Whenever you get or even plan to get a new pet at your home, the first and foremost question that comes to your mind is what they would eat? What is their staple diet? And the same question will arise whenever you get a guinea pig.
Most of the articles you read or people you will talk to will suggest feeding guinea pig hay to them but do guinea pigs need hay? Which hay is best for them and how much to feed them? Let’s find out!
Do guinea pigs need hay? Yes, hay is a staple part of any guinea pig’s diet. Guinea pigs get essential fiber and nutrients from the hay, which is crucial for the proper functioning of their body. Lack of hay in their diet can cause fiber deficiency, which further leads to poor digestion and abnormal growth in them.
Guinea pigs’ diet should contain at least 80% hay in it. Good quality hay provides your guinea pigs with essential nutrients.
It also helps to wear down their teeth. Providing a well-balanced and healthy diet to your guinea pig is the key to their excellent health and happy lifestyle.
Which hay is best for guinea pigs? Timothy hay is the best type of feed available for your guinea pig. It has the perfect balance of fiber, protein, and calcium, which is required by our guinea pigs. Although there is a wide variety of hay available right from alfalfa, meadow to oats and Bermuda, still timothy hay is the first choice among most guinea pig owners.
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What kinds of hay can guinea pigs eat?
Guinea pigs can eat a wide variety of hay, although not all of them are equally beneficial to our guinea pigs.
While there is a wide variety of feed available in the market to choose from, we should be very cautious while choosing one for our guinea pigs. Let us have a look at all the types of hay available in the market:
Timothy hay is the most widely used hay among all guinea pig owners. This hay is readily available, has a pleasant aroma and tastes really well, which makes it the absolute favorite of all guinea pigs.
|1st Cut Timothy Hay||High fiber, Low Fat & Protein||Ideal for guinea pigs with dental issues & Gastrointestinal issues|
|2nd Cut Timothy Hay||The ideal ratio of all Nutrients||Perfect for healthy guinea pigs|
|3rd Cut Timothy Hay||Low fiber, High Fat & Protein||Ideal for sick guinea pigs who need to gain weight or has some chewing problem or mouth pain.|
Things to look while choosing: Timothy hay is available in various seasonal cut, right from 1st cut to 3rd cut.
Make sure you choose the right one for your guinea pig. The feed you select must be Green, Fresh, and should smell a little sweet. It should also feel completely dry and free of molds.
Things to avoid: Avoid thick straw-like hay as they are tough to digest. Also, prevent packs that have a musky and moldy odor coming out from it. Yellow straw-like grass is also a bad sign while choosing one.
Alfalfa hay contains a high concentrate of Fiber, Protein, and Fat, which should not be a part of the daily diet of your guinea pigs.
Feeding your guinea pigs with alfalfa hay regularly can lead to weight gain and obesity, which is not suitable for their health.
In fact, Alfalfa hay also contains a high amount of calcium in it, which is terrible for your guinea pig’s health.
Too much calcium in their diet can lead to the formation of bladder stones, diarrhea, and other health issues.
Although there can be an exception in case, your guinea pig is nursing or very young.
As these would need more amount of nutrients in that phase, so adding some alfalfa hay in their diet turns out to be helpful.
But make sure you don’t make it their daily diet as the calorie intake would be much higher than required in that case.
If your guinea pig is suffering from some health issues and needs to gain some weight, then your vet may recommend adding some alfalfa hay into their diet. You can add the recommended amount during that phase as well.
Alternatively adding a small quantity of alfalfa hay once in a while can spice things up for any adult guinea pigs although the amount must be restricted so that they don’t suffer any consequence due to it.
Meadow hay consists of Soft stemmed grasses, clovers, leaves, flowers and seed heads of other edible plants like dandelions, daisies, etc.
Basically, anything that is in the meadow while harvesting ends up in the bag for your guinea pigs. Green, long grass strands are the distinct characteristic of this hay.
Meadow hay is softer than Timothy hay, which is pleasant for some guinea pigs to munch on.
While some guinea pigs love the added flowers and stem in their food, the other’s hate it, it depends upon their personal choice.
Meadow hay is also less dusty as compared to other feeds, which makes it a great option, especially if you are allergic to Timothy hay.
The long strands of grasses in this hay are rich in fiber and other nutrients which is essential for guinea pigs.
It not only helps in maintaining good dental health but also aids in digestion, which is a bonus.
If you are choosing Meadow hay, then go for long green strands one as they are fresh and nutritious.
Bermuda hay is high-quality hay that is rarely used as a feed for guinea pigs.
Although it is used as a feed for some other larger animals, it is an excellent source of fiber as it contains 32% crude fiber in it.
