What Do Guinea Pigs Eat?

what-do-guinea-pigs-eatThere are a huge range of different guinea pig foods for sale, and much conflicting advice on discussion forums about how best to feed your guinea pig.

For anyone wondering what guinea pigs eat, what follows is a complete introduction to the guide. Simply follow these steps and you’ll be well on your way to a happy and healthy guinea pig…

What do Guinea Pigs Eat?

Guinea pigs are herbivorous animals – that is to say that they feed almost exclusively on plant material.

Unlike some other rodents – such as hamsters and gerbils – they are unlikely to enjoy or even eat insects like locusts and crickets.

In terms of what the feed guinea pigs there are a number of food groups that you should be able to check off your list…

Fresh Water

Guinea pigs can drink a surprising amount, so should have fresh water available at all times. This is generally best provided in a drinking bottle, which helps to keep the water clean and fresh. Water made available on a bowl is usually soon made dirty and so is less hygienic.

It is good practise to empty your guinea pig’s water bottle every day and refill it with clean water, rather than only changing the bottle when the water runs out. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, water that has been left to sit for some days – especially in warm and sunny weather – is likely to be less fresh and healthy than water straight from the tap.

Secondly, a guinea pig that suddenly starts to drink considerably more or less than usual can be an indication of health problems. If you get into the habit of replenishing the water daily you’ll be better placed to see if your pet’s water consumption suddenly changes. Under such circumstances it is wise to consult a veterinarian for professional advice.

Hay

In the wild, guinea pigs feed extensively on wild plants, in particular a range of grasses. Hay is essentially dried grass, which is both delicious to your pet and also provides a useful source of fibre.

Hay that is left on the floor of the cage cat get soiled, so it is better to invest in a hay rack which keeps the hay off the floor. Your guinea pig then drag out the amount that it wants, keeping the remainder fresh and nutritious.

Guinea Pig Mix

The third aspect of a balanced and healthy diet is one of the many commercially-available guinea pig mixes. These typically come in the form of a “muesli” type or a pelleted variety.

The muesli-type guinea pig foods look appealing to our human eyes, being as they are filled with an assortment of different seeds, flakes and dried vegetables. However sadly guinea pigs have an unfortunate habit of sorting carefully through the food, picking out only those bits which they enjoy most.

For this reason it is generally a better idea to feed a food that consists of uniform pellets or kibbles, in order to ensure that your pet benefits from all the nutrients required.

Your aim should be to ensure that your guinea pigs bowl is never fully empty; like water, your guinea pig should have access to their pellets at all times.

Vitamin C

Guinea pigs are one of the few animals which (like humans) cannot create their own vitamin C. Without suitable levels of vitamin C guinea pigs can suffer from scurvy; which is neither pleasant for the owner nor animal.

In order to avoid this situation it is critical to provide your guinea pig with as much variety in their diet as possible.

Some authorities suggest supplementing the diet with additional vitamin C. This is most easily achieved by purchasing a water-soluble vitamin C supplement from a pet shop which can then be added to your guinea pig’s water bottle.

Vegetables

The provision of vegetables should be considered a critical and integral part of feeding guinea pigs, as opposed to an occasional treat.

A range of vegetables may be fed including celery, carrots, bell peppers, broccoli and cabbage.

Fruits

Guinea pigs generally love fruits, but due to the fact that they are high in sugar they should only be fed in moderation. Ideally, fruits should be seen as an occasional treat, rather than a stable part of your pet’s everyday diet.

Examples of suitable fruits include apple, pear, melon and strawberries.

Wild Plants

It should come as no surprise that a range of wild and garden plants can be safely fed to your guinea pigs. Of these, fresh grass is arguably the most enjoyed of all. If feeding grass to your guinea pigs you should avoid feeding clippings from your mower – which can taint the grass – and instead tug handfuls out manually.

Other wild plants which may be safely fed include chickweed and dandelion leaves (a perennial favourite).

Treats

A range of guinea pig treats are available in pet shops, and may be fed in moderation. These should, however, never become part of the regular diet, lest nutritional deficiencies arise. A handy and greatly-enjoyed treat among guinea pigs is a piece of wholemeal or granary toast – especially on a cold day.

What Foods Can’t You Feed To Guinea Pigs?

While the above guinea pig food list should provide you with an extensive list of guinea pig foods to get started with, it is also important to appreciate that there are many foods which are toxic to guinea pigs and should never be fed.

The following foods should never be fed to your guinea pigs:

  • Rhubarb
  • Onions
  • Potato
  • Tomato leaves
  • Flower bulbs

Disagreement exists regarding citrus fruits, with some authorities recommending you steer clear of them, while others feel they offer beneficial vitamin C. In in doubt, we would encourage you to avoid feeding them, and instead to rely on a dietary vitamin C supplement if necessary.