How to Feed Guinea Pigs: An Easy-To-Follow Feeding Schedule for a Healthy Pet

by Lindsay Pereira
Guinea pigs feeding schedule

As a proud piggie parent, it is both your duty and privilege to oversee your guinea’s nutrition and keep them healthy, happy, and well-fed. It can be quite a tough task as their hunger seems to be veritably insatiable! If you’ve had cavies for a while, you’ve undoubtedly noticed from the start that your little ones have a serious appetite. Day-in and day-out (and sometimes, throughout the night, as well), your fluffy friends spend a sizable chunk of time eating, snacking, munching and crunching, and simply enjoying the varied buffet they’re served. Between the fruits and veggies, the hay and pellets, the lettuce and… well, anything else they can nibble on… guinea pigs are truly big-time eaters.

The importance of monitoring food and maintaining a healthy meal plan

Yet, it’s vital to measure and monitor their food to increase health and lower the chance of diseases. It’s not enough to feed your piggies, you must serve them a very specific diet. Sure, there are many options, but what should you keep in mind? Is it true they can eat herbs and grass? How much fruit should you feed them? What veggies should they eat? Should you choose the pellets with the dry fruit or the plain variety? Does it matter what hay they eat? Is there any food that can harm them?!

There’s a ton of brilliant questions with regards to feeding our piggy pals, and luckily, we have all the answers.

Offering a nutritious, well-rounded diet

First, let’s review the basic elements of a guinea pig diet. There are several must-feed items you’ll need to provide for your pet on a daily basis. They are:

  • Water
  • Lettuce
  • Vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Hay
  • Food pellets

When feeding your pets, you’ll want to stick to offering them fresh water, lettuce, vegetables, and fruit, though in careful moderation. In general, piggies tend to be picky with their meals, and they have been known to refuse food that isn’t fresh. Hay and pellets, on the other hand, have more of a shelf life. However, stick to well-known brands that have a reputation for supplying quality goods.

Now that we know what guinea pigs need to stay healthy and fit, let’s examine each item closer.

Water

Change the water in their cage every day, though it does depend largely on what you’re using to give your guineas water.

  • Water dispenser: If you’ve opted for a water dispenser like me, you can safely avoid changing the water for a day, assuming you have a large-sized dispenser. To ensure your pets always have an adequate, fresh supply, check the dispenser every day. Personally, I like the design of our Choco Nose No Drip Water Bottle dispenser.
  • Water bowl: Some guineas use water bowls that can get quite messy throughout the day. If this is the case in your home, change the water and rinse the bowl at least once a day. Fecal contamination is common since these little guys aren’t always litter trained, so mind that water bowl!

Lettuce

Feeding guinea pigs to lettuce

Our lovely, little fluffballs simply adore lettuce. To them, it’s like manna from heaven, and it forms the base of their fresh food menu. Hay and pellets are high in calcium while leafy greens are high in magnesium, which is what they use to break down calcium. If calcium isn’t absorbed properly, it forms deposits in the body such as bladder and kidney stones, causing health issues later on.

Guineas love a wide variety of leaves in their diet, so make sure to change the types of greens you feed them once in a while. Ideally, you’d be offering a different assortment every day, though you may find that your pets end up with favorites. According to Muffy’s vet, each guinea should have 1-1.5 cups of lettuce per day, spread throughout the day.

Here are a few fun flavors:

  • Mixed greens
  • Romaine
  • Frisee/curly (red and green)
  • Radicchio
  • Spinach (limit due to oxalic acid)
  • Arugula
  • Kale
  • Swiss chard (red and green)
  • Dandelion leaves

For a special treat that can’t be beat, put your piggies “out to pasture.” Let them graze on fresh grass, but make sure what they’re eating is free from dangerous chemicals and pesticides. As a rule of thumb, if kids can safely roll around and play on it, it’s likely safe enough for piggies to eat. Though, do stay away from “pee spots” that are popular with dogs!

