Guinea pigs are herbivores which means they eat a plant-based diet. But it’s important that they are fed the correct food and the right balance to make sure they stay healthy.
There are three essential food types that your guinea pigs need to eat every day. Their daily diet should consist of the following:
- Grass hay
- Good quality guinea pig pellets (dry food / nuggets)
- Fresh vegetables and/or foraged weeds & plants
Your guinea pigs also need constant access to fresh, clean water throughout the day.
Table of Contents
- How much food should guinea pigs have daily?
- Grass hay
- Guinea pig pellets
- Fresh vegetables and fruit
- Why do guinea pigs eat their poop?
- The importance of a varied diet
- How often should I feed my guinea pig?
- Guinea pig feeding schedules
- Dried food and mueslis
- Guinea pig treats and snacks
- Can guinea pigs eat fresh grass?
- How to introduce new food to guinea pigs
- What to do with uneaten food
- What to do if your guinea pig is not eating
How much food should guinea pigs eat daily?
It’s important your guinea pigs get good quality food to ensure they receive a good balance of nutrients and it’s also vital they eat the right amounts of each food type or they can become ill.
Here is a chart showing the daily portion sizes your guinea pig needs for each of these foods
Grass hay is the most important part of your guinea pig’s diet and the best hay to feed your guinea pigs is Timothy Hay or Meadow Hay.
Guinea pigs need feeding hay in their cage at all times because they will want to graze on it throughout the day.
If they stop eating or are not fed hay regularly they will become seriously ill. Your guinea pig’s digestion will suffer and their teeth will overgrow which can result in long-term health problems and will also require a vet’s intervention to put right.
Guinea pig pellets
Sometimes called nuggets, guinea pig pellets are specially made with your guinea pig’s nutritional requirements in mind. Your guinea pig needs a portion of these every day.
Not all pellet food that you find in the shops is healthy for your guinea pig. It’s important to choose good quality pellet food with the right balance of ingredients. This dry food should have plenty of vitamin C. Guinea pigs need vitamin C from their food every day as their bodies can’t make it and this is a vitamin they will also get from the fresh food.
An eighth of a cup of pellets is about the right quantity to feed one guinea pig. Check out our guinea pig pellet food guide for more information on which brands are the best for your small pets.
Fresh vegetables and fruit
A diet of hay and pellets isn’t enough for your guinea pigs. They need fresh vegetables or foraged weeds and plants as well. In nature, they would forage for weeds and vegetation to eat so it’s important to supply them with this as part of their daily diet.
Guinea pigs can eat fruit too but only in small portions as it is high in sugar. It’s important to focus more on veggies, especially green leafy veg. Vegetables and leaves that require a lot of chewing and munching are really good because, along with the hay, it helps keep their teeth in good condition.
Not all vegetables and fruit are suitable for your guinea pigs so we’ve put together a safe fruit and veg list that you can refer to. Too much of certain fruits or veggies can cause diarrhoea or tummy upsets so our food list also tells you how often certain veggies can be given. We also have a beautifully designed full color fruit and veg list you can buy to download and print.
If money is tight or you can’t get hold of veggies for whatever reason, there are many weeds and plants your guinea pigs can eat that grow in the wild. We forage just because we enjoy finding a good variety of food for our guinea pigs and it is especially enjoyable as the food is free!
Feed your guinea pigs about a cup or two of mainly veggies or foraged weeds plus a small amount of fruit occasionally or in very small daily quantities.
As with any animal, water is absolutely essential and should be available at all times.
Tap water or filtered tap water is fine for your guinea pigs and should be given in a bottle with a metal spout.
We advise against putting water in a bowl as it can easily become dirty and contaminated with poops or urine from your guinea pig. It is also at risk of tipping over and making the cage wet.
Wash your guinea pig’s water bottle each day and refill it with fresh, clean water.
Why do guinea pigs eat their poop?
You may have noticed your guinea pig looking like he’s eating poop straight from his bottom. In fact, this is exactly what he is doing!
Guinea pigs produce two different types of poop. The one you may be familiar with is fairly hard and dry, dark brown and long in shape. It contains mainly indigestible fibers and has a low water content.
The second type of poops, which are formed from hindgut fermentation, contains more water and therefore is much softer. There are large amounts of vitamins and minerals in these poops, especially vitamin K and B vitamins. It’s rare that you’ll see these as your guinea pig will eat them straight out of their bottom.
The reason a guinea pig eats these poops (called caecals) is because they contain important bacteria, minerals and nutrients. Re-ingesting them means they get these extra nutrients back into their system.
