Though hay is the primary food for guinea pigs, you may need to consider alternatives to hay when you run out of it or they don’t like to eat that. So, you may wonder, What can I use instead of hay for guinea pigs?
There is no such alternative to hay that you can feed your guinea pigs to meet all the requirements of hay. If your guinea pig is allergic to it or doesn’t like certain hay, you may switch to another hay brand before giving them an alternative. However, you may use grass hay, fresh hay, or pellets containing the same nutrients as hay if you aren’t running hay for a day or two.
But, ensure that the alternative you provide works the same way as hay.
Now you might want to know, what are the alternatives that you can use instead of hay for guinea pigs, and which factors you should consider while feeding those? Let’s find it out.
Top 5 alternative foods to hay for guinea pigs
Here are the substitutes for hay to feed your guinea pigs.
1. Hay from a farm
If you can’t find a better product from pet stores, it’s better to feed your piggies hay that you get from a good farm near you.
If the pet store from where you ordered hay is late to deliver the product, you may go to a nearby farm where you will find dried grass or hay. Just make sure they don’t have any pesticides or fertilizers.
2. Fresh Grass from lawn or backyard
Guinea pigs are herbivores and they can eat fresh grass from the lawn, garden, or backyard. However, all grass isn’t good for their health. There shouldn’t be any fertilizer, pesticides, or any other chemicals in the grass. Moreover, grass clippings are bad for their health.
You can also get fresh grass from a farmer ensuring all the quality.
Fresh grass also contains silica just like hay that can help them control teeth growth.
Check out which grass can your guinea pig eat.
However, in most cases, it’s difficult to provide them with fresh grass every day meeting the required amount. So, it can’t be a good idea in the long run.
Don’t let them eat too much grass from the lawn or backyard on the first day. Introduce those fresh grass slowly and see if it causes any digestive or other health problems.
Keep in mind that even fresh grass can’t be used as an alternative for a long time.
If you can’t maintain the quality or daily requirements, they may be OK with it for 1-2 days but not guaranteed.
Moreover, they shouldn’t eat too much grass all of a sudden, because it can result in bloating or diarrhea.
3. Alternatives Hay Product
Many guinea pigs are allergic to certain hay such as timothy hay. So, if you are planning to replace hay from their diet completely because of that, you shouldn’t stop right now.
As other foods can’t be good as hay, you should try to switch the brand or types of hay at first. In most cases, your guinea pigs should like a different hay product. If it’s not the case, consult a vet and try to find out if your guinea pig is sick.
If your guinea pigs don’t like certain hay, it doesn’t mean they won’t like other hay products from different brands.
Think about your own taste. Sometimes it happens that you do not like the food of a certain brand. But you like that same food from another brand.
Your piggies are just like that. So, give them a chance to try again.
A good alternative to timothy hay for your allergic guinea pigs is orchard grass or oat hay.
Don’t hurry to introduce a new grass product, since it may upset the little piggy’s tummy.
Introduce it slowly and see if they like it.
Though, you can feed them these products until you can manage hay, be careful whether they get sick.
You can check out the alternative hay to timothy hay from our other article.
Our recommended product:
Kaytee Orchard Grass
4. Indoor grass
You can also grow fresh grass in your home or your garden and use them when hay isn’t available.
Though pellets are included in this list, they aren’t a good alternative to hay. Pellets can be used in adjuvant to hay and fresh vegetables for guinea pigs. You can consider this in circumstances when you don’t have enough hay or you run out of it someday.
Choose timothy hay-based pellets that contain almost all recommended nutrients especially high fiber, vitamin C, protein, omega 3 & 6 fatty acids, other vitamins, and minerals.
However, it may not help your guinea pigs be healthy for more than 1-2 days if you can’t provide hay or fresh grass.
Pellets also can’t control excessive growth of teeth, as it doesn’t have abrasive silica. So, your piggies may end up with dental problems if you use it instead of hay for a long time.
However, good pellets are important when it’s used along with hay to provide vitamin C and other nutrients.
Check out more alternative food ideas for guinea pigs.
