If you own a guinea pig, then you will likely have many questions about their diet. But what about meat? Is this safe to provide and for them to consume, are there any benefits or is it off the table? I decided to conduct some research. I would like to share my findings here with you today.
So, can guinea pigs eat meat? No, guinea pigs cannot eat meat. Guinea pigs are strictly herbivores – they should consume and thrive on a diet of plant and vegetable matter. Guinea pigs do not have a digestive system equipped to handle meat, and to be able to break it down and extract the nutrients from it.
Guinea pigs know what is best for them; they are unlikely to even attempt to eat meat even if it is presented to them.
Why Guinea Pigs Should Not Eat Meat
Guinea Pigs are herbivores and do best on a varied diet of vegetables, fruits, plant matter, hay and grain.
It follows that guinea pigs should never eat meat; but why is this exactly?
First and foremost, guinea pigs thrive on their herbivorous diet; getting all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals they need.
Secondly, we have to look at the digestive system and biology of a guinea pig. They are not like us humans; are they are not psychically able to process and break down meat if it was to be consumed.
Meat, (and other forms of animal protein) requires specific acids, enzymes and processes to be digested – all of which a guinea pig does not possess.
So, if they was to consume meat it would only lead to negative health consequences starting with constipation but progressing into more serious illness.
One such element found in high traces in meat, that is also problematic for guinea pigs when consumed in excess, is Iron.
Along with these factors, here are some of the other which make meat an unsuitable food source:
- High Cholesterol – Guinea pigs are susceptible to heart disease. Thus feeding foods high in Cholesterol is not advised as it may lead to a progression/diagnosis.
- High in Saturated Fat – Equally, Saturated Fat should be managed and controlled in a guinea pigs diet considering the association it has with heart disease and the susceptibility guinea pigs have.
- Weight Gain and Diabetes Risk – is more likely as a result of the increase in calories and fats found in meat. Guinea pigs are known to easily put on weight – even on a vegetarian diet.
For such reasons, a guinea pig does not naturally have much of a fondness for meat. They are unlikely to attempt to eat it even if it was presented or made available. They are naturally dismissive as they inherently know that this food source does not serve them well.
Instead, a guinea pig should consume a vegetarian diet exclusively. In fact, they have even developed a way to extract a maximum amount of nutrition from the plant fibres that they do consume.
Food actually passes through a guinea pig multiple times. The process starts as they eat plant/vegetable matter. This will then go through the digestive system before being excreted.
It is as this point that a guinea pig will the eat some of their own excrement!
While this may sound strange and somewhat repulsive, they are actually consuming a by-product known as caecotroph.
These are soft, often green in color, and are rich in nitrogen, vitamins and minerals. They have been pre-digested, so that a guinea pig can assimilate the food a second time around.
These droppings should not be confused with their other ‘waste’ – poop in which is dark and is no longer required.
Other Foods To Avoid Feeding
So, we now know that meat is not safe to feed to a guinea pig. But are there any other types or specific foods in which are not suitable to offer?
The short answer is yes. Guinea pigs are unable to digest particular foods very well; their digestive systems are not designed to be able to process them.
There are also toxic compounds found in certain foods, even fruits and vegetables, which must be avoided.
Here are the main ones:
- Dairy Products – Cheese, milk and even yogurt-based products. Guinea pigs do not possess lactase, the enzyme required to break down lactose (the sugar/carbohydrate) found in dairy. They also are unable to handle and process the larger quantities of proteins found in this food source.
- Onions and Garlic – Are high in a number of compounds which a guinea pig is unable to process. The main one to be aware of is called Oxalic acid – which in excess can cause kidney stones and urinary tract infections in these rodents.
- Avocados – are very energy dense and high in fat. Consuming them is likely to lead to weight issues which subjects your guinea pig to a range of other negative health complications and outcomes.
- Broccoli, Cabbage & Cauliflower – Are high in Sulfer and are a challenge for a guinea pig to digest. When being digested, a large amount of gas is produced as a by-product. For guinea pigs this can be dangerous – causing bloating and other issues.
