Things Few People Know About Overfeeding Guinea Pigs

One of the first things, you’ll notice about your guinea pig is how they never stop eating: munching, chewing, nibbling.  I know I did. So, can they really eat too much? It’s a nerve-rattling question.

You can overfeed a guinea pig.  It’s likely to happen if they’re given too much food full of sugar and other empty calories, such as store-bought treats and very sweet fruits. To avoid overfeeding your guinea pigs, track what they eat and make sure they’re eating the correct amount of nutritious food.  

Picture: 2 Guinea Pigs Eating from Can You Overfeed Your Guinea Pigs

In this post, I’m going to reveal what I learned about feeding guinea pigs and some easy, simple steps you can take to make overfeeding a thing of the past. 

Overfeeding Prevention Tips

Let’s banish overfeeding your guinea pig forever!

These tips will give you the tools you need to monitor your guinea pigs’ meals and make sure that they’re eating the right things.

1. Give Your Cavy the Goods…the Good Foods That Is

Let’s talk about diet.  Guinea pigs need the right fuel to lead long, healthy lives.

Here are the basics: 80% hay, 15% fresh vegetables (a few fruits) and 5% pellets are your cavy’s daily nutritional needs.

Ummm…yeah.

So, I know what you’re thinking…

What does that look like? Like in real life? 

No worries.  I’ve got you covered. Protect your guinea pigs’ health by serving up the right quality and quantity of each proper category of food.  Here’s some information you need to consider in the table below:

FoodDaily Quantity Quality
Grass Hay-have available 24/7-unlimited amount
-fresh hay given every day (top off that hay, please!)-Timothy or orchard hay is best (bursting with fiber and stingy with calories)
-reserve alfalfa hay for pregnant, sick, & young guinea pigs; it’s not good for healthy adults-doesn’t have pebbles, weeds or other trash-should be green and leafy-free of mildew, fungus, and mold-sweet-smelling (no dusty, moldy smell)
Pellets-⅛  to ¼ cup of pellets
-this is fine as long as the guinea pig is eating enough hay and fresh vegetables
-use a pellet enriched with Vitamin C-Timothy pellets for healthy adult guinea pigs (a year old)
-alfalfa pellets are for pregnant, sick, & young guinea pigs because of the extra calcium & protein they need
-keep it plain; no seeds, nuts, or fruits in the pellets-don’t buy in bulk
-keep pellets in a dark, dry place to keep the Vitamin C potent
Vegetables-1 cup (8 oz) of vegetables each day (mostly leafy greens)-⅛ to ¼ of bell pepper 
-rinsed thoroughly
-fresh and unspoiled
-wide variety of vegetables of different colors
-mostly green leafy vegetables
Fruit-rinsed thoroughly-fresh and unspoiled-a wide variety of different colors-a small piece a few times a week-limit because of sugar & starch content-rinsed thoroughly
-fresh and unspoiled
-a wide variety of different colors
list of daily guinea pig feeding suggestions: can you overfeed your guinea pig

2. Avoid the Store-Bought Treats

Pet stores sell lots of guinea pig treats

Treats that your piggie pals will fall in love with. 

And nothing’s too good for your cavy?  Right? 

Think again.

There are a couple of things wrong with those treats-particularly if you give a lot of them to your guinea pigs.  Here are a few:

  • The store-bought treats have too much sugar and empty calories.  Sugar is not part of a guinea pig’s natural (wild) diet.  Too much is bad for your guinea pig’s health. And the empty calories will fill your piggie pal up temporarily-soon he’ll be ready to eat again.
  • Those treats taste so good, your guinea pig won’t bother with any other foods.  Guinea pigs-when given the choice-will ignore their hay and vegetables to chow down on some honey-soaked treats.  I mean, wouldn’t you?  So, they’ll miss out on vitamins and nutrients that they need.

3. Measure the Food

Here’s the deal: guinea pigs only need a certain amount of food each day.  Anything over that, messes with your guinea pig’s health.  

Invest in a kitchen scale and measuring cup and spoons, so you can make sure your guinea pigs are getting the right amount.  If you just eye-ball the amount of food you’re giving them, then you might feed them too much.  

A perk of using this method?  

You’ll stop wasting money on food that you’re piggies aren’t really eating.  Also, you’ll have a better idea of how much they’re really eating.

Pellets can be measured with a measuring cup or spoons.  Weigh veggies on a scale (that measures to the gram level).  Why? You’re certain to properly measure 8 ounces (or 1 cup) for your fur baby when you use a scale.  

It’s a nifty trick to avoid (*wink, wink) overfeeding. 

Picture of Guinea Pig Eating from Can you overfeed a guinea pig

4. Track the Food

Listen: no one wants to admit it. Sometimes life bulldozes over you and then flips it into reverse (laughing like a maniac) to come at you again.  Even the most thoughtful, loving pet parent sometimes becomes a little forgetful.  

It’s a grubby little secret of guinea pig ownership, shoved in the back of a closet under that itchy sweater that your Aunt Gertrude bought you.  No judgement here.  Sometimes you need a little help.  

Enter: a feeding schedule.

Followed closely by: a Google Calendar notification  

A feeding schedule keeps you and your cavy on track.  Use one and never forget what (or when) you fed your cavy.  Set a Google Calendar notification to remind you of feeding times.  

Your guinea baby (who thrives on routines) will appreciate knowing when to expect her food.  