The importance of a varied diet
A good balanced diet that includes a large variety of vegetables, forage and fruit throughout the week is one that is most likely to keep your guinea pigs healthy.
By varying the veggies, they are getting a good range of vitamins, nutrients and minerals and they are less likely to need treatment for health problems later.
How often should I feed my guinea pig?
How often you feed your guinea pig depends a bit on your own schedule. Guinea pigs are creatures of habit and will get to know when it’s feeding time, so it’s a good idea to stick to a particular routine each day if you can.
Our feeding routine is a refill of hay in the morning plus their daily pellets and half their daily veggies. We feed the second half of their daily veggies in the evening at dinnertime and refill their hay if necessary.
Guinea pig feeding schedules
Here are some suggested daily feeding schedules for your guinea pigs - you can use whichever fits into your daily routine the best.
We have designed some guinea pig care sheets which include a checklist for your guinea pig’s daily routine including feeding. This can be really useful to help remember all those daily tasks.
Other dried food and mueslis
You may see other types of dried food available for guinea pigs such as muesli style pre-packaged foods. These are not required and some of them give your guinea pigs bad habits as they may pick out their favorite parts and leave the rest.
Some of these dried foods contain ingredients that are not healthy for a good guinea pig diet such as dried fruit that is high in sugar so are best avoided. You’d be better to spend your money on good quality pellets, hay and fresh veg.
There are some dried forage mixes which are healthy and can be mixed in with their hay or pellets but make sure you stick to the recommended quantities. Here are some we recommend from Small Pet Select:
- Vita-Licious Essentials
- Heavenly Green Crunch
- Flower Power Berry Boost
- Zen Tranquility Blend (perfect if they’re stressed)
- Young at Heart Blend (great for older piggies)
Guinea pig treats and snacks
Guinea pigs don’t actually need treats and snacks but there are some you can safely give to your guinea pigs. These can be useful if you are trying to tame your piggies and get them used to you.
However, many of the treats you can buy are not good for them due to containing ingredients that are not suited to these pets. These are the treats and snacks we recommend:
- Small Pet Select Healthy Snackers - Mini Cookies (natural ingredients made mainly from ground timothy hay pellets, oats and just a little fruit)
- Timothy Hay Cubes (100% timothy hay!)
- Dried Carrot Slices (naturally air dried)
Watch the video below to see how much our guinea pigs enjoy the natural treats from Small Pet Select
Can guinea pigs eat fresh grass?
Your guinea pig can eat fresh grass but be careful there aren’t poisonous plants mixed in with it. They can graze on a lawn if they are in a safe pen, but beware of poisonous weeds or flowers such as daisies or buttercups. You can alternatively pick grass from uncontaminated hedgerows or fields.
Lawnmower clippings are not suitable for guinea pigs so always make sure grass is freshly picked or grazed upon by your piggies.
How to introduce new food to guinea pigs
Guinea pigs may not always like a new taste at first but over time they may find they love it. When feeding new fruit or vegetables, just try them with a small piece of the new food each day or so to get them used to the new flavor and texture.
Switching to a new pellet food should also be done gradually over a week or two. Mix small amounts of the new food in with the existing one and each day add more of the new food and less of the old one.
Introducing new foods over a few days will help avoid any adverse tummy reactions.
If you happen to notice any diarrhoea or very soft or unusually colored or shaped poops, you may be giving them too much watery or sugary food. Try cutting down on those types of food and if it doesn’t improve you should take them to the vet.
What to do with uneaten food
It’s important to remove any uneaten veggies after an hour or so, especially if your guinea pigs are outdoors. Uneaten food will attract flies which can pose an extreme danger to your pets and the food will also begin to deteriorate, especially in hot weather.
If your guinea pigs haven’t finished all their pellets from the previous day, you should replace them as the vitamin C content will be reduced as it sits in the bowl. Make sure you only feed them their daily portion each time.
What to do if your guinea pig is not eating
Guinea pigs love food and you would be forgiven for thinking this is their favorite hobby! In fact it probably is! Therefore, a disinterest in food or a guinea pig who is not eating is a sign that there is something wrong and your guinea pig is not feeling well.
A guinea pig that is refusing to eat can become seriously ill very quickly. Firstly, their digestive systems need the food regularly to work properly and secondly, their teeth are kept filed down by eating. If they don’t eat their teeth will overgrow and this can cause long term health issues.
If your guinea pig is not eating, it’s essential you get an appointment with the vet as soon as you can so you can get him back on track with his eating as early as possible.
A good daily diet will help keep your guinea pig fit and healthy and reduces the chances of bad health or illness.