Feeding a guinea pig is quite an overwhelming task if you are a new pet owner. When I first got my adorable furry friend, I was very scared about feeding him the wrong thing. After all, guinea pigs are famous for having a sensitive stomach. One type of food that you might be tempted to feed your pet is herbs.
There are quite a lot of herbs out there. And while some can be given occasionally to cavies, others prove to be harmful. What herbs can guinea pigs eat, you may wonder? Options like lemon balm, thyme, fennel, and basil are edible for them, while herbs like chives are harmful.
I have compiled all my findings regarding herbs and guinea pigs to help clueless pet owners like me make the right decision regarding their piggies. Read on if you are one of them!
Can guinea pigs eat herbs?
One thing every guinea pig owner gets to know from day one is that cavies are obsessed with hay. And hay is a type of herb. So, the short answer to the looming question of whether or not can guinea pigs eat herbs is, yes, they can.
But hay isn’t the only herb out there. In fact, there are virtually a thousand more options to choose from. And not all of them are nutritious for your little buddies. So, before feeding any herb to your friend, always take a step back and research if you should be doing so.
Additionally, while guinea pigs can eat herbs, they must be fed the food item in moderation and as part of a well-rounded diet.
As mentioned before, a piggy’s stomach is very sensitive and requires only a certain amount of a given nutrient. A diet comprising of vegetables, pellets, hay, and occasional fruits is best to keep their health flourishing.
Finally, no two guinea pigs will have identical food preferences. For instance, my cavy is obsessed with basil. But my friend’s guinea pig won’t eat it regardless of how much you try. You need to watch out for their preferences and give them herbs accordingly.
The Case of Herbs: Safe or Dangerous for Guinea Pigs?
Are herbs safe for guinea pigs? Sadly, there is no universal answer to this question. The answer to this will vary according to the herb in question since different herbs are made up of varying nutritional content.
Health benefits of herbs
Generally, herbs feature the following health benefits:
- Herbs boost the guinea pig’s immune system by being an excellent source of Vitamin C. Vitamin C cannot be produced by the piggy; it relies on its diet for it.
- Herbs help provide a balanced diet to cavies, with items rich in calcium, manganese, iron, potassium, magnesium, and other essential minerals.
While certain nutrients are common across all herbs, other nutritional makeups can differ. This is why you need to know what herbs can guinea pigs eat.
For instance, if you see fresh mint on the grocery aisle and you think of buying it for your piggy. First, be certain whether or not is mint safe for guinea pigs (it is) before giving the herb to your friend.
Dried Herbs for Guinea Pigs: Not Recommended!
Our little herbivores deserve only the freshest of herbs. Generally, too, anything that has been preserved or modified is not recommended for consumption.
And for guinea pigs, who already have very stringent dietary requirements, giving them something that is devoid of hydration and full of preservatives is never recommended.
The Good Herbs: Varieties your guinea pigs can eat!
Without further delay, let’s talk about what your furry friend can eat safely. Here are some of the most beneficial herbs you can feed to your cavies without worrying about the side effects. Although here, too moderation in quantity is a must.
Can guinea pigs eat parsley? They absolutely can! I have heard that a lot of cavies love parsley. Mine is a fan of it, too, albeit lesser than basil. Parsley is equipped with vitamin C and hence is an excellent herb for guinea pigs. At the same time, since it has oxalic acid and calcium, portion control is a must.
This one is slightly trickier. Coriander, or Cilantro, has a high concentration of oxalic acid and calcium and hence cannot be fed to piggies daily. Also, it has a very strong smell which might cause your cavy to not like the herb. To sum it up, can guinea pigs eat coriander? Yes, occasionally. But they might not want to.
My furry friend is also quite a fan of thyme. And I am glad he is since the herb is one of the good ones available. Can guinea pigs eat thyme? Yes, they can. In fact, it is equipped with manganese as well as Vitamin C, which helps in developing a strong immune system. Also, every 100 g of thyme contains 14g of fiber which is another important nutrient for guinea pigs to develop a healthy digestive system.
Can guinea pigs eat mint? It turns out they are one of the healthiest herbs out there! Sadly, not a lot of guinea pigs develop a preference for this herb. Still, giving it as an occasional treat will help in offering your guinea pig nutrients like folate, calcium, potassium, Vitamin C, and Vitamin A.
Seeing my piggy’s appetite for basil, I remember verifying whether or not can guinea pigs eat basil. And while they can, the herb has a lot of calcium and not a lot of vitamin C. So, it is best given as an occasional treat. Don’t let your guinea pig’s wistful eyes melt you into giving it more basil than it should have. Trust me; I have been there!
I have yet to meet a guinea pig owner who says that their pet loves oregano. Can’t really blame them either since the herb has quite a bitter taste. Still, oregano is edible by guinea pigs. It is equipped with magnesium, B vitamins, calcium, and potassium. The active ingredient carvacrol in oregano helps in keeping bacterial infections at bay. But good luck incorporating the bitter treat into your piggy’s diet!
Can guinea pigs eat arugula? Yes, occasionally and in moderation. Arugula is an excellent source of Vitamin A. As per the National Institutes of Health, vitamin A plays a pivotal role in building a strong immune system, improving reproductive health as well vision.
Since it does not contain a lot of the crucial Vitamin C and has a high calcium content, it is best when given as a treat occasionally.