Danger alert! Not all lettuce is completely safe

Avoid this lettuce:

  • Iceberg lettuce (high nitrate levels)

For the most part, leafy green varieties are safe, with one exception: iceberg lettuce. With its low nutritional value and high nitrate content, iceberg can be dangerous for guinea pigs since it often causes diarrhea and leads to dehydration.

Vegetables

Feeding guinea pigs to vegetables

Yummy veggies have a long, impressive list of necessary nutrients, vitamins and minerals. It’s vital to a guinea’s health to have a colorful variety on a daily basis. Like humans, guinea pigs cannot generate Vitamin C. When there’s a lack of this vitamin in their diet, they can contract scurvy, a condition that causes them to become very sick and possibly die. Thus, it’s critical to get their daily requirement.

Again, according to Muffy’s vet, it’s important to think of providing a rainbow of vegetables since every veggie color provides different nutritional values. As such, each piggy should get up to 1 cup of mixed vegetables per day, ensuring they always have a small amount of veggies that have vitamin C.

Choose from among these yummy favs:

  • Peppers (contain more vitamin C than an orange, any color)
  • Cucumbers
  • Tomatoes (avoid leaves and stems because those are poisonous)
  • Carrots
  • Broccoli (in moderation, too much may cause gas)
  • Celery (it is recommended to remove celery strings as they are a choking hazard)
  • Parsnip
  • Zucchini

Danger alert! Not all vegetables are safe!

Avoid these dangerous vegetables:

  • Potatoes (toxic)
  • Rhubarb leaves (toxic)
  • Chili peppers

Potatoes and their skins, along with rhubarb leaves, have toxins and are considered hazardous to guinea pigs.

See a more detailed list of dangerous plants on a Happy Cavy website.

Fruit

Fruit is also an essential part of your furry friend’s nutritional requirements. Even though they’re such a delicious food group that’s high in much-needed vitamins and minerals, it’s best to keep their rations to a minimum as they’re also high in sugar content. And so, they should be viewed more as a treat, keeping their portions to 3-4 servings per week.

Offer some of these popular piggy picks:

  • Kiwi
  • Apple (any color)
  • Pear
  • Banana
  • Watermelon
  • Grapes
  • Melon
  • Oranges
  • Berries (such as strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries)

Hay

Feeding guinea pigs: unlimited access to hay

Not only do piggies love their hay, they need it to keep their teeth at bay! Aside from dental health, it’s also required to maintain an optimal digestive tract. Thus, without exception, guineas must have unlimited access to hay. Presently, Miss Muffy enjoys Standlee Premium Western Forage Timothy Hay.

When picking hay, select varieties that are soft and green. Pass on hay that’s yellow and hard as that’s not actually hay, it’s straw!

When choosing hay for your pet, there are many options available:

  • Timothy hay (ideal for all pigs)
  • Meadow hay (Muffy’s personal favorite!)
  • Oat hay
  • Alfalfa hay (high in calcium so not an “everyday hay”, can be used occasionally as a treat)

To spice things up a little, try adding a bit of dry grass like:

  • Blue grass
  • Brome grass
  • Orchard grass

To keep their cage neat and clean, consider buying a hay wheel. We have a hay feeder, and it does an excellent job of keeping the hay nice and organized, while ensuring easy access.

Food pellets

Food pellets are an essential guinea food staple, and something they simply cannot do without. Guinea pellet manufacturers suggest different quantities, depending on the brand. However, the typical amount recommended is 1/8 of a cup of pellets per day, per piggy. At our piggy palace, we’re trying out Martin’s Little Friends, though I’ve heard excellent comments from friends about the Oxbow Animal Health Cavy.

As I’ve mentioned in one of my previous posts, I prefer to leave out a pellet bowl, and Muffy’s vet says it’s perfectly fine to do so. Although guineas do love to nibble on… well, everything… they rarely indulge. Once they’re full, they’re full, and they won’t stuff themselves to unconsciousness. As you’re the pet parent and know their personalities best, decide which approach you prefer.

Guinea pig feeding schedule

Looking for a little help in the feeding department? Check out this example feeding schedule to help make sure your little fluffy guys have a healthy nutrition plan. You can download this feeding schedule here.

