As you consider adding a pet guinea pig to your family, lots of questions will pop up. What do guinea pigs eat? is likely top on the list since you'll need to bring food home along with the pet so they are ready for their first meal.
Simply put, piggies are veggie-loving herbivores who need a variety of roughage, or fiberous plant-based foods, and fresh produce to stay healthy.
What Do Guinea Pigs Like to Eat?
As you browse the shelves of a pet store, you'll see several foods recommended for adult guinea pigs. These small animals are natural foragers, or critters that enjoy wandering around looking for and nibbling on plants. In fact, in the wild, they spend up to 70 percent of their waking time sniffing, digging, moving about, and hunting for yummy things to eat. Here are the best guinea pig foods to put in your shopping cart that encourage the natural behaviors associated with foraging.
Pellet mix: Guinea pig food comes in a variety of different options from pelleted food to mixtures of pellets, timothy hay, seeds and more. Make sure to choose a nutritionally complete diet with vitamin-fortified pellets to ensure your pet is getting all the nutrients they need. Kaytee Food from the Wild blend for guinea pigs is one example of a fortified pellet mix that includes rose hips, carrots, marigolds, and strawberries to encourage natural foraging behaviors.
Timothy hay: Like horses, piggies love hay too! Timothy hay is high in fiber, which helps maintain a healthy digestive system for guinea pigs. The chewing motion of the dried stalks and soft foliage of hay also keep their teeth filed down naturally. Fun fact: Timothy hay is actually a grass!
Treats & Snacks: No week is complete without some fun treats to enjoy! Guinea pigs love noshing on healthy Kaytee Superfood Treat Sticks made with spinach and kale, crunchy timothy hay biscuits flavored with apples, and food from the wild treat medley. Remember, treats are an occasional indulgence and shouldn't make up more than 20 percent of your pet's diet.
Fresh produce: OK, this isn't a pet store staple, but it is available at your favorite grocer or supermarket. Guinea pigs need ample amounts of vitamin C in their diets because their bodies can't make it on their own. Keep fresh orange slices, green peppers and broccoli on hand for daily feeding. Want to treat your pet? Once or twice a week offer some carrot, tomato, raw sweet potato, or zucchini slices.
If you happen to have a mama guinea pig that just had babies, offer her a plentiful supply of fresh water and food. Since guinea pigs are mammals, the little ones will nurse their mother for 3-4 weeks. They will also start to explore the cage for food options, and likely start crunching and munching on the dry food and fresh produce little by little.
How Much Should I Feed My Guinea Pig?
Your pet guinea pig should have access to fresh water and timothy hay at all times. In fact, hay should make up approximately 85 percent of your pet's diet.
When it comes to pelleted food, feed 1/8 cup per piggie each day but make sure to check the recommended feeding amount on your food bag and check with your veterinarian.
Offer approximately one cup of fresh food to each guinea pig daily. Go heavy on the veggies and light on the fruit since it's high in sugar. Leave the produce in the cage for a few hours, then remove it as it begins to wilt. You don't want your piggie to get sick on rotting fruits and vegetables.
What Foods Are Unsafe for Guinea Pigs to Eat?
It's tempting to share a bit of your dinner with your piggie friend. However, don't offer your pet guinea pig any foods prepared with salt, table sugar, oils, or seasonings. Here are a few foods to never feed a guinea pig:
- Processed foods, like pizza
- Meat or cheese
- Candy of any type
- Chips or crackers
It's also important to know that guinea pigs are at a high risk of developing bladder stones made of calcium oxalate. It's best to only offer sparingly foods rich in oxalates such as spinach, strawberries, and parsley.
Think of guinea pigs as very healthy, clean eaters. They thrive on grasses, vegetables, fruits, and seeds that they would naturally forage for in the wild. It's best to choose a piggie mix that offers pelleted hay and dried produce so your pet gets the perfect nutrition each day.
The Humane Society of the United States, Guinea pig feeding
VCA Hospitals, Feeding Guinea Pigs
The Unusual Pet Vets, Hand-Raising Baby Guinea Pigs
VetHelpDirect, What should Guinea Pigs eat?