What Do Guinea Pigs Eat In The Wild?

What Do Guinea Pigs Eat In The Wild

Wild guinea pigs are found in the grasslands and mountains of Brazil, Peru, Uruguay, and Argentina. They are as cute as their domesticated counterparts. Guinea pigs are also commonly known as cavies and they live from one to four years. Many people wonder what guinea pigs eat in the wild when they have no owner to look after them, where they are their own guardians.

What do guinea pigs eat in the wild? Guinea pigs living in the wild enjoy a vegetarian diet. They love eating hay, flowers, grass, and leaves. Clover is a special treat for guinea pigs’ taste and enjoyment. They search for food in the wild and are active and awake from day to night.

The difference in wild and domestic guinea pigs

Guinea pigs in the wild are quite different from domestic guinea pigs in various context. The range of factors differs such as their emotions, exploration and anxiety, social behavior, social attraction, stress levels, and psychological adaptations. However, despite the differences in behavior, wild and domestic guinea pigs retain the same diet and look for the same kind of food.

Guinea Pigs’ Diet In The Wild

Guinea pigs are herbivores and they don’t eat meat. Wild guinea pigs don’t eat processed pellets unlike domestic guinea pigs to stay healthy. They love eating fruits and vegetables such as bell peppers, mustard greens, kale, apples, carrots, bananas, and blueberries.

They don’t drink water if they eat moist food. Guinea pigs eat wild plants that are safe to eat, including chickweed and dandelion leaves. They adapt to their environment and they learn which foods they should avoid. Guinea pigs are also fond of eating fresh grass.

The habitat of wild guinea pigs

Wild guinea pigs need to be aware of predators as they like roaming and running in the open mountains and cherish freedom. They enjoy digging themselves underground and co-exist in domestic groups.

It’s a known fact that guinea pigs are strict herbivores and they only eat plants. In the wild, they graze on wild grass and they spend up to twenty hours in a day chewing fibrous leaves and stems. This kind of natural and wild diet gives them a perfect balance of calcium, fiber and Vitamin C for good digestion and healthy teeth.

Wild guinea pigs are found in large numbers in the grassy plains of Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia.

They live in small groups that consist of pups, they often shelter under crevasses and rock ledges. They use whistles to notify other group members about any danger in the same vicinity.

Baby guinea pigs are known as pups and are usually born with open eyes and with hair. Right from the time of their birth, they are able to run and eat solid food. Survival abilities of pups decrease mortality rate among guinea pigs.

Guinea Pig Diet Preference

Being herbivorous animals, they eat plants and similar materials only to gain all the necessary nutrients needed for their survival. Seeds, barks, flowers, leaves, and grass constitute most of their nutrients at the mountain slopes while living in the wild. Guinea pigs’ natural diet is full of vitamin C and it is of the extreme importance of living healthy and to survive effectively.

Eating Patterns of Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs graze constantly instead of eating a large quantity of food at once. They normally do this in the twilight hours, when there are lesser chances of predators being around.

They tread firmed paths that are used to get between their burrows and food sources. In the wild, they can also be spotted in a mass gathering, when many guinea pigs are in the same area with abundant food.

Fresh Food Is a Must For Healthy Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs get healthy food from minerals and vitamins in fresh vegetables and fruits. Since guinea pigs are unable to make vitamin C, they compensate by intaking a lot of vitamin C in their diet for their survival.

It is recommended to give domestic guinea pig pets plenty of vitamin C. Similarly, in the wild, they eat vitamin-enriched food. Prominent examples in this category include red pepper, dark green leafy vegetables, and other vitamin-supplemented natural food.

The variety of food they get in the wild lets them evade the risk of being loaded up with only one specific diet.

What Guinea Pigs Like To Eat?

Preferably, guinea pigs like to eat a vegan diet and eat almost everything that grows on the ground. Living amidst nature gives them access to a huge variety of plants that guinea pigs like to eat. Other than hay, vegetables, branches, fruits, herbs, and plants are amongst their favorites. Guinea pigs in the wild follow their instincts and eat what grows on the ground.