Creating a feeding schedule doesn’t have to feel like crafting a plan for world peace…while intoxicated.  Keep it easy and simple

It’s important that you keep two things in mind:

  • A schedule that fits your daily routine
  • Make sure your fur baby gets her correct portions.
Feeding OptionsMorning Evening
Option 1: Twice a day (serve half your portions)-top off hay-½ cup of green leafy veggies & ⅛ of a red (or green pepper)
-1/16 cup of pellets
-top off again as necessary-½ cup of green leafy veggies-1/16 cup of pellets
Option 2: Once a day (all portions in the morning)-top off hay-1 cup of veggies & ⅛ of a red (or green pepper)
-⅛ cup of pellets
-top off hay as necessary
Option 3: Once a day (split the veggies; pellets in the evening)-top off hay-½ cup of green leafy veggies-top off hay as necessary-½ cup of green leafy veggies-⅛ cup of pellets

5. Track the Weight

Some experts suggest that you weigh your guinea pig once a month.  However, once a week is better.  

Let me explain: guinea pigs hide their illnesses like my great aunt hides her age (oh, come on, Aunt Peggy! You’ve been 25 years old for how long?)  

And that’s mega bad.  But, understandable.  Prey animals (like your guinea pigs) hide weaknesses from predators-no piggie wants to let on that they might be an easy catch. 

Your cavy’s health can quickly take a nosedive-landing her in serious medical trouble.  

Great news:  That’s avoidable.

Like kids scouring the house for early signs of Christmas presents, pet parents have to seek out signs of illness in the guinea pigs.  A good way to do this is (you guessed it!) weigh your piggie pal regularly. 

And observe your carefully for other signs of illness: weight gain 

You’ll get a heads up on whether your guinea pig is sick (translation: not eating, which equals “uh-oh”) if you weigh them once a week (and keep a record of the weights). 

Make it part of your piggie care routine.  Also, weigh your guinea pig at the same time each day (for consistency). Jot the results in a notebook or log them in a spreadsheet. 

But, keep track of it.

Not sure how to weigh your guinea pigs?  This video should be helpful to you.

This video should really help you out.

But, when should you worry?

Whether male or female, any major loss or gain of weight in a guinea pig is concerning. I’ve included a table below to help guide you:

The Scale Reveals… What now?
½ to 1 oz (15 to 30g) loss of weightNothing to be concerned about in most cases; normal weight fluctuations for your piggie
2 or 3 oz loss of weightSet up that vet appointment…like yesterday. This is an emergency situation.
No change in weightIt’s all gravy!  Keep doing what you’re doing…presuming that your guinea pig’s previous weight was a healthy one
½ to 1 oz weight gainNothing to be concerned about in most cases
2 or 3 oz weight gainOkay, pump the breaks!  Review your feeding schedule and make adjustments. Has your guinea pig had a lot of extra treats or sugary foods lately? 

How Much Should My Guinea Pig Weigh?

According to most guinea pig sources, the table below gives a rough estimate of how much a guinea pig should weigh.  However, there’s some debate about how accurate the sizes are when applied to guinea pigs in real life.

AgeMale (Boar)Female (Sow)
Birth4 oz (115 g)3 oz (85 g)
3 Weeks (Weaned)8.5 oz (240 g)6 oz (165 g)
Adult2lbs to 2.6lb (900g – 1200g)1.5 lbs – 2lbs (700g – 900g)

Yes, it’s important to monitor your guinea pig’s weight. That fur is tricky.  It hides multitudes of sins.

However, one of the best things you can do to make sure that your fur baby isn’t getting too fat or too skinny is to feel for yourself.

Run your hands along your guinea pig’s body for signs that you guinea pig is:

  • Good to go.  Feet are visible. Stomach is flat. From above the chest is more narrow than the guinea pig’s booty. Hips, spine, and ribs aren’t visible, but can be felt.
  • Underweight. Chest is much narrower than the booty.  Bones (hips, spine, ribs) might be visible or easily felt.  Tummy is sunken.
  • Overweight.  Bones are not visible and cannot be felt when petted unless you press hard.  Tummy is sagging (maybe on the floor).  Body is very round and the feet aren’t visible.

(Source)  

Consequences Of Overfeeding Your Guinea Pig

Not be melodramatic or anything, but…

Death!

The consequences of overfeeding your guinea pig is death…or a significantly diminished quality of life. 

Overfeeding leads to obesity.  Obesity invites loads of health issues (that could kill your guinea pig) like:

  • Urinary Tract Infections
  • Diabetes
  • Heart attacks
  • Cataracts
  • Tooth decay

Piggies can live very long lives (and often do!), but their bodies are susceptible to certain sicknesses. 

Any one of those illnesses is potentially life-threatening.  And You owe it to them to do your best to keep them well and healthy.

So, what’s the takeaway?

Cavies can be overfed: either too much of good foods or too much of bad foods.  However, you will avoid overfeeding your cavy if you:

  • Provide high quality food.
  • Avoid guinea pig junk foods
  • Measure the food.
  • Track the food she eats.
  • Monitor her weight.

There’s no sorcery.  It’s definitely doable.  And you’ve got a roadmap at your fingertips (literally!) to help you along.

You can do it, friend!

Now, go get started.

Related Questions

Can I grow food for my guinea pig to eat? 

Absolutely!  Growing food for your guinea pig will provide her with fresh produce (happy piggie!) and save you money (cha-cha ching!). You can grow vegetables and herbs that your guinea pig will love.  Tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, cilantro, dill, lemon balm, and parsley are a few examples.  

How can I help my guinea pig stay in shape?

You can help your guinea pigs stay in shape by doing two things: feeding them the proper amounts (and kinds) of foods and making sure that your guinea pig gets lots of exercise.  Overfeeding and lack of exercise make cavies obese.  And obesity can lead to a whole bunch of medical problems that you don’t want your fur baby to have.

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