Guinea pigs need a variety of foods and a balanced diet to get the nutrition that is necessary for them to stay fit and healthy. The four things they need daily are grass hay, good quality guinea pig nuggets, fresh veggies (can have a little fruit occasionally as well) and water.
It's important that they are not exclusively fed just one type of food as it will not provide the varied nutrients that they need. Vitamin C is especially important to guinea pigs as their bodies can't store this so they need a constant supply through the right foods to prevent them getting illnesses such as scurvy.
This food guide will help you can choose the best quality ingredients to keep your pet strong and healthy and avoid those that are bad for them.
Guinea pigs not only uses grass hay as bedding, but it also forms a vital part of their daily diet which they need constantly throughout the day.
Grass hay (usually Timothy grass hay) helps keep their digestive systems moving as well as preventing their teeth from growing too long. You must never let them run out of hay so keep it topped up regularly as it's surprising how much they eat! The picture below shows Sparkles next to the hay rack which is full of their favourite hay.
Guinea Pig Nuggets
These are also called Guinea Pig Pellets but they are the same thing. What isn’t always the same is the quality.
What you buy should be based on what is the best guinea pig pellet food for your cavy in terms of nutritional value and what they need to stay healthy. Never base your food choice on price as you want your guinea pig to be as healthy as possible. Check out the pellet food brands we recommend here...
Other Dried Food
You will see that there are other types of dried food available for guinea pigs such as muesli style pre-packaged foods. Even though these are sold as guinea pig food, they are best avoided as your guinea pig will simply pick out their favourite parts and leave the rest. Although the packaging on these food products may say they provide a fully balanced diet, your guinea pig will not be getting all of his essential nutrients from this type of food.
Fruit and Vegetables
Like us, guinea pigs need variety and should be offered a good range of fresh vegetables to supplement their diets and to continue to provide them with a balanced diet.
Fruit can be given very occasionally but because of the sugar content is not a good idea on a regular basis.
Give them only a little fresh food each day - about a cup per guinea pig and always wash it first. Too much of the wrong fresh food can cause diarrhoea or weight gain. Guinea pigs can be a little prone to obesity! Remember that hay should be the main food source for your cavy. You can check out our downloadable "safe fruit and veg chart" here.
It is important to know which vegetables and fruits are safe for your guinea pig to eat and which are best to be fed regularly as well as those which should only be fed as a treat.
It is essential for your guinea pig to have a continuous supply of clean fresh tap water to drink, given in a clean glass or plastic feeding bottle, attached to your guinea pig hutch or cage.
Make sure you clean the bottle and change the water on a daily basis to prevent a build up of bacteria.
Eating of Faeces
You may notice that there are two types of stool that your pet produces; one will be a hard and dry kind of pellet. The occasional one will be dark, shiny and quite smelly and this is the one that they will eat.
You will see them duck their heads down to their bottoms occasionally and what they are doing is eating these poos straight from their own bottom. It’s perfectly natural and is a part of their evolution. Important bacteria, minerals and nutrients are encased in these little packages and are essential to reintroduce to their digestive system to maintain a balanced diet.
Guinea Pig Nutrition & Vitamins
Guinea pigs are hind-gut fermenting herbivores. They eat vegetation as well as essential nutrients that are found in their own poos.
They are particularly prone to problems associated with the digestive system so it is essential that their diet is well managed to avoid any health issues.
It is important that they have the right balance of fibre, protein, fats, minerals, calcium, phosphorous and vitamin C in their diet.
What Foods are Bad for Guinea Pigs?
Your guinea pig’s tummy is quite delicate and if you feed your piggy the wrong types of food it can cause serious health problems such as diarrhoea. There are also some foods and plants that could prove fatal to your cavy.
Take a look at our list of foods that are bad or poisonous for guinea pigs.
How Much Food Should You Give Your Guinea Pig?
It isn’t necessary to weigh each food serving but it is a good idea to become familiar with a healthy portion size and how this covers their food bowl. Only by being familiar with the right quantity of daily food will you know if your cavy is off their food or simply full.
Hay: This should be unlimited. They will eat a lot of hay and it shouldn't be rationed.
Pellets: An adult guinea pig should eat approximately 6g of dry food by 100g of its healthy body weight.
Water: In addition, they should be drinking approximately 10-40ml of water per 100g of its healthy body weight. On hot days they may require more whereas if they are less active and feeling sluggish then they will drink less.
Fresh Vegetables: Around a teacup full of fresh green vegetables a day is plenty.
Feeding Several Guinea Pigs
When you have more than one guinea pig to feed it can be difficult to judge who is eating what so, when it comes to vegetables and pellets, you could try to provide a bowl each and get each one used to their own ‘place at the table’. They are creatures of habit so you may find that this works.
Guinea Pig Feeding Schedule
Being prone to greediness (see below), it is a good idea to have a feeding schedule in place for your guinea pigs.
This will encourage healthy eating and prevent obesity but it can also tie in well with a daily care regime.
Your guinea pigs will see mealtimes as a part of their routine instead of boredom eating because food is always available. As creatures of habit they will appreciate a daily ritual. Check out our printable care sheets to help you remember not only to feed them fresh food, pellets, hay and water but also for reminders on other daily tasks.
Cavies are most active in the mornings and evenings so give them pellet food at breakfast time and some of their daily portion of vegetables. Then you could feed the remaining portion of veg in the evening.
We give our guinea pigs green leaves in the morning as well as their nuggets (in a separate food bowl), and then at teatime they have more green leaves with other vegetables mixed in.
Just make sure the full daily amount doesn't exceed the recommended quantities. When handling and grooming, you could incorporate the fresh vegetables as a treat; this will make your daily interactions much more rewarding.
Always have plenty of water and hay in between times.
Introducing New Foods to Your Guinea Pig
When introducing a new food to your guinea pig, do so gradually so you can assess whether they are tolerating it. Don’t provide them with a whole bunch of spinach if they haven’t tried it before; yes, it may be tasty but it could upset their tummies.
Keep an eye on their droppings. If they are discoloured or loose then something they are eating is probably not agreeing with them.
We've explained the importance of nutrition and what is harmful or poisonous to your cavy as well as recommending a feeding schedule, food quantities and how to introduce new foods to your piggies.
Always make sure your guinea pig has a good balanced diet and it will help keep them as healthy as possible.