Seasonal Variation In Wild Guinea Pigs’ Diet

Most of them eat fresh grass, hay, and seasonal food for their diet from spring to fall. During a winter season, they tend to prefer vegetables. Guinea pigs find fresh herbs in the wild and they like to eat it that way. Some foods that stay on their diet list regardless of the season include small branches of trees, leaves and other plant matter.

  • Grass

The lush green grass is the favorite food of guinea pigs all over the world. A nice handful of lush green grass is a great snack for their appetite. Eating a dangerous plant along with the thick grass could damage their health.

While grazing in the wild, coming across poisonous plants is inevitable. Buttercups and daisies are specifically problematic. This is where their smelling sense works for them. They sniff the grass and eat which they deem safe.

Mowing is considered dangerous for guinea pigs’ health as they contain fungus and disguised poisonous plants have the potential to cause fatal conditions of bloating.

  • Hay

Hay is extremely important for guinea pigs, whether domestic or wild, guinea pigs can’t live without it. They eat a lot of hay every day to give their stomachs the amount of fiber needed for the digestion of their food.

  • Fruits and vegetables

Fresh fruits and vegetables are necessary for any guinea pig’s diet. They intake a lot of veggies and fruits in the wild to fulfill their nutrition intake of essential nutrients and vitamins. Guinea pigs drink water that is easily available to them in the wild. They also eat salad vegetables that contain water.

Fruits are acidic in nature, and over-consumption can lead to the formation of sores around guinea pigs’ mouth. Guinea pigs like eating carrots, sweetcorn leaves, beetroots, broccoli, cucumber, cabbage, celery, lettuce, pears, pea pods, tomatoes and apples in the wild.

What Not To Eat In Wild?

All fruits and vegetables are NOT safe for guinea pigs. While living in the wild, guinea pigs get a lot of options to graze around wherever they like. Following are some food items available in wild that are not good for guinea pigs:

  • Iceberg and lighter lettuce give them diarrhea and a poopy butt is never liked. Whereas endive, carrot tops, and dandelions greens can be eaten as they are so many other choices out there.
  • Any kinds of meat are a big no-no.
  • Cauliflower and other gassy vegetables could result in bloating. Unlike humans, guinea pigs can’t deal with gassy foods.
  • Avocado is high in fat for guinea pigs. Skin and pit can be eaten but inside soft meat needs to be avoided.
  • In the wild, guinea pigs can suffer from blood disorders due to onions, leeks, shallots, and chives.
  • Guinea pigs are super sensitive to pesticides or any chemical formula. Any plant or item that is treated with a pesticide can damage their kidney or liver quickly.
  • Garlic is simply considered as poison for guinea pigs. Furthermore, any kind of plant that grows from a bulb such as onion or tulip is also poisonous for guinea pigs including the leaves of ivy and oak trees. Some guinea pigs might not eat poisonous material, but others might.
  • Plants that contain oxalic acids in high amount can cause the guinea pigs to form urinary and kidney tract stones. A common example is a rhubarb.
  • Tomato stalks and leaves are toxic for guinea pigs.
  • Pips and seeds are unpleasant and might lead to choking. Some of them contain arsenic like apple seeds.

Guinea pig health issues

Guinea pigs face problems of muscular dystrophy, metastatic calcification, teeth problems, difficulty in pregnancy and vitamin deficiencies due to a poor diet. A guinea pigs digestive system is quite sensitive. They are fickle eaters of fruits and vegetables.

Surviving and adapting in the wild

Guinea pigs learn what to eat and what not to eat in the wild in their early life. These habits are difficult to change after maturity. They don’t give an effective response to a sudden change in their diet.

Sometimes they stop eating if they don’t find the food they are habitual of eating and prefer to starve. They consistently eat hay in the wild as that is most frequently available, otherwise, they develop bad habits if they don’t find the required food, such as chewing on their hair.

Hope you found the answer you are looking!

Clarissa Moolbrock

Clarissa Moolbrock is one of the founders and editor at Guinea Pig Tube. She is also an author of "Complete Guinea Pig Care Guide: The Essential, Practical Guide To All Aspects of Caring for Your Guinea Pigs" (available on Amazon). Being a veterinary technician helping animals and sharing her experience and knowledge with other guinea pig owners is her passion. Her life goal is to popularise guinea pigs as pets and that is why she has started Guinea Pig Tube website.