Guinea Pig Feeding ScheduleFood
Monday
*with fresh water, hay and pellets
Broccoli
Cucumber
Parsley
Lettuce mix
*Fruit Day!
Tuesday
*with fresh water, hay and pellets
Red pepper
Carrots
Coriander
Lettuce mix (try endive!)
Wednesday
*with fresh water, hay and pellets
Parsnip
Celery
Parsley
Lettuce mix
Fruit Day!
Thursday
*with fresh water, hay and pellets
Zucchini
Cucumber
Broccoli
Lettuce mix (try radicchio!)
Friday
*with fresh water, hay and pellets
Green pepper
Carrots
Coriander
Lettuce mix
Saturday
*with fresh water, hay and pellets
Tomatoes
Cucumber
Parsley
Lettuce mix
Fruit Day!
Sunday
*with fresh water, hay and pellets
Celery
Carrots
Coriander
Lettuce mix

What kind of feeding schedule do you have for your piggies?
Let us know in the comments!

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32 comments

trudy anne patchappen October 13, 2018 - 6:44 am

thank you so much. this website is very informative and it helped me a lot. thanks once again.

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Monika October 13, 2018 - 12:19 pm

I’m glad you found it helpful 🙂

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Gail Garrison December 7, 2018 - 11:27 am

I like to feed my piggies store bought forage in the winter, how often can i feed them that? The one i buy is : Rosewood naturals, nature’s salad. Right now i give it to them once a week but they love it. Can i give it to them more often?

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Monika December 12, 2018 - 3:01 pm

Hi, I researched the product you are talking about (Rosewood Naturals, nature’s salad) and some of the ingredients are oat and wheat flakes which are not healthy for guinea pigs and experts say they shouldn’t be offered to guinea pigs. So I definitely wouldn’t give it to them more than once a week.

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Grace December 25, 2018 - 11:01 pm

Thank you so much!! As a new guinea pig owner I’m so glad I found your site, hope now my guinea pig will be more comfortable and healthy in her home

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Monika December 26, 2018 - 2:00 pm

I’m glad you find our website helpful 🙂 Thank you for stopping by!

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Kim March 9, 2019 - 9:39 pm

I have two male guinea pigs. Should I be separating them when feeding them or is it okay to feed them together. One male is larger than the other though they did come from the same litter. Could one be eating more/a part of the other’s food? In addition, should they be fed at a specific time every day (schedule)?

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Monika March 10, 2019 - 5:29 pm

Hi, guinea pigs don’t have to be separated for feeding if they are OK with sharing food. But if you’re worried one might be eating most of the food and the other one is not getting their fair share of food, you can add a few more food bowls to avoid squabbling. If that doesn’t help either, you can separate them during their feeding time so that each one gets the proper amount of food. You can try monitoring them for a few days to see if one is eating more or if there is any kind of issue.

To answer your second question…There is no exact time in a day when you have to feed your piggies. They need to have their hay available at all times and you can give them their pallets and vegetables when it’s convenient to you. Some guinea pig owners feed their guinea pigs 2 times a day, for example they provide pellets in the morning and veggies in the evening. Some feed them once a day and give pellets and veggies at once. So it’s up to you. Just make sure to provide hay, pallets, and veggies on a daily basis. And you can give some fruit a few times a week too.

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Mellanie March 21, 2019 - 3:37 am

My guinea pig just arrived at my home and he doesn’t allow me to grab him. But what is worrying me is that he is always eating and runs around his cage when he’s hungry. I give him broccoli, romaine, timothy hay, pellets and sometimes like twice a week, sweet mini peppers. Then he still wants more. but at times he lays down and squeaks or makes noises while pooing that worry me. I have no idea if it’s my fault or what. I’m in need of help.

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Monika March 22, 2019 - 8:32 am

Hi, guinea pigs tend to be big eaters and they love to eat all the time. So I wouldn’t worry about it. As long as your guinea pig has an unlimited amount of hay, he should be fine. And of course, he should get some veggies every day too.

