Guinea pigs always need access to hay. How much do they need? Unlimited access!
Why do guinea pigs need hay?
Guinea pigs, rabbits and other herbivore animals eat small amounts of hay and other plant material during the entire day. Hay contains a low amount of energy and other nutrients and lots of fibre. We can simulate this easily by providing unlimited access to hay. This way, they have the opportunity to eat all day.
This has some advantages:
- Gastrointestinal tract: the intestines always need to be filled with food to function properly. An empty gastrointestinal tract can be very dangerous for the health of a guinea pig.
- Teeth: teeth of rodents and rabbits keep on growing and they stay short due to the grinding movements they make when they chew. Hay is very coarse and hard to grind, so it’s perfect to maintain guinea pig teeth healthy.
- Weight: hay does not contain much energy and gives a satisfied feeling. This make a guinea pig eat less pellets and other treats, which makes them less prone to become fat. The chance to eat too much of specific nutrients in their pellets is also small.
- Behaviour: guinea pigs forage (search and eat food) for an important part of their time. We have to give them that opportunity to decrease boredom and problem behaviour.
“But my guinea pigs don’t like hay!”
If given the choice, many guinea pigs prefer pellets and treats over hay. What can you do about this?
- Give good quality hay: (dark)green, low in dus and not too coarse it preferred most.
- Provide fresh hay daily: clean hay is much tastier than hay that is trampled or dirty. And often, guinea pigs don’t eat all the parts of the hay.
- Give a limited amount of pellets: weigh the amount of kibbles according to the description. Often that’s even quite much! Guinea pigs don’t need unlimited access to pellet, only when they have babies or in a case of severe undernutrition.
- Provide pellets on a different time than hay: this stimulates animals to eat from the fresh food they have.
- Vary the sorts of hay or give toys that contain hay: variation is an extra stimulus to eat.
Sorts of hay
You can vary the sorts of hay for your piggies. This often makes it easier to eat. Besides to normal hay you could try special sorts, such as timothy hay. This is low in calcium as well, which makes it extra suitable for animals that are prone to bladder problems. For all other guinea pigs it can be a very healthy variation as well.
There are also dried grass mixes or luxury sorts that contain herbs. Most guinea pigs love those! Or you can spoil your animals with toys made of hay, such as hay rolls. What are you going to try?
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