People often think hay and straw are the same things, but they are not. The two might look similar, but the difference is significant and cannot be overlooked, especially when it comes to feeding animals.
Straw is made up of stems left behind after grains like wheat and barley are harvested. Since most nutrients of grain crops are located in the grain, the straw is of low quality and should not be used for feeding animals.
So, if you ask us can guinea pigs eat straw, the answer is no. Even though it will not harm them if they nibble it from time to time, the straw will not do much for their health either.
In case of an emergency, when you have nothing else to feed your pet, you can offer some straw but do not make that a habit. It is ok when there is nothing else to eat, but straw is still a waste product that should be used for other purposes.
Do not throw the straw away if you bought it thinking you can feed your piggy with it; we will help you put it to good use. Stay tuned to find out all the details!
Straw vs. Hay: Nutritional Value
Guinea pigs are herbivores, and their staple food is high-quality feeding hay. They need to have access to it 24/7. It is packed with all the nutrients guinea pigs need to grow and be healthy.
Here is the table showing the nutrient composition of timothy hay:
Grass hay should make about 70- 75% of the total daily food intake for your furry friend. Without hay, your guinea pig’s digestive system would not function properly. It secures the high fiber content your piggies need.
Hay plays a vital role in wearing the guinea pig’s teeth down. Your piggy’s teeth never stop growing, so regular chewing helps prevent their overgrowth.
Straw has a similar effect, teeth-wise, but it is not nearly as nutritious as hay. A fresh good quality feeding hay is packed with all the minerals your piggy needs. As you can see from the table below, straw is not equally blessed.
What Can You Use The Straw For?
Straw makes suitable bedding for animals, guinea pigs included. It provides excellent insulation and will keep your furry friend warm during cold days & nights.
It would be best to use some old newspapers underneath the straw, though, to absorb the excess moisture and keep your piggy dry. The straw bedding should be changed every couple of days or even daily if you have more than one guinea pig in the cage.
How Does Straw Bedding Compare To Hay Bedding?
Straw is more affordable than costly grass hays people often use for bedding. Moreover, some types of hay used for bedding can increase the risk of your piggy becoming overweight.
For example, guinea pigs enjoy eating alfalfa hay and often end up overeating it when it is used as bedding in their cages. Lucerne hay is often used for young or pregnant guinea pigs, but if you use it at all times, you risk having a chubby guinea pig on your hands.
Timothy Hay Should Be A Staple Food For Your Guinea Pig, But Can It Make Good Bedding For Your Pet Too?
Yes, your piggy will enjoy tunneling through Timothy hay and making nests hide and rest in. it has a pleasant smell and will keep your pet warm. It will even absorb some urine. Your piggy can safely play with it too, but it might not be able to stop eating it.
Will Guinea Pigs Eat Straw Too?
Guinea pigs are not picky when it comes to eating and will nibble on anything they can get their paws on – straw included. As we have already mentioned, this should not worry you, as straw will not harm your pet as long as you provide proper nutrition elsewhere.
How To Tell Straw Apart From Hay?
As we have already stated, straw is made up of stalks from grain crops such as wheat. These stalks are mostly hollow. The straw is yellow and a bit harder than hay.
Hay is made up of long stalks of dried grass. It has more of a green shade than yellowish straw.
The hay is more sensitive to the environment. It can absorb moisture and become moldy more easily.
Are There Any Disadvantages To Using Straw As Bedding For Your Guinea Pig?
Sometimes straw contains stiff stalks that can make your piggy uncomfortable. The sharp stalks can even injure your furry friend. Stick injuries to the eyes are especially dangerous for guinea pigs.
What If The Straw You Have Bought Is Not Appropriate For A Guinea Pig Bedding?
Do not throw the straw away. There are some non-guinea pig-related uses of straw around the house too.
For example, straw can prevent erosion if used as mulch when seeding your lawn. If you have strawberries in your garden, you can use some straw around each plant so that the fruit will not lay directly on the soil and get spoiled. Finally, straw makes an excellent addition to any fall season decoration of your home.
What Are Alternative Beddings For Guinea Pigs?
People often use sugar cane mulch as bedding for their guinea pigs. However, vets do not recommend this type of bedding since it is often moldy. Such an environment is typically full of microscopic spores that your guinea pig can inhale. It can lead to severe respiratory diseases. If your piggy eats the sugar cane mulch, it can have gut issues as well.
Sawdust and wood shavings are very popular as beddings for small animals such as guinea pigs. It is best to opt for a dust extracted version if you choose this type of bedding. Still, even then, your pet can develop some respiratory issues due to irritation. Some guinea pigs will have no problems, while others can be more sensitive and even require veterinary treatment.
The aspen bedding is considered one of the best options when it comes to wood shavings.
It is safe and highly recommended by vets. Aspen bedding is both dust and scent-free. On the downside, it will not provide much odor control, and you’ll have to clean the cage more often.
Most guinea pigs like to burrow and hide. You can find different fabric snuggle sacks or hides for your pet to “disappear.” Make sure they are reusable, and you can wash them easily. Many people use shredded newspapers for their pets to hide in, so you can try that too.
Paper bedding is a very popular option for many guinea pig owners. It is not only supremely soft but also great at absorbing moisture and odors. Unfortunately, not all the paper beddings are of the same quality. Some of them are even rough or not very absorbent and can make the cage pretty stinky.
Paper beddings can sometimes be quite dusty, too, and can cause allergies or respiratory issues. There is a slight risk that your guinea pig could ingest the pieces of paper bedding too. These furry animals would put almost anything in their tiny mouth.
Fleece bedding is one of the most popular options in recent years. Fleece is a soft material that will make the guinea pigs comfortable and warm. It usually comes with a highly absorbent underlayer to keep the piggies dry too. If not, you should provide it.
Being reusable, fleece bedding offers a good value for your money as well. On the downside, you need to wash it frequently and make sure it is completely dry before you reinsert it into the guinea pig cage.
Straw might not be recommended as a feed source due to its low nutritional value in comparison to hay, but it’s safe for your pet to nibble. It also makes suitable bedding for guinea pig’s cages.
Learn More: What Can Guinea Pigs Eat? The Complete Guide For Guinea Pigs Diet