As a guinea pig owner, you know that hay is an important part of your furry friend's diet. But how much hay does a guinea pig actually need, and why is it so important for their health and well-being? We take a look at why hay is number one when it comes to guinea pig food, what type of hay to choose and how much of the stuff they can get through.

The benefits of hay to a Guinea Pig

Guinea pigs eat hay for several reasons, the most obvious of which is for food. Hay is a natural source of fibre, which is essential for maintaining positive digestive health. It helps to prevent health problems such as constipation and gastrointestinal stasis, which not only cause discomfort but can also lead to serious health issues for guinea pigs. 

As well as fibre, hay is also a good source of nutrients for guinea pigs. It provides them with important vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin A and calcium. Many types of hay, such as the popular timothy hay and meadow hay, are also high in protein and other nutrients that are essential for guinea pig health.

Hay also plays a critical role in your guinea pig's dental health. Guinea pigs have constantly growing teeth, and the act of chewing hay helps to wear down their teeth and keep them at a healthy length. Without hay, guinea pigs can develop overgrown teeth, which can lead to serious health issues. For similar reasons, you will likely find your guinea pig chewing the edges of a house, tunnel or toy to keep their teeth in check.

What is the best hay type for a Guinea Pig?

When it comes to hay, there are a few different types that can be offered to guinea pigs. The most common and readily available type of hay is 'timothy' hay. This type of hay is high in fibre and low in protein and calcium, making it a perfect choice for guinea pigs.

Another type of hay that guinea pigs can enjoy is meadow hay. This type of hay is similar to timothy hay, but it is often a bit softer and more fragrant. It is also high in fibre and low in protein and calcium, making it a good choice for guinea pigs.

Oat hay is another option for guinea pigs. This type of hay is made from unripe oat grass and has a slightly sweeter taste than timothy or meadow hay. Oat hay is high in fibre and low in protein and calcium, making it another good choice for guinea pigs. However, some guinea pigs may be allergic to oat hay, so it is important to introduce it slowly and watch for any adverse reactions.

two guinea pigs in an acrylic hay tray
Filling a hay tray will provide your guinea pigs with loads of food and space to forage

It's also a good idea to offer hay in a hay rack or hay tray to encourage your guinea pig to eat more hay and to keep their living area clean. Offer hay in a separate area from the food pellets to help prevent your guinea pig from selectively eating only the more palatable parts of their diet.

> READ: The Ultimate Guide to Guinea Pig Hay Trays

How much hay does a guinea pig need? 

It is generally recommended that guinea pigs have access to unlimited hay on a daily basis. Hay should make up the majority (80%) of their diet. In addition to hay, guinea pigs should also be offered a small number of fresh vegetables and a limited amount of pellets as a supplement. If you are unsure what foods are safe or unsafe for Guinea Pigs, use our simple tool ‘Can Guinea Pigs Eat…’ to check each individual food type. As a rough guide, leafy green vegetables are great for guinea pigs, fruits provide a nice vitamin rich treat but should be fed in small amounts and you should avoid any foods that are designed for human consumption. Guinea pigs digestive systems are not designed like ours and they are unable to process many foods which will lead to health issues.

> READ: Basic Guide to Feeding your Pet Guinea Pig

brown guinea pig surrounded by fresh hay
Guinea pigs need an 'unlimited' supply of hay to ensure they are healthy

The exact amount of hay that a guinea pig needs to eat per day will depend on their size, age, and activity level. an adult guinea pig can consume anywhere between 6-8 pounds (3-4 kg) of hay every month. If you have a young guinea pig, you can expect them to go through 5-6 pounds (2-3 kg) every month. 

It is important to make sure that your guinea pig has access to hay at all times and to monitor their intake to ensure that they are getting enough. If you notice that your guinea pig is not eating enough hay, or if they seem to be losing weight, it is important to speak to a veterinarian for advice.

How to store hay and keep it from spoiling

It's important to store hay properly to ensure that it stays fresh and nutritious for your guinea pig. Here are a few tips for storing hay:

  1. Keep it dry: Hay can spoil quickly if it becomes damp, so it's important to store it in a dry place. Avoid storing hay in a damp basement or garage, or anywhere that it might come into contact with water.
  2. Use an airtight container: Airtight containers, such as plastic bins with tight-fitting lids, can help to keep hay fresh by protecting it from moisture and pests.
  3. Store it in a cool place: Hay can become spoiled if it gets too hot, so it's best to store it in a cool, dry place. Avoid storing hay near heat sources or in direct sunlight.
  4. Use within a few weeks: While hay can last for several months when stored properly, it's best to use it within a few weeks to ensure that it stays fresh and nutritious for your guinea pig. If you have a large quantity of hay, consider dividing it into smaller portions and rotating through them to ensure that you're using the freshest hay possible. If you are keeping your guinea pigs hay levels well stocked, you should have no issue working through a large bag of hay.
  5. Avoid storing hay near strong odours: Hay can absorb odours from its surroundings, so it's important to store it away from strong-smelling items such as cleaning supplies or perfumes.

In conclusion, hay is an essential part of your guinea pig's diet, and it's important to provide them with a generous amount of hay on a daily basis. By feeding your guinea pig hay, you can help to keep their teeth healthy, provide them with essential nutrients, and support their overall health and well-being.