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  • Molly Weinfurter

Guinea Pig Food: What Do Guinea Pigs Eat?

Updated: Jun 9

Guinea pigs are often described as “low maintenance” pets, but that’s not necessarily true. As someone who has fostered dogs and guinea pigs, I personally found four guinea pigs to be harder to care for than two dogs. The reason is because they’re much messier than I anticipated. After all, they’re constantly eating and pooping. So, if you're looking to get a guinea pig, you need to familiarize yourself with guinea pig food and feeding requirements.


I adored the guinea pigs I fostered, but they just weren’t the right pet for me. However, I know lots of people who adore guinea pigs as pets, so it’s all a matter of preference. Guinea pigs are so sweet, but be prepared to refill their food often and clean their enclosure daily.


guinea pigs eating carrots
These are two of the guinea pigs I fostered

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How Often Do Guinea Pigs Eat?

Guinea pigs eat constantly. They only need to be offered pellets, vegetables, and/or fruits about once per day, but they should always have access to hay or grass so they have something to snack on. 


Chewing on hay and grass throughout the day keeps the guinea pigs’ digestion healthy. It also helps wear down their teeth, which would be constantly growing otherwise. Without hay or grass, guinea pigs can develop severe digestive issues, which could lead to death.


Since guinea pigs eat so often, they’re constantly pooping. Each guinea pig poops up to 100 times per day, and since guinea pigs are social animals that like to live in pairs, poop quickly takes up a lot of space. You’ll likely need to scoop poop out daily, so keep that in mind when deciding if a guinea pig is the right pet for you.


How Long Can Guinea Pigs Go Without Food?

Any amount of time without hay is risky for guinea pigs, and they can face serious health complications after 4 to 8 hours without food. They will likely experience gastrointestinal issues, which could be fatal after two to three days without proper treatment.


How Often Do Guinea Pigs Drink?

Guinea pigs should always have access to water. Using a small animal water bottle is the easiest way to serve water without it making a mess. Each guinea pig drinks at least 80 to 100 ml per day.


Since they drink quite a bit of water, guinea pigs usually pee about every 15 minutes. Thus, their enclosure will need to be cleaned frequently unless you litter box train them.


Guinea pigs can only survive 24 to 48 hours without water, so make sure their water bottle is full every time you check on them.


guinea pigs chewing on large grass

What Do Guinea Pigs Eat?

Guinea pigs eat a variety of plants, including herbs, grass, and vegetables. Hay and/or grass should always be accessible to them, but you should also give them other types of guinea pig food, such as pellets or vegetables, once per day.


Hay and Grass

These small mammals graze throughout the day, so they should always have a basket of hay or grass that they can munch on. Some guinea pigs refuse to eat hay once it has touched the bottom of their enclosure, so make sure they have access to a full basket of fresh hay.


Hay makes up about 80% of a guinea pig’s diet. As mentioned earlier, gnawing on hay benefits their digestive system and prevents their teeth from growing too much. While most guinea pigs are picky about the type of hay, timothy or orchard hay is best for adult piggies while alfalfa hay is best for young guinea pigs (it provides more calcium for their growing bones).


Even though guinea pigs can eat grass with their hay, you should never give them grass clippings. After moving the lawn, a lot of weeds, debris, and other unsafe items could get jumbled up with the grass. So, even though it might seem like a great use for grass clippings, it’s not safe for your guinea pig’s health.


Here are a few popular guinea pig hay products:


Pellets

Guinea pigs should also get about ⅛ cup of commercial pellets once per day (per guinea pig). While the pellets are usually made with types of grass and hay, they’re necessary because they provide additional vitamin C. Vitamin C degrades quickly so it’s essential to offer a bowl of pellets to your guinea pigs every day. Oxbow guinea pig food is one of the most popular pellet brands.


If your guinea pig is young, underweight, nursing, or pregnant, they may need more pellets than normal. Talk to your vet to determine the best serving size for your guinea pig.


Here are some popular guinea pig pellet products:


guinea pigs sharing carrot

Vegetables

Vegetables should also be given in addition to hay and pellets. One guinea pig can have between ½ and 1 cup of veggies per day. Leafy greens are a great source of vitamin C, so they should be served the most. Other types of veggies, such as carrots and zucchini, should be given as an occasional snack instead of a daily treat.


Some safe vegetables for guinea pigs include:

  • Bell peppers

  • Broccoli

  • Carrots

  • Celery

  • Cucumbers

  • Green beans

  • Lettuce

  • Snap peas

  • Tomatoes

  • Zucchini


Don’t feed your guinea pigs frozen vegetables as they could damage their teeth and be difficult to digest. Instead, buy fresh veggies to keep your piggies healthy.


When in doubt, ask your vet if a vegetable is safe for guinea pigs. Also, ask your vet how often you should serve that type of veggie.


Fruits

Fruits can be great snacks for guinea pigs. However, since fruits are high in sugar, only serve them in moderation. When introducing new fruits (or veggies), start with small amounts to get your pets used to them and to avoid digestive issues like diarrhea.


Some safe fruits for guinea pigs include:

  • Apples (no seeds)

  • Bananas

  • Blueberries

  • Cantaloupe

  • Raspberries

  • Strawberries

  • Watermelon (with rind)


Fruits aren’t essential to a guinea pig’s diet like hay, pellets, and vegetables are. However, many guinea pigs love the taste, so they’re great snacks.


Serving fruits and vegetables to guinea pigs can be a great way to bond with them because you can hand-feed them. Many guinea pigs will come running over to you while making a wheeking sound when they’re excited for food.


Guinea pig with apple

Frequently Asked Questions


Can Guinea Pigs Eat Apples?

Yes, guinea pigs can eat apples, as long as you remove the seeds and cut them up into small pieces. Apples are high in vitamin C, which is an essential vitamin for guinea pigs. However, apples should only be an occasional snack since they’re high in sugar.


Can Guinea Pigs Eat Grapes?

Yes, seedless grapes are safe to give to guinea pigs in small quantities. Grapes aren’t toxic to guinea pigs like they are for dogs. Like apples, they should only be served in moderation.


Can Guinea Pigs Eat Rabbit Food?

No, you shouldn’t feed your guinea pig pellets for rabbits. Rabbit food doesn’t have the high levels of vitamin C that guinea pigs need in their pellets, so feeding them rabbit food could be dangerous.


Can Guinea Pigs Eat Hamster Food?

No, guinea pigs can’t eat hamster food because the nutritional value is different. Feeding a guinea pig hamster food could be dangerous.


Do Guinea Pigs Bite?

Guinea pigs usually aren’t aggressive, but they may bite if they feel threatened. Be gentle when handling your guinea pig to prevent biting. If your guinea pig is normally docile but suddenly starts biting, visit the vet to rule out potential illnesses.


How Long Do Guinea Pigs Live?

Guinea pigs usually live 5 to 7 years. However, they can live much longer with proper care. The oldest guinea pig on record was almost 15 years old.

guinea pig eating from hay basket

Guinea Pigs Eat A Lot!

Despite being so small, guinea pigs eat a lot. They should always have access to hay and grass, and they should have pellets and vegetables once per day. If you want to mix up the guinea pig food now and then, you can throw in some fruits as an additional snack. Keeping your guinea pig well-fed is the perfect way to keep them happy and healthy.

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