Vegetables and Fruit
In the wild, guinea pigs have a diet which is rich in fresh vegetables, fruits, and flowers. Therefore it is a good idea to replicate this as much as possible and feed your pets the types of foods that they enjoy eating and can digest easily. The advice on this page will help you choose the right foods to feed them, prepare them properly, and feed them in the correct quantities.
Feeding your guinea pigs vegetables and fruit as a regular part of their diet provides them with a wide range of essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C. It also keeps their diet varied and interesting. After all, nobody likes eating the same thing for every meal, and guinea pigs are no different. Hard vegetables are also great for your pets' teeth, keeping them sharp and at a comfortable length.
How Much to Feed Them
Vegetables should form part of your cavies' daily diet. There are no hard and fast rules, but most people agree that it's a good idea to give them between 3 and 5 different types of vegetable per day. Do your best to vary what you give them each day, so that they don't get bored with eating the same thing.
Fruit has a much higher sugar content, and should only be given once or twice a week as a treat. Allowing your pets to eat fruit too often can make them fat, and has also been known to cause other problems such as sores around the mouth, from the high acidity levels in some fruits.
When it comes to portion sizes, a good rule of thumb is to give each cavy a matchbox-sized portion of the food in question. So for example, you might feed them a small floret of broccoli, a slice of apple, or a single lettuce leaf.
You should keep your guinea pigs' vegetables and fruit in a cool, dark, dry storage area, like a cupboard, pantry, or garage. The easiest thing to do is to keep them alongside your own supplies of fresh food. Some owners have found that this also benefits them, as it encourages them to try some of the tasty vegetables they're feeding to their animals! Be sure to throw away any rotten food and replace it with new, fresh produce.
You must always wash fruit and veg before feeding it to your pigs, to get rid of any pesticides or other chemicals which have been used during the growing process. Even certain organic foods can contain potentially dangerous substances, so wash everything to be on the safe side.
After washing, dry the food off with some kitchen towels. Don't worry about getting every last drop of water off, as this can be a good way to get extra water into your cavies' diet - just make sure it's not dripping wet, as this can make their bedding matted and uncomfortable to lie on.
Next, cut them up into bite-sized chunks - your guinea pigs will struggle if you give them a whole apple or carrot to munch on. This is particularly important for foods like celery, which are very stringy and can be a choking hazard.
Finally, if necessary, remove any seeds or pips. Many of these cause problems with your pigs' digestive system, and some can even be poisonous, so it's best to just remove them all.
Introducing Vegetables and Fruit into Your Pets' Diet
Guinea pigs can respond badly to sudden changes in their diet. They can play havoc with their stomachs, resulting in symptoms such as diarrhea and bloatedness. When introducing any new food into your guinea pigs' diet (incuding new types of vegetables or fruit), you should do so gradually, starting with small pieces alongside their normal diet. Take a couple of weeks to slowly increase the amount you give them, until they are happy eating it on a regular basis.
Cavies can be wary of new foods, and may take a while to even taste what you feed them. Often, they will wait for one of their cagemates to try a piece before tucking in themselves. Don't be put off if it takes them as long as week to try a new food - just give them a fresh piece every now and then until one of them plucks up the courage to try it.
Even after your pets do taste what you give them, that doesn't necessarily mean they'll like it. Guinea pigs are as individual as humans, and what one likes, another might hate. If your pets don't seem interested in a particular food, try something else instead. Spend some time figuring out what your pets enjoy, so you can give them a diet that is both healthy and enjoyable.
You can give your guinea pigs their vegetable and fruit rations at any time of the day. Some people like to give them half in the morning and half in the evening; others believe in feeding fresh and dry food at different times of day, so that their pets are more likely to eat both rather than just eating the one they like best. In the end though, you will soon figure out what works best for your pigs.
One factor to consider is that fresh food begins to rot very quickly, and will need to be removed from your pets' cage after an hour or two. Therefore it's best to give them their greens at a time of day when you will be around to collect the leftovers.
Vegetables and Salad
These should form the main part of your guinea pigs' fresh food diet, as they contain more nutrients and vitamins than fruit but without the high sugar levels. Below is a list of common vegetables and salad items, along with any specific preparation advice:
- Beetroot - This should be in raw form rather than pickled. It is high in antioxidants and other nutrients. Guinea pigs love the leaves as well as the root itself. Feeding too often may result in red urine.
