What is one of the first questions that come to mind, once you decide to get a new pet? Of course, the food-related question!
Getting a guinea pig is an amazing idea. These cuddly and cute little friends will surely bring joy into your life. But how much do guinea pigs eat? And what do they eat? Certainly, you don’t want your pet to be hungry. But, at the same time, overeating can be an issue just as important.
In a few words, guinea pigs need about 1/4 cup (one handful) of pellets per day, a continuous access to fresh hay and about one or two handfuls of vegetables on a daily basis.
But there is so much more to this question than this! If you want to be not just an average owner of a guinea pig, but a true loving friend to your pet, then keep reading. We have got you covered on everything that you need to know about your guinea pig’s diet.
How Much and What Do Guinea Pigs Eat?
First of all, you have to know that these little guys are herbivores. They eat only plant matter. But there are still so many things that you can treat your guinea pig with! Even though the majority of products are confirmed to be pretty much safe for your pet, there are some dangerous options out there.
Unfortunately, guinea pigs don’t understand what kind of food is good for them and what is not. So they may end up eating anything you offer them. Be careful. The wrong choice of products might lead to digestion problems, an upset stomach or even worse!
Make sure to follow our list carefully, when feeding your beloved guinea pig.
Basically, pellets are easily digestible chunks of hay with various healthy things added to them. They can be either Alfalfa or Timothy hay based. What are the differences?
Well, the Alfalfa type is high in calcium. This fact makes it the perfect type of pellets for pregnant guinea pigs and for the young ones (under 12 months old) as they are still growing.
On the other hand, too much calcium can be dangerous for adult guinea pigs as it causes bladder stones. So, once your pet is no longer pregnant or is mature enough, you should switch to Timothy hay pellets. The other ingredients and supplements might include various dried vegetables and fruits. As well as additions of vitamin C.
Pellets are better than simple dry food mixes, for example, as they form small pieces that your guinea pig eats fully. Even though food mixes might look more colorful and appealing, the guinea pig can choose for itself what to eat and what not. Therefore, it might not be getting enough vital microelements and all-in-all the diet simply won’t be well-balanced.
Pellets certainly do look ‘boring’. But with those, you will be sure that your tiny friend is getting everything that it needs.
You can easily find various options of pellets in your local pet shop. Make sure to choose the ones that are made especially for guinea pigs.
Grass might be the thing that excites guinea pigs the most. They simply love to eat it.
In case you have an outdoor cage, your guinea pig is already getting enough of fresh, lush grass every day. But make sure to check the spot where you place the cage twice!
Along with the grass itself, guinea pigs might eat other plants. Mowings, for example, may contain fungus and different dangerous plants that are well-disguised. Some of those can cause bloat which is practically a fatal condition for such an animal as a guinea pig.
If you have an indoor cage, a handful of grass per day will do perfectly well. Simply remember to check it thoroughly for different poisonous plants and flowers. Even such common plants as daisies or buttercups can cause problems.
If there is something that guinea pigs shouldn’t live without, that surely is hay. They should have plenty of it at all times.
Hay is not just a comfy bed for your loved pet. It is also something that guinea pigs like to nibble on. By the way, it is easy to help your guinea pig differentiate the hay used for its bed from the hay that it’s supposed to eat. After all, trying to form a new bed every day might be quite exhausting.
Simply try adding a few pellets into the hay that is supposed to be part of your guinea pig’s diet. Not long after your pet will figure out what’s the deal and stop eating its bed.
Hay helps a lot with digestion and is an incredibly important part of any guinea pig’s diet. Moreover, hay is extremely good for the animal’s teeth. As their teeth grow throughout their whole life, guinea pigs should always be able to wear them down. It is important that the hay is high in fiber and low in calories.
Certainly, there are different types of hay. Which one to choose?
Legume hay is high in calcium, protein, contains more calories and less fiber. The most popular options are alfalfa and clover hay. Legume hay might be used when your guinea pig needs that extra protein or simply to provide some variety into its diet. But this type of hay should certainly be used in moderation.
Grass hay, in its turn, is the kind of hay that is recommended for the majority of guinea pigs. Moreover, they should have an unlimited access to it all day long. This type of hay is low in protein and high in fiber. By the way, there are quite a lot of options to choose from. Timothy hay, oat nay, bermuda, and orchard grass. Timothy hay is the most widespread option, as it has not only enough fiber but also a lot of nutrients and minerals essential for your guinea pig.
