One of the first things people ask when they see guinea pigs is what these adorable bundles of fluff eat. The answer is more complex than it looks at first blush, but the answer to what guinea pigs eat is actually straightforward when you think about it.
The Short Answer: What Do Guinea Pigs Eat?
Guinea pigs eat herbivorous diets. This option typically includes hay, fruit, vegetables, water, and possibly hay pellets for balanced nutrition.
The Evolution of Guinea Pig Diets
Wild guinea pigs evolved in the Andes Mountains of South America. There, they eat whatever plants they can get their teeth on, which is often various species of grasses. Their diet is rounded out through foraging.
Domestic guinea pigs ate scraps from the kitchen and some outside forage. In fact, people built some kitchens in the Andes so that the guinea pigs could roam in the space. This method is still employed today in some areas.
Over time, people learned more about guinea pig nutrition. That’s where the modern guinea pig diet comes in. This diet is not strict, per se, but it is mostly hay to mimic the natural diet guinea pigs evolved to handle.
What Do Guinea Pigs Eat?
Guinea pigs are herbivores, though their digestive system is more delicate than other examples like cattle. That means while they dine exclusively on plant life, some plant life options are incompatible with them.
Guinea pigs cannot eat processed or cooked foods. Unfortunately, this can affect the nutritional balance of their diets since easy preservation methods like canning are not an option.
Components of the Modern Guinea Pig Eats
Modern guinea pigs can eat many different things, and the best diet offers variety to meet their nutritional needs. However, fresh water and hay should always be present in the enclosure.
Over three-quarters of what your guinea pigs eat should be hay, with some folks putting this percentage at 90%. Food hay or forage helps guinea pigs meet their nutritional needs and ensures their teeth are taken care of.
Guinea pigs can enjoy many types of fruit, though seeds and pesticide residue are usually a concern. Additionally, if your guinea pigs eat fruit, you must moderate the amount so that the natural sugars are not overwhelming.
Guinea pigs can also enjoy a wide variety of vegetables, though you should avoid feeding anything that grows a blub (like garlic) or comes from the cruciferous family (broccoli). The best option for your guinea pigs is to rotate the vegetable options.
Commercial guinea pig food is typically hay that’s been turned into pellets. While this option is convenient and more shelf stable than hay, it lacks many of the benefits fresh hay provides, like water content and wearing down the teeth. Still, you can safely leave some in your guinea pig’s cage alongside hay.
Guinea pigs should always have access to fresh, clean water. Typically, you want to filter your guinea pig’s water to the same standard you drink. Depending on your preferences, you can provide this water in bottles or dishes.