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Guinea pigs, are also commonly referred to as cavies, are great pets for both children and adults because they don’t take up a large amount of space and are fairly quiet. As long as you provide them with what they need to thrive, they are also pretty easy pets to care for. Like most pets, what you feed your guinea pig is a very important part of providing them with what they need, so choosing the right food for your cavy should not be a decision you take lightly.
“There is a lot of thought that goes into buying guinea pig food,” says Cheri Schubert, a guinea pig breeder and previously Registered Veterinary Technician. Guinea pigs are herbivores, have teeth that grow continuously throughout their lives, and like humans, are unable to make their own vitamin C in their bodies.
Because of these things, the proper diet for a guinea pig must not contain any meat, help keep their teeth at an appropriate length, and contain vitamin C. If a diet does not meet all of these criteria, your guinea pig may become sick, weak, and be unable to live a long and happy life.
There are numerous food options to choose from, so our veterinary and guinea pig experts have helped narrow down your choices to the best guinea pig foods.
Best Overall: Oxbow Essentials Adult Guinea Pig Food
Multiple bag size options
Fortified with vitamins and minerals
5 pounds is the smallest size bag offered
Over $2 per pound unless you buy a larger size
Oxbow is well-known in the small pet world for its quality products and the Essentials Adult Guinea Pig food is a favorite among guinea pig owners. These small pellets have no seeds, are uniform in shape and size so that picky eaters won’t be selective, and are economically priced. They are also available in multiple sizes of bags so that you can be sure you only buy as much as your guinea pig will eat within a few months time. Larger bags of pellets may be less expensive per pound, but if you only have two or three guinea pigs, the vitamin C in the food will expire before your cavies can consume it all.
Best Budget: Blue Seal Furry Friends Guinea Pig Pellets
Large bag decreases the cost per pound
Smaller sized bags are harder to find and are more expensive
Must have at least six guinea pigs to make a large bag be cost effective
The cost of quality guinea pig food will decrease if you buy it in bulk, so a 25-pound bag of Blue Seal Furry Friends guinea pig pellets is a great option if you are on a budget. However, 25 pounds of guinea pig food is more than a two year supply of food for one cavy, and since the vitamin C expires after four months from the date it is milled, much of the food will be wasted if you have less than six cavies. Because of this, this large bag of food is not a good choice if you only have a few cavies. However, Blue Seal food is “tried, tested, and true,” according to Schubert. Blue Seal does offer a 5-pound bag of this food but it may be more difficult to find. Other quality foods including Oxbow also offer 25-pound bags of food, which will be more cost effective per pound as well.
Best for Vitamin C: Oxbow Natural Science Vitamin C Supplement
High quality brand
High in fiber
Not all guinea pigs will find them palatable
Only available in a 60-count bag
If you are concerned about not giving your guinea pig enough vitamin C, Oxbow’s Natural Science Vitamin C Supplement is a great option to provide to your cavy. These treats are also high in fiber to aid in digestion and help prevent diarrhea. Plus, guinea pig love them and owners say their pigs come running for their vitamin C. The supplement is also suitable for other small pets like rabbits and chinchillas, but whenever adding a supplement to your pet's diet it's always a good idea to consult with your vet.
Best Organic: Oxbow Organic Bounty Adult Guinea Pig Food
Small bag size to keep ingredients fresh
Not all guinea pigs will find it palatable
Oxbow’s Organic Bounty food is a high-quality option if you are looking to feed organic food to your guinea pig. “Oxbow makes a superior food so on a small scale, if you only have a couple of guinea pigs, I recommend feeding this,” says Schubert. A 3-pound bag of food is a great size if you only have one or two guinea pigs, because it will help ensure that you are always feeding fresh food with effective vitamin C. This food has the USDA organic seal which means the ingredients are grown by certified organic farmers, but the price point will be higher than other foods.
Best Hay: Oxbow Orchard Grass Hay Small Animal Food
Guinea pigs love it
Multiple bag and box sizes are available
Larger quantities may be of lower quality
All-natural product may contain insects from outside
Schubert says orchard grass is very soft and sweet and is less likely to stick in the coats of the long-haired pig. It is also less likely to poke an eye. These characteristics make it a favorite hay among guinea pig owners and breeders.
Multiple sized bags or bales are available, so you can be sure to only buy as much as your guinea pigs will eat in a timely manner. “There never can be too much hay in the cage," Schubert says. "It is a staple that can be offered free range.”
