Guinea pigs, also known as cavies, may be willing to eat anything, but they should only be given a very specific diet. Due to the guinea pig’s status as a rodent, it should not be fed many of the treats that are perfectly acceptable for owners or other pets. Guinea pigs eat primarily hay, leafy green vegetables, and pellets specifically produced for them. Guinea pigs require plenty of vitamin C in their diets, as they are unable to produce their own. This may be supplemented or sourced naturally from vegetables. Guinea pigs eat anything put in front of them, but many foods will make them sick; so, the cavy must be fed a carefully curated diet.
Hay should comprise the bulk of any guinea pig diet. This is because the cavy’s digestive system requires a steady supply of fiber in order to function properly, allowing them to digest their food fully and prevent impactions. Hay also grinds down the guinea pigs teeth. This is very important for the cavies’ comfort and happiness. Pregnant and nursing animals, and those in the first ten months of their life, may consume alfalfa hay as their main source of fiber. All other cavies will find alfalfa hay too rich and should be given timothy hay or meadow hay. These varieties can be found at pet stores and in larger quantities at equestrian supply stores. When selecting hay, always choose greener hay that does not appear dusty or excessively dry. Pet guinea pigs vastly prefer the fresher hay, as it more closely replicates their natural diet and is nutritionally superior. They can even eat fresh grass a few times a week, but not every day. Since hay is primarily fiber, and contains very few calories, pet cavies should be allowed to eat as much as they like. Any amount of hay consumption should not result in weight gain.
Vegetables are an important source of nutrition and calories for guinea pigs. Some owners choose to feed their cavies a diet composed solely of hay, fruits, and vegetables, but that can be a difficult task. Guinea pigs require a very specific balance of vitamins and minerals, which in turn requires specific vegetables in specific quantities. If vegetables are to be fed supplementally, or as a treat, there are many options. Guinea pigs eat numerous leafy greens, such as dandelion greens, kale, and arugula. They can also eat all types of lettuce except iceberg, which is nutritionally empty and causes stomach upset. The cavy also enjoys bell peppers, which happen to be very rich in vitamin C, an essential nutrient. Foods such as tomatoes, cucumber, broccoli, and parsley are also great dietary additions. Vegetables are a healthy treat for any pet guinea pig and should be given daily. Fruit, on the other hand, should be reserved for special occasions.
Pet guinea pigs will happily consume many different types of fruit, but too much will cause them to gain weight. Fruit is an acceptable treat for them, but feeding should be limited to once or twice a week. Apples, stonefruit, bananas, berries and citrus are all great options for a special occasion. While any pet guinea pig would happily eat entire fruits, portions should be limited to two or three slices at a time. Fruit is like candy for cavies; it is occasionally acceptable, but should not be a staple in their diet.
Guinea pig pellets should be the main source of calories for any pet cavy. Guinea pigs under ten months old should be eating alfalfa-based pellets. Once a cavy is ten months old then it should be switched to timothy-based pellets. Guinea pigs need to be fed pellets made specifically for them. Feeding them rabbit food, squirrel food, or the food of any other animal may damage their health. The best pellets for cavies should contain hay as the first ingredient; followed by soybeans or wheat and supplemental nutrients, such as ascorbic acid and salt. Foods with nuts, seeds, bright coloration, or fruit should be avoided. Nuts and seeds will be detrimental to any guinea pig’s health due to their high fat content. The cavy’s natural diet would have been very low in fat.
A healthy diet promotes a healthy cavy. They should only be fed things that guinea pigs eat naturally, as well as pellets. It is important to maintain a constant supply of hay, a daily dose of vegetables, and the occasional fruit treat. If a guinea pig has all of these things, it will lead a long and happy life.