It includes some moderate amount of Fat and Proteins, which makes it a great choice, although the price and availability is the crucial factor which makes it a rare choice among guinea pig owners.
Oats hay is yet another unconventional choice among guinea pig owners. These hays have a long stem with oats attached at the end of it. They are usually yellowish in color and definitely not so pleasant for the eyes.
It contains a high amount of fiber protein and fat, which is suitable for adult guinea pigs which need extra nutrients.
Also if your guinea pig doesn’t like 1st cut Timothy hay, then you might go for Oats hay, but it is not ideal for other guinea pigs.
Although you can add it once in a while in a small quantity to spice things up, it should definitely not be a part of their daily diet.
Orchard hay is an excellent choice for guinea pig owners suffering from allergies. This hay has the perfect balance of Fiber, Fats, and Protein required by our guinea pigs.
Orchard hay has a broader leaf as compared to Timothy hay, but the texture is really soft, which makes it really easy for guinea pigs to chew.
It also makes a great bedding choice due to its smooth texture. If you are going for orchard hay get a new bag and make sure it is green and mold-free.
Why is hay important for guinea pigs?
Hay is a crucial part of a guinea pigs diet. Most of the nutritional need for guinea pigs come from hay.
Although there are other elements like Fruits, Vegetables, and Pellets in their diet, those mostly act as a supplement. Let us look at some of the key benefits of hay for guinea pigs.
Source of Nutrients
Hay is a vital source of essential nutrients like Fiber, Fat, and Protein. These nutrients are crucial for proper growth in guinea pigs.
They also provide enough calories which are required by the guinea pigs daily.
Helps in maintaining digestive health
Hay is rich in fiber, which is required for maintaining their digestive health. Guinea pigs have sensitive digestive organs, and if we don’t provide them with the proper diet, they may suffer from diarrhea and other diseases.
Hay is a staple part of their food which fulfills their most nutrient needs. Thus, guinea pigs must have an unlimited amount of hay at all times.
Helps in wearing down of teeth
Hay not only helps in maintaining good digestive health but also aids in wearing down the teeth of our guinea pigs.
As you might already know guinea pigs have ever-growing teeth that need the constant wearing down.
If you don’t provide enough hay in their diet, then their teeth might grow a lot which can cause further health issues.
Natural Bedding Material
Hay also acts as a natural bedding material for your guinea pigs. Good quality hay is absorbent and soft, which can work correctly sometimes.
Guinea pigs do love to burrow and to have a pile of hay for them to play with really helps with it. It also helps in insulation during the winter, thus keeping your guinea pig a little warm.
Check out some of the best Hay and Bedding Supplies for your guinea pigs:
Can guinea pigs survive without hay?
No, Guinea pigs cannot survive without hay for long. A healthy guinea pig can live up to 24 without hay, the next 24 hours is going to be very difficult for them, and they may not even survive after that.
Hay is a vital source of fiber and other essential nutrients without which they may suffer from various digestive issues and other diseases.
These diseases can get worse in no time and can be life-threatening as well provided you don’t feed them with the right diet.
How much hay can you give to a guinea pig?
You can feed an unlimited amount of Timothy hay to your guinea pig. However, if you are feeding some other type of hay in the mix like oats hay or alfalfa hay, then you must restrict the quantity.
In general, your guinea pig must have access to feed and water at all times. Remember to provide fresh hay and water every day so that they remain healthy and happy.
How to store hay for guinea pigs?
Storing hay for your guinea pig is an important aspect you cannot neglect. Considering you bought a good quality fresh hay, you need to store it in a cool and dry place so that it remains fresh.
Store it away from direct sunlight and heat source as it can dry the hay up and degrade its nutritional value.
Also ensuring your hay is away from moisture is very important. Humidity can make your hay go moldy in no time.
You also need to ensure that you get the hay in small badges. Hay tends to lose its nutritional value over time.
So, if you are getting a large bale of hay for your guinea pig to save some money then be aware it might not be much beneficial to them.
We always recommend using good quality hay for your guinea pig as it consists of 80% of their diet. You can check out our recommended hay in our article below:
Can you feed a guinea pig only hay?
No, you cannot feed only hay to your guinea pigs. Although 80% of their diet must be hay, it still lacks one major nutrient i.e., vitamin c in it.
A guinea pig cannot synthesize their Vitamin C; thus they need a supplement in the form of Fruits, Vegetables, and Pellets in their diet.
Feeding your guinea pig with only hay might lead to diseases like scurvy in the long run.
A well-balanced daily intake of a guinea pig must contain an unlimited amount of hay, 1 cup of vegetables, 1/8 cup of pellets and some occasional fruits and treats.
Learn more detail about scurvy from this source.
Why does my guinea pig only eat hay?
