The following guide will show you everything you need for a balanced guinea pig diet including what pellets to feed, fruits and vegetables that guinea pigs can eat, types of hay, and information on Vitamin C supplements for your pigs.
A surprisingly challenging aspect of owning a guinea pig is providing them with an appropriate diet. While commercial pellets for guinea pigs are widely available, just feeding pellets alone is not enough. Different brands of pellets also have different nutrient profiles, some of which are not exactly healthy for your cavy. You may also find food mixes sold for guinea pigs but these should be avoided as they promote selective feeding and may result in malnutrition.
Your guinea pig’s diet should consist of five elements, which I’ll explain individually. Use the table of contents below if you need to skip to a specific section:
Table of Contents
Unlimited Fresh Water
Guinea pigs should always have water for whenever they want to drink, so make sure that they never empty their water bottle and refill it each day. We recommend the Ferplast Sippy Water Bottle for guinea pigs as they do not drip and cause a mess in the cage. Water bowls are not recommended as your piggies are likely to walk all over it and dirty the water or spill water all over their cage.
Unlimited Grass Hay
Much like fresh water, high quality grass hay should always be available in the cages. Timothy hay is the type of hay most commonly used and recommended for adult guinea pigs. Good grass hay should be green, fresh and fragrant. If you are in the United States, Small Pet Select Timothy Hay is an excellent choice. If you decide on another brand of timothy hay, make sure what you’re getting is green, fresh-smelling hay and not something that’s dusty or moldy and yellow.
Young (4 months and under), pregnant, and lactating guinea pigs may have a mix of 50:50 timothy hay and alfalfa hay. Do note that alfalfa hay is high in calcium and not suitable for other adult guinea pigs.
Guinea pigs are good at regulating their hay consumption, so there’s no need to worry about an excess of grass hay. The hay is important for the normal functioning of their digestive systems — it contains fiber which is essential for cavies to help move things along their digestive tract. Hay also helps grind down a guinea pig’s ever-growing teeth and prevents them from growing too long.
Healthy Guinea Pig Pellets
Pellets are another important daily part of your guinea pig’s diet. Each guinea pig should get about 1/4 to 1/8 cup of pellets a day. Pellets provide your cavy with nutrients that they cannot get from hay alone. A good pellet food should have added Vitamin C, and provide the right about of protein, calcium and other nutrients.
Pellets for young guinea pigs should be alfalfa-based as it contains higher calcium is useful while your piggies are growing. Pregnant and lactating guinea pigs can also be given alfalfa-based pellets. However, adult guinea pigs that are not pregnant or lactating do not require so much calcium and should be given timothy-based pellets.
Fruits and Vegetables – What Can Guinea Pigs Eat?
In addition to the pellets, fresh vegetables are great as an additional source of Vitamin C and other nutrients, but they should be provided in small quantities as they are not an ideal replacement for the pellets. Up to one cup a day of fresh vegetables and fruit is recommended. Try giving your piggies small pieces of lettuce or carrots, but make sure that you do so in quantities that they can manage. Guinea pigs will also eat tomatoes, capsicum or bell peppers and spinach. Make sure to introduce them to these foods in small amounts at a time to prevent upset tummies.
A printable list of safe vegetables and fruits for guinea pigs will be made available here soon.
Veggies should be rinsed and fresh. Fruits should be given rarely and in small amounts. Any uneaten fresh food should be cleared from the cage after an hour.
Daily Vitamin C Requirements
Guinea pigs need 10 to 30 mg of Vitamin C per kilogram of weight per day. As mentioned in the above sections, since guinea pigs do not manufacture their own vitamin C, it’s fundamental to provide it in sufficient quantities to keep your piggy healthy. While a good diet should provide the necessary amount, you might want to make absolutely sure that they get enough by giving them a Vitamin C supplement. Vitamin C should not be mixed in the water, since it degrades rapidly in water.
The Vitamin C supplement I use for my guinea pigs is the NutriBiotic 100% Pure Vitamin C and it can be given on a slice of cucumber.
You can use GuineaPigaloo’s Vitamin C Calculator to calculate how much Vitamin C your guinea pigs need daily based on their weight.