If you are a guinea pig owner, you know how much your beloved furry friends love their Timothy Hay.
Guinea pigs need constant access to hay to stay healthy and well-fed.
There are quite a few reasons someone may need an alternative to Timothy Hay.
The most common reasons are human allergies to Timothy Hay or simply out.
In these scenarios, it helps to know a good alternative to replace this for guinea pigs.
Fresh grass, orchard hay, and meadow hay are all great alternatives to Timothy Hay. Some alternatives like Alfalfa are fine for a few days but should not regularly be given to your guinea pig. If you need a more permanent replacement for Timothy Hay, fresh grass or other hay are the best options.
Being a responsible guinea pig owner means having a constant supply of nutritious food available.
Sometimes we need to replace their normal Timothy Hay food temporarily or permanently.
Let’s look at some of the best alternatives for guinea pigs.
What Should I Use To Replace Timothy Hay For My Guinea Pig?
There are many reasons why a guinea pig parent may need to seek a replacement for Timothy Hay to maintain a balanced guinea pig diet.
It’s best to know a good option should the issue arise.
The most common reasons for needing hay alternatives are allergies and running out.
In both situations, your guinea pigs still need to eat, so it’s crucial to have a backup plan.
Most people don’t realize they are allergic to Timothy Hay until they bring it home to give to their pet guinea pig.
Once they pull it out of the bag, they start sneezing and itching immediately.
Some people start to have an allergic reaction when they enter the room with their guinea pig cage.
This is not a sustainable option for the owners.
Another common reason people need an alternative is when they run out of Timothy Hay.
Our local pet stores have the regular type of hay in stock most of the time.
However, if you ever run into an issue where the store is out of stock, you’ll need to find a suitable replacement.
Knowing what else works for your guinea pig is very beneficial.
What Should I Do If I’m Allergic To Timothy Hay?
It happens to many people.
They bring home a darling new guinea pig and start to make their enclosure all cozy and inviting.
Once it came time to bring out the Timothy Hay, they scratched and sneezed.
Allergies to Timothy Hay are not uncommon.
People who have pollen or seasonal allergies tend to be more susceptible to an allergy to this type of hay.
When this happens, it’s easy to grow concerned.
Do you put up with your allergy for the sake of your guinea pig?
What should you do?
Luckily there are many options to make you and your guinea pig happy.
If your allergy isn’t too severe, have someone else give the Timothy Hay to your guinea pig.
If someone in your household is willing to do this, it may be enough to keep your allergies at bay.
You may also find relief by wearing gloves when handling the hay.
Some people have severe allergies to Timothy hay, where even just being in the same room triggers a reaction.
If this is the case, you may have to check other options.
We recommend switching your guinea pig off of Timothy Hay completely with severe allergies.
This should also be done if your guinea pig itself is allergic to this type of hay which sometimes happens.
Luckily there are plenty of great options for replacing Timothy’s hay.
We recommend using Orchard hay as it is the closest to Timothy without the allergens.
How Much Hay Should I Give My Guinea Pig Every Day?
Making sure you provide enough hay for your guinea pig is very important.
Too little hay feed leads to many health problems caused by weight loss or malnourishment.
While the amount of hay your guinea pig eats daily may vary, they should be eating a minimum of about 3 oz of hay per day.
This is usually a good reference point.
You may need to adjust the daily amount from there if your cavy seems like they are gaining or losing weight or experiencing any issues with digestive health.
If you have one guinea pig and give them 3 oz of hay each day, this works out to about 6 lbs of hay each month per pig.
Knowing how much hay to buy will keep you from running out of hay and having to find lower-quality alternatives.
Check out how often to change your guinea pig hay in our article.
What Are Other Healthy Snacks For Guinea Pigs?
In addition to hay, guinea pigs should also get fresh water, pellets, and fresh fruits and vegetables to supplement their main feed.
Pellets are a great snack but make sure not to overdo it.
Pellets tend to be higher in fat and calories.
This means your guinea pig is significantly more likely to become obese and suffer from health issues if they eat too many pellets.
Guinea pig pellets are good for guinea pigs, though.
They offer vitamin C and tend to be good for dental health as gnawing and chewing them helps to grind their teeth down.
You’ll also quickly notice how your guinea pigs love special treats and snacks.
This is especially true for fresh vegetables and fruits.
There are many healthy snacks your guinea pig will enjoy.
These snacks help boost their nutritional profile as part of a healthy diet.
Like pellets, it is important not to overdo it with extra snacks and only offer them as an occasional treat.
They do offer extra vitamins but should never replace their regular diet.
Here are a few great options for fresh fruit, green vegetables, and other healthy food options for your guinea pig:
- Spinach and other leafy greens
See more in our complete guide to what guinea pigs can eat.
7 Alternatives To Timothy Hay For Guinea Pigs
In a pinch, fresh grass makes an excellent choice as an alternative to Timothy Hay.
