Did you know your cute cavy has teeth that never stop growing? Though it may sound hard to believe, the fact is, it’s true! Much like other Rodentia and those of the Lagomorpha species, guinea pigs have pearly whites that will grow without end in sight – something that can be a serious health problem if not kept in check. To ensure your precious pets have healthy teeth (and stave off a trip to the cavy dentist), it is of utmost importance to provide safe, healthy objects for them to chew on. Essentially, your cavies need free access to things they can chew on 24/7, as this is the only way for them to grind down their teeth and manage their dental health.
Luckily, there are indeed various items your pets can gnaw down to oblivion, without you having to worry about the consequences. Check out the following list of chewables, from chews to sticks to toys, that in my house are 100% Miss Muffy-approved.
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Why do guinea pigs need to chew so much?
Although I just explained the consequence of not having appropriate things to chew on in their cage, I feel the issue to be so vital that it warrants repetition – and possibly some more clarification. In order for guinea pigs to thrive in a domesticated environment (your house, to be specific), they require unfettered access to fresh water, hay, and safe, chewable objects, aside from their daily diet of fresh food and pellets.
So, for the sake of clarifying the situation, let’s say we remove free access to healthy chewable items, such as hay and any other safe objects. What would happen then, you may wonder? Well, after a time, your cavy’s teeth would grow and grow and grow, to the point where they wouldn’t just be uncomfortable, they’d be painfully unbearable. Take this scenario a step further – to the point where their teeth have pierced through their skin – and you’re risking illness and starvation.
If you’ve ever had dental problems to the point where you could not eat, let alone chew, then you’ll easily connect with this awful circumstance. All that to say, your guinea pigs always need chewables, pet parents!
4 low-cost (or no-cost) guinea pig chew options
Before we get into a list of chewables you can purchase, let’s look at some low-cost or free options, shall we?
- Cardboard boxes
- Wood blocks (untreated)
- Paper rolls and crumpled sheets
- Twigs (see exceptions)
Truthfully, there’s no actual need to go out and spend loads of money on things your guinea pigs can chew on. There are some great ideas that won’t break the bank, some of which are totally free.
Cardboard boxes, the kind you use for packaging or moving, make a wonderful place to hide in… and chew on!
Paper rolls from paper towels and toilet paper are another great choice. Fill them up with hay and you’re giving your guineas something akin to treasure in their eyes.
Wood blocks, as long as they’re untreated and made of safe wood, are a fun toy that’s also a tasty treat, one you can place in various and interesting shapes. Avoid freshly-cut Evergreens like cedar and pine (which were not kiln-dried) as they contain phenols that can hurt guinea pig’s sensitive respiratory system. Make sure to do your research about certain wood types before giving a wood block to your pets to avoid any health issues.
Another free object is twigs, most popular among guinea pig owners are:
- apple branches,
Just like with wood blocks, make sure to do your research before giving a random twig you collected in the nearby park to your guinea, because not all wood is safe for them to chew!
7 other munchables
Now, let’s go over some munchable goodies your cavies can safely chew on:
- Hay sticks
- Grass mats
- Hideouts (but only the wooden ones!)
Aside from the hay, you may notice a theme here, once you read through the descriptions of every item – everything is made of wood or grass. That’s because grass, wood, and wood products are really the only material that is natural, healthy, and safe enough for guinea pigs to chew on.
Without further ado, let’s get down to the business of selecting the best munchy, crunchy, chewables for your furry rodent family.
At my house, we have a chew stick expert, and her name is Muffy. An Abyssinian guinea pig with a penchant for nibbling on all things wood related, Little Miss Muffet particularly loves fruit tree sticks. Kiwi and apple sticks are her absolute favorite, nibbling them with such gusto you’d think they were the last twigs on the planet.
Luckily for her, they aren’t, and can be easily found at most pet stores or online. She-That-Is-Fluffy particularly likes the Organic Natural Apple Sticks. These types of chews come in a pack of several sticks, around 250 grams to 500 grams, and they’re quite short in length, around 5 inches or so. They’re great for keeping teeth clean, trim, and healthy.
