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FAQ: Should you have different types of hay for guinea pigs?

hay for guinea pigs

Timothy Hay gets a lot of attention when it comes to guinea pig cuisine. But there’s certainly a time and place for other types of hay for guinea pigs as well. 

Guinea pigs need fresh hay available 24/7 as a free-choice food. It’s a big part of their day and an even bigger part of their health. Some guinea pigs may need some customization when it comes to the type of hay used as their free-choice food.

Let’s talk about how you can make sure you have a type of hay that they want to eat!

There’s also room for variety with different types of hay outside of their free-choice hay. Incorporating variety in this way encourages foraging (more on that soon).

If you want some information on the basics first, Saskia is talking about guinea pig food on YouTube!

The Different Types of Hay For Guinea Pigs

The age and health of a guinea pig are how you determine if they need different types of hay for guinea pigs. For example, young guinea pigs need more calcium (alfalfa hay) than adult guinea pigs and senior guinea pigs might need softer hay to chew. 

Of course, if there is someone in the family allergic to Timothy Hay that’s certainly a reason to try another type of hay like Orchard grass hay. 

Timothy Hay

Timothy hay has an ideal ratio of carbs, fat, and protein which puts it first on our list. It’s also low in calcium and that's important for adult cavies to avoid issues with their bladder and kidneys. 

Timothy hay can be cut three times in one growing season and each cut yields slightly different results. If you have a guinea pig that isn’t doing well on one cutting you could always try another cut before moving on to other types of hay. 

1st Cutting 

The 1st cutting of Timothy hay yields the toughest hay with the most stems. Which makes it great for wearing teeth down! Guinea pigs need tough hay to chew because their teeth are always growing. Cavies who struggle to keep their teeth down might do well on 1st cutting Timothy hay. 

It’s the highest in fiber and the lowest in fat compared to the other cuttings. It’s also where you find the most flower heads which are a favorite for a lot of cavies.

hay for guinea pigs

2nd Cutting

The 2nd cutting is where you have some more leaves which makes the overall texture softer than the 1st cutting. The leaves are the part of the plant with a little more fat and a little less fiber. 

Whether your guinea pig should have 1st or 2nd cutting often comes down to which cutting they eat more of. Because the more hay the better! 

3rd Cutting 

The 3rd cutting of Timothy hay is where you get the most leaves, the softest texture, and the highest fat content. This is good for guinea pigs that for whatever reason don’t have the energy to eat enough of the tougher hay. The tougher hay requires more chewing so some guinea pigs just need (or want) easier calories. 

Orchard Hay

Orchard grass is a little higher in protein and calories than Timothy hay. Though, it’s similar enough that guinea pigs can do very well on it. It also has the same amount of calcium balanced with other minerals so it’s a healthy option for adult cavies. 

Alfalfa Hay 

Alfalfa hay has more protein than Timothy hay but it also has more fat and calcium. These levels are too high for an adult guinea pig to eat as their free-choice food. 

However, this is the perfect hay for young guinea pigs (less than 6 months old). Young guinea pigs have different demands on their body where they can use the extra fat and calcium as they’re growing.  

Oat Hay

Oat hay is usually too high in fat to be the best choice for a guinea pig’s free-choice food. Still, it can be used as a fun snack or for foraging opportunities. Oat hay has a tougher texture and a sweeter taste than Timothy hay. 

Different Types Of Hay For Sensory Enrichment

Guinea pigs love to forage and when they have variety in their environment and their enclosure this encourages the search! 

This can be done by adding some 1st cutting Timothy hay to their usual hay if they aren’t used to finding flower heads. You can mix some Orchard hay into their usual hay or even just leave some Oat hay in their hideout for a fun surprise.

guinea pig hay

Creating new experiences stimulates their senses and helps save your cavy from boredom. Encouraging variety in this way is great for their mental as well as physical health. It gives them more reason to get up and explore!

Hay’s Role In Maintaining Digestive Health

All of these different types of hay for guinea pigs add fiber to their life. A guinea pig’s digestive system is run by fiber. When a guinea pig doesn’t get enough fiber, their digestive system slows down. This can lead to G.I. stasis and sick cavies. 

This is why it’s so important to provide fresh, high-quality hay that your cavy wants to eat!

Hay’s Role In Maintaining Dental Health

Hay keeps our cavies chewing! Which is exactly what their teeth need. When they aren’t chewing enough roughage their teeth can become overgrown which leads to them wanting to eat even less… It's a slippery slope! Poor dental health quickly leads to poor digestive health. 

Providing a variety of hay gives your guinea pig different textures to chew! If they can’t eat enough tough hay as their free choice food, they may like to chomp on some tougher hay as an afternoon snack. 

Different Types Of Hay For Guinea Pigs Are Enriching

A great way to try out different types of hay for guinea pigs is with a Sampler Hay Box. With the sampler box, your guinea pigs can try out two types of Timothy hay as well as Oat and Orchard grass. 

When it comes to snacks and treats for guinea pigs, you don’t get any better than hay, so don’t shy away from providing a variety of hay as a treat! 

Living in the UK? We've got you covered! Check out the links below to see our UK site.


We are not veterinarians, and none of our information should be construed as veterinary advice.


Before adding any new product, please consult your exotic veterinarian. If your pet is acting unwell and you have concerns for their well being, please contact your vet immediately.

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