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Can Guinea Pigs Eat _______ -The Complete Guide

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Guinea pigs are cute, cuddly domestic pets that have been popular since the 1500s. Weighing in from 1.5 to 3 pounds and 8-16” long, they are members of the rodent family and have very specific dietary needs. Guinea pigs have a life span of four to eight years. They are affectionate and need a lot of attention. Here is the complete guide to what your piggy can and cannot eat.

What do guinea pigs primarily eat? The majority of their diet should consist of hay, preferably timothy hay. Supplement their meals with vegetables and herbs, guinea pig food pellets, and an occasional treat. Limit fruits that may contain too much sugar. Always have fresh water available.

Guinea pigs are not from Guinea and neither are they pigs. Originating from Peru in the Andes Mountains, and named for their piglike squealing noise, guinea pigs are a favorite pet around the world. They love attention and gentle stroking, but take care not to play too rough with them. Guinea pigs can scare easily and may not be the best choice of a pet for young children.

group of guinea pigs

Can Guinea Pigs Eat _______ -The Complete Guide

Guinea pigs are herbivores and need a lot of fiber in their diet, with low sugar and fat as they tend to overeat and are inclined to obesity. Guinea pigs can eat a wide variety of grasses, fruits, and vegetables, but the majority of their diet consists of hay.

Timothy hay is usually the best, along with orchard and oat hay. Alfalfa should be avoided since it is a legume and not grass and contains too much calcium and too many calories to be healthy for guinea pigs.

Care must be taken when feeding because they will happily eat themselves into obesity which can lead to health problems and shorten their lives.

guinea pigs with timothy hay

80% of their nutrition should come from hay, with 10-15% fresh vegetables and herbs and 5 or 10% guinea pig food pellets. Choose plain pellets rather than the fancy blends that contain fruits and vegetable bits. Guinea pigs will eat only the goodies and skip the plain, nutritious pellets. Limit the number of treats like sugary fruits and high-calorie vegetables to prevent overeating or digestive upset.

Feed your guinea pig twice a day, morning and evening. They only need two tablespoons of pellets and one cup of fruit or vegetables daily. Provide plenty of timothy hay because it aids digestion and prevents the teeth from growing too long. Remove uneaten pellets after an hour or if they get wet, and discard uneaten vegetables each day.

Below is a list of frequently asked questions regarding feeding your guinea pig.

Can Guinea Pigs Eat Dates?

Dates are very high in calories and sugar and should not be given to your pet. They are also rather sticky and could present a choking hazard. They aren’t toxic but neither do they provide the nutrients guinea pigs need. Dates can also cause stomach upset, vomiting, and diarrhea due to the excess amounts of fiber. They also contain large amounts of calcium and sodium which can lead to urinary problems in guinea pigs. Best to skip the dates.

Can Guinea Pigs Eat Strawberries?

Strawberries are safe for guinea pigs in limited portions, such as once or twice per week. Loaded with healthy antioxidants and abundant in vitamin C, strawberries help provide guinea pigs with essential vitamins their bodies are unable to produce on their own.

can guinea pigs eat strawberries guinea pig sniffing fresh strawberry

Can Guinea Pigs Eat Tomatoes?

The short answer is yes. But be sure to offer just the ripe tomato fruit and skip the stems and leaves. They contain a toxin that can cause bloating and stomach pain. Always wash the tomato before feeding it to your guinea pig.

Check for insects or other pests and don’t feed them overripe tomatoes. Guinea pigs should not eat canned or cooked tomatoes due to their acidity. Fresh, ripe tomatoes only, but not too much. While nutritious (and delicious) tomatoes have a high sugar content that can lead to weight gain, diabetes, and dental issues.

can guinea pigs eat tomatoes guinea pig with tomato juice drizzling down its face

Can Guinea Pigs Eat Green Peppers?

Bell peppers are perfectly fine. Green, red and yellow bell peppers contain lots of Vitamin C, low sugar, and plenty of fiber. As always, wash and check for parasites before offering them to your little piggy. They can have up to a cup of bell peppers per day but it is preferable to mix in some other choices rather than just peppers.

can guinea pigs eat bell peppers guinea pig sniffing fresh veggies

Never feed banana peppers to your guinea pig. Doing so can lead to severe stomach upsets. They are way too spicy, and also contain large amounts of potassium and phosphorus which can be detrimental to a guinea pig’s overall health. Symptoms include excessive thirst and refusal to eat as well as diarrhea and stomach aches.

Can Guinea Pigs Eat Dandelions?