The wonderful thing about hay specifically is that it wears down teeth via grinding, as the motion of eating the hay itself requires cavies to chew in a different manner. As such, it wears down teeth in a more even way. To top it all off, hay also helps to regulate their digestive system, which is essential for guinea pigs as well. While I do like to spice things up every once in a while by offering her different types of hay, Muffy’s very big on Oxbow Western Timothy, Botanical, and Grandpa’s Best Orchard Grass.
Hey, wait a minute – I had no idea hay sticks even existed before I did some research for this post! These sticks are made from hay itself, fused together and formed to create a stick version of hay. These Timothy Hay Sticks, for instance, are made with Organic Timothy Grass, and are a great addition to your guinea’s cage for something interesting that tastes like their usual hay, yet has a different texture and consistency. Also, you can store them for long periods of time, though they don’t have any preservatives, which comes in very handy.
When it comes to chewable toys, the sky’s the limit it seems. Walk into any pet store and you’ll easily find a wall of chewing toys dedicated to guineas. An online search will bring you even more results, an overwhelming amount, in fact. They come in different shapes, sizes, colors, and flavors, and are typically made from hard, natural wood.
Wood, as we mentioned, makes for an excellent material because it not only provides good resistance, but it also gives your pets an abrasive surface to wear down their ever-growing teeth. In the vast majority of cases, these toys come in a whimsical myriad of bright colors and shapes, but the truth is, your cavies probably won’t care – so long as it tastes delicious and wears down their choppers. Some popular items online include this Natural Wood Toy Accessory Set, which includes balls, dumbbells, a ladder, and even a swing!
When selecting toys, make sure to choose the ones that are made from natural materials. This will ensure you get something that’s safe and healthy to keep guinea teeth short. There won’t be a shortage of plastic options, that’s for sure, or at least toys that have some plastic parts. Do stay away from these, since plastic wears down quickly and simply shouldn’t be ingested. It is, after all, toxic to any living creature.
Grass mats, like this Oxbow Timothy Mat, are another interesting object for guinea pigs to chew on. Made from 100% all-natural Timothy Hay, these mats are typically hand-woven, chemical-free, without the use of threads or wires that could harm your fluffy pets. They’re an edible, nutritional treat that’s high in fiber and easy for your guineas to digest. Give your cavies a means to wear down their teeth with healthy hay – in a mat form!
Wooden tunnels and hideouts
It’s a house! It’s a chewable! It’s both?
At the top of Muffy’s Chew-This-Don’t-Chew-That list is the ever-indispensable wood hideout. You can chew on it while hiding, hide while chewing, chew on it without hiding the fact that you’re chewing, or take a nap inside the hideout while sleep-chewing. I suppose guineas can also go into the hideout without chewing on it, but we’re talking about cavies here – chewing is their thing!
Sturdy structures as they are, what I really like about these shelters is that they’re made from all-natural wood, can be shaped into different forms, but also provide a hideout this is – as we’ve mentioned countless times – edible. I guess you could say, they’re a multipurpose munchable. We have the identical hideout as this one, the Flexible All-Natural Wood Bridge in the non-colored material.
Though similar to hideouts, wooden tunnels provide a means to burrow – which is something our precious cave dwellers don’t get a chance to do very often now that they’re domesticated. Tunneling and burrowing is, however, an instinct they still have, something you’ll notice whenever they get the opportunity to hide under a blanket or dig their way underneath a structure.
Try to avoid sweet ‘treats’
Lastly, I just wanted to add a final note on commercial food treats. Without a doubt, they look attractive – but that’s simply a marketing gimmick. They may claim to be a great alternative to give your pets in order to wear down their teeth, but the fact of the matter is, they’re usually full of fake sugars. Forget these sweet ‘treats,’ and simply opt for real, healthy food treats for your pet when they’re hungry and safe chewables, like the above list, for when they need to keep their teeth nice and short.