If you want to go the extra mile with your pet’s diet, then you should know that there are not only different types of hay. It is also important to know when the hay was harvested.
Timothy hay, for example, is cultivated during spring. That means that at the beginning of summer the first harvest takes place. Some farmers decide to wait for the hay to grow again – that will be the second harvest and so on.
The trick here is that a lot of farmers like to grow another culture after harvesting the first cutting. That’s exactly why first cutting Timothy hay is the most widespread type.
If you have a chance, it is always better to choose the second cutting Timothy hay. It is softer and has a more leafy structure. Moreover, there are fewer seed heads in the hay. That means that your guinea pig will be able to focus solemnly on the stems that contain the fiber, instead of picking the seeds.
Fresh Fruits & Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are the exact things that will be giving your little friend the vitamins that it needs. For example, the extremely important vitamin C. Just like us, humans, guinea pigs can’t produce vitamin C on their own. That’s why it is vital for their health to get enough of that element with their diet.
Moreover, a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables contain minerals and are good for your guinea pig’s teeth.
Giving your pet a small cup of vegetables a day may be quite enough. When it comes to fruit, you better feed your guinea pig with those in moderation. An occasional treat a few times a week will do just fine.
Remember that there are a lot of products that can cause digestive problems in your guinea pig. Especially, when it comes to fresh products. By the way, your guinea pig might simply not like some of the fruits and vegetables. So, this part of their diet has to be fully personalized to their taste and needs.
These are the common vegetables that the majority of guinea pigs like to eat:
- skinned beetroot
These products can surely be included in your guinea pig’s daily diet.
When it comes to fruits, bear in mind that most of them are acidic and sugary. And that is exactly why you shouldn’t give too much of those. But in case you still want to treat your pet, here are a few examples of the fruits that are not harmful:
Also remember that if you decide to give your guinea pig fruits and vegetables, make sure that those are fresh and clean. Vitamin C degrades fast under sunlight. So giving your pet yesterday’s vegetables will simply not do it any good.
Even though all-in-all guinea pigs don’t drink a lot of water, they still need the supply to be consistent. A constant supply of fresh and clean water is a must.
A water bottle might be the best option to keep your pet hydrated. Even though a water bowl is a cheaper option, you would have to change the water more frequently as it gets dirty faster. But we have to admit that some guinea pigs find water bowls easier to use.
By the way, water can be used to provide your guinea pig with the essential vitamin C. If you feel like your beloved pet is not getting enough of this vital element, you can try dissolving special additives in the water bottle. Or you can always add a squeeze of orange juice to the water bowl, for example.
A Daily Meal Plan
To sum everything up, here is a short and simple list of all the products that your guinea pig will need every single day.
- Hay and water: a constant supply.
- Pellets: as said on the package or half-one handful of dry food.
- Grass: one handful per day.
- Vegetables: one small cup per day.
- Fruits: a small nibble once a day or a few times per week.
In case your guinea pig is pregnant, is on its recovery period after an illness or is simply a baby that needs more food in order to grow normally – the portions might vary.
Is Your Guinea Pig a Little on the Chubby Side?
You certainly do have to pay attention to the weight of your beloved pet. And that does not necessarily mean that you have to actually take the poor guy and weight it.
Guinea pigs are tiny animals and it will be easy for you to spot if your pet started gaining weight. Of course, that might be not only a food-related problem. Your guinea pig might simply not be getting enough exercise, so it is always a great idea to have some toys that it can play with.
But what if the root cause is actually in your pet’s food schedule?
The good news is that you don’t have to put your guinea pig on a strict diet. Simply try reducing the amount of dry food that you are giving to it.
At first, try limiting it to a quarter of a cup per day. Bear in mind that losing weight is not a fast process and you might want to keep an eye on your guinea pig for at least a couple of months before taking the next step.
In case, your pet fails to lose the extra weight, you can limit the daily norm of dry food even more.
Don’t worry. Such measures certainly won’t affect the health of your guinea pig. As long as you don’t reduce the portions of water and vegetables full of the vital amounts of vitamin C, of course.
Obesity is a dangerous condition. Especially, for such small creatures as guinea pigs. So make sure to control it. By the way, don’t forget to check if your beloved pet is pregnant or not before reducing the amount of dry food you are giving it.
How Much Do Baby Guinea Pigs Eat?
