The Best Hay for Guinea Pigs

Written by Judie Sigdel
Updated: May 27, 2024
© FotoHelin/Shutterstock.com

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Many first-time guinea pig owners are surprised that their new pets need hay to thrive. In fact, about 80% of a guinea pig’s diet should be hay! That means they need to have access to an unlimited amount of fresh, clean, high-quality hay at all times. Why? Because it provides the fiber they need to maintain healthy digestion. Plus, it keeps their teeth, which grow continuously, from getting too long.

The best variety of hay for adult guinea pigs is Timothy. This type of grass is high in the fiber that guinea pigs need and low in protein and calcium. That’s important because piggies absorb about 50% of the calcium they ingest. (In comparison, humans only absorb 30%.) And too much calcium can lead to a variety of health issues, including bladder stones, hematuria, dysuria, metastatic calcification, and even death.   

On occasion, you can feed your adult guinea pig other low-calcium hays like oat and orchard. But Timothy should be their staple hay.

Baby guinea pigs (pups), and pregnant and lactating females should eat alfalfa, which has the nutrition they need at that stage of life.

In addition to the variety of hay, you need to consider its quality, freshness, cut, dust level, lack of pesticides, and more. (See “Choosing the Best Hay: What to Look for” below.) If selecting the right hay for your guinea pigs is beginning to feel a bit daunting, don’t despair! Our experts have rounded up the best brands of Timothy hay and ranked them so you can pick the best hay for your guinea pig stress-free.

  1. Oxbow Western Timothy Hay Small Animal Food
    • Most recommended by veterinarians
    • Sweet-smelling
    • Contains no additives or binders
    • Minimal dust
    Check Chewy Check Amazon
  2. KAYTEE First Cut Timothy Hay Small Animal Food
    • Contains a lot of seed heads
    • Higher fiber content
    • No pesticides or artificial ingredients
    • Money-back satisfaction guarantee
    Check Chewy Check Amazon
  3. Small Pet Select 2nd Cutting Perfect Blend Timothy Hay
    • Fragrant and sweet-tasting
    • Perfect ratio of leaf, seed head, and stem
    • Packed in durable corrugated boxes
    • Vey high quality
    Check Amazon
  4. Timothy Hay Cubes
    • Contain sun-cured Timothy hay
    • Convenient to use when traveling
    • Excellent low-fat, low-calcium treat
    • Good for dental health
    Check Amazon
  5. Small Pet Select Alfalfa Hay Pet Food
    • Extra calcium for strong teeth
    • Good option for pregnant and lactating adults
    • Added vitamins and trace minerals
    • Very high quality, fresh hay
    Check Amazon

A-Z-Animals’ Top Picks for Hay for Guinea Pigs

#1 Overall Best Hay: Oxbow Animal Health Western Timothy Hay

Our choice for the best overall hay for guinea pigs is Oxbow Animal Health Western Timothy Hay.  Oxbow is the brand most recommended by – and used by – veterinarians. This nutritious, sweet-smelling hay is grown specifically for small pets in the U.S.A. by the company’s family of farms. It’s high in fiber to aid your pet’s dental and digestive health. It contains no additives or binders. And Oxbow’s hay growers limit the use of herbicides and pesticides to preserve crop integrity and product safety.

After it has been harvested, Oxbow’s hay experts gently separate hay strands from the bale. Next, they pick out any natural foreign materials and sort out smaller pieces. Finally, they extract as much dust as possible and sort the hay by hand.

The company, which has been providing premium hay for small animals for 30 years, is family owned and operated. Their product quality team samples, grades, and tests their hay to ensure that it provides the nutrients your guinea pig needs. They also employ third-party nutritional and food safety testers.

My guinea pigs, Ginger and Cocoa, preferred this brand to all others, giving it a resounding, “Wheek! Wheek!” It’s available in 15-ounce, 40-ounce, 90-ounce, and 9-poundbags as well as 25-pound, and 50-pound boxes. We purchased it in 9-pound boxes because piggies eat a lot of hay. Every box smelled sweet and fresh, the strands were dark green and unbroken, and there was minimal dust.

