You may need a good substitute for timothy hay to feed your guinea pig in an emergency or for some reason. But, is there an alternative to Timothy hay for guinea pigs?
The orchard grass hay and meadow hay are the best alternatives to timothy hay. Fresh grass from lawn or farmer and brome hay can also be a good substitute to feed your guinea pigs for some time. Though alfalfa and oat hay aren’t ideal for long-term use, they can also work well for a few days. Orchard hay is allergy-free hay for guinea pigs and can help those owners who are allergic to timothy hay.
Let’s know about the best alternative to timothy hay with its pros and cons and get a list of our recommended products.
When do you need a substitute for timothy hay for guinea pigs?
During the lifetime of a guinea pig, an owner may need to search for an alternative to timothy hay for various reasons. But, the most common cause is the owner being allergic to timothy hay. Some of them can’t even stop sneezing for a while if they come in contact with this hay.
Though this hay works as a great roughage and maintains the digestive system and dental health, you may still require a substitute to prevent the allergy.
Not only that, but some guinea pigs may also develop itchy skin or a runny nose due to this hay.
Another common reason is running out of timothy hay.
Guinea pigs can’t live without a continuous supply of hay and timothy hay is the best for them. But, when you can provide them with this hay, you must look for an alternative.
Sometimes it can happen due to the lack of availability of this hay in your local store.
Moreover, during an emergency when you can’t offer them the preferred hay for a long time, your main goal is to feed any hay to keep them alive.
Sometimes, you may also need to choose another hay instead of timothy hay if your little piggies don’t like to eat this hay.
Top 8 alternatives to timothy hay for guinea pigs
Here are the 8 best timothy hay alternatives for guinea pigs to feed when it’s necessary.
1. Orchard grass hay
Orchard grass hay is the best alternative to timothy hay as it serves all the purposes of timothy hay.
Moreover, this hay is hypoallergenic for guinea pigs. So, if you are allergic to timothy hay, it is the perfect choice for you.
Nutritional value is also almost similar to timothy hay. Your little piggies will get balanced nutrition from it.
You can put this hay on the hay rack for your little pigs and feed this in unlimited quantities, the same as timothy hay.
Orchard hay is the dried orchard grass and is great to forage as it’s soft and fine.
This hay supports dental health really well compared to other hay on this list.
Guinea pig’s teeth grow continuously. So, good hay helps to prevent an overgrowth of teeth and improves dental health.
Orchard hay can be beneficial for this purpose.
Furthermore, it provides a lot of fibers, sometimes it’s more than timothy hay. Fibers are required to support digestion.
Orchard hay also provides a required amount of protein, calcium, phosphorus, and other nutrients.
If you want to use hay for bedding, orchard hay can be a good option due to its smooth texture.
Great nutritional value
Rich in fibers
Offer a good amount of calcium and phosphorus
Support dental health
Great to forage
Soft and smooth texture
May not be good as timothy hay for dental health
Our recommended product
Oxbow Animal Health Orchard Grass Hay
2. Meadow Hay
Meadow hay is a great alternative to Timothy hay. This hay is a mixture of various grass hay, flowers, different types of plants, and seed heads that are edible and safe for Guinea pigs.
It’s leafy and provides a lot of fibers that improve their digestion and gut motility.
Moreover metal is very cheap and readily available.
So, if you run out of Timothy hay or you don’t get Timothy hay you can feed your Guinea pigs meadow hay.
It’s softer than timothy hay and the flavor is also a little bit different.
So, you can also mix this hay along with Timothy hay sometimes to create a variation in their diet.
It can also serve as a good treat for your guinea pig occasionally.
But, it’s important to ensure the quality of this hay as it can contain dust and other things that are not good for your little guinea pigs.
Keep in mind that you can’t feed too much of it because it contains other plants and seeds head along with hay.
Cheap and readily available
Rich in fibers
Provides a balanced nutrition
Give variation in diet due to unique flavor
Great to forage due to a soft texture
Work great as an occasional treat
Not good for the long term as the main diet
Not suitable to support dental health
Our recommended product
Oxbow Animal Health Organic Meadow Hay
3. Oat hay
Oat hay can be used as an alternative in an emergency when you have no other way to provide your guinea pig with regular hay. Offering it in one or two meals can be ok. But, you must ensure regular hay to keep them healthy.
You may wonder why I have listed it so early. The reason for that is guinea pig owners usually buy oat hay along with regular hay.
So, if you see that the pack of the regular hay is empty, you can’t offer them brand new hay immediately, you can provide them with oat hay and other food for one or two meals.
Guinea pigs like to eat oat hay due to its unique taste. So, you can use it as a treat once a week. But, why is it so?
Oat hay is not true hay, it contains seed heads in the end. This hay contains high fat that can lead to unexpected weight gain or obesity and cause various illnesses if they eat it for a long time.
However, those guinea pigs who are underweight or weak can get benefits from it.
It can be a good option for adult piggies who don’t like 1st cutting timothy hay.
