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When it boils down to knowing what to feed a guinea pig, there’s one item that stands head and shoulders above everything else in terms of importance. And that’s hay. Timothy hay for guinea pigs is the most crucial part of a guinea pig diet – along with access to clean, fresh water – and something that should be available for your pet 24/7.
But it’s all very well being told that hay for guinea pigs is vital, but we all want to know the reasons why this is. Timothy hay for guinea pigs is the most easily found type of grass hay available to purchase, and this boils down to a few different issues that we take a look at below. We’ve also put together a video all about hay for guinea pigs that you can view by clicking on the arrow below.
Why is timothy hay for guinea pigs so popular?
Timothy hay is what is known as a grass hay. And whilst there are other types of grass hays available, timothy hay is not only the easiest to get hold of, but is also one of the tastiest and palatable that you can give to your guinea pig.
Top quality timothy hay for guinea pigs is not only tasty, but provides your pet with the vital fiber that he needs for good digestive health, as well as providing the daily dental workout that all piggies need. On top of this, the best quality timothy hay for guinea pigs is something that he’ll love eating, not to mention that it’s a natural food that’s very close to what a guinea pig would eat in the wild.
But it’s the two issues of fiber and dental health that are the most important, and we discuss this in further detail below.
Hay for guinea pigs: The fiber provider
When guinea pigs lived in the wild they constantly munched on items such as grass and vegetable matter. This meant that not only did their digestive system evolve to cope with this high fiber diet, but that they became used to having food moving through the digestive system on an almost constant basis.
So, when we feed our domesticated guinea pigs we need to mimic this natural process as much as possible. And the best way to do this is to feed top quality timothy hay.
Guinea pigs that don’t have enough fiber in their diet, or indeed ones that have a diet that might be too high in calories and protein, are at risk of a multitude of different health issues. The most common of these would be diarrhea, digestive blockages (known as gastrointestinal stasis) and other digestive related disorders. Feeding ad-lib hay to your pets minimizes this risk as much as possible, which is extremely necessary as problems such as GI stasis can prove fatal to a guinea pig.
Another thing to be aware of is that guinea pigs are not able to cope with a diet that’s too rich in protein and energy; they simply can’t metabolize it. This is another reason why timothy hay is the most suitable as opposed to other hays, such as alfalfa, that have higher protein and calorie ratios. However, there are some notable exceptions to this, such as pregnant piggies, nursing mothers and growing guinea pigs. But in general, timothy hay for guinea pigs is what most veterinarians will recommend that you feed.
So, when it comes down to understanding what to feed a guinea pig, the best thing you can do is understand what piggies in the wild would eat, and try to keep his diet as close to this as possible. And considering how many different food options there are available in every pet store you walk into, this can be somewhat of a challenge – that’s for sure. Just do your best to think what your guinea pig would chose for himself should he live in the wild, and you won’t be going far wrong.
And by ensuring that timothy hay for guinea pigs makes up the bulk of your pet’s diet, you can be sure that you’re doing the very best for him that you can.
The other most important reason for feeding timothy hay is to do with the very beginning of his digestive system; his teeth. This is the first place that food enters the body, and once again this reason all boils down to guinea pig evolution.
As you can imagine, wild guinea pigs had to constantly munch on some pretty tough and fibrous material. This took some chewing to mash it up to swallow, and naturally the grinding motion used to do so had an eroding effect on the teeth. So clever old Mother Nature decided to equip guinea pigs with exactly what they needed to combat this; and that was open rooted and ever-growing teeth.
Your pet guinea pig has that very same adaptation, and his teeth grow every day of his life. So by feeding a guinea pig hay we provide him with exactly what he needs to keep these ground down to a healthy level. Timothy hay is the perfect tool for your piggy to chew and grind his teeth on, preventing various problems that can occur if the teeth are allowed to become too long.
If he doesn’t get this vital daily dental workout, what happens is the teeth can grow too long and/or become sharp. This in turn causes damage to the tongue and inside of the cheeks, and can become so painful that a guinea pig is unable to eat anything at all. When a piggy’s teeth become too long and sharp they are said to have become “maloccluded.” If untreated, malocclusion can prove fatal.
However, feeding the best quality timothy hay for guinea pigs will mean that once again you’re doing everything you can to keep the risk of this problem to an absolute minimum.
What if my guinea pig won’t eat hay?
So you can see how vitally important it is that your guinea pig eats plenty of hay each day. But if eating hay is so crucial for a guinea pig’s health, why is it that so many people are asking why “my guinea pig won’t eat hay?”
Well, there’s usually a very good answer to this (as long as it’s not due to ill health, naturally), and that’s because unfortunately all hay is not made equal. You see, when it comes down to finding the right timothy hay for guinea pigs, it all boils down to the quality. And the difference between top quality hay for guinea pigs and that of a poor quality is nothing short of dramatic.
Once you’ve seen the best quality timothy hay you’ll never mistake it for anything else. Green, fresh and with the sweetest of fragrances, good timothy hay arrives in your guinea pig’s cage as fresh as the day it was taken from the field. But the most incredible difference between poor quality and great quality hay for guinea pigs is how much he loves eating it. Once you’ve seen your pet munch on the best quality hay, you’ll never want to feed him anything else again.
Producing timothy hay for guinea pigs
The thing is, many people don’t realize quite how much skill goes into producing a top quality hay. There are so many things that can affect the end product, and these include variables such as growing conditions, which cutting the hay is (whether it be a 1st cut, 2nd cut, or 3rd cut), the weather, storage, packaging and handling. Get any one, or more, of them wrong and the quality of the hay can be altered by an incredible margin. The problem that most guinea pig owners have is to find that regular supplier of the top quality hay for guinea pigs. But once you’ve come across the best hay, and seen how much your pet adores it, you’ll want to ensure that you only feed such hay to your furry friends. Because being a responsible guinea pig owner, you want to give your pet the very best diet possible, and top quality timothy hay for guinea pigs is one of the best ways to do this.
Frequently Asked Questions about guinea pigs and timothy hay
Below are some of the various questions that we have been asked about timothy hay. We’ll continue to update this over time If you have any questions beyond this please don’t hesitate to ask.