Best for Baby Guinea Pigs: Oxbow Essentials Young Guinea Pig Food
Minimum of 18 percent protein
5 pounds is the smallest bag size available
Schubert suggests that the best food for baby guinea pigs is "a higher protein food that is around 18 to 22 percent protein.” That means that Oxbow’s Essentials Young Guinea Pig food is a great choice for guinea pigs less than six months of age. These pellets contain no seeds and have a minimum of 18 percent protein in each serving. They are also made from alfalfa hay and not timothy or orchard grass to provide the different nutrients growing cavies need. Guinea pig owners also rave about how their growing pigs love this formula.
Best Treats: Kaytee Baked Apple Timothy Biscuit Small Animal Treats
Help keep teeth trimmed
Almost 10 calories per biscuit
Treats should never make up more than 20 percent of your guinea pig’s diet and ideally, all treats will provide some degree of a health benefit. Kaytee Timothy Biscuits Baked with Apple not only provide healthy ingredients like vitamins, minerals, hay, and apples, but they also help keep your guinea pig’s teeth trimmed. Offering treats that have a different flavor and texture from your guinea pig’s pellets and hay also provide mental enrichment and help prevent boredom. Each of these biscuits does contain nearly 10 calories, so if your guinea pig starts gaining too much weight be sure to cut back on the treats.
Oxbow offers high-quality foods at fair prices, especially if you care for a number of guinea pigs and can purchase it in bulk. Oxbow Essentials Adult Guinea Pig Food (view at Amazon) is a great all-around option for guinea pigs over six months of age. It is affordable, widely available, and provides the nutrients like vitamin C that guinea pigs needs from their pellets. These pellets should always be offered alongside a high-quality timothy or orchard grass hay, so Oxbow Orchard Grass Hay (view at Chewy) is a great option to fulfill the rest of your guinea pig’s needs.
What to Look for in Guinea Pig Food
Formulated for Guinea Pigs
The most important things to look for when selecting a guinea pig food is to make sure the food is designed for guinea pigs and that the date of milling is as recent as possible. Foods that are milled more than a few months ago will begin losing their vitamin C, and foods that are not designed for guinea pigs may not have as much as a guinea pig needs. Next, avoid foods that are high in fat and calories like seeds and sugary treats as these will contribute to obesity and health issues.
“All guinea pig feed contains a supplement of Vitamin C. It is very important to make sure you understand the milling process date and that it isn’t more than four months old," explains cavie expert Cheri Schubert. "Also, when you open the pelleted feed, store it in a plastic container to continue to preserve the vitamins and minerals and freshness.” This means that if you are choosing a pellet designed for guinea pigs, it will contain vitamin C, but you need to make sure the food isn’t more than four months old and you store it appropriately.
What human foods can I give my guinea pig?
Several human foods can be offered to guinea pigs as treats. Cheri Schubert notes that Cheerios and quick plain rolled oats are popular options, along with vegetables that are high in vitamin C and some fruits. Bell peppers, kale, leafy lettuce, green beans, parsley, cilantro, strawberry tops, and cucumbers are great vegetable options. Be sure to limit starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes and carrots, and avoid gas-producing vegetables like cabbage and onions.
Can guinea pigs eat rabbit food?
“Guinea pigs can be fed rabbit food on a very limited basis,” says Schubert. Rabbit food lacks the nutritional components, primarily adequate vitamin C, that guinea pigs need, so it should never be fed to a guinea pig long term. If you absolutely cannot find guinea pig food or are running low and can only find rabbit pellets, you can temporarily mix your rabbit and guinea pig pellets or feed the rabbit pellets until you can get more guinea pig pellets. Vitamin C deficiency is a serious problem and will negatively affect guinea pigs that don’t get adequate amounts in their diet.
Can guinea pigs eat any other type of pet food?
With the exception of feeding rabbit pellets for a very temporary time, Schubert says, “I would not recommend any other pet foods for a guinea pig. Many of the other foods contain things that guinea pigs shouldn’t eat.”
Why Trust The Spruce Pets?
Adrienne Kruzer is a Registered and Licensed Veterinary Technician in three states and has been writing about pet and vet topics for over a decade. She is also Fear Free Certified, has a special interest in exotic and pocket pets, pet nutrition, and loves researching, learning, and problem solving in order to better help pet owners. Her years of working in various animal hospitals with dogs, cats, wildlife, and exotic pets like guinea pigs, alongside her formal college education and elective continuing education classes, have provided her with a wealth of experience and knowledge to help guinea pig owners select the right food for their pet.
Cheri Schubert was not only a Registered Veterinary Technician in her life before Human Resource Management, but she also breeds and shows champion guinea pigs. She is a member of the American Cavy Breeders Association, American Rabbit Breeders Association, and the Ohio Cavy Club and runs Crafty Cavies and Seminole Winds Cavies where she has raised show and pet stock for over 12 years. Texel, teddy, silkie, and Swiss guinea pig breeds are her specialties.