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Do Guinea Pigs Need Hay?

In this article, we will explore do guinea pigs need hay? We will also discuss the nutritional needs and differences with hay as they are not all created equally.

To properly answer this question, it’s important to think about the life of wild guinea pigs. 

What was available to them before becoming pet guinea pigs?

The guinea pig is an herbivore, meaning they only eat plants and plant materials. With that said, hay is a vital part of a guinea pig diet.

Let’s explore this further.

Do guinea pigs need hay?

Yes, they do.

They don’t only need hay, but they need to have unlimited amounts of hay as a part of their balanced diet.

a group of guinea pigs eating hay
Photo credit- Canva

How much of a guinea pigs’ diet should consist of hay?

Veterinarians recommend that guinea pigs’ diet be 75-80% hay.

Why is hay important food to your pet’s diet?

Hay provides them with essential nutrients and a high fiber content to keep your pet’s digestive system moving.

Fiber is an essential nutrient to your pet’s digestive tract, which will help them poop and maintain a healthy intestinal tract.

Protein is also found in hay, an important part of a guinea pig’s diet.

Hay can’t provide all the essential nutrients as they need a good amount of vitamin C, which they cannot make themselves, and rely on outside sources.

Hay is also crucial for keeping guinea pig’s teeth filed down. 

Their teeth constantly grow, and hay’s roughage is perfect for keeping their teeth filed down.

Why do guinea pigs need a constant supply of hay?

If you think of a guinea pig in its natural habitat, they would constantly be foraging for food to get enough nutrients to survive. 

As guinea pig parents, we can supplement their diet. However, they still need plenty of roughage to keep their digestive system moving properly.

What type of hay is best for guinea pigs?

Hay falls into two categories when it comes to feeding guinea pigs.

There is Grass hay and Legume hay.

The best kind of hay for the daily feeding of guinea pigs falls into the grass hay category.

Here are the most common different types of hay in the grass category;

  • Timothy Hay *the best option typically
  • Orchard Hay
  • Oat Hay
  • Meadow Hay

Let’s break down each one so you can decide on what’s best for your pet’s diet.

Guinea pig with hay
Photo credit- Canva

Timothy Hay- which is a hay that’s made from Timothy grass.

  • popular for guinea pigs
  • easy to find a good source
  • sweet smell
  • good flavor
  • great protein, fat, and fiber ratio

Timothy hay is considered the best hay for the majority of guinea pigs for the reasons above and should be provided with unlimited access.

Orchard Hay- made from orchard grass

  • Sweet smell and taste
  • Better for allergies (guinea pig parent allergies)
  • Good fiber content
  • Slightly lower protein content
  • A softer and wider blade

Orchard hay is an excellent alternative to Timothy hay, it has a good nutrition profile, and guinea pigs typically enjoy it. If you or someone in your family suffers from a hay allergy, this will be better for you to have in the house than Timothy hay.

Oat Hay- made from oat grass

  • Oats attached to long stems
  • Higher protein, fat, and fiber ratio
  • Not for everyday use

Because oat hay has a higher protein, fat, and fiber ratio, this is best used for once in a while use or if your vet has recommended it but not for everyday use.

Meadow Hay-

  • Made with a mixture of flowers, seeds, grasses, and leaves
  • Not all guinea pigs enjoy the mixture

Meadow hay can be used for everyday use, but most guinea pigs prefer Timothy or Orchard hay.

Bermuda hay-

  • Higher in fiber
  • Moderate levels of protein and calcium
  • More expensive.

Bermuda hay isn’t the first choice when feeding guinea pigs due to its higher cost and availability, but it can be fed to them.

Legume Hays are suitable for guinea pigs for specific purposes. 

Alfalfa hay-

  • Higher protein
  • More Calories
  • Higher amounts of calcium
  • Is in the legume grass family

Alfalfa hay is best to use for baby guinea pigs, young guinea pigs, pregnant/nursing cavies, or if your guinea pig is sick and the veterinarian has recommended the need for alfalfa hay.

It should not be a staple in adult guinea pigs due to its high amount of protein and extra calcium that can cause health issues like weight gain, kidney stones, diarrhea, and bladder stones.

 It is okay to mix alfalfa hay into their regular grass hay in minimal amounts on special occasions.