Right after their birth, guinea pigs will be drinking their mother’s milk. After that, they can easily switch to solid foods all on their own. But what if the mother refuses to feed her children?
Then you would have to feed the baby guinea pig on your own.
There is nothing too complicated about that. You can use goat’s milk (the higher percentage of fat – the better). Or you can create a mixture out of evaporated milk and water. A great idea is to leave brown bread in the milk so that it soaks the fluid in. Later on, the little ones can suck on the bread.
In any case, it is better and safer to use a teaspoon instead of a syringe. Feed the babies a little more often than every two hours. Give the little guinea pigs as much milk as they will ask for, as they will stop eating once they are full.
What to Do if our Guinea Pig Doesn’t Want to Eat?
Loss of appetite is the type of condition that can worsen quickly, so do pay a visit to the vet if there are no positive changes within a couple of days.
Your guinea pig may refuse to eat at all or have a partial loss of appetite. The first scenario might occur if your pet has an infection. Trying to treat such a condition on your own can be dangerous for the guinea pig’s life.
A partial loss of appetite might be a signal that your little friend has other problems. For example, you might not be providing it with enough fresh water. Remember that not only the amount of fluid matters but also its purity.
The guinea pig might also be unable to chew properly. And even though it is hungry, it simply can’t eat. Visiting the vet is your only option in this case.
Exposure to extreme temperatures might also be the reason for the loss of appetite. In fact, any stressful situation can make your guinea pig neglect food. Moving the cage to another place, for example, or any changes of that sort. Moreover, introducing new products into your pet’s diet may be followed by such a quiet protest.
Guinea pigs are extremely gentle and vulnerable animals, so make sure to take their feelings into consideration at all times.
The Perfect Eating Schedule
Certainly, different pet owners have their own tips and recommendations. Some prefer giving their guinea pigs all of their daily food at once. Others like to feed their pet with dry food in the morning and with vegetables and fruits in the evening.
You will surely find out which option is more comfortable for you and your guinea pig throughout time.
What you have to bear in mind is that guinea pigs are creatures of a habit. That’s right. They like to know their schedule. In fact, they would be absolutely happy to awake, go to bed, play and eat at the same time every single day.
If you are somehow unable to stick to a schedule, your guinea pig might get stressed out. And that, in its turn, may lead to various problems and even diseases.
Ideally, you have to pick a time during the day when you will surely be feeding your guinea pig. Whether it will be in the morning, in the afternoon or twice a day – that is totally up to you. But make sure to follow the schedule every day.
By the way, if you are an hour late or early the guinea pig won’t really notice, but this time limit is the absolute maximum.
Which Foods Should You Avoid?
When it comes to vegetables and fruits, you can feel free to play around a little bit. Guinea pigs would be happy to try out a lot of new things. And only by giving your beloved pet a variety of choices, you will be able to figure out what it prefers and what it actually hates. Remember that too many vegetables and fruits can cause diarrhea, so don’t get too excited.
You have to know that there are some foods (not only fruits and vegetables) that you should never give your guinea pig even a try of.
Here is the dangerous list:
- Dairy products
- Tomato leaves
- Raw beans
- Human snacks
- Iceberg lettuce
- Anything with sugar (except for fruits, of course)
All the foods above are extremely bad for the guinea pig’s digestive system. They can easily lead to diarrhea (and that would surely be the best case scenario). Others might simply kill your beloved pet. Chocolate, for example, is simply poisonous to guinea pigs.
- How much do guinea pigs eat?
- What do they eat?
- What to do if the poor creature has digestive problems?
We have covered all these complicated questions. And even though there is quite a lot that you should know about the guinea pigs diet, they still make amazing pets.
After all, there is a reason why guinea pigs are considered to be the best animals for kids. They are low maintenance and literally, anyone can take care of them.
Most of the digestive problems, for example, can be solved simply by adding more hay and fresh water into their daily diet. That’s a huge plus.
Moreover, trying to come up with a menu for your beloved guinea pig can be extremely exciting. You can even create your own recipes of fresh fruit salads! Just like humans, guinea pigs have an individual taste. And that is what makes the whole process even more fun.
Trying to figure out what your guinea pig loves and what makes him squeal with joy, isn’t that amazing?
The longer you will be having a guinea pig, the more tips and pieces of advice you will be able to accumulate on your own. And don’t forget to share that priceless knowledge with us!