- Tomato Leaves/Stalks – contain a chemical which is toxic for guinea pigs. While the tomato fruit can be fed, you need to ensure no leave/stalks are given.
This is not an exhaustive list, but these some of the most commonly cited risk-foods provided by vets and experts.
If you’re not sure what you can and cannot feed a guinea pig – its best to always research first. Talk to your vet to ensure you are not putting your cavy at risk.
Best Diet and Foods For Guinea Pigs
While you may want to provide variety, treats and options for your guinea pig – rest assured they do well on a relatively basic and ‘bland’ vegetarian diet.
Providing a variety of safe fruits, vegetables and grains will ensure they meet their nutritional needs and requirements. This will keep them in good health and prevent the onset of illness and disease.
Guinea pigs should consume a completely vegetarian diet. This should be comprised of dry, fresh timothy hay in unlimited quantities. This is an excellent brand to purchase from Amazon.
They should also receive a large serving of fresh leafy greens and vegetables daily.
It is important to offer a mixture of at least three types of greens and vegetables. The best choices include: parsley, kale and carrot tops. Peppers (green, red and yellow) are also excellent to feed.
Fruits, whether fresh or dried should be fed sparingly, in moderation and as a treat. Carrots should also be limited. This is because they are all high in sugar and carbohydrate which a guinea pig should not over-consume.
If pellets are to be provided, they should be timothy hay based and should only be offered in small quantities. This will prevent weight gain and dental issues in your guinea pig.
Small Pet Select make a very good pelleted food for guinea pigs. This can be purchased for a great price on Amazon.
You’ll also want to avoid Alfalfa Hay. This is too high in calcium (and calories) and too low in fiber. The calcium content can lead to bladder and kidney stones so it is best avoided.
One other thing to consider is that young guinea pigs develop dietary preferences quickly. Therefore you need to be careful of what and when you feed them. Otherwise they may refuse healthy foods later in life.
Some guinea pigs will even go on a hunger strike if you attempt to change or swap out particular foods. This is especially likely if you attempt to remove pelleted food and move to a more vegetable based diet.
Always be sure to provide plenty of fresh water – it must be available at all times. Water bottles work well to prevent spillage.
You’ll also need to provide Vitamin C to your guinea pig(s) daily as they cannot make this themselves.
Guinea pigs that are not getting enough vitamin C can show symptoms including: bleeding gums, weak joints/bones and may even develop heart disease.
A younger guinea pig requires 15 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C daily as a minimum. An adult, needs around around 30 mg per day.
Supplementing your guinea pigs diet with vitamin C will ensure they get all that they need.
- Vita drops is a convenient way to assure that guinea pig is receiving the fresh vitamin C they require daily
- Feature supplements the pet's dry diet to assure proper nutrition
- Includes eye-dropper dispenser and detailed instructions
- A fresh dose in the water bottle daily helps to keep guinea pig happy and healthy
- This product weighs 2-ounce. Packaging may vary.
Vegetables like peppers will also provide vitamin C; 1/2 a pepper per day is sufficient per guinea pig.
Guinea pigs should not eat meat. There is no benefits for a guinea pig to do so. In fact, consuming meat will only lead to negative health consequences.
Thankfully, if you were to provide meat for your guinea pig, they will likely ignore it altogether.
So instead, your guinea pig must subside on a diet rich in hay and certain vegetables. Be sure to provide variety and research into any foods that you are looking offer.
While a vegetarian diet will enable your guinea pig to thrive, be careful that not all are appropriate and can lead to issues. Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbage and Avocado are some in particular to never feed.
With fruits, you can feed a small serving infrequently and as a treat. Be sure to provide sufficient vitamin C and ensure fresh water is available at all times.
Can guinea pigs eat chicken? No, guinea pigs cannot eat chicken. Guinea pigs are herbivores and should eat a vegetarian diet exclusively. Even though chicken does not contain cholesterol or high levels of saturated fats like other meats, a guinea pig is unable to digest the protein and absorb the nutrients contained in this food source.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.