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Cavia porcellus, commonly known as cavies or guinea pigs, are relatively inexpensive house pets to feed. A guinea pig's diet consists mainly of hay. Commercial guinea pig foods are also recommended, and these usually come in pellet form. Also, a cavy is among a handful of mammals that cannot produce vitamin C, therefore they must also have a food source that contains this nutrient. For this reason, fresh fruits and vegetables are also recommended, but on a limited basis.
Hay is one of the main types of guinea pig foods. There should always be a limitless supply of hay. Not only is guinea pig food, but it also aids digestion and helps keep a guinea pig's teeth from growing too long.
Timothy hay is the recommended type of hay for most guinea pigs. Other types of hay, such as alfalfa hay, may contain too much calcium, which can cause problem for older guinea pigs. Juvenile and pregnant guinea pigs, on the other hand, should be fed a mixture of Timothy hay and alfalfa hay, which will provide the necessary amount of calcium.
These types of guinea pig foods can be purchased from most pet stores. When purchasing hay, however, it is important to make sure that it is not too old. Soft green hay is the most desirable guinea pig food, as opposed to stiff yellow hay.
Other guinea pig foods, including pellets, can also be purchased from most pet stores. Most guinea pig owners give a small handful of these pellets to each guinea pig everyday. If the guinea pig eats all of these pellets and still seems hungry, he can be fed a little more. On the other hand, if a healthy guinea pig leaves most of these pellets, the owner can cut back on the amount of pellets given.
Guinea pigs are naturally deficient in vitamin C, so they are very susceptible to certain illnesses, particularly scurvy. While some commercial guinea pig foods contain vitamin C, fresh vegetables and fruits that are high in vitamin C are recommended to keep this animal healthy. Roughly a handful of vegetables should be fed to a guinea pig each day.
Leafy greens are an excellent source of vitamin C, particularly Romaine and red leaf lettuce. Tomatoes and green peppers are also rich in this nutrient. Certain fruits, such as oranges and strawberries are also high in vitamin C, but fruits should be fed to a guinea pig sparingly. Many owners choose to use these tasty morsels as occasional treats.