If your guinea pig squeaks or makes noise while peeing or pooping, it could be a sign of a health issue so I would check with the vet.

Also, squeaks might be due to loneliness or boredom. I have to mention that guinea pigs really should be kept in pairs or groups so if it’s possible for you, I would definitely recommend you get a guinea pig friend for your guinea pig. It’s almost the same as having one guinea pig cost-wise and time-wise.

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Crys April 8, 2019 - 12:41 am

Great stuff! How much do you think the given daily values of food would change for pigs under 6 months of age? Are these values for pigs of all ages? Thanks!

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Monika April 10, 2019 - 6:18 pm

Hi, great question! Young guinea pig under 6 months of age should have grass hay and pellets available at all times. It is essential for their growth that they nibble on the hay and pellets whenever they want. When it comes to vegetables, they don’t necessarily need as much as adult guinea pigs need (1 cup) but there is no official recommendation by guinea pig experts on how much veggies young guinea pigs can eat – at least I couldn’t find any expert info on the subject. So I can’t tell you the exact amount but I believe that half a cup to 1 cup of veggies a day should be fine. I would check with your vet if you’re having specific questions about young guinea pigs’ nutritional needs to be on the safe side. One thing you need to make sure when it comes to veggies – it’s very important for young guinea pigs (as well as adults) to get enough vitamin C from their meals. So make sure to offer veggies that have plenty of vitamin C such as leafy greens, bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower… I hope this helps!

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Amy May 14, 2019 - 7:19 pm

I currently have a cavy that’s just over a year and a pup that’s only a couple months old. They live together and love each other. My question is, how do I feed the pellets? They have different dietary requirements. The adult pellets aren’t good for the baby and vice versa. Help!

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Monika May 15, 2019 - 6:46 am

Hi, in your case, it is best to offer only Timothy pellets (and hay) in the cage. Then, during lap time with your young cavy, give him some alfalfa pellets and veggies that are high in calcium like parsley, dandelion greens, and spinach. Young guinea pigs should not have any health issues even if they don’t get alfalfa pellets or alfalfa hay (as long as they get enough calcium from Timothy and veggies) while the adult cavy could be at risk of developing bladder stones if they eat Alfalfa.

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gabby April 14, 2019 - 2:53 pm

URGENT!

didnt get a guinea pig yet but i dont know how to build my cage can you help me please?

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Monika April 14, 2019 - 5:18 pm

Hi, if you want to make your own cage, it is best to make a C&C cage – that type of cage is very popular among the guinea pig owners. All you need for the C&C cage is storage cube grids, zip ties to attach the grids and coroplast for the bottom. There is a great video tutorial on how to make a C&C cage here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f04DTmuJDuE. Hope this helps!

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Shawnette Bean April 14, 2019 - 10:09 pm

I have a female guinea pig and I often wonder if I am feeding her properly.

She has pellets, with the dried fruit etc, water and timothy hay on a daily basis, also I offer her fresh carrots every morning,
romaine lettuce every evening.

Is this too much or sufficient?

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Monika April 16, 2019 - 7:11 pm

As long as she has unlimited amounts of hay, 1/8 of a cup of pellets, and approximately 1 cup of healthy veggies a day, she should be fine. Although, you should be mindful of the veggies you offer. For example, as carrots are high in sugar, they should be offered in moderation, 2-4 times a week. Also, you could offer more types of veggies other than carrots and romaine lettuce. For example, you can add other types of lettuce (except iceberg), peppers, cucumbers, zucchini etc. There is a great guide on veggies and how often each vegetable can be fed on this link: http://www.happycavy.com/what-can-guinea-pigs-eat/

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Camille Broadhurst April 24, 2020 - 11:10 pm

Hi! I just got a Guinea Pig Today! She is a female and 3-5 months of age. Very small. I keep in her cage, hay, pelleted, and today I have lettuce and blueberry’s. (As well as water” but, I just keep it in her cage throughout the day. Should I put them in at different times?

