Guinea pigs are popular pets in the UK. Originating in South America they have been bred over many years and domesticated as pets in many countries including the UK. They are part of the rodent family and natural herbivores, who love nothing more than spending their time grazing in their environment eating plants, grasses, herbs and other naturally occurring vegetation. So why do they sometimes graze on their bedding too?!
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Bedding for guinea pigs in the UK
The UK has a naturally cooler climate than South America. And despite being domesticated and acclimatised to our country, our furry friends do still require bedding material in their houses to provide a comfortable hygienic environment; and to nest within and keep warm on the cooler evenings.
Options for bedding material for guinea pigs in the UK include:
- wood shavings/sawdust (low dust)
- ready made paper bedding
- reusable fabrics such as fleece liners
Straw is generally not recommended as a bedding material as they can get injuries from the sharp fibres and sticks within it.
Hay doesn’t absorb much liquid itself but placed on top of any of the bedding substrates listed above is a great enrichment for your pet guinea pig. And they will love burying themselves within it.
Why do guinea pigs sometimes eat their bedding?
If you are using hay on top of another substrate it is perfectly normal for your guinea pig to eat this bedding as hay is a large and important part of their diet. This is in fact great to see, as it shows your guinea pig is engaging with their environment in a natural way. Make sure to always clean them out daily. This is to ensure the bedding remains clean and unsoiled to prevent them ingesting contaminated bedding.
If you are using straw as a bedding material your guinea pig may chew at this in the same way they would hay. As discussed before straw isn’t an ideal bedding material for guinea pigs. And it also has very little nutritional value for them compared to hay. Ideally change the straw for hay if at all possible; or speak to your local veterinarian about other suitable options for you and your pet.
You may think your guinea pig is eating their bedding when in fact they are actually eating their own poo! And this is perfectly normal.
Poo-eating in guinea pigs
Guinea pigs produce two types of droppings; one is full of non-digestible fibre, the other is full of digestible fibre that has been fermented, sometimes known as caecotrophs (although the actual terminology is sometimes disputed!).
Caecotrophs are full of nutrition for your guinea pig. They are meant to be eat them to help with their digestive system. Caecotrophs appear a bit more sticky than normal droppings. However normally they are eaten by your guinea pig before you get the chance to see them.
If you do see looser or sticky droppings in the enclosure it is ideal to get your guinea pig checked over by your veterinarian as soon as possible as this may be diarrhoea or if they are caecotrophs there may be a reason why your guinea pig is not eating them that needs investigating.
It is always helpful to bring a sample of the faeces to your consultation with you. This is so the vet can see what you have been looking at.
Other types of bedding shouldn’t be eaten by your guinea pig, especially not in large quantities.
If your guinea pig is eating fabric, paper or wood shavings this can be a cause for concern. It can lead to obstructions and foreign bodies in the gastrointestinal system. If you notice this happening, get your guinea pig checked over by your veterinarian as there may be an underlying health issue. It can also be helpful to use hay on top of this bedding material; this will encourage them to eat the hay instead of the base bedding.
- Hay is a natural feed for guinea pigs and if used as supplementary bedding material will often be eaten
- Straw should ideally not be used as a bedding material as it can cause injuries and has low nutritional value if eaten
- Guinea pigs eat their own caecotrophs for nutrition
- If you are concerned your guinea pig is eating non-digestible bedding such as paper, fabric or wood shavings, get them checked over by your veterinary surgeon as soon as possible