The diet of pet guinea pigs should differ as little as possible from their wild habits. Hay is ideal as the main feed for guinea pigs, but green fodder, juice feed and twigs are also suitable for the rodents. Unfortunately, snacks and dry food from the trade rarely provide species-appropriate nutrition for guinea pigs.
Guinea pigs like to eat fresh grass and meadow herbs – Shutterstock / Miroslav Hlavko
A healthy diet for guinea pigs takes their digestive idiosyncrasies into account. The intestines of the small rodents have no muscles and they have a so-called stuffing stomach, so that the food does not migrate through the digestive tract on its own, but has to be “pushed”. This happens through so-called raw fibers, which are found in hay, among other things. It is important that Meerlis do not take any breaks from eating, otherwise their digestion will come to a standstill and the food cannot be utilized. Danger! If your guinea pig refuses to eat at breakfast, take it to the vet – it’s most likely sick.
Fresh hay is essential for a healthy diet
You can recognize good hay by the fact that it smells pleasant, is still a little greenish and is dry. You should definitely keep your hands off musty or even moldy hay, as this can make the piggies sick. Cheap and good sources of hay are the farm around the corner or horse farms. There you can get whole bales, which you can store at home in a wooden box or an old sheet of cloth, cool, dry and protected from light. Guinea pigs should always have fresh hay available in a hay rack and on the floor throughout the day. Replace the leftovers every time you feed them so that they don’t start to get moldy.
Hay is not only indispensable for digestion, but also for the guinea pig’s teeth. As is usual with rodents, the teeth are constantly growing back and therefore have to be continuously ground down. When Meerlis eat hay, they grind it up with their teeth by moving backwards and forwards. They file off their teeth about two millimeters a week in this way.
Green feed and juice feed for guinea pigs
In their natural habitat, wild guinea pigs eat grass, which is high in vitamin C. The demand cannot be met with hay alone, so Meerlis must also be given fresh feed. For a healthy diet, guinea pigs must get at least 10% of their body weight from green fodder and juice feed every day, although it can also be more. Divide the food into several meals, for example breakfast, lunch, an afternoon meal and supper. Green fodder means grass, meadow flowers and meadow herbs. This includes:
- ● Dandelion
- ● Chickweed
- ● Daisies
- ● Milk Thistle
- ● Chamomile
- ● Lemon balm and lemon balm
- ● Plantain
- ● Thyme
- ● Rosemary
- ● Marigold flowers
- ● Lavender
- ● Coltsfoot
- ● goutweed
- ● Mugwort
You can also let stinging nettles dry and then feed them as well, the leaves are rich in vitamin C. It is ideal if you offer a large selection of different meadow flowers, meadow herbs and grasses, so that the Meerlis can choose what they need and like. You can pick them in the forest or in meadows, but not near fields that are fertilized and not on the roadside. Feed unfamiliar food carefully, only add small amounts at first and gradually increase the proportions. Both green fodder and juice fodder must not be wet, as this is not good for the guinea pigs’ diet. The food then easily ferments in the stomach and leads to flatulence.
Fruit and vegetables are referred to as juice feed. Fruit generally contains a relatively large amount of sugar and is therefore rarely on the menu. A slice of fruit a week is enough. Vegetables can help to meet the guinea pig’s vitamin needs if the green fodder is not sufficient. Potatoes, onions, too many cabbage vegetables, legumes and avocados are not part of the rodent’s diet. On the other hand, what you can give without hesitation – possibly after a phase of careful feeding, fruit only rarely – are the following types of fruit and vegetables:
- ● Jerusalem Artichoke
- ● Turnip
- ● Celery sticks and peeled celeriac with greens
- ● Parsley roots
- ● Ripe peppers without a stalk
- ● Parsnips
- ● May turnip
- ● Endive salad
- ● Chinese cabbage
- ● Strawberries with greens
- ● Rose hips, both fresh and dried
- ● Apples (except for so-called lip scabs, since the fruit acid irritates the injured skin)
Twigs as fodder for nibbling and gnawing
Twigs are also a great addition to the guinea pig’s diet for dental care, digestion and occupation. The branches of the following trees and shrubs usually do not cause any problems:
- ● apple tree
- ● pear tree
- ● Hazelnut bush
- ● Currant bush
- ● Linden
- ● pasture
Beware of unhealthy snacks from the shops!
If you follow these tips for feeding guinea pigs, you basically do not need any additional ready-mixed food from the trade. Most of the snacks and mixes that you can buy contain too many substances that your Meerlis cannot use, which in the worst case can even harm them. Yoghurt drops, for example, have an appetizing effect on customers – us humans – and they are also offered explicitly for guinea pigs. The little animals are vegans and there is far too much sugar in the drops. But also colorful pellets, colorful snack sticks and the like are often filled with inferior ingredients and pimped up with artificial coloring to make them visually appealing to people. A small piece of fruit per week is much better suited as an occasional treat to supplement the piggy’s normal diet.
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