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Monika April 27, 2020 - 1:13 pm

Hi Camille. Hay should be available at all times in the cage. You can give her pellets and veggies once, twice, or three times a day if you wish but make sure to stick to the measurements we mentioned in this post – you don’t want to overfeed your pet or keep them hungry. Also, you can try offering more veggies along with lettuce so her diet is more diverse.

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Phoebe May 15, 2019 - 10:53 pm

Should I get Vitamin C drops for my 7-month old guinea pig?

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Monika May 16, 2019 - 7:22 am

Hi, vitamin C supplements are not necessary if your guinea pig is getting enough vitamin C with their food. So if you’re worried about your guinea pig’s vitamin C levels, make sure you’re providing enough vitamin C rich veggies such as peppers (red pepper has the most vitamin C), spinach, broccoli, parsley, kale… You can buy pellets with added vitamin C but you’ll have to keep the package in a cold dark place to prevent vitamin C from degrading too soon. If you think your guinea pig might not be getting enough vitamin C with their food, you can use supplements in the form of tablets or liquid (using a syringe). It is not recommended to put vitamin C in their drinking water because the exposure to the air will make the vitamin C degrade. Also, guinea pigs sometimes don’t want to drink water with added vitamin C because of its taste and you won’t know for sure how much vitamin C they got from it.

Guinea pigs require 10 to 30 mg (per 1 kg of guinea pig weight) of vitamin C a day. You can take a look at this list of veggies and fruits that have lots of vitamin C to make sure they’re getting enough vitamin: http://www.guinealynx.info/diet_order-c.html

BTW make sure not to go overboard and give too much vitamin C to your guinea pig as extremely high doses of vitamin C are also unhealthy and can lead to health issues.

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Lisa VanTress May 27, 2019 - 6:40 pm

We bought our pet guinea just a few months ago. He allows us to hand feed him and nibbles our fingers but we have a hard time getting him out of his cage to clean and interact with him. He use to be very shy and would hide when we would open the cage but seems more social now. How do we get him to open up to us picking him up out of his cage so that we aren’t “chasing” him??

Also, we only have the one guinea but read more about how we should have adopted two. What would be the best way to introduce a new guinea pig to our current male??
Would it be better to adopt a female over another male?? Would age matter??

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Monika May 28, 2019 - 7:18 am

Hi, thank you for your question. Yes, it’s best to have at least 2 guinea pigs because they can get lonely if they don’t have a company of their own kind. They are very social animals that live in herds in the wild so being on their own is not natural to them.

If you adopt a female, there’s a big chance you’ll get baby guineas every now and then. To prevent that, it might be best to go with a male guinea pig. But since adult males can get quite territorial, especially if they don’t know each other, it might be best to adopt a male baby guinea pig. That way your guinea’s dominance isn’t questioned by the new guinea pig so they are more likely to live in harmony.

We wrote a guide on introducing guinea pigs so take a look: https://www.animallama.com/guinea-pigs/guide-introducing-guinea-pigs/

When it comes to your guinea pig being scared… It can take months for cavies to finally feel comfortable around their owners and stop seeing humans as a threat. You might want to try some of our bonding tips so that your guinea pig associates you with good things and starts trusting you more. Here is our post on bonding with guinea pigs: https://www.animallama.com/guinea-pigs/bonding-with-guinea-pigs/. Hope this helps!

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Caroline July 26, 2019 - 2:53 am

We purchased our first guinea pig “Clutch” from Pet Supermarket back in 2016. He was a very scared guinea pig and the employee said she was surprised he was getting adopted as he was so timid. I didn’t care. I accepted that he will either love being social or he will be satisfied with just being taken care of with love. I felt I was saving his life at this point. It took me about one year before he would get comfortable with us and another year before I could actually pick him up and hold him. He taught me patience for sure. He still doesn’t love being held and we respect that. I pick him up and hold him about once every two weeks so he isn’t shocked if we ever had to handle him. He is great for his nail trims with the vet at my work, but just isn’t fond of being held. He is however social and trusts me. He comes out when he hears my voice and will eat from my hand and let me rub his crest in a circular motion (his favorite pet). I work at a humane society in Florida and just a few months ago we had a 6 month old female come in as a stray. We had discussed getting another guinea pig, but I was always worried about introducing them. I ended up adopting “Tesla” (our son loves cars). My guinea pigs are not housed together due to being the opposite sex and we feel it is too late to neuter our male. We have considered breeding them once to make packs of males and females, keeping up to two of each sex. I have fallen in love with guinea pigs, as I was always a rabbit lover as a kid. Guinea pigs are much more engaging and they crack us up with their demands whenever they hear us in the kitchen LOL

