As a guinea pig owner, one of your primary considerations will be about what you feed them and what they can and cannot eat. But what about cheese? Can guinea pigs consume this form of dairy and is it something you should be looking to do? With the importance of diet in mind, I decided to do some research. I would like to share what I have been able to find with you here today.
So, can guinea pigs eat cheese? Guinea pigs cannot eat cheese. They do not have the capabilities or enzymes to digest it, it is very high in calcium and generally high in fat content. While the consumption of cheese would not cause immediate death, they will encounter adverse health affects if it is regularly consumed or consumed in excess. In the short term it can cause digestive issues whereas in the long term it can lead to urinary and heart complications. Instead, other foods and treats such as veggies and treats should be provided.
As their name suggests, guinea pigs are pigs. By that, I mean these little rodents have a notorious reputation for eating everything and anything they can get their mouths on.
Many cavy owners can confirm this reputation as they have lost many random objects that were placed too close a guinea pig cage.
While guinea pigs are not picky eaters – this doesn’t mean they have stomachs of steel.
There are many dietary restrictions guinea pigs should follow for their health.
Unfortunately, you can not rely off of your guinea pigs natural instincts. They just cannot refrain themselves from snacking on potentially dangerous food.
Instead, you need to educate yourself a bit on common household things they should stay away from and be careful as to what you provide. At the end of the day, you are their guardian and they rely on your for their nutrition.
Among one of the more popular snacks in cheese. While cheese is a favorite among human food snacks, many animals should steer clear of any dairy products.
Let us now take a closer look as to why in the following sections. Be sure to read to the end as you’ll discover some suitable and more health promoting alternatives.
Why Guinea Pigs Cannot Eat Cheese
Cheese is not an appropriate food for three main reasons. Firstly, it contains lactose and other milk proteins your guinea pig cannot break down. Secondly, it is high in calcium, and thirdly it is high in fat.
Let us now take a look at each of these one by one:
Lactose and Milk Proteins
Many animals have problems digesting milk from their mothers past a certain age.
In the wild, most mammals ween themselves from relying off of any milk when they are still babies. Milk is simply baby food to them that has its own special purpose of getting them to reach maturity faster. And before they are able to obtain the nutrition they need.
Guinea pigs are no exception to this rule.
But beyond this; cheese is primarily made of cows milk. While you do get goats cheese and other types and styles of cheeses; you have to remember that cows milk was intended for young calves.
In nature, that is the purpose. When you come to think of it, it is somewhat strange that us humans even consume it. Whatever your take on the matter is – it play a big role on the human diet and has done so for centuries.
While us humans may or may not be able to digest it; its another thing entirely to expect the same of any animal; especially a rodent.
In fact, guinea pigs lack a special enzyme in their stomachs (lactase) which allow them to properly break down milk particles, proteins (like lactose) and enzymes in their stomachs.
Because they can’t properly break it down, these particles can wreak havoc on your guinea pig’s digestive tract.
In simpler terms – guinea pigs are all lactose intolerant.
Cheese is well known to be very high in calcium, and this is a major source of it in many peoples diets.
However, when it comes to Guinea Pigs, you have to be very careful with the amount that they consume.
Just like most other small mammals, too much calcium has been cited to cause the development of urinary tract disease and stones. We will cover this more in the following section.
Guinea pigs are herbivores and do best with a diet of hay, vegetables, certain pellets and in some contexts, mineral supplementation.
They have evolved to consume a lot of fiber, and need to do so in order for an effective and healthy digestive system.
Guinea Pigs do not do well, nor should be fed a high fa diet/foods. They are unable to digest them and a range of issues can develop if they are consumed.
Not only will guinea pigs gain a lot of weight and suffer from obesity (which comes with its own issues and risks), but your guinea pig will suffer many digestive issues, such as diarrhea.
Risks of Guinea Pigs Eating Cheese
Much like a person who is lactose intolerant, a guinea pig will not immediately drop dead from ingesting cheese.
Cheese is not some incredibly potent poison that will kill your cavy on sight.
Instead, it will cause a lot of uncomfortable symptoms that will put a lot of stress on your guinea pigs system.
It is therefore with consistent, regular consumption that poses the significant risk.
A small piece may be okay (and if you have already offered a small chunk to your guinea pig(s) you definitely should not worry – unless you notice symptoms. If so you may need to consult a vet).
The long term effects will only come when they are given cheese in too high a quantity and way to often.
It is important that you remember that guinea pigs are much smaller than us. Therefore what may appear to be a very small amount to us considerably larger to them.
Consider these risks your guinea pig could face before exposing them to cheese:
Short Term: Stomach Problems
If you have ever met someone who was truly lactose intolerant, you already know what kind of pain your guinea pig will be in for.
