You’ll often see, read or hear that your guinea pig needs to consume a lot of hay. So naturally, the question arises, how long can they go without it? How pivotal is it to keep this dried grass in constant supply? Here is all you must know.
So, how long can guinea pigs go without hay? Guinea pigs should not go without hay for more than 24 hours. Hay is crucial for optimal digestion, nutrient assimilation, and naturally trimming a guinea pig’s fastly growing teeth. Thus, guinea pigs should have a constant supply of fresh hay at all times.
Guinea pigs are strict herbivores, where fibrous plant matter must make up the diet.
Aside from certain vegetables, the occasional fruit, and a less frequent serving of pellets, they simply must consume grass (in the form of hay) as we shall now explore in more detail throughout this article here today.
Can Guinea Pigs Live Without Hay?
Guinea pigs cannot live without hay; there is no suitable alternative nor can they survive without it.
As such, you must make sure that your guinea pig has a constant supply of fresh hay.
In fact, if they go beyond 24 hours without it, serious complications can arise.
Grasses, like hay, are a great source of nutrition.
It contains a lot of fiber, which your cavy needs in their vegetarian diet, and is also an ideal way to file down their teeth.
Guinea pigs teeth grow continuously throughout their lifetime and become too large and painful if they are not reduced.
Nevertheless, you must choose the right hay for your guinea pig, as they are not all the same.
The right one will make all the difference in your pet’s overall health.
Meadow Hay and Timothy Hay are the optimal grass hay for guinea pigs as they are high in vitamin C, but make sure that you purchase a good quality one.
Because guinea pigs are susceptible to respiratory infections, you must look out for dust-free hay, it should be clearly labeled as “dust-extracted” on the packet.
Here is an ideal hay to consider:
- Hand-Selected Timothy Hay - We hand-pack each box in small batches to ensure only the highest quality 100% US-grown 2nd cut Timothy hay arrives at your door. 2nd cut Timothy hay is a perfect balance of stem, seed head , and leaf to provide the rough fiber needed for normal wear to healthy teeth and yummy features with a fresh smell to keep them coming back for more.
- Earth-Friendly Packaging - As small animal owners, we know the importance of packing delicious snacks in safe ways for our small animal companions. No compression packing here that damages stem and leaf integrity, each package is shipped in a high-strength corrugated box for easy storage (and fun digging!).
- Minimally Handled & Delivered Fresh - Make it easy to provide exactly what your little friend needs with regular shipments of fresh from the farm hay to wear down growing teeth and protect digestive health. Each delivery of premium Timothy hay for rabbits, guinea pigs, and chinchillas includes a great mix of protein, fiber and fat to keep them healthy. Your small pet may not thank you with words, but happy oinks and binkies will make you feel like the pet owner of the year.
- Great for Bedding - In addition to being a crucial part of many small pet diets, Timothy hay also makes cozy bedding for hamsters, gerbils, mice, rats, ferrets and more. Since most of us aren’t up for doing laundry with tiny duvets, hay makes a wonderful, fresh smelling alternative that they will love to snuggle into.
- 100% Satisfaction Guarantee! - For you and your pets. We know pets can be picky. If your bunny (or piggy or chinny) stomps and turns up her nose, you can still rest easy.
Be careful offering too much alfalfa hay to your guinea pig, as it is high in calcium, calcium deposits can build up over time, and develop into large, painful stones in your guinea pig’s bladder.
With this being said hay is not the only thing that needs to be fed and should not be your pet’s only source of nutrition.
You must provide them with fresh vegetables in addition to a pellet-based diet.
What Happens If You Don’t Feed Your Guinea Pig Hay?
Your guinea pig needs a fresh supply of grass hay daily. They can go for up to 24 hours without hay, but between 24-48 hours, they will likely die.
The reason for this is that guinea pigs need fiber in their diet every day, which hay provides.
Without fiber in their diet, they develop large stones which can be very painful and need surgery to remove.
Guinea pigs are prone to developing recurring stones in their bladder, even after surgery.
If a guinea pig doesn’t recover after surgery, the owner must consider euthanasia, or the guinea pig will endure a lifetime of pain.
Aside from providing much-needed fiber for the guinea pig, hay helps to manage the length of their teeth.
Without hay, their teeth grow too long and will hinder eating.
Guinea pigs don’t have big appetites, so you cannot afford to allow your guinea pig to starve – they will die of starvation after 24 hours without food.
Do Guinea Pigs Need A Constant Supply Of Hay?
Guinea pigs need a supply of hay daily. Meadow and Timothy hay is generally the best type of hay for guinea pigs, but if your guinea pig is pregnant, nursing, or younger than 6 months old, it will need the extra calcium – which alfalfa hay provides.
You can mix alfalfa hay, with the other hay types for a calcium boost, but check with your vet if you think you have a pregnant cavy in your care.
At the end of each day, you must clean out your guinea pig’s cage and remove wet hay.
Check their cage constantly to see if there’s a pile of smelly, wet, poo-laden hay, and remove it straight-away, as it can draw small insects like ticks, which are known to carry infectious diseases and will result in smells and unhygienic conditions.
Refresh their hay after removing the old hay, you might consider purchasing a hay-feeder to make your cleaning routine easier.
Now that you know how important hay is for a guinea pig’s survival, there is no excuse to not provide your pet with fresh, clean, and dust-free hay daily.
Check the condition of your guinea pig with your vet, and they can help you to decide and choose the best hay to suit your cavy’s nutritional needs.
Aside from removing old hay and replenishing fresh hay daily, you must deep clean your guinea pig’s cage weekly.
Failure to do this will result in a very sick guinea pig living in a dirty and bacteria-ridden cage.
A dirty cage will also attract rats and mice, which pose a danger to the health of every occupant in the home, including pets.
To carry out a thorough deep clean, you can follow our guide here.
Nevertheless, maintaining a clean living space is important to your guinea pig’s health.
A clean habitat helps to prevent respiratory illnesses and a shorter lifespan for your guinea pig.
Guinea pigs need hay.
This is a non-negotiable in terms of their health and happiness.
If you decide to become a guinea pig owner, this is one of the responsibilities you will have.
While 24 hours is considered the longest amount of time, you should be sure to provide an abundance of hay regularly and routinely throughout each and every day.
Be sure to monitor your guinea pigs’ behavior and consumption of the hay. If hay is not being consumed, or if you observe any drastic changes, this could be an indicator of a health complication.
Thankfully, there are a number of reputable brands of hay available on Amazon for great prices.
You can also purchase in bulk to make the sourcing even more affordable.
Be sure to check out our best hay guide for guinea pig owners; it will help you to get a better deal and learn more about the best brands on the market.
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.