A good alternative to 1st cutting timothy hay
Offers various nutrients
Great for the occasional treat
Help to increase weight
Good for weak guinea pigs
Shouldn’t be used regularly
Lead to obesity due to high fat
May cause diarrhea
Our recommended product
Oxbow oat hay
4. Orchard grass from a farmer
As orchard grass hay is better than any other alternatives to timothy hay, you can consider getting orchard grass from a local farm. In fact, these are fresher than other hay and your guinea pigs will love that.
You can also ensure the quality as you can check it out before getting it. Try to buy dried grass that’s green in color. Getting two cutting hay or dried grass is a better choice for them than one cutting.
These qualities ensure balanced nutrition, a lot of fibers, and good dental health.
Learn more about feeding guinea pigs’ grass instead of hay.
High in quality
Provides plenty of fibers and other nutrients
Preferred by guinea pigs
Not good in the long run
Maybe a little bit hard to ensure regular supply
5. Alfalfa hay
If you can’t provide your guinea pig’s timothy hay for some reason, you can take help from alfalfa hay. Offering guinea pigs any type of hay is much better than leaving them without hay.
Alfalfa or legume hay isn’t a direct substitute for timothy hay because it’s different in nutritional value. It contains a high amount of calcium and protein.
This excess calcium leads to bladder stones if you feed your guinea pigs regularly. High protein and calories also develop obesity over time.
For these reasons, you can’t feed alfalfa hay to adult guinea pigs for more than 1-2 days or regularly.
However, this hay is great and mainly used for newborn, pregnant, and lactating guinea pigs as they need additional calcium and protein.
It also contains vitamins, minerals, and a high amount of fiber.
You can feed alfalfa adult guinea pigs for a few days when they are underweight or need to gain some weight.
Without it, it’s better to offer it as a treat once in a while.
Great for pregnant and lactating guinea pigs
Helps in the growth and development of newborn guinea pigs
Work well as an occasional treat
Rich in fiber
Helps gain weight
Provides vitamins and minerals
Cause bladder stones due to high calcium in adult guinea pigs
Not good as the main diet
May develop obesity and diarrhea from long time use
Our recommended product
Oxbow Animal Health Alfalfa Hay
6. Fresh grass from garden or yard
You can provide your guinea pigs with fresh grass from the lawn, backyard or garden, as an alternative to timothy hay from a pet store.
While choosing the grass, you can also pick timothy grass or orchard grass from there to fulfill the requirements.
Fresh grass is an excellent source of fiber and can be beneficial for health. It also possesses abrasive silica that’s helpful to control the growth of the teeth.
Moreover, the little piggies also love to eat those and you don’t have to spend much money.
Though it seems readily available, you have to face difficulty getting fresh grass in unlimited quantity like other hay.
However, you have to ensure that those fresh grass doesn’t contain any fertilizers, pesticides, animal potty, and lawn chemicals as they are dangerous for them. Also, stay away from grass clipping, and weeds.
Try to offer them dried grass instead of wet grass.
Provides plenty of nutrition including fibers
Great for dental health
Improve digestive system
Not suitable for the long run
Hard to ensure the quality
Difficult to get in unlimited quantity every day
7. Bermuda hay
Bermuda hay can be a good substitute for timothy hay because it’s high-quality hay. But, guinea pigs are rarely fed this hay.
It contains an adequate amount of fibers, proteins, and fats.
Though Bermuda Hay is affordable in price, it’s not so available. Besides, all guinea pigs don’t like the taste of this hay.
8. Brome hay
Brome hay can be fed to guinea pigs, but it’s rare. This hay is harvested in the southern part U.S. The quality of the hay isn’t so good as Timothy hay.
If, somehow, you decide to feed this hay, make sure that it’s green and not dried out so much.
However, guinea pigs don’t like this hay that much.
Things To consider while getting an alternative to timothy hay for guinea pigs
Here are the factors that you should consider while choosing a timothy hay alternative.
Hypoallergic for people
Most people look for an alternative to timothy due to its causing allergy.
So it’s important to choose an alternative to Timothy hay that is allergy-free and does not cause any problem if you are already allergic to Timothy hay.
To check the product if it is hypoallergenic to you, get a small pack first.
Amount of hay in the package
Before buying a product ensure that it contains enough amount of hay in the package because guinea pigs need a lot of hay every day.
However, you have to calculate the required amount of hay depending on the number of Guinea pigs you have.
Freshness and quality
Try to have high-quality hay from a well-known brand. Ensure the hay is fresh enough. Using fresh hay has less chance of having an allergy. Guinea pigs also love to eat fresh hay more.
Content of dust
You must ensure the hay you choose doesn’t contain any dust.
Dust causes breathing problems for your guinea pigs.
High amounts of dust can be life-threatening for them.
The texture of the alternative hay may be soft, but too soft hay isn’t good for their dental health. Ensure a good texture that helps grind down their continuously growing teeth.
An alternative to timothy hay must provide similar nutrients as your guinea pigs get from timothy hay. Check the number of fibers, protein, fat, and calcium before choosing a product.
You may need an alternative to timothy hay when you are allergic to it or it’s not available for you or your guinea pigs don’t like it.
But, you have to make sure the substitutes you choose for timothy hay should be nonallergic to you and safe for your piggies’ health.
Moreover, it should provide all the essential nutrients and maintain their dental health and digestive system.
Orchard and meadow hay are the alternatives that are commonly used.