Guinea Pigs, also known as cavies, are great pets to have. They are especially brilliant as a child’s pet due to their friendly nature, ease of looking after them, and handleability. Like cats and dogs, there are numerous guinea pig breeds (13 to be exact). As with all pets and humans, guinea pigs require a specific diet not only to survive but to remain healthy and have a good quality of life. Collard greens, a leafy green vegetable, are one way to aid this. It is safe to feed your guinea pig collard greens but only in small amounts, as hay or grass should be making up around 75% of their main grub.
What Should Guinea Pigs Eat?
Guinea pigs are herbivores, meaning they only eat plants and plant-based foods. While true wild guinea pigs eat a mixture of different fresh grasses, leaves, vegetables, and fruits, pet guinea pigs often eat quite differently. However, they still need to receive a diet that resembles their natural diet as closely as possible.
The Gold Standard Diet for Guinea Pigs Includes:
Hay and Grass
Grass is the guinea pig’s natural diet, but hay can be used also. The hay you choose to feed needs to be grass hay, not hay made from legumes, for example, and should make up around 75% of their daily intake of nutrition. Offer them hay or grass in abundance for them to munch on throughout the day and night. Access to hay or grass must always be available for guinea pigs and never be limited.
Hay and grass are not only important from a nutritional standpoint, but guinea pigs also require them to maintain a healthy and properly functioning digestive system. It does this by providing them with the necessary fiber and bacteria to aid fermentation in their intestines.
Simultaneously, eating hay also wears down their teeth, helping maintain them. Guinea pigs’ teeth are constantly growing, and eating hay and grass helps to keep them worn down to a comfortable and correct length. If not, their teeth will continue to grow and it will be necessary to visit your veterinarian for the teeth to be clipped, as overgrown teeth cause significant dental disease, potential tissue injuries around the face, discomfort, and other eating problems.
It’s important to note when feeding grass, lawnmower clippings cannot be fed to your guinea pig, as they disrupt their gastrointestinal systems.
Fresh Greens and Vegetables
A cup of greens and other veggies a day is required in addition to hay. This can include collard greens or other vegetables, such as zucchini, kale, and lettuce (iceberg lettuce is not recommended).
Their daily cup of veg needs to come from a variety of veggies, ideally five to six different kinds, and split into morning and evening feedings. Safe daily vegetables are needed to offer balanced nutrition, and some greens like asparagus, kale, and spinach are also higher in vitamin C, which is a vital vitamin guinea pigs are required to consume daily. Read further below for information on the importance of vitamin C.
Other examples of veggies to offer your guinea pig include:
- Spring Greens
- Carrot tops
- Ripened Tomatoes (do not feed the vine or leaves, as these are toxic)
- Swiss Chard
- Bell Peppers
Special grass pellets produced specifically for guinea pigs are also to be given daily alongside their hay and veggies. A tablespoon a day per guinea pig is sufficient.
Fresh drinking should always be available via sipper bottles not in bowls.
Muesli-style food mix is often sold in pet stores and contains a mixture of pellets, flakes, and seeds. Although these are intended for, and packaged for, guinea pigs, they are an unsuitable diet. Guinea pigs are smart creatures and know what they like! With muesli-style diets, they selectively eat only picking out the best yummy bits, such as sunflower seeds, and leaving the rest. This seriously hampers their nutrition, causing multiple health problems. Muesli-type diets are also low in fiber and high in sugar, which can easily cause weight gain, dental problems, and upset stomachs.
How Much Collard Greens Can Guinea Pigs Have?
Approximately 1 cup per day, with half given in the morning and half given at night. It is recommended, though, not to solely feed collard greens as their main source of vegetables, as it doesn’t provide a good balance of nutrition. Instead, collard greens should make up part of the 1-cup mixture of safe veggies for your guinea pig.
Why Do Guinea Pigs Need Vitamin C?
Just like humans, guinea pigs cannot synthesize vitamin C, meaning the body can’t make it and therefore must be consumed daily via their diet. Vitamin C is necessary for the development and maintenance of many bodily tissues and functions, such as skin, gums, and joints, and aids in the healing of wounds.
Insufficiency or deficiency of vitamin C predisposes your guinea pig to skin problems, a condition called scurvy, and/or infections. Many veterinarians will recommend adding a vitamin C supplement to their diet, but always speak to your vet about it first before offering any kind of supplement to them.
It is vital to get a guinea pig’s diet correct from the start. Alternatively, change their food intake to a regime like the one described here to ensure your pet gets everything they need. If you are unsure about any aspect of their diet or which veggies and fruits are safe to offer, contact your veterinarian to discuss. Once you have a plan in place and your head around it all, it’s simple!
Collard greens are a great source of nutrition, safe to eat, and a food your guinea pigs will enjoy. Just be sure to feed the correct amounts of it!