I had a friend ask me whether I’d ever tried to feed my guinea pigs meat, and I said I’d never even thought about it because all guinea pig food is made of plants.
This made me curious, so I decided to look into whether guinea pigs can eat meat.
So, can guinea pigs eat meat?
The answer is definitely no, guinea pigs can’t eat meat.
Guinea pigs are herbivores, and this means they only eat a diet of vegetation, such as vegetables, fruits, and grains.
They can’t process meat, and in most cases won’t even try and eat it because it’s not appealing to them.
While I was looking up whether guinea pigs can eat meat, I also looked at the other things they can’t eat and their required nutritional intake. Read on to find out more.
Why Can’t Guinea Pigs Eat Meat?- Deeper Explanation
So I found out that under no circumstances should guinea pigs eat meat, but I also looked into why this is.
The bottom line is that guinea pigs are herbivores, like rabbits, cows, horses, sheep, etc.
This means that they live on a diet of vegetation, and get all the nutrition they need from it.
Humans, on the other hand, are omnivores, which means we can eat both meat and vegetation.
Our digestive systems are designed differently, and this means we have the ability to actually process meat. Guinea pigs, however, have a digestive system that can only process vegetables.
To cope with a vegetarian diet, guinea pigs eat their own poop. Although this sounds a bit gross, what they eat isn’t actually their poop, it’s a different thing called a caecotroph.
Because vegetation is difficult to digest, the guinea pigs produce these super-concentrated balls of protein and vitamins that they then digest again. It’s very similar to cows chewing the cud.
As a result of this different digestive system, guinea pigs can’t eat meat. They’re designed to only process vegetation, and trying to process meat would make them very ill.
It’s very unlikely that your guinea pig would even try and eat meat, but it’s best to avoid giving it to them anyway.
Another thing to consider is that although meat is a good source of iron for us, the levels would be very dangerous for guinea pigs.
They have very small bodies for a start, and generally get enough iron in their diet from what they eat.
This is why it’s also best to avoid too much of vegetables like spinach, because the iron levels are too high for what guinea pigs actually need.
There are a few other health reasons for why guinea pigs can’t eat meat, including:
- Meat is high in cholesterol. Although high cholesterol is a common problem many people suffer from, our bodies are more tolerant of it than guinea pigs. Feeding them meat would greatly increase their risk of heart disease as a result.
- Meat is high is saturated fats. Again, the levels of saturated fats in meat would be very dangerous for a guinea pig, and would be very damaging to their hearts.
- Meat would increase the risk of diabetes. This is a widely accepted fact for humans, and the risk is greatly increased by a guinea pig’s size.
- Meat can cause weight gain. Guinea pigs are very susceptible to obesity, even on an herbivorous diet. Imagine how damaging meat would be to their health.
As you can see, there are plenty of reasons why guinea pigs can’t eat meat. Not only would it be incredibly bad for them, their bodies aren’t even designed to process it. I found out there are plenty of other things guinea pigs can’t eat for similar reasons. Read on to find out more.
What Can’t Guinea Pigs Eat?
I found out while researching this topic that there are plenty of other things guinea pigs shouldn’t eat.
Most of them are because of the guinea pig’s digestive system, but there are actually quite a few fruits and vegetables they can’t eat either.
Here is a list of the main things to avoid feeding your guinea pigs.
- This means of any kind. Similarly to meat, their digestive systems simply can’t cope with dairy. Avoid cheese, milk, and even yogurt drop treats. They’re usually made with normal yogurt, and it would take a while for your guinea pig to appear ill.
- Cabbage or cauliflower. These vegetables can cause gas, which will make your guinea pig bloated. We can deal with this condition, whereas guinea pigs can’t.
- Onions and garlic. In fact, this goes for all alliums. Onions and garlic can lead to blood disorders in guinea pigs, simply because the concentrations of beneficial nutrients are too high for their tiny bodies. They are high in oxalic acid, which can lead to kidney stones and urinary tract infections. Humans do everything possible to avoid these painful conditions; so don’t subject your guinea pig to them.
- Although avocados have a range of health benefits, they’re very high in fat. Even though this is technically good fat, guinea pigs struggle with obesity, and so there’s no need to make the condition worse. Again, this is high in sugar and fat. Most people know it’s poisonous for dogs, so why try giving it to your guinea pig?
- Tomato leaves and stalks. The green parts of tomato are toxic for guinea pigs, but the rest of it is fine.
This isn’t a complete list of what guinea pigs shouldn’t eat, but they’re definitely the most dangerous and commonly asked ones.
If you’re ever in doubt about whether you can feed your guinea pig something, make sure you do some research first.
Nutritional Guidelines For Guinea Pigs
I found that although I feed my guinea pigs a balanced and varied diet, it’s helpful to know what their recommended daily nutritional needs are.
This allows you to make sure you’re covering all their needs, and will help you decide what vegetables to feed them and how often.
If we take a general figure of 750g for an adult male guinea pig, the rough nutritional recommendations are as follows:
- 1 cup of fruit/veg
This should be made up of mostly leafy greens, as these are suitable for forming the second-largest part of a guinea pig’s diet.
Suitable leafy greens for daily feeding are endive, radicchio, butterhead lettuce, and escarole.
Then add to this some other kind of vegetable. This should be enough to fill the rest of the cup after you’ve put in a couple of salad leaves.
Bell peppers and zucchini are suitable for daily feeding, and things like celery and carrot can be given several times a week.
- Vitamin C
Guinea pigs can’t make their own, so you need to provide it for them. It’s best to give them supplement drops in their water, as this way you can be sure they’re getting enough.
It can be tempting to just give it to them through vegetables, but for them to get the right levels of vitamin C you’d have to really overfeed them.
- Unlimited hay
Alfalfa hay is high in protein and calcium, and a range of other nutrients. This should be given to your guinea pigs every day, and as much as they want to eat.
It should form the bulk of their diet, and don’t forget to take the old stuff out before it spoils.
What Treats To Avoid Giving Your Guinea Pig
There’s a large market for guinea pig treats, but there are plenty you should avoid feeding your guinea pigs.
Obviously treats should only be given occasionally, but here are some to avoid altogether:
- Animal chocolate
It has nothing good in it and is very high in sugar. Just avoid altogether, and treat them with fruit instead.
- Yogurt drops
As I mentioned, these are usually made with actual yogurt, which can be damaging to their health.
- Varnished toys
Guinea pigs will chew the toy and eat the varnish, whether they mean to or not. This can then be poisonous.
It’s important to remember that guinea pigs can’t eat meat because there is a range of health reasons, and the last thing you want is to make your guinea pig ill.
However, you should also remember there’s a range of other things you shouldn’t feed your guinea pig, and if you’re ever in doubt, do plenty of research first.