Why shouldn’t you replace hay with other alternatives?
Hay is the main food for your little piggies. Their diet chart includes 80% of hay. They need unlimited hay to survive. Hay maintains their digestive system and controls the length of teeth.
Hay contains abrasive silica that helps grind down teeth and prevent their excessive growth.
You can provide your guinea pigs all the nutrients, but it’s hard to find a food that can solve this purpose perfectly.
Moreover, their digestive system and health need hay more than any other foods.
So, before you stop providing them hay, think again carefully or it may be harmful to your piggies.
To keep them healthy and strong provides unlimited hay and also includes vitamin C supplements, fresh vegetables, fruits, and occasionally pellets.
Another important thing is if you choose an alternative like fresh grass, it may also cause problems in the long run. It’s difficult for someone to get the required amount of fresh and dried grass every day.
Besides, you won’t get grass in winter. So, you will have to face difficulty encouraging your guinea pigs to switch to hay suddenly.
Besides, hay provides fibers, protein, and fat to your guinea pig that make them healthy. It also boosts their immunity by offering them essential vitamins and minerals.
Furthermore, the hay that you are specially prepared for your guinea pigs is chemical and dust-free. Dust can be harmful to your guinea pigs, which may not be extracted from any type of hay.
Because of these reasons, it becomes necessary to buy good hay from a pet store or order online regularly.
Check out the best hay for guinea pigs such as timothy hay.
When do you need to find an alternative to hay?
Let’s know when you need an alternative to hay for guinea pigs.
Guinea pig’s preference
Though guinea pigs love hay, a few of them may don’t like it. But, in most cases, it’s because of the product, not for their dislike of the hay.
If your guinea pigs have the same problem, you can choose an alternative. But, you should try to switch the brand of hay before going for other alternatives.
Some guinea pigs prefer eating fresh grass more than hay. This can be a common circumstance when you should collect fresh grass more. But, this doesn’t mean you won’t provide them hay.
If you want them to feed hay more, just put less amount of grass and then gradually withdraw it completely. But, ensure that they get the required amount of nutrition.
Allergic to hay
Some guinea pigs are allergic to hay such as timothy hay. To solve this problem, choose a different brand or type of hay such as grass hay, or go for other alternatives.
If you can’t solve this problem on your own, it may be due to their illness. In that case, consult a vet.
Run out of hay
Most scenarios to ask for an alternative is when the owner runs out of hay. Make sure you order new hay before it’s empty. You can also go for the substitutes that we have discussed in this article until you get the new pack of hay.
Things to be considered during choosing an alternative to hay
Add food containing abrasive silica in diet.
Abrasive silica presenting within the hay helps grind the back teeth of your little piggies and prevent overgrowth. Whichever diet plan or alternative to hay you choose should serve this purpose.
Even if you can’t provide that kind of food for one or two days when you run out of hay, ensure that you get such food or hay as soon as possible to prevent any dental issues.
Don’t use an alternative for more than a few days.
Most of the food can’t meet all the requirements of hay for a long time, as hay is the primary food for piggies.
Take care of theirs digestive system.
Hay plays a vital role to maintain gut health and digestion of your little piggies. So, ensure the diet doesn’t affect the digestive system and cause bloating, diarrhea, and other health issues.
Make sure proper nutritional balance.
You have to confirm a balanced and healthy diet even if you choose a substitute for hay or try to alter their food habit. Guinea pigs need vitamin C, fibers, and other essential vitamins and minerals. As you aren’t not providing hay, you have to be more cautious about that.
Feed enough foods.
Guinea pig’s diet includes unlimited hay, but you may have to face trouble providing them with adequate amounts of alternative food like fresh grass. So, you have to be careful.
You can feed your guinea pig’s fresh grass or grass hay from a farm instead of hay that you get from a pet store. They can also get pellets. It can help you for one or two days if you run out of hay. However, if you plan to use an alternative regularly for some reason, you may have to face difficulty getting that every day.
So, try to stick to good hay that’s specially manufactured for guinea pigs or switch to a different band if your piggies are allergic to your current brand.