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Monika July 27, 2019 - 12:15 pm

Some guinea pigs are just timid by nature and might never get completely comfortable with being held and picked up. But they are great pets anyway, we just have to respect their limits and enjoy their personalities as they are 🙂

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Caroline July 26, 2019 - 2:41 am

I feed my guinea pigs 1 tbsp of Oxbow pellets and check their hay/water supply in the morning before work. When I get home and feed the rest of the household they receive a veggie bowl, which usually consists of lettuce (I offer spring mix with kale or romaine with spinach), herb (usually parsley or cilantro) baby carrot, green beans, peppers (change up the color daily), once in a while I offer cucumber. Before bed I check their hay/water supply and offer them an additional tablespoon of Oxbow pellets. I basically offer them what we usually eat. Once in a while I will throw in something new. I recently offered brussell sprout which my male would eat the outer leaves, but my female barely touches it. Once a week a might give them a small sliver of a banana in the morning as they always hear me in the kitchen prepping snacks and lunch for the day. If not a banana, I might give them a berry of some sort. This fruit treat happens roughly 3 days per week. Once in a while I will give them a yogurt drop (I know they aren’t good for them, but they love them).

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Monika July 27, 2019 - 12:10 pm

Your feeding schedule sounds great 🙂 Lots of delicious veggies for them to enjoy!

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Kelsey April 10, 2020 - 6:34 pm

Hi! What times of day should I feed my Guinea pig?

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Monika April 11, 2020 - 1:47 pm

Hi! Hay should be available at all times. When it comes to pallets, veggies and occasional fruit, it doesn’t matter what time of day you give it to them. It can be in the morning, in the evening… Any time that suits your schedule. The important thing is they get a suitable amount of food so that they’re not hungry or overeating. You can create a schedule that works for you. For example, pellets in the morning, veggies in the evening etc.

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Johanna May 9, 2020 - 3:31 am

Hi Monika.
I’ve been reading a lot of guinea pig articles but there’s something I’m still confused about! Somewhere they suggested weighing your food, instead of measuring by cup. And it would equal to 8 oz per day. But when I tried that, I realized there’s a HUGE difference between one measuring cup of veggies and 8oz!! The feeding bowl I use, is about a cup big. I fill it morning and evening, with mostly different kinds of lettuce or fresh grass (safe private property grass!) and a few slices of other veggies.
Trying the weighing technique, an overflowing bowl was only 2oz! A bowl stuffed and overflowing with lettuce and a big piece of cucumber, more than I would usually give, only got me to a little over 4 oz. Which is still only half the amount in ounces they suggest per day. But in volume more than one cup! So… What’s right?
According to “food measured by cup” I should actually free only half of what I do. Fill the bowl only half full morning and evening. But that doesn’t feel like it’s enough and the other seems like way too much!
Of course he always has hay and water available! And gets 1/8 cup of pellets. Sometimes I take him out on the meadow where he can eat fresh grass, sometimes he gets a treat during the day, mostly in a playful or “training” way. I hardly ever give him any fruit or carrots.
As I’ve been watching and keeping track etc. I think I’m probably feeding him ok. I just wanted to ask someone.
He also doesn’t seem overweight or skinny. And he seems happy in every guinea piggy way! 🙂 I would be glad for your reinsurance though.

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Monika May 9, 2020 - 7:22 am

Hi Johanna. Great question! 8 oz is definitely too much for 1 piggy. One cup of veggies should equal to 50 grams. So each piggy should get 50 grams of veggies per day – that’s a little less than 2 oz.

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