So long as your garden or lawn is not treated with chemicals or harmful pesticides, the grass clippings are perfectly fine to give your guinea pigs.
If you want to treat your guinea pig, take them outside and allow them to graze on the grass.
This is sure to make them very happy.
Make sure you put a pen or enclosure to keep your guinea pig from running off or getting lost.
Some guinea pig owners grow grass, especially for their pets.
This is a more permanent solution.
Even if you don’t completely replace the hay with fresh grass, it will still be a special treat for your guinea pigs.
Fresh grass also doesn’t provide the best alternative to Timothy Hay, as it is often difficult to maintain an unlimited grass supply.
It is a great option if you run out of hay and need something to give your pets before you run to the pet store.
Orchard hay is a great alternative to Timothy Hay.
Some feel it is the best alternative as it offers all the benefits and serves all the same purposes as Timothy Hay without the allergens.
The nutritional value of Orchard Hay is very similar, so you’ll be sure your beloved guinea pig is getting all its nutritional needs met.
It provides many essential nutrients and plenty of fiber.
Its soft texture is also appealing.
Finding Orchard Hay is easy in many locations.
It is especially accessible in rural and farming communities.
Orchard Hay is the dried version of Orchard grass.
An Orchard grass bale is easier to find, purchase, and store than fresh varieties.
Orchard hay provides excellent dental care as well.
Guinea pig teeth grow continuously.
For this reason, it is very important to provide food like Orchard hay for them to chew and keep their teeth at a healthy length.
Meadow hay is another excellent alternative for Timothy Hay.
Meadow hay combines many different types of hay, grass, flowers, and plants.
The blend provides a tasty and nutritious food source for guinea pigs.
Because it often contains many different types of plants, it may still trigger allergies for some people.
Get a small amount to see if it triggers your allergies before investing in a large amount.
Another thing to consider about using Meadow Hay as a replacement is the varying quality of the blend.
Because it consists of many different plants, the nutritional value will vary significantly.
It is perfectly acceptable to supplement regular hay feed or as a special treat but may not fulfill all the requirements of a balanced diet.
Guinea pigs love Alfalfa.
It is tasty grass, and they love to munch on it.
Alfalfa grass packs helpful nutrients like calcium and protein, making it very nutritious.
However, it is not a suitable long-term replacement for Timothy Hay.
Alfalfa hay is not as balanced as other types of hay and grass on this list.
Too much Alfalfa is not good for your guinea pigs and may cause digestive issues.
While some calcium levels are beneficial to your cavy, too much causes health issues like bladder stones or obesity.
Guinea pig obesity leads to many health issues and takes a toll on your cavy’s fragile joints and bones.
Alfalfa makes a better treat or temporary food replacement than a fully balanced feed for these reasons.
Oat hay is another alternative to the usual Timothy Hay you give your guinea pigs.
We highly recommend only using it for one or two meals at a maximum.
While it is tasty and your cavy will love the special treat, oat hay contains seeds.
The seeds are high in fat and will eventually lead to obesity and weight gain, both of which cause health issues.
It is fine to give your guinea pigs a helping or two of oat hay in a pinch, but make sure to get them onto a more suitable substitute as soon as possible.
Oat hay is great to hold you over until you can go to the pet store or local farm store for a different type of hay.
It has the full and balanced nutrients in Timothy Hay or Orchard grass hay.
If you wonder if giving oat hay to your guinea pig is okay, the answer is yes but very sparingly.
Bermuda hay is a good substitute for Timothy Hay.
It contains many nutrients, vitamins, protein, fiber, and fat.
There are a few drawbacks to giving this type of hay to your guinea pigs.
For starters, many guinea pigs do not seem to appreciate the taste of Bermuda hay.
They don’t find it very tasty, so it is sometimes difficult to get them to eat enough of it to achieve a balanced meal.
Another drawback to Bermuda Hay is the lack of availability.
It is often very hard to find Bermuda Hay in many circumstances and locations.
If you happen to have Bermuda Hay at your disposal, feel free to offer it to your guinea pigs.
Don’t be surprised if they turn up their adorable furry noses to this hay type.
Brome hay is another good substitute for Timothy Hay when you’re in a pinch.
It is not available in many locations.
It seems to be most popular in the Southern US, where it is grown.
For many guinea pig owners, Brome hay is not an available option for them.
Luckily they aren’t missing much. Brome hay doesn’t offer nearly as many nutrients as Timothy Hay.
Many guinea pig parents who’ve offered this to their pets also find they don’t like its taste either.
Brome hay is fine to feed guinea pigs, but we don’t recommend making a full switch to this type of feed.
It is not as nutritious or practical as Timothy Hay. It is also very difficult to find in many parts of the country.
However, if you run out of your regular hay feed, feel free to offer some to your guinea pig in the interim.