What to Feed Guinea Pigs

While there are some definite guinea pig food dos and don'ts, feel free to mix up your menu when it comes to deciding what to feed guinea pigs. A guinea pig diet should include a range of foods, starting with a basic diet of pellets and incorporating hay and vegetables.

Guinea pigs make for great pets, especially for first-time pet owners and for families with children. They tend to be healthy, particularly when properly cared for and fed. Good nutrition will keep your guinea pig at its peak energy for a long life.

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Guinea Pig Diet List

As herbivores, a guinea pig's nonmeat diet is easy to follow and simple to serve. Feed your guinea pig twice daily: once in the morning and in the evening. Keep feeding times consistent so your pet grows accustomed to a schedule and doesn't go hungry or overeat if there is too long a lapse between feeding times. Your guinea pig can become ill if its nutrition gets out of whack from irregular eating habits.

Just because guinea pigs are herbivores doesn't mean guinea pig food is 100 percent veggie (even though vegetables are part of a healthy diet). Mainly guinea pigs consume hay, pellets (commercial guinea pig food), and some fruits and vegetables. And don't forget water. They need at least 5 ounces per day.

  • Hay: This is one of the most important elements of a guinea pig's diet. Keep hay available for your pet at all times, not just its two regular feeding times. Hay provides the fiber your pet requires for healthy digestion and to keep its teeth in shape. The Humane Society recommends fresh Timothy hay (or grass hay) for guinea pigs.
  • Pellets: Just like prepackaged cat or dog kibble, pellets are part of a guinea pig's diet. You can find these at nearly any pet store. Make sure the commercially produced food is balanced and full of vitamins (particularly vitamin C), minerals, and nutrients. About 1/8 cup per day is what the Humane Society recommends. You can split it up between the morning and evening feedings. Ask your vet or pet food store clerk for a pellet brand recommendation.
  • Fruits: When it comes to guinea pigs, a little fruit goes a long way. Too much sugar, even the natural kind, isn't good for their health. But they need the other benefits of fruit (like vitamins and fiber). Super-small portions of fruits like oranges, pears, berries, peaches, apples, etc. should be served at room temperature. Think of fruit as a treat rather than a staple of your pet's diet.
  • Vegetables: Veggies are integral in a guinea pig's daily diet, and dark green veggies are the best bet. Leafy greens like kale, spinach, romaine lettuce, etc. are optimal, but you can treat your pet with bite-size portions of carrots or sweet potatoes a couple of times per week.

Tip: Vitamin C is important to the health of guinea pigs but they don't make it themselves. The pellets, vegetables, and fruits guinea pigs consume prove their vitamin C. But it is common to provide supplemental vitamin C, especially for older guinea pigs who often don't absorb nutrients as well.

Guinea Pig Diet Don'ts

Salt licks and mineral blocks can lead to painful bladder stones. Steer clear of any animal-base food, seeds and kernels that can pose a choking hazard, gassy veggies like broccoli or cabbage, and iceberg lettuce that provides minimal to no nutrition. Some other no-nos include anything with caffeine, onions, garlic, peanut butter, dairy, bread, and potatoes. Commercial treats marketed for guinea pigs are unnecessarily full of sweeteners and provide no nutritional value. 

How to Serve and Clean Up Guinea Pig Food

A sturdy ceramic food dish is preferable over a plastic one so it won't flip over if your guinea pig leans on the edge. Plus, your pet won't be able to gnaw on ceramic. Keep the dish clean and make sure there are no chips or rugged edges that could cut your guinea pig.

There's no need to leave a guinea pig's food out all day. Freshness is important, as is cleanliness. Your guinea pig's droppings or bedding can wind up in the food dish. Plus, spoiled food can make your pet ill. Remove pellets that have not been consumed after an hour, and don't leave vegetables or fruit out for longer than a day. Wash your pet's dish regularly and always provide clean water. Also, place your guinea pig's food bowl in an area separate from his bathroom area.

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