Remember when we talked about guinea pigs? We even mentioned the diet of this lovely fur ball. Now we’d like to go into it in more detail, as the dietary needs of this little animal deserve to be better studied.
Guinea pigs are rodents, which might lead you to think the ideal guinea pigs diet includes seeds and cereals, but that’s not the case. Guinea pigs are rodents, but strictly herbivorous, and their diet must consist mainly of herbs, plants and vegetables. How, then, should you prepare your guinea pigs diet?
HAY AND HERB, FIRST AND FOREMOST
A healthy and balanced guinea pigs diet is fundamentally based on hay, which must always be available, fresh, soft, not too dusty, and of good quality. Hay is not only indispensable for your guinea pig’s general health; it also helps your pet’s teeth to be worn correctly (its teeth are perfect to chew fibrous foods) and to keep its bowels running smoothly. Guinea pigs need to wear their incisive teeth, which, like those of any other rodent, never stop growing; there are several nibbling toys available in the market, in several materials and shapes.
In addition to hay, during the summer months, if you can, try finding some wild grass for your guinea pig, such as clover, dandelion and plantain. These should ideally be picked from fields destined to grazing, as the variety of grasses available is higher, and far from motorways, to avoid pollution.
VEGETABLES, FRUITS AND VITAMIN C
Another important component of guinea pigs diet is vegetables. You should give your pet from 100 to 150 g of veggies a day, spread in several meals throughout the day. Just like humans, guinea pigs cannot synthesise vitamin C by itself, which means it must be present in the diet. Give preference to vegetable that contain this vitamin, and keep the diet varied if possible. Excellent vitamin-C-rich veggies for your guinea pigs are broccoli, green and black kale, cauliflower, cabbage, radicchio, chicory, rocket, bell peppers, beetroots and parsley. Try also celery, fennel, endive, Romaine lettuce, watercress and spinach.
Guinea pigs are diffident little animals and introducing new foods into their guinea pigs diet is not an easy task. To make things easier for you, start giving it as many different foods as you can right from the beginning, when it’s little. If your guinea pig is already an adult and you want it to get used to new foods, start with small bites to avoid intestinal problems. Any change in its diet should be made gradually. Keep at it until your pet accepts it – just don’t let it starve!
Fruits make up a whole different chapter. Rich in natural sugars, they shouldn’t be offered too often. Offer them in small amounts, as special treats, and give preference to those rich in vitamin C, such as kiwifruit, strawberries and citrus fruits. Fruits and vegetables should be offered at room temperature, washed and dried, and in small meals spread throughout the day to avoid wasted food.
If the diet offered is balanced, your guinea pig will have all the vitamin C it needs. Should your pet have any special need, such as during pregnancy or particular diseases, your vet may prescribe a supplement.
PELLETS AND FOODS TO AVOID
Pellets are not indispensable items of a guinea pigs diet, but can be offered every now and then. Just make sure they’re specific for guinea pigs (pellets for rabbits, mice and hamsters are not suitable) and don’t contain seeds, cereals, dried fruits or animal fats, but only hay and vegetables, possibly with high fibre contents.
Which foods should absolutely be avoided?
- Complex carbs of all kinds (bread, pasta, puffed cereals, biscuits etc.);
- Garlic, onions and hot peppers;
- Sprouted potatoes and the green parts of potatoes and tomatoes;
To wrap this up, just a curious note on guinea pigs’ eating habits: just like rabbits, guinea pigs often eat their own faeces. Don’t freak out if you see your pet doing it; it’s useful to recover nutrients.
A balanced diet is crucial to keep your guinea pig in good health and prolong its life. Be very careful with what you offer your pet, and buon appetito to all our beloved guinea pigs!