Guinea pigs chew all the time. It’s essential for them to wear their continually growing teeth down and aid their digestive system.
Unfortunately, they aren’t too fussy about what they’re chewing, which can sometimes lead to them eating their bedding. While this is completely normal behavior, it’s not always good for them.
Why Do Guinea Pigs Eat Their Bedding?
There are four main reasons that a guinea pig may chew their bedding. Let’s go over each one and what to do about it.
1. They’re Bored
Guinea pigs should always live in pairs or groups and never alone. Chewing their bedding could be a sign of boredom or lack of stimulation.
They’re simply chewing because there’s nothing else for them to do. This is particularly relevant if you’re using fleece as bedding.
How To Resolve:
- Make sure your guinea pig has a friend to play with.
- Give them plenty of love and cuddles.
- Purchase chew toys regularly and change their positioning around every few days to enrich their environment.
- Hide food within toys (safely) to make them go the extra mile to find it. It stimulates their mind and relieves boredom.
2. They’re Hungry
The most obvious reason for them chewing their bedding is that they’re hungry. Guinea pigs need to eat a lot of food for their size, and their bodies are equipped to eat regularly.
If they’ve run out of food to eat, they’ll naturally search for another way to fulfill this instinct, even if the thing they choose isn’t edible.
How To Resolve:
- Make sure that there’s a constant source of hay for them to eat.
- Feed guinea pigs every day with 1/8 of a cup of dried pellets.
- Provide a range of fresh vegetables each day and mix it up often so they don’t get bored of the same foods.
- If you have two guinea pigs, weigh each one regularly. It might be that one of them is eating much more than the other, so one is going hungry. If that’s the case, try to divide the vegetables evenly and get them to eat from your hand so you can monitor who gets what.
3. They Have Mouth Problems
Constantly eating bedding may be a sign that there’s something seriously wrong. If they still have plenty of food available, but they’re looking for something softer to chew, then they may want to eat but are finding it painful.
There may be an injury in their mouth, or perhaps their teeth are overgrown.
How to Resolve:
- Do a tooth check – if they’re overgrown, you’ll need to go to the vet to have them filed down, then ensure you provide more wooden toys for them to chew in the future.
- Check if there are any signs of bleeding or lumps in their mouth. If there’s an ulcer, ingrown tooth, or cut of some kind, you should take them to the vet for treatment.
- If your guinea pig cannot eat solid food for a while, powdered food is available from any pet store. This can be mixed with water for a softer food solution or fed through a syringe.
4. They Lack Nutrients
If your guinea pig doesn’t feel that they’re getting enough vitamins and nutrients from the foods they’re eating, they’ll start eating other available things from their cage to make up for the missing nutritional elements.
(This could be coupled with poop-eating, read more about it.)
How to Resolve:
- Make sure you’re providing pellet-based food where the pellets all look the same. While varied dry food may look more inviting, if it has different seeds, flakes, and colorful nuts, it allows them to pick and choose which bits they want to eat. This selective eating means that they’re missing out on vital vitamins from the items they’re leaving. Standard pellet food has all of those vitamins mixed into one, so it might look boring, but it’s much better for them.
- Make sure you’re giving a mixture of vegetables and herbs daily. Don’t give the same thing every day.
- If you’re worried, there are vitamin C drops available in most pet stores, which can be placed in a guinea pig’s water to give them an extra boost.
Types Of Guinea Pig Bedding & Their Issues
Hay is a natural food source for guinea pigs, so it’s normal for them to sleep on it and eat it simultaneously. However, fully covering the cage floor with hay can be pricey and difficult to keep clean.
Can Guinea Pigs Eat Hay?
Yes! Using hay as bedding is an excellent option as guinea pigs can eat as much as they like.
It is excellent for their digestive system and has no calories, allowing them to satisfy their continual eating instinct without any repercussions. Make sure you buy dust extracted hay – If it’s too dusty, it could lead to respiratory problems.
2. Wood Shavings
Using wood shavings for bedding is fine, but it can be messy. They soak up urine which can make the bedding damp and smelly.
You’ll also need to ensure you don’t use pine or cedar shavings, as these can activate allergies in your guinea pigs and eventually cause respiratory infections.
Can Guinea Pigs Eat Wood Shavings?
Wood shavings aren’t harmful to your guinea pig as long as they aren’t eating large quantities. Their digestive system is made to eat roughage and will easily pass the shavings through if they’re small enough.
Be careful not to purchase sawdust. This looks very similar to shavings but is too fine and powdery for a guinea pig to digest properly. It may make them choke.
Sawdust is a finer version of wood shavings and can be incredibly dusty and difficult to manage.
Can Guinea Pigs Eat Sawdust?
It’s not suitable for guinea pigs as the dust can easily get into their lungs and cause life-threatening respiratory infections. It may also get into their eyes, causing itching and, eventually, a larger infection.
Using fleece is one of the most effective forms of guinea pig bedding. It’s easy to clean by doing a daily sweep to get rid of the excess poop, eco-friendly and cheap as you can just throw the fleece in the laundry.
It will soak the urine through to whatever flooring you have underneath, though, so make sure you layer it up.
Can Guinea Pigs Eat Fleece?
Guinea pigs will have the constant desire to chew, and if there’s no food around, they will chew the fleece that you’re using for bedding.
Chewing isn’t a problem with fleece, as long as that’s all it is. If you notice that large sections of fleece have disappeared, then it may be that your guinea pig is swallowing it.
If they swallow too much, it can cause intestinal obstruction. This may lead to constipation and may even need operating on if the problem doesn’t resolve itself.
If you’re using fleece with a seam, ensure that your guinea pig doesn’t have access to individual strands of cotton. Eating these could be a choking hazard.
Shredded paper is also acceptable bedding for a guinea pig. It’s easy to clean and doesn’t get too dusty.
Can Guinea Pigs Eat Paper Bedding?
Eating paper bedding won’t do your guinea pig any harm. It’s really no different to them eating wood or cardboard that you give them as chew toys.
However, you do need to make sure that the paper is plain. Using newspapers or printed pages will have chemicals that are harmful to your piggy.
Straw isn’t a great material to use as guinea pig bedding. Not in terms of comfort for your piggy, nor cleaning, smell, messiness, or availability.
Can Guinea Pigs Eat Straw?
Guinea pigs will constantly chew on straw, and while hay is great for them, straw is too tough and may cause digestion issues.
If your guinea pig is eating their bedding, provide plenty of fresh water for them so that they can stay hydrated. Most bedding is meant to soak up water and therefore, will dehydrate your piggy.
If you notice an excessive amount of bedding being eaten and none of the preventative methods have worked, its best to get a vet’s professional opinion.
While eating most forms of bedding won’t be life-threatening, it can cause some side effects if it’s prolonged behavior.