Thanks to their rapid metabolisms, guinea pigs eat a lot despite being such small animals!
Providing the proper diet for your piggies is a surprisingly challenging task.
They require certain nutrients to stay healthy, flavors to keep them interested in their food, and even textures to file down their constantly-growing guinea pig teeth.
Commercial pellet guinea pig food seems like a staple for your furry friends’ diets, but do guinea pigs need pellets in their diet to begin with?
While pellets are a great and inexpensive supplemental food to offer your guinea pigs daily, they should only make up around 15% to 20% of your pigs’ total diet. Around ⅛ a cup of pellets per day per pig is recommended. Eating too many pellets will result in obesity and nutritional deficiencies.
Read on to learn everything you need to know about pre-packaged guinea pig pellet food, what it is, and just how important it is to your pigs’ varied, balanced diets.
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What Are Guinea Pig Pellets?
To put it simply, guinea pig pellets are a type of pre-packaged food designed for–you guessed it–guinea pigs!
They typically look like small, oblong, or somewhat rectangular brown or greenish hard, dense pellets.
Most pellet foods for guinea pigs include a long list of ingredients, from certain minerals like salt and zinc to vitamins like D3 and B12, but they’re primarily composed of various tasty grasses, oats, soybeans, and wheat.
Some formulations also include various fruits and vegetables for added flavor and nutrition.
Many prominent brands in the pet care industry produce their version of these pellets, such as Kaytee, Vitakraft, and Oxbow.
We recommend something like this from Oxbow if you opt to offer your piggies pellets as a supplement to their diet.
Oxbow’s pellets are fortified with the fiber and vitamins your guinea pigs need to thrive and are made of all-natural, delicious ingredients like the various grasses they love.
Do Guinea Pigs Need to Eat Pellet Food?
Interestingly, guinea pigs don’t necessarily need to eat pellet food to survive or thrive.
To be clear, pellet food is an excellent supplement to your furry friends’ diets.
It is inexpensive, easy to find and purchase in bulk, and (depending on the brand) usually packed with tasty and nutritious ingredients guinea pigs need and love.
However, pellet food also contains high amounts of ingredients like salt, molasses, and fat, which are all rather troublesome in large amounts for guinea pigs.
It’s also quite dry, so most pellet foods don’t offer much additional moisture or hydration.
Water is vital for keeping your pigs’ fast-moving digestive systems functioning properly.
Check out our article on if guinea pigs can drink tap water safely.
Essentially, all this means pellets shouldn’t be offered as a staple food (like actual high-quality grass hay, for example) but rather as a supplement or treat.
In small amounts, pellet food is an excellent addition to your guinea pigs’ diet–just be sure to only offer it in moderation.
Additionally, some guinea pigs don’t even like the taste and/or texture of pellet food and simply won’t eat it!
It’s up to you to learn your pigs’ dietary preferences over time.
Knowing exactly how much of the stuff to feed your guinea pigs is often tricky, though, especially for newbie pet owners.
Not to worry, though!
Below, we’ll go over exactly how much pellet food your piggies should be eating per day.
Later, we’ll also cover what kinds of plant material your beloved furry friends should eat daily in addition to their standard pellet food so your pigs are happy, healthy, and, of course, well-fed.
How Often Should Guinea Pigs Eat Pellet Food?
There isn’t a hard and fast rule for exactly how often you need to offer your guinea pigs pellet food.
However, most manufacturers of pellet foods for guinea pigs recommend offering around ⅛ a cup of pellets per pig per day as part of a healthy diet.
Another great benefit of pellet food worth noting here is its simplicity and easy cleanup!
Just pour the pellets into a clean, sturdy food dish and offer them to your pigs daily.
For every additional guinea pig, add ⅛ a cup of extra pellets.
⅛ a cup probably sounds like a lot for such a small animal, but remember, guinea pigs need to eat almost constantly to prevent bloat and keep their digestive systems moving normally.
Having pellets available provides your pigs with something aside from the typical hay to munch on throughout the day.
Another thing to keep in mind is pellet food should be just one of many different foods you offer your guinea pigs every day.
Various fresh vegetables, fruits, and grasses (and, of course, fresh water bottles or a water container) should also be included in their daily diet.
What Else Should Guinea Pigs Eat?
While it sometimes seems like a good idea to novice guinea pig owners to offer their pigs nothing but pellet food for simplicity’s sake, doing so would be a disservice to your furry friends’ health and overall happiness.
Too many pellets can cause severe guinea pig health problems.
Keep in mind that some guinea pigs simply don’t like the taste or texture of pre-packaged pellet food!
Pellet food should only make up around 10% to 15% (at most!) of your pigs’ total food intake. The main and most crucial part of any guinea pig diet is hay!
All guinea pigs should have unlimited amounts of fresh, clean hay, ideally something like timothy hay or orchardgrass, as they are both high in fiber and highly nutritious.
A whopping 70% of your guinea pigs’ diets should be composed of fresh grass and hay alone.
Thus, the whole unlimited quantity requirement.
And speaking of hay, check out our other topic about Timothy hay alternatives here.
In addition to plenty of hay, fresh veggies and dark greens should be offered daily.
Any vitamin C-rich foods are generally a great choice, such as bell peppers, broccoli, and various types of squash.
The bulk of your pigs’ vegetable intake should be dark, leafy greens like spinach, kale, dandelion greens, and turnip greens.
Finally, a small amount of fresh fruit (no more than 5% or so of their total diet) should be offered from time to time, mainly as treats.
A couple of blueberries or strawberry slices per day, for example, would be an excellent, healthy treat, as it offers a uniquely sweet flavor and will keep your piggies interested in their food.
Avoid anything acidic such as citrus fruits.
However, fruit is also packed with sugar, which causes obesity and dental disease in guinea pigs when consumed in excess, so keep these tasty treats to a reasonable minimum.