Just like human beings guinea pigs are also picky when it comes to food. While some guinea pigs love to munch on whatever they get others like to eat only a particular type of food. If your guinea pig is only eating hay, then it means it is picky about its food.
Try to offer a variety of food daily and learn what they liked and what they didn’t. Alternatively, if your guinea pig only eats hay, you can take a patch of hay and mix it with some veggies or fruit and then try to offer the same to your guinea pig.
You need to be a little creative if your guinea pig is a picky one.
Can guinea pigs eat too much hay?
No, you can never overfeed hay to your guinea pigs. In fact, there must be an abundant supply of hay for your guinea pigs at all times.
Lack of hay in their diet can cause a lot of health issues in them. Also, remember you should limit the number of Vegetables, Fruits, and Pellets in their diet as overfeeding these can definitely be an issue.
How long can a guinea pig live without hay?
A guinea pig can go up to 24 hours without hay. Then after that, they might start suffering from some digestion issues.
If you don’t provide hay for 72 hours or so later, they might even pass away due to starvation and deteriorating health.
Can guinea pigs eat grass instead of hay?
No, guinea pigs cannot eat grass instead of hay. You can definitely feed some grass along with side hay sometimes, but it definitely is not a substitute to hay.
Hay contains a lot of fiber and other nutrients that grass cannot provide. Also, most grass is treated with pesticides and other chemicals that are lethal for guinea pigs.
Can I use timothy hay for guinea pig bedding?
Yes, you can use Timothy hay for bedding. Timothy hay has a smooth and soft texture which makes excellent natural bedding.
Although not the best type of litter for keeping the cage odor-free but surely will do the trick.
Guinea pigs also love to burrow and play in a pile of hay so it would be a great addition in any cage.
Yes, orchard hay is an excellent choice for guinea pigs. Just like Timothy hay, it has a perfect balance of essential nutrients like Fiber, Fat, and Protein. It is also a great choice for people who have allergies with Timothy hay.
No, Oats hay is not the best choice for your guinea pigs. In fact, it contains some high amounts of nutrients like Fiber, Fat, and Protein, which can lead to health issues in guinea pigs. However, if your guinea pig is ill and needs to gain some weight adding a small portion in their diet can help.
No, alfalfa hay is not suitable for regular consumption by your guinea pigs. It contains a high amount of calcium component in it, which can lead to the formation of stones in them. Although we can feed small quantities once in a while. Also, alfalfa hay can be fed to nursing and young guinea pigs as they need more nutrients in that phase.
Yes, meadow hay is fine and can be fed to our guinea pigs. However, it does contain some flowers and seeds of other edible plants along with hay which your guinea pig may not always like. Apart from that, we can feed it to our guinea pigs just like regular hay.
Yes, timothy hay is one of the best types of hay that we can feed to our guinea pigs. It contains just the right balance of Fiber, Fat, and Protein required by our guinea pigs.
No, we should not feed barley hay to our guinea pigs. This type of hay doesn’t have the nutrition required by our guinea pigs. In fact, hay is the staple diet of our guinea pigs, and if we don’t provide them with good quality hay, then they may not develop as usual as they should.
Yes, guinea pigs can definitely eat Bermuda hay. In fact, it is one of the best hay available to produce feed for lots of other animals as well. Although the limited availability and price make this one an unpopular choice.
Baby guinea pigs should be fed a mix of Alfalfa hay with Timothy hay in it. Alfalfa hay is high in calcium, which they need during this growing phase as their body grows rapidly during the first 5-6 weeks. After that, we should only feed Timothy hay to our guinea pigs.
No, we should not feed fescue hay to our guinea pigs. These hays don’t contain the right balance of nutrients for our guinea pigs. Although it is a popular choice as feed for the horses; however they are not suitable for guinea pigs.
Yes, Western timothy hay is one of the best hay you can get for your guinea pigs. This hay is high in fiber and low in protein which makes them one of the best choices for guinea pigs.
Yes, we can feed horse hay to our guinea pigs. However, we must only do so if the Timothy hay is unavailable due to some reason as horse hay may contain some high amount of calcium and phosphorous in it, which can harm our guinea pigs. Thus, the serving of horse hay is not advisable in the long run.
No, we should not feed straw to our guinea pigs. Straw contains Little to No nutritional value in them, thus supplying them straw won’t do much good. Also, there is a risk of eye infection in guinea pigs if the straw ends up poking their eyes. Thus, it is best to avoid it altogether.
Timothy hay and Orchard hay is one of the best types of hay available for our guinea pigs. This hay has the perfect balance of Fiber and Protein and is thus recommended by most guinea pig owners.
No, you cannot feed just any type of hay to your guinea pigs. Timothy hay and Orchard hay are some of the best choices of hay for your guinea pigs.