Getting good quality hay from pet stores or a trusted online source is important to keep your guinea pig from having health problems from poorly processed hay.

Whenever introducing new foods to your guinea pigs’ diet, make sure that you don’t make any sudden changes and do so gradually to ensure they don’t get diarrhea or other health problems.

Is it okay to mix your guinea pig’s hay?

Yes, and they will likely enjoy having different types of hay to munch on. But do be careful not to give them too much alfalfa, oat, or barley hay to ensure they are able to get proper nutrition.

guinea pig in its cage with hay
Photo credit- Canva

What are things to watch out for with guinea pig hay?

  • Make sure it’s a reputable source
  • It’s free from dust and mold
  • That it’s made for the consumption of guinea pigs
  • That it contains all-natural ingredients, in this case, hay.
  • It should be green and have a fragrant fresh smell.

Do I need a guinea pig hay rack?

It’s best to have a guinea pig hay rack, but it’s not mandatory.

Here are some good reasons to have a hay rack;

  • The rack keeps the hay clean and makes it, so they don’t go to the bathroom in the hay.
  • It helps to lessen the incidence of them getting an injury to their eye from a hay piece poking out.
  • It should keep its cages cleaner, but this will depend on your cavie and how messy they are.

Some hay companies use cardboard boxes that can be used as hay feeders eliminating the need to purchase an additional hay feeder.

 Simply the box will attach to the cage like a feeder and provide clean, unlimited hay for your small pets.

Guinea pig owners need to fully understand what type of diet their guinea pig needs to have a healthy diet.

Hay is an integral part of their diet.

How do you store hay for guinea pigs?

It would be best if you stored guinea pig hay in a dry, dark area without sunlight.

Sunlight is can wear down the nutrients that the guinea pigs need in the hay. You don’t want a space with moisture as you don’t want mold to grow in the hay.

Let’s take a look at the best guinea pig food requirements.

  • Guinea pig pellets from a high-quality source that are fortified with vitamin c. They should be eating 2-4 TB a day split up in AM and PM feedings.
  • Fresh vegetables / fresh greens should be washed, dried, and not served cold. They should be eating 1 cup of these daily.
  • Lots of hay, we’ve already discussed this above, but they should have unlimited quantities of hay every single day.
  • Fresh fruit should only be given in minimal quantities due to its high sugar content. 1/2 to 1 tsp a couple of times a week max.
  • Fresh water- your guinea pig should always have access to freshwater.

These aren’t the only fresh veggies guinea pigs can have, but these all have a good source of vitamin C.

  • parsley
  • kale
  • broccoli
  • bell peppers (red and green pepper)
  • cauliflower
  • zucchini
Guinea pig eating a bell pepper
Photo credit- Canva

Here’s a list of fruits guinea pigs can eat safely

  • Strawberries
  • Oranges
  • Apples
  • Cherries
  • Pears
  • Plums
  • Blueberries
  • Papaya
  • Apricots
  • Melons
  • Cranberries
  • Kiwi
  • Mango
  • Cucumbers
  • Raspberries
  • Tomatoes (but never the stems or stalks, only the fruit)

Again, the fruit may be healthy foods for humans, but your guinea pig can’t handle all the extra sugar, which can cause diabetes, weight gain, and health problems if given too much.

Guinea pigs cannot make their own vitamin c and therefore HAVE to be supplemented. If they aren’t supplemented, they run the risk of getting scurvy.

If you are feeding your guinea pig a good quality pellet food that is fortified with vitamin c, that should meet the requirements. It’s also best to provide them with vegetables higher in vitamin c to help aid the pellet food.

An important thing to note is that you can give your guinea pig not enough vitamin c, but you can’t give them too much. Any excess vitamin c they will pee out and won’t harm them.

We hope your questions have been answered regarding whether guinea pigs need hay, and the answer is absolutely.

Be sure to give your guinea pig unlimited amounts of hay (Timothy hay) as part of a well-rounded diet. Guinea pigs need fresh hay to keep their digestive systems moving, their teeth filed down, and keep them from getting bored. Make sure you purchase good quality hay to ensure your pet guinea pig thrives alongside a good diet.

Want to learn more about guinea pigs? Check out these articles!

For information on sources check out our reference page.