Guinea pigs are the perfect animals for so many reasons. And one of them is that cavies are relatively easy to take care of. Feeding included. All guinea pigs need is a constant supply of fresh water and hay and 1/8 cup of pellets per day. You can also be adding vegetables and fruits to your beloved pet’s diet. But, all-in-all, the menu is as simple as it can be.
Today we are going to be talking about an extremely important thing in every guinea pig’s life. And that is hay. Cavies should be surrounded with hay at all times. They eat it, they play with it, they make beds out of it… If there is something that you have to pay extra attention to, as a great guinea pig owner, it is, of course, hay.
We will tell you exactly why this thing is so important. Moreover, by the end of this article, you will know what types of hay can be found on the market and what are the differences between them. Ultimately, you will find out what brand is going to work better for your fluffy ball of happiness.
In case you want to get to the point as quickly as possible, here is our list of the best hay for guinea pigs:
However, if you want to get to know all the pros and cons of each option – keep on reading.
Why Is Hay Important?
First things first, why are we saying that hay is essential for the well-being of a guinea pig?
Well, when cavies were running around in the wild, they always had grass, sticks and other things to chew on. That’s just what guinea pigs do. Now, when cavies have been domesticated, it is all up to you what your beloved pet would be getting on a daily basis.
Hay does not only provide the guinea pigs with important fiber. With the help of hay that cavies like to nibble on, their teeth will wear down. If you are planning to adopt a guinea pig, you should already know by now that the teeth of these rodents continue to grow throughout their whole life. In case the poor things have nothing to chew, the teeth will start to overgrow. Such a situation can cause a lot of inconveniences, as well as appear to be fatal in the end. Simply assuming that the small portions of food that you give to your guinea pig should be enough to help it wear its teeth down is wrong. The cage of your fluffy ball should be full of fresh hay at all times. But that’s not the only major advantage of hay.
As we have already mentioned, this thing contains a lot of fiber. And fiber is extremely important for digestion. Roughage will help keep the digestive tract of your animal moving which will help in avoiding a lot of health problems.
But even though the hay that you’re going to be giving to your guinea pig should be high in fiber, it shouldn’t have a lot of calories, calcium, and protein. Only pregnant, nursing guinea pigs or the cavies that are recovering from illness might need more of those things (however, you should always consult your vet). On a daily basis, calories can make your guinea pig become too fat. And as cavies can’t regulate the levels of calcium and protein in their bodies, their excess might cause bladder stones to appear. That’s also an unpleasant condition that can lead to a lot of dangerous complications.
Now you understand why hay is so important for our little fellows. The problem is that there are so many different types of hay for you to choose from!
Which one should you choose?
What Are the Types of Guinea Pig Hay?
Bear in mind that there are two main groups of hay out there:
- Legume Hay
- Grass Hay
The first option is high in calcium, protein, calories and doesn’t have a lot of fibers.
But wait a minute. Is there a situation in which your guinea pig would need that? If your dear animal is recovering from an illness it might need those extra calories. As well as calcium and protein. Pregnant and lactating sows need these things to ensure that their babies have enough biological material to build a healthy body. Moreover, young cavies may also need more protein.
However, sometimes owners decide to give legume hay to their guinea pig to simply provide a bit of variety. Give legume hay to healthy, grown-up guinea pigs in moderation. Though grass hay certainly is a better option for them.
Alfalfa and clover hay are the two most popular types of legume hay.
But, to be honest, the hay of choice for adult guinea pigs is usually grass hay. This type has a lot of fiber and nutrients that are essential for your pet’s teeth and overall health.
Just like with legume hay there are different types of grass hay. For example, oat hay, orchard grass, bermuda grass, Timothy Hay. The majority of owners prefers Timothy hay as it’s the most widely available option.
But bear in mind that not only the type of hay affects the quality. It is also important to know when the hay was harvested. Let’s take Timothy hay as an example.
In the stores, you can find first, second and third cutting of the Timothy Hay. The reason why the farmers do that is pretty obvious, the majority of them want to try and get as much money as they possibly can from their crops. That’s why they try and grow as much hay as they can during the season. The first cutting is extremely rich in fiber. However, guinea pigs tend to prefer the second cutting as the stems are a bit softer, thus more pleasant to chew on. The third cutting is considered to be the most delicious one for our cavies, but, unfortunately, it doesn’t have enough fiber in it. So you can choose to add the third cutting as a treat, rather than a constant supply.
Proper storage is extremely important as it will help you preserve the hay fresh and full of all the necessary nutrients. The room where you keep the hay should be well ventilated, cool, dark and dry. Better put a cover of some sort on the hay, so that there is no dust, but make sure that the air can still circulate. If stored properly, hay can be preserved for around a year.
Best Hay for Guinea Pigs
There are quite a few brands on the market that you can choose from. We’ve decided to help you save some time and come up with our own list of best hay for guinea pigs.
1. Small Pet Select 2nd Cutting “Perfect Blend” Timothy Hay Pet Food
Timothy hay is the most obvious choice for guinea pigs. Small Pet gives you the chance to choose 2nd cutting Timothy Hay. That means that the stems will be relatively soft but still contain a lot of fiber. Moreover, the hay will have a small number of flower heads that guinea pigs love.
The hay has been hand-selected and packaged in small batches. The great thing is that the actual box can be opened and closed to help you keep the hay nice and fresh. Available in 12 lbs, 20 lbs, and 60 lbs.
2. Oxbow Animal Health Orchard Grass Hay for Pets
If you want to go for something other than Timothy hay, then take orchard grass into consideration.
The product is nutritious and smells really nice. The hay is high in fiber and low in protein. Most guinea pigs appreciate the taste of this leafy option.
By the way, you can experiment a little and combine this sweet-smelling orchard grass hay with other less pricey options.
3. Kaytee Timothy Hay
This brand hand-selects the hay to ensure the proper leaf to stem ratio and long strands. The fact that Timothy hay is low in calcium and protein it helps support the urinary system of the pet.
By the way, Kaytee Timothy Hay has been named America’s number 1 hay brand. Available in 20 lbs.
4. Small Pet Select 1st Cutting “High Fiber” Timothy Hay Pet Food
The hay is hand-selected and packaged in small batches. We already know that the 1st cutting has the largest amount of fiber in it. But this particular product is still quite soft and leafy. Moreover, the guinea pigs love the flower heads. The 1st cutting is especially recommended to the poor cavies that have had issues with their digestive tract. Available in 5 lbs, 20 lbs, 50 lbs.
5. Standlee Premium Western Forage Timothy Hay
This is an all-natural product that has absolutely no additives. The ingredients literally say “100% sun-cured premium Timothy grass”. And that’s what you will be getting.
A great choice for those who love the old-style packaging. It’s a box that you can easily reclose after each use. Available in 25 lbs.
6. Vitakraft Timothy Hay Sweet Grass
The product has been compressed into mini bales. These bales, in their turn, can be easily broken into ‘slices’ if you need to. That is great for the owners that don’t want to be cleaning a lot.
The package can be resealed to ensure that the hay stays fresh. Generally, guinea pigs love the sweet taste of this product that has no unnecessary additives.
Whether you would want to leave the hay loose for your guinea pig to nibble on, or place the stems and leaves into a bin or hopper – it is all up to you. The most important rule, when it comes to hay and guinea pigs, is that cavies should have unlimited access to hay all day long.
Thankfully, now you have a few great options to choose from.