Is Eating Cardboard Safe for Guinea Pigs? (Find Out Now)

It’s not unusual for pet owners of all types to wonder what they should feed their animals. For guinea pigs, this is no exception! There are a lot of foods that are actually safe for them to eat and some that aren’t. One item that you may be wondering about is cardboard! Is eating cardboard bad for guinea pigs? So, I did a little research.

As a general rule, gnawing on cardboard is safe for guinea pigs. But, eating and swallowing large amounts of it can be fatal. Gnawing on too much cardboard over time may cause intestinal blockages in guinea pigs – which could lead to death if not treated quickly enough.

Guinea pig by a carrot for article Is it okay for guinea pigs to eat cardboard?

In this blog post, I’ll share with you safety tips for cardboard use and the role a guinea pigs’ teeth plays in the whole process.

Plus tips on what they should and shouldn’t be munching! So, let’s get started!

Cardboard Safety 101: Eating Versus Gnawing

It’s a common misconception that it’s okay for your guinea pig to eat cardboard (or any other type of paper).

While there is nothing wrong with letting them gnaw on it and even eating some of it, eating it in large amounts can be deadly.

At its core, cardboard is just plant based material – it comes from trees.

Guinea pigs are herbivores and their digestive systems are good at breaking down most plant materials.

But, this doesn’t mean that pet owners should serve up heaping piles of cardboard. Here’s why:

  • Cardboard is not a nutritious food source.
  • The cardboard might fill your piggies up, but it won’t give them the nutrients they need for a healthy diet.
  • If you give your piggies huge amounts of cardboard their gut bacteria will change, leading to intestinal obstructions and other health problems.

Guinea pig digestive systems are designed for grass (and hay) diets, which they can’t get enough of.

The most important part of a their diet is grass hay.

Timothy is a hay that’s often used. But, you can also use orchard, meadow and other varieties.

Caution: Cardboard Can Be Hazardous To Your Piggie’s Health

Many vets as well as rescue and animal shelter staff recommend cardboard or paper materials as affordable toy and hideaway options.

Cardboard is fun and inexpensive way to keep your guinea pig busy with something new and different.

Just keep a few things in mind to keep your guinea pigs safe:

  • Don’t give dirty cardboard to your piggie.
  • Avoid using cardboard that’s had chemicals in it or on it.
  • Remove all glue and tape residue from carboard boxes or paper rolls before you let your little friend play with them.
  • Don’t let your fur babies eat cardboard that’s been chewed on by other animals. It can be hazardous for their health, too!
  • Make sure that the carboard is dry – not wet.
  • Colored cardboard is a big no-no – the dye can be poisonous to your piggie.

Why Do Guinea Pigs Need To Chew So Much?

There are many fascinating facts about guinea pigs (in fact check out this list). But, if you’re a guinea pig owner, you need to know about one of the most important. 

Guinea pigs have an unusual dental quirk––their teeth never stop growing.  One of the many challenges people face with owning these little fur balls is keeping their teeth a reasonable length.

Their front teeth (which grow constantly and without limit) will grow right through their jaw if left unchecked or result in malocclusion.

Malocclusion is a misalignment of the jaws or teeth. A horrible side effect of malocclusion is that guinea pigs aren’t able to eat properly – which can result in starvation and malnutrition.

Guinea pigs require constant movement of their digestive tract. If they go without food for an extended period, they will most likely die.

This is because when stress (or anything else) prevents them from digesting food, their gut shuts down entirely and stops any form of digestion.

Bottom line?

Piggies constantly need to gnaw on items in order for their teeth to grind themselves down so that the don’t grow too long.

Safe Chewing Alternatives For Guinea Pigs

Instinctively, guinea pigs constantly chew (or gnaw) so it can wear down its teeth.   This is a critical issue.  So, it’s important not only what you feed your guinea pig, but also what you provide as chewing toys.