Happily, guinea pigs can eat every part of a dandelion, including the root, the leaves, the stem, and the flower. Do be sure they are free of pesticides and that other animals haven’t urinated on them. (Maybe give them a quick rinse to be sure)

They can also eat grass and should have some every day if possible. Grass should be free of sprays and chemicals and will need to be washed thoroughly. It isn’t advisable to let them graze in the yard, however, due to the presence of parasite eggs.

can guinea pigs eat dandelions guinea pig eating dandelion flowers

If your piggy eats grass from the yard, it may be necessary to deworm them regularly. A fun alternative is to grow your own small grass patch indoors. There are kits available that include soil, seeds, and instructions to plant grass just for your guinea pigs. They offer a selection of timothy, oat, and other grasses.

guinea pig on homegrown grass patch

Can Guinea Pigs Eat Napa Cabbage?

Also called White Chinese Cabbage or Celery Cabbage, Napa cabbage is in the same family as brussels sprouts, broccoli, and kale. Guinea pigs can eat napa cabbage, but it should be limited to once or twice a week due to the high calcium content.

It can also produce excess gas and lead to stomach upset. Too much calcium can lead to bladder stones and other health issues. On the bright side, napa cabbage does provide lots of Vitamin C and dietary fiber that guinea pigs need

can guinea pigs eat napa cabbage guinea pig eating bits of cabbage leaves

Can Guinea Pigs Eat Citrus?

Oranges and tangerines are great sources of Vitamin C and guinea pigs will eat them up. Remove the seeds before feeding them to your furry friend. The fruit and the peelings of oranges are safe to eat, but for tangerines, remove skin and seeds. Tangerines also have high acidity and high sugar content.

You should avoid lemons and grapefruit due to the amount of acid in them. Too much acid in their diet can cause mouth sores in guinea pigs.

Can Guinea Pigs Eat Sunflower Seeds?

The answer is a hard no! Seeds and nuts pose a choking hazard. They can also become lodged in a guinea pig’s teeth causing pain and discomfort. Grains and cereal, dried beans, and corn are also off-limits for the same reasons.

can guinea pigs eat sunflower seeds guinea pig dining on bowlful of different seeds
Things you should NEVER feed your Guinea Pig!

Things you should NEVER feed your Guinea Pig:

We’ll start with the Nevers. As in NEVER give these foods to your guinea pig.

The NEVER Feed List:
Iceberg lettuce, garlic, onions, mushrooms, or potatoes.
Meat, peanut butter, chili peppers, or any kind of human food.
Seeds, dried beans, corn, raisins, coconut, or grapes.
Bok Choy, cabbage, rhubarb, or avocado.

Things you should ALWAYS feed your Guinea Pig:

Plenty of fresh, clean water, unlimited timothy hay, and plain food pellets. That’s it!

Fresh vegetables may be offered, up to one cup per day. These are best served at room temperature. Choices should be high in fiber and vitamin C and low in sugar. Romaine, spinach, celery leaves, tomatoes, and bell peppers are great.

Treats such as juicy fruits can be given sparingly, every other day. A slice of apple or a few blueberries is plenty. Stay away from too many strawberries, kiwi, pineapple, and mangos due to their sugar content.
guinea pigs with fresh food choices

Keep in mind that guinea pigs love to chew. They have elodont teeth that continue to grow and must constantly have something to gnaw on to keep them from growing too long and causing problems with their mouth and gums. You may notice that they are chewing on their hutch. This can be a sign of deeper issues.

Your piggy may need more attention or is feeling bored and lonely. You should spend up to an hour a day cuddling your guinea pig. Provide new toys and an occasional treat to change things up a little. Consider a companion for your pet. Two guinea pigs are better than one!

guinea pigs sharing a carrot together

Guinea pigs need a fairly quiet environment, so bear in mind the placement of their cages and hutches. They will chew when they are stressed, so provide a peaceful location, whether indoors or out.

Surprisingly, they might enjoy an empty toilet paper roll to chew on. There are dozens of wooden chew toys and willow sticks available for guinea pigs, rabbits, and hamsters. These will serve the double purpose of keeping their teeth trimmed and giving them something to do.

guinea pig eating fresh carrot

Did you know? One not-so-nice habit of guinea pigs that is very common is eating their poop. Unsavory as it might sound, eating the soft, undigested balls of fecal matter, called “caecals” is very beneficial and an important part of their diet. Rich in vitamins and fiber, it’s a very important food source.

Guinea pigs were originally developed as a meat source in many South American countries, particularly Peru, Columbia, Bolivia, and Ecuador. The meat is said to be a cross between duck and rabbit and is considered a delicacy in many regions. More than 65 million guinea pigs are consumed annually in Peru alone, although this cuisine has never gained popularity in America or the United Kingdom where they remain a popular pocket pet.

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