is perhaps one of the cutest and adorable pets that one can have. These small, furry rodents can be quite delightful to have around, provided they are properly fed and taken care of. Let's find out what do guinea pigs eat and what foods they should avoid, in order to remain healthy and active.

Foods that Guinea Pigs can Eat

Only a good diet can ensure the health of your pet. To keep your guinea pigs healthy and active, it is important to provide them an adequate amount of hay and pellets, along with vegetables and fruits.

Hay and Pellets

a guinea pig with hay

The natural diet of a guinea pig consists of grass, hay, and pellets. Pellets can be found in almost all pet stores. But be sure to purchase quality pellets. In general, Timothy based pellets are the best pellets for your little cavy. In addition to pellets, you can feed your guinea pig fresh Timothy hay as grass and hay help maintain its digestive and oral health. Otherwise, the teeth of your little cavy can become too long, which can cause serious dental problems. Apart from Timothy hay, your little guinea pig would enjoy
  • Grass
  • Ryegrass hay
  • Meadow hay
  • Oat hay
  • Bluegrass hay
  • Orchard grass
  • Brome grass hay
While buying hay, always look for green and soft hay. Many people prefer to give alfalfa hay to their guinea pigs. But, alfalfa hay contains too much calcium, which can increase the risk of developing bladder stones. In fact, an excess consumption of alfalfa hay may cause obesity in guinea pigs.

Vegetables and Herbs

Guinea pigs love green leafy vegetables. However, an excessive consumption of vegetables can cause diarrhea. So, be sure to give them vegetables only in moderation. Following are some of the vegetables and herbs that can be given to these rodents.
  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Broccoli
  • Celery
  • Bok choy
  • Cabbage
  • Bell peppers
  • Cilantro
  • Red leaf lettuce
  • Green leaf lettuce
  • Swiss chard
  • Kale
  • Tomatoes
  • Curly endive
  • Romain
  • Spinach
  • Dandelion
  • Escarole
  • Basil
Out of these, carrots, cucumbers, cilantro, Swiss chard, escarole, and curly endive, can be given to your guinea pig every alternate day. Other vegetables can be fed occasionally. However, an excess consumption of vegetables of the cabbage family can cause gas and bloating in your little cavy.

Fruits

a guinea pig with an apple

Fruits are also an important component of a balanced and healthy diet. Guinea pigs love to eat apples (without the seeds) and orange slices. However, give them orange only once in a week, as its excess consumption may cause mouth sores.

Guinea pigs cannot synthesize vitamin C. So, they have to obtain this nutrient from their diet. Usually, the commercial pellets available for them are fortified with vitamin C. The leafy green vegetables can also provide a sufficient amount of this vitamin. But still, you can include small quantities of vitamin C rich fruits in their diet to ensure that they do not experience a deficiency of this vitamin. The fruits that can be included in a guinea pig's diet are
  • Grapes
  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Mangoes
  • Bananas
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Citrus fruits
Foods to be Avoided

Plants like buttercap, lily of the valley, hemlock, bracken, bryony, mayweed, privet, ragwort, rhubarb, hellebore, wild celery, onion, deadly nightshade, foxglove, and iceberg lettuce, are not considered good for guinea pigs. So, keep them away from these plants. You should also avoid giving them foods like raw beans, nuts and seeds, grains, popcorn, potatoes, taro, mushrooms, ice cream, sugary foods, chips, meat, fish, cheese, hamster food, pickled vegetables, eggs, too much of dairy and caffeine containing products like chocolates, and bread and baked goods like cookies. It is better to have a talk with a veterinarian to know more about the foods that your guinea pig should not eat.

Guinea pigs do not respond well to any sudden change in their diet. Therefore, it is better to introduce a new food slowly and gradually. You can also talk to a veterinarian and follow his or advice in this regard. Along with nutritious foods, never forget to provide fresh water to your guinea pig. Be sure to keep its cage neat and clean by replacing soiled and dirty bedding. Also keep your guinea pig well-groomed, and allow it to exercise or play outside its cage.
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