Most guinea pigs are attracted to fennels, probably due to their stems and leaves. Can guinea pigs eat fennel? Yes, they can, in small amounts, at most thrice a week. Excess consumption of fennel can lead to the development of bladder stones as fennel has a lot of calcium in it.
The leafy vegetable has a bitter taste and is still liked by some cavies. But can guinea pigs eat Endive? They can and should occasionally since Endive is enriched with Vitamin A and K along with manganese. While Vitamin A keeps different organs healthy, manganese prevents cell damage. Since Endive has low calories, they ensure that your piggy doesn’t gain weight.
Considering that Dill has a high concentration of oxalic acid and calcium, can guinea pigs eat Dill? They can, in small quantities, very rarely. I don’t think your guinea pig will develop an appetite for it since Dill is among the less liked herbs out there.
One thing that my piggy and I bond over is our love for lavender. It is only one of those rare flowers that both he and I can enjoy together. Not only can guinea pigs eat lavender, but doing so allows them to realize various unique benefits.
For starters, lavender has calming properties that help relax your pet. It also has compounds like limonene that stimulate the production of enzymes, thereby leading to cleansing. The low fat and calorie count of the flower means that the item won’t cause obesity in your pets. Personally, it sounds like the ideal herb to me.
We often use the herb rosemary in fragrances and spices. But can guinea pigs eat rosemary as well? They can, in small quantities, a few times a week.
Since it is rich in vitamin C, rosemary helps prevent scurvy in guinea pigs. Also, Vitamin B6 in it releases serotonin, keeping your piggy happy. But, caution must be taken not to overfeed rosemary to guinea pigs as it can cause urinary complications.
The Baddies: Harmful herbs to avoid
Not all herbs are beneficial. There are certain plants that your little herbivore friend should never be given, even in moderation. This includes the following harmful herbs.
Can guinea pigs eat chives at all? A big no! Chives are toxic to guinea pigs and can even prove to be lethal. This is because it contains disulfides that can cause extensive damage to the red blood cell count of the little piggies, leading to anemia – and in worst cases – death! Never give your guinea pigs chives.
The answer to whether or not can guinea pigs eat sage is tricky. Extensive research hasn’t been done on the herb, so it is hard to say if it is toxic or poisonous per se. But, since sage has a lot of essential oils in it, it isn’t a recommended herb.
Again, there isn’t a lot of data available regarding Marjoram. This is mainly because guinea pigs don’t prefer this herb anyway. It is safe to say that among the many herbs that have clear benefits, there is no point in risking your guinea pig’s health by feeding something they don’t like, which might not be good for them either.
Yet another controversial herb is Chamomile. There is no clear consensus about its safety. But, we do know that it is high in oxalic acid and calcium – something which makes some of the best herbs inedible every day. Hence, the lack of favorable data suggests that this is another herb you might want to skip.
This herb has a lot of calcium in it. Tarragon has a very intense sweet flavor which might make it a favorite of your guinea pig. This would make it likely that they would overheat it if provided with the opportunity. So, it is best to keep the herb away from your cavy.
Herb preparation for your cavy: Six tips to abide by
Once you decide to give some herbs to your guinea pig, try to keep in mind the following six tips:
Fresh herbs are the only herbs worth giving
There are certain herbs that guinea pigs hate when fresh. For instance, can guinea pigs eat fresh bay leaves, or will they prefer dried ones? While dried ones might be less aversive to the little fury balls, guinea pigs should only be given fresh herbs.
This is because powdered or dried herbs are not healthy as they have been stripped away from water as well as exposed to chemicals.
Have your own herb garden
There is nothing better than growing the beneficial herbs in your own little garden. This allows you to ensure that no pesticide reaches your little friend. Moreover, compared to store-bought herbs, growing herbs is much more affordable. It is also a fun hobby!
Purchase organic herbs if your budget allows
I understand that organic items are on the pricey side and hence not affordable for many. But, as someone who is very paranoid about eating things doused in pesticides, I don’t feel comfortable giving such food to my piggy either.
With organic herbs, you can rest easy knowing that there are no harmful chemicals in the herbs you are giving your pet.
Wash the herbs first
Regardless of whether you grow your own herbs or buy them from the store, always rinse it thoroughly first. This will help remove any lingering bacteria or fungi that may otherwise make your guinea pig sick. This is also applicable to organic herbs.
Give your cavy healthy herbs only
Would you ever eat an herb or veggie that is rotten or wilting away? Your answer is probably, no. So, you shouldn’t give a damaged herb to your guinea pig either. Just because they can’t express their aversion clearly doesn’t mean we feed them anything that is less than perfect.
Remove any uneaten herbs
Uneaten herbs left beyond a day are the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Not to mention that its smell would slowly spread in your house and your cavy’s cage. Since guinea pigs usually don’t consume their entire meals, always remove the leftovers from their cage within 24 hours to maintain hygiene.
All in all, herbs, when chosen correctly, can offer various benefits to guinea pigs. Always keep in mind that herbs, regardless of their nutritional value, should be fed in moderation, at most twice or thrice a week.
Now that you know what herbs can guinea pigs eat and what they should avoid, I am sure you will now make the right decisions for your furry friend.
Whenever in doubt, come back to this guide so that you don’t accidentally give the wrong herb to your piggy. I hope your guinea pig lives a long and healthy life!