There are plenty of chewing options to keep your little friends happy (without having to resort to feeding him cardboard). Here are a few safe chewing alternatives that you can give your guinea pig:

  • Hay. Hay provides them with important fiber and nutrients, so make sure you are providing at least one hay bag (or pile) in their cage, as well as fresh daily servings. Toss a few veggies into the hay and watch your piggies go crazy. Make it a habit to always keep a big pile in your guinea pig’s cage.
  • Cardboard tubes from toilet paper or toilet paper rolls is often a big hit with piggies. Shove hay or forage in the tubes to provide hours of entertainment for your fur babies.
  • Hard vitamin C enriched pellets. These are favorite among piggies but they can also be harmful if overfed. About 1/8 cup a day is sufficient for most adult pigs.
  • Grass mats are a great and healthy way  to wear down teeth. Use mats can be hand woven without the use of threads or wires that could harm your piggies. They’re an edible treat high in fiber and easy on digestion. Give them something fun to chew on with grass mat form so they don’t have trouble wearing down those pesky molars!
  • Wood blocks and chews are an fun, as long as they don’t have any varnish or chemicals. Before giving a wooden block to your pet, learn more about the wood type to avoid health issues for your piggies. Nontoxic wood only!
  • Twigs. Some popular ones are apple branches, pear, birch, beech, birch, and pear. Be mindful of pesticides before offering them to your piggies. And make sure that you’re picking the right type of twig. Not all wood is safe for your little friends to chew.

As you can see, there’s a variety of appropriate chewy items that can be offered to your cavy

Hopefully this list has given you an idea of what you’d like to do with your little friends.

Either way, choose the best option for you and your piggies.  

And to help you out, I’ve included a video below with a few cardboard toy options:

Frequently Asked Questions About Guinea Pigs and Cardboard

Are Toilet Paper Rolls Safe For Guinea Pigs?

Toilet paper rolls are safe for guinea pigs to play with. It’s perfectly fine for them to chew of them. But, don’t allow your guinea pigs to swallow huge amounts of them. Additionally, make sure that the toilet paper rolls are free of paper remnants and glue.

Can Guinea Pigs Live In A Cardboard Box?

On average, guinea pigs should not live in a cardboard box. Instead, they should be houses in a hutch or cage that’s at least 7.5 square feet for one guinea pig. However, guinea pigs love to hide in their little “hide boxes” when they are scared, need some sleep, or want some privacy. A cardboard box would be an excellent choice in this case.

Things to Remember About Cardboard Safety and Guinea Pigs

In conclusion, carboard is not a treat for guinea pigs to eat.

Chewing is fine.

But, ingesting the cardboard is not.

Let’s recap the main points of the article:

  • It’s not good for the digestive system of a guinea pig to eat cardboard because it can be too rough and tough to digest.
  • Even if your piggie can eat the cardboard, there’s much more nourishing things that your fur balls should eat – things with nutrients and vitamins that’ll promote good health.
  • Guinea pigs have an urge to chew, so make sure they get plenty of items to gnaw on such as hay and hard vitamin C pellets.
  • The digestive system of your guinea pig is a little quirky, so make sure it’s not eating something it shouldn’t like cardboard.
  • Make sure that you provide other chewable items and toys such as twigs, wooden blocks, and that are safe for your pet. Guinea pigs have to chew on items to eat them so it’s healthy for the animal.

If you keep these tips in mind, your little piggies should be healthy and happy as can be!

Caring For Your Pet Guinea Pig. (n.d.). NC State Veterinary Medicine. https://cvm.ncsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Caring-for-your-Guinea-Pig.pdf

Feeding the adult Guinea pig. (n.d.). Specialised Animal Nutrition Pty Ltd – The Australian Home of Oxbow Animal Health and Baraka Station products. https://www.oxbowaustralia.com/feeding-the-adult-guinea-pig/

Guinea pig feeding. (n.d.). The Humane Society of the United States. https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/guinea-pig-feeding

Guinea pigs. (n.d.). Chewelah Veterinary Clinic – Call us at 509.935.6424. https://chewelahveterinaryclinic.com/exotics/guinea_pigs/guineapigs.php

How a cardboard box is made. (n.d.). The Manufacturer. https://www.themanufacturer.com/articles/how-a-cardboard-box-is-made/

IACUC policy on animal housing and enrichment. (n.d.). UCI Office of Research. https://research.uci.edu/compliance/animalcare-use/research-policies-and-guidance/environmental-enrichment.html

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