Guinea Pig Hay

Guinea Pig Hay Introduction

Guinea Pig Hay makes up around 80% of there diet which they need to survive. Their are many different types of Hay that they can eat however some of them are of poor quality and should not be used for feeding.

What is the best type of Hay for my Guinea Pig/Cavy?

Grass Hay is Vital for your Guinea Pig. Providing UNLIMITED access to a Grass Based hay is one of the best things you can do for your Guinea Pig. The reason we say UNLIMITED Hay is for the following Reasons :-

  • Because it provides the necessary Fibre required for Herbivores (Fibrevores) and there digestive tracts.
  • Keeps there Teeth properly ground down.

Because Guinea Pigs teeth are continuously growing it is necessary for them to graze and grind down there teeth to keep them in good health and length and since Hay only has a modest amount of Protein and Nutrients it does not lead to excessive obesity.

Alfalfa Hay is much higher in Proteins, Calcium and Carbohydrates and is generally fed to Pups and Pregnant/Lactating cavies. Healthy Cavies already being fed on any type of Alfalfa Base Pellet will not benefit from being fed a Alfalfa Base Hay.

Some Guinea Pigs that are prone to Stones (Bladder) or suffering from other illnesses should not be fed on High Calcium Enriched Hays.

Small Bags or Bales

Many owners of Guinea Pigs buy Small Bags of Hay at a pet store and hand it out in small amounts to their animals. Purchasing larger quantities means its available for bedding and for food and at a reasonable cost. Space Limitations may make it impractical to buy farmer bales unless you have the right type of storage to keep it.

Purchasing large Grass Hays by bales can be an inexpensive way to offer your Guinea Pig all the hay they require. A bale can last as long as pre-packed food and bedding if it is store the right way, it has been reported that Hay kept in the right conditions can be used for anything up to a year from purchase.

Remember Correct Storage is important – It has been reported by many Hay suppliers that using Poly Bags is not very good. The reason for this is when the Hay is packed and sealed it can sweat quite easily and that in tern can lead to Mould growing in the hay, this in tern can affect the Nutritional Value of the hay, not only that but your Guinea Pig can suffer from Fungal infections from mould spores growing within there hay.

Meadow Hay (Bedding Hay), Hay Bales are not an ideal hay to feed and this is due to its a lot finer then Timothy Hay which is thicker and forces your guinea pig to chew to ensure good dental ware.

Selecting Your Hay

Locating good Quality Hay can prove very difficult. You may find various links and and leads to a farm or stable with High Quality hay using most most Search Engines or even a Forage Expert. The best hays according to many sources are:

  • Harvested before Blossom or Heading
  • Very Leafy (Poorer Quality Hays tend to be more Stemmy)
  • Have a Natural Green Colour of the crop.
  • Fragrant (This tends to be clean without a mouldy/burnt smell)
  • Very Soft and Pliable
  • Free of Weeds, Trash and other foreign material

Its important to remember that as Hay moves in to early blossom or early heading, to late and the final seed stage (tends to be stemmy) much of the nutritional values go in to seed production. Soft pliable hay is also much safer for your loved pet as stiff and stemmy hay can and do cause injuries. There are two type of production. They are normally called the 1st Cut and 2nd Cut. The 1st cut is generally the first harvest that has been growing through the winter. The 2nd Cut which is also known as the second harvest tends to be more uniform. Farmers generally balance yield and quality in deciding when to harvest. You must also realise that Weather conditions will also play a big part of the quality and the harvest time.

Most Grass Hays are basically similar in Nutritional Value and some hays will be more palatable then others. Orchard Grass and Timothy Hay are normally the Favourites with most Herbivores. The main thing to remember as long as the hay is of High Quality it should be suitable for your Guinea Pig.

Is there a Hay I should be giving my Guinea Pig in particular over other types?

Yes. The best hay you can give your Guinea Pig is Timothy Hay. This is a grass hay which is :-

  • Low in Protein
  • High in Fibre
  • Stalky & Thick

I have read that there many types of Timothy Hay is that right?

Yes. There is generally two types of Timothy Hay that we can get here in the UK, they are :-

  • English Timothy Hay
  • American Timothy Hay

As a rule due to poor weather conditions here in the UK the English Grown Timothy hay is normally of poor condition as it tends to have :-

  • Yellow Discolouration (known as bleaching), Sunlight reduces quality, fragrance, taste and Texture

Whereas the American Timothy Hay is Greener, Sweet Smelling, Crispy.

Is there an alternative to Timothy Hay?

My own personal view is that the only hay you should be giving your Guinea Pig is Timothy because of the fact that other hay tends to be more grassier then Timothy which can lead to dental issues if they are not chewing enough. I have also found that most of our team members lay in other types of hay, they urinate on it and defecate on it. Issues with this is that a warm body on damp moist hay can lead to Fungal Skin issues and if your guinea pig eats hay that has started to mould it can lead to Systemic Mycosis (Internal Fungal Infection).