Learn why guinea pigs need hay!
You might think of hay as being for horses, but hay is the most important part of a guinea pig’s diet! And it’s not as simple as buying any hay you see on the pet store shelf and tossing it in the cage. This guide will teach you why hay is so important for guinea pigs and the best way to feed it to keep your pet the happiest and healthiest.
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Do Guinea Pigs Need Hay?
Feeding hay is one of the non-negotiable requirements of having guinea pigs. It is the most important part of a guinea pig’s diet and they should have unlimited amounts of hay at all times to avoid health issues. There’s no such thing as feeding too much hay!
To ensure a balanced diet, guinea pigs should also receive a variety of fresh vegetables every day, along with a small amount of healthy guinea pig pellets. Check out this article to learn more about feeding a healthy diet to your guinea pig!
Just like clean water is essential to have available at all times – good quality hay is just as important to keep your guinea pigs happy and healthy.
Hay cubes are not a subsitute for feeding loose hay to your guinea pigs. They need the fiber from eating the long, leafy stalks of hay for their digestion and dental health.
Why is Hay Important for Guinea Pigs?
As I mentioned before, fresh hay is the most important part of a guinea pig’s diet. 80-90% of their diet should be made up of high quality grass hay.
Guinea pigs are herbivores and would be always grazing for food in the wild. Because they are grazing animals, they need to be constantly eating throughout the day. Their digestive system is designed to always have something in it and always be moving. If a guinea pig does not have hay available to eat throughout the day they can very quickly end up with digestive issues.
Without constantly access to hay to eat, a guinea pig’s digestive system could totally shut down. This is called stasis and is a major health emergency. Providing 24/7 access to lots of hay for your guinea pigs avoids this issue completely and ensures they always have something healthy for your piggie to eat.
Another reason hay is so important to keep a guinea pig’s teeth in good shape.
Guinea pigs are rodents, and one of the characteristics of rodents is that they have teeth that never stop growing! Guinea pigs need to be constantly eating and chewing in order to keep their teeth worn down to an appropriate length. Without enough hay, guinea pig teeth could quickly become overgrown and make it very hard for the piggy to eat or cause a whole bunch of other health problems.
What Type of Hay Should You Feed a Guinea Pig?
Guinea pigs should be fed some sort of high-quality grass hay as their main food source, but there is no one single best type of hay. There are a variety of hays to choose from. We’ll go over some of the more common of the different types of hay now.
Timothy hay is probably the most commonly fed and recommended hay for guinea pigs. It is easily found in pet stores and online, and it provides all the essential nutrients a guinea pig needs in their diet.
There are several different cuts of timothy hay. All of them are safe for guinea pigs, but they do have slighly different nutritional value that’s worth looking into. Timothy hay is usually a coarser hay that has a good mixture of stalks, seed heads, and leafy green bits.
I personally choose to feed orchard grass hay to my guinea pigs.
Orchard grass has very similiar nutrition to timothy hay, but is much softer and greener than timothy hay. It doesn’t have the stalks and seed heads that are found in timothy hay. I prefer it because it has less risk of a piggy poking an eye on it.
Orchard hay is also a really good option for people who are allergic to timothy hay. I am pretty allergic to timothy hay, but I don’t have near as many issues with orchard grass. If you have allergies, switching to orchard grass is worth a try!
Many pet stores also sell other types of hay, like Alfalfa. Many of these hays are fine to be fed in small amounts as a treat hay in addition to their normal source of grass hay. However, most of them do not have the correct nutrition to be fed to your guinea pig full time.
Alfalfa especially should not be the main source of hay for adult guinea pigs – it’s suitable only for young guinea pigs. Alfalfa hay is actually a legume hay, not a grass hay. It has too much calcium and more protein than grass hay options. Extra calcium can increase the risk of bladder stones in guinea pigs. Alfalfa hay should only be the main source of hay for growing guinea pigs under 6 months old.
Where to Buy Hay for Guinea Pigs
You can get hay for guinea pigs online or at most pet supply stores.
I personally get my hay from Small Pet Select because I’ve found it to be the best hay for my pets. We’ve been using their Orchard Grass hay for years and the quality is great! Plus, they have fast shipping and multiple types of hay to choose from.
You can also get hay from places like Chewy.com, Amazon, or in your local pet supply store. However, not all hays are created equal.
Let’s go over what to look for in a good hay – what makes it good quality and enticing for your piggies!
What to Look for in a Good Hay
You want to provide the best quality hay to your guinea pigs that you can find. This will ensure it has the right nutrtion for your pets and they will be much more likely to eat it!
Hay should be fresh smelly, green, and leafy. How soft or stalky the hay is will depend on what type of hay you choose, but it shouldn’t be really brown or dry.
The hay shouldn’t be too dusty – though some dust is impossible to avoid. The hay should be nicely dried and there should be no trapped moisture. You will be able to immediatly tell if hay has mold in it by the smell. Moldy hay smells pretty terrible and is very unhealthy for your piggies! You never want to feed moldy hay.
How to Feed Guinea Pig Hay
Feeding hay to your guinea pigs is pretty simple. You want to use a hay feeder that is easy for your pets to access the hay from, and that also controls some of the hay mess.
Guinea pigs are always going to create a mess with their hay, it’s just something we have to accept as guinea pig owners. But you can control the mess by using a hay bag, hay rack, or litter box.
My personal preference is using large hay bags. These are fabric bags you attach to the side of the cage and stuff full of hay. They have large holes on the front so the guinea pigs can access the hay. The only thing you want to keep in mind with hay bags is you don’t want the holes to be so large a pig could fit inside. Some piggies will climb right inside and that can result in an injury – not to mention a lot of ruined hay!
There are also a lot of different hay racks on the market. I don’t really recommend metal hay racks because they can be a hazard if your guinea pig jumps into them (which some will!). Whatever hay rack you choose, make sure your guinea pig has a constant supply of hay they can easily access.
Final Thoughts on Guinea Pig Hay
Hay is super important for guinea pigs, so be sure to provide the best quality you can for your piggies. Providing lots of hay helps avoid health issues, gives your guinea pigs the proper nutrition, and makes for some very happy guinea pigs!
Learn More About Feeding Guinea Pigs:
- Beginner’s Guide to Guinea Pig Care
- Safe Veggies for Guinea Pigs – includes a free printable veggie list!
- Can Guinea Pigs Eat Grass Outside?