Digestion of cheese in the absence of the special enzymes which can break it down spells out a very bad series of cramps while it is stuck in their system.
Their stomachs will hurt, and they may even have problems passing a healthy stool.
Although it may sound like it is conflicting – eating cheese can cause them to experience constipation, diarrhea, or both!
The amount of stress this can put on their tiny bodies is nothing to scoff at.
Worse yet, even after experiencing such issues, they may continue to try to eat cheese again if they are given the opportunity.
Long-Term: Heart, Urinary, and Nutrition Problems
If they keep eating cheese, they will continue to experience a worsening of symptoms.
Their problems with cheese are not due to the fact they need to “train” their bodies. This is due to the fact that their bodies were not built to be able to handle this kind of food and they are unable to adapt to it.
After continuous eating, their digestive tract will continue to take a hit.
Continuously experiencing constipation or diarrhea can cause them to experience all sorts of secondary problems.
Nutrition problems offer one of the biggest concerns. Cheese does not have the kind of vitamins and minerals that a healthy cavy needs to survive.
Cheese contains lots of cholesterol, sodium, and fat.
In high doses, these can be a lethal combination to anyone – even people. These are especially hard on the cardiovascular system.
Cholesterol build-up or the stress of obesity brought on by a poor diet can clog up blood flow and raise the blood pressure.
These create problems for the circulatory system and put your guinea pig at a very high risk for experiencing other painful conditions.
Excess of calcium and phosphorus in cheese can also cause the formation of bladder and kidney stones, causing urinary tract infections.
Sure, these minerals are good for different animals in different ways – but too much of a good thing is never good.
For adult cavies, there is a very low threshold for acceptable levels before they become dangerous. They have very specific dietary needs that need to be met.
It is pretty hard for these dietary limits to be met when their bodies are full of cheese.
Not only does cheese fail to provide necessary nutrients and cause your guinea pig pain – but it wastes space in your guinea pig’s stomach!
When their tummies hurt due to a bloated stomach full of cheese, they will lose their appetite.
This can be bad because than they do not actually eat the things that actually matter. A guinea pig can be fully fed and still suffer from malnutrition.
This is especially a problem with guinea pigs because their body chemistry already has a predisposition to such problems.
Guinea pigs do not produce any vitamin C in their bodies at all. They need this vitamin for survival – without it, they can die.
Scurvy is not just for pirates – it is also a huge problem for guinea pigs. If your guinea pig ends up pigging out on cheese instead of oranges or enriched pellets – it can spell disaster for your pet!
What are Some Good Substitutions For Cheese?
Instead of cheese, you should consider giving your guinea pig an appropriate snack for their species.
There are tons of different things a guinea pig can eat if you want to give them a little break from their regular diet. It can be a good way to offer variety and ensure they are getting all the nutrients that they need.
Consider giving them something that their bodies were actually made to digest.
These treats include a lot of things that you may just have sitting in your kitchen!
Hay: Hay is perhaps the most important thing in a guinea pigs diet. Always remember to incorporate a high quality straw into their regular diet so that they have something to nest with and munch on.
Veggies: Your cavies can have a whole cup of veggies a day. They are full of great vitamins and your guinea pig will like them! You can take stuff right from your garden – just make sure that you don’t use any herbicides or pesticides that may be harmful to them.
- Romaine lettuce
- Green bell peppers
Fruits: Fruits also make a tasty treat (just try to limit them more than vegetables due to their high sugar content.) Fruits can help your guinea pig get that vitamin C they need.
Treats: If you are looking for something a little fun, you can also get some of the treats specially formulated for guinea pigs. You can find these online – especially on sites like Amazon! Just be sure to give these as treats and not as a substitute for pellets.
Here are some of the best ones available below!
Remember, even with these healthy snacks, too much of anything can spell disaster.
Consider giving your guinea pig a variety of different foods in order to allow it to experience a healthy and well-balanced diet.
Guinea pigs should not eat cheese.
There are just too many variables that make it an unhealthy and problematic food source for them. Namely, lactose and milk proteins, high calcium content, and high fats.
While you may enjoy a cube of cheese from time to time, your guinea pig will likely be in a lot of distress if they were to follow suit.
The same could be said for meat, too. Another rather inappropriate food.
So instead, focus on the range of other suitable foods and treats that you can offer.
Guinea pigs cannot eat cheese puffs. These are usually high in fat content and do not have any nutrition in them, unlike fruits and vegetables. While having one or two puffs is unlikely to cause any adverse side effects, there is no benefit in purposely feeding them.
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.