Guinea pigs love eating fresh hay and according to the Humane Society of the United States, hay should be available to them at all times. Guinea pigs, sometimes called cavies, are herbivores and need grass hay for essential roughage and fiber and to help wear down their teeth, which grow continuously. Hay also creates a soft bed and helps keep cavies warm. By eating different types of hay, guinea pigs benefit from the varied textures and fiber content.
Timothy Hay is a Favorite
Timothy hay is a good choice of grass hay, as it's readily available from most pet stores and can be bought in bulk from country feed stores or farms. Most guinea pigs seem to really like it. With timothy hay -- or any other type -- buy only clean, fresh, good-quality hay. It should feel dry, smell sweet and grassy and have a green tinge to it. Never use dusty or moldy hay, as this can make guinea pigs ill.
Other Grass Hays
Botanical hay has different grasses and dried flowers in it. This provides guinea pigs with a variety of flavors. Orchard grass is also good as food and has a softer texture that makes comfy bedding; the cavies' teeth can benefit from the more abrasive oat hay, which is thicker and harder. If you have problems finding different varieties of hay, many good sources of grass hay can be found on the internet from companies specializing in small animal supplies.
Pros and Cons of Alfalfa
Alfalfa hay isn't really a grass. It's a legume -- like peas -- and isn't suitable for most adult guinea pigs. For cavies' needs, it's usually too high in calories and they may get fat on it. It's also rich in protein and calcium and this can cause diarrhea or other problems such as kidney and bladder stones. However, alfalfa can help guinea pigs who need to put on weight because of illness or during convalescence. Small amounts can benefit pregnant and nursing sows and cavies under 4 months old. Always consult your veterinarian for advice.
Feeding Grass Hay
Unlimited quantities of grass hay can be made available to guinea pigs at all times. It's a good idea to put hay for eating in a hay feeder or in a corner of the guinea pigs' cage that isn't used as a toilet. Hay provided in an edible basket, a cardboard box or toilet roll holders can be great fun for guinea pigs.
If grass hay is stored properly, it will keep for at least a year. It's best kept in a cool, dry and dark room or store that's well ventilated, as damp conditions cause mold to form, while too much sunlight and heat can leach out nutrients. Put a cover over the hay to keep off dust, but make sure air can circulate around it to prevent condensation making it wet.
- The Humane Society of the United States: Vital Vittles for Your Guinea Pig
- Tri-County Humane Society: Proper Guinea Pig Diet
- Guinea Piglopedia: A Complete Guide to Guinea Pig Care; Margaret Elward and Mette Ruelokke
- Our Best Friends: Guinea Pigs; Janice Biniok
- Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images