- Bell peppers - These are very high in vitamin C. Remember to remove all seeds before giving them to your pets.
- Broccoli - High in vitamin C, but can cause an upset stomach if fed too frequently.
- Cabbage - This must be dark green. Again, it can cause stomach trouble if given too frequently.
- Carrots - Cavies also love the leaves, so buy in bunches with leaves intact.
- Cauliflower leaves - Guinea pigs shouldn't be fed the flower itself, but the leaves are very good for them.
- Celery - A very popular food, and the leaves can be fed as well. Be sure to cut it into small chunks as it is very stringy and can be difficult to eat.
- Corn - Guinea pigs love the raw kernels, as well as the leaves.
- Cucumber - This is mostly water and so has little nutritional value. However, it is excellent for keeping your pets cool and providing an extra source of water in hot weather.
- Dandelion leaves - When available (during the spring and summer), these are a great leaf to feed your pets.
- Kale - This is related to the cabbage family, and is very similar to cabbage leaves. Very high in vitamin C.
- Parsley - A good vitamin C source and very popular, but it is also high in calcium, so avoid it if your pet has a history of developing bladder stones.
- Romaine (cos) lettuce - Dark, leafy lettuces such as Romaine are an excellent source of nutrients. However, you should avoid other types of lettuce such as iceberg (see below).
- Tomatoes - Baby tomatoes are ideal, or you can feed your pigs a slice from a larger tomato. Be sure to remove the seeds if doing this, and also remove the green stalk as this can be poisonous.
Vegetables to Avoid
- Iceberg lettuce - This contains a toxin which causes an upset stomach in guinea pigs. It is also very watery and has little nutritional value, so avoid it.
- Potatoes - These are too starchy to be properly broken down, and can also become poisonous if they turn green or begin to sprout.
- Rhubarb - Again, this can cause digestion and stomach problems.
Fruit is sweeter than vegetables and has a much higher sugar and acidity content. This can lead to your cavies getting fat, and can also cause problems such as sores around the mouth. Guinea pigs also tend not to like fruit as much as vegetables. Because of these reasons, fruit should only be fed occasionally, and not on a daily basis.
- Apples - These can be quite acidic, so choose varieties that are more 'flowery' and less 'crunchy'. Leave the skin on as guinea pigs love this part best.
- Banana - Relatively low in vitamin C but rich in other nutrients.
- Cherries - Some guinea pigs like their sweet taste, others find them too rich. Feed these occasionally.
- Cranberries - Very high in vitamin C. Many guinea pig owners also recommend cranberry juice, particularly when nursing a sick pig back to health. Don't feed too much though or it can cause stomach upset.
- Grapefruit - Pink, red, and white varieties are all good sources of vitamin C, but they can be too sour for some pigs. They are high in water content so are refreshing in warm weather.
- Kiwi - Extremely high in vitamin C and considered very good for cavies.
- Mango - Their high water content makes them very refreshing.
- Melon - Again, high in water content. Be sure to remove all seeds before feeding.
- Oranges - You can feed your pigs any variety of orange citrus fruit, including satsumas, tangerines, and clementines. With all of these, be sure to remove the pips and rind.
- Peaches - Fairly low in vitamin C but refreshing.
- Pear - Very watery and low in nutritional value, these are best reserved purely for refreshment on hot summer days.
- Raisins - These are a convenient size, but are very sweet so shouldn't be given too often.
- Raspberries - Some guinea pigs find these too tart to eat, others love them.
- Strawberries - Another popular summer fruit, also very high in vitamin C.
Fruit to Avoid
Guinea pigs will eat most types of fruit, but some vets believe that grapes can lead to kidney disease and are best avoided. If you do decide to feed them to your pets, be sure to give them seedless grapes.
It is a good idea to feed your guinea pigs vegetables as a part of their daily diet, and give them fruit as an occasional treat to introduce variety. Combined with a high quality dry food, this should provide your pets with most, if not all, of the nutrients they need, so you shouldn't need to use any supplements.