Reviews for this product were overwhelmingly positive, though a few reviewers complained that individual bags or boxes weren’t as fresh as others.

Pros and Cons of Oxbow Animal Health Western Timothy Hay

ProsCons
This veterinarian-recommended hay is grown specifically for small pets in the U.S. by a family-owned-and-operated company.A few reviewers complained that individual bags or boxes weren’t as fresh as others.
Oxbow’s product quality team samples, grades, and tests their hay to ensure that it contains the nutrients your guinea pig needs. They also employ third-party nutritional and food safety testers.
It’s available in 15-oz, 40-oz., 90-oz, and 9-pound bags as well as 25-lb, and 50-lb boxes
Overall Best
Oxbow Western Timothy Hay Small Animal Food
  • Most recommended by veterinarians
  • Sweet-smelling
  • Contains no additives or binders
  • Minimal dust
Check Chewy Check Amazon

2. Best First-Cut: Kaytee Timothy Hay 1st-Cut

First-cut hay like Kaytee Timothy Hay 1st-Cut comes from the first hay harvest in the spring. Kaytee describes first-cut hay as being “more stemmy than leafy.” It also has an abundance of seed heads and tends to be more yellow and brown than green. It has higher fiber content and a lower protein and fat content than some other types of hay.

Nobody feeds more hay to small pets than Kaytee. Their first-cut hay is specifically grown for small animals without pesticides or artificial ingredients. After harvesting, Kaytee’s experts hand-select long, fiber-rich strands to ensure that they have the proper leaf-to-stem ratio that guinea pigs need for their dental and digestive health. It’s available in 6.5-pound bags.

For more than 150 years, Kaytee has been manufacturing nutritional foods for pet birds and small animals at its headquarters in Chilton, Wisconsin. They are so committed to keeping pets happy and healthy that they offer a money-back satisfaction guarantee.

While most reviews for this hay were positive, some pet parents reported that the hay was dry and dusty.

Pros and Cons of Kaytee Timothy Hay 1st-Cut

ProsCons
First-cut hay has an abundance of seed heads and is generally more yellow and brown than green.Some reviewers reported that the hay was dry and dusty.
First-cut hay has a higher fiber content and lower protein and fat content than some other types of hay.
This has is grown specifically for small animals without pesticides or artificial ingredients.
Long, fiber-rich strands with the proper leaf-to-stem ratio guinea pigs require for their dental and digestive health are hand-selected.
It’s available in 6.5-pound bags.
Kaytee has been manufacturing food for pet birds and small animals for more than 150 years in the U.S.
Best First-Cut
KAYTEE First Cut Timothy Hay Small Animal Food
  • Contains a lot of seed heads
  • Higher fiber content
  • No pesticides or artificial ingredients
  • Money-back satisfaction guarantee
Check Chewy Check Amazon

3. Best Second-Cut Hay: Small Pet Select 2nd-Cutting Timothy Hay

Small Pet Select 2nd-Cutting Timothy Hay is second-cut hay featuring the perfect ratio of leaf, seed head, and stem. It’s hand-selected from the fields of Washington’s Kittitas Valley and hand-packed into durable corrugated boxes that “breathe” in extremely small batches. The company rechecks each package for quality when it ships.

Your piggy will popcorn with delight when you serve this soft, fragrant, sweet-tasting hay. Because it never sits on shelves wrapped in plastic, it’s as close to tender “meadow fresh” hay your pet will ever eat. In fact, our reviewers state that their finicky guinea pigs that don’t like hay eat this one with gusto.

This premium second-cut hay is available in 2-pound, 9.5-pound, 10-pound, 12-pound, 20-pound, 25-pound, and 40-pound durable corrugated boxes that open and close for easy storage. Like all of their products, Small Pet Select 2nd-Cutting Timothy Hay comes with a 100% satisfaction guarantee.

Several reviewers complained that the quality of this hay was inconsistent.

Pros and Cons of Small Pet Select 2nd-Cutting Timothy Hay

ProsCons
This second-cut hay features the perfect ratio of leaf, seed head, and stem.Several reviewers complained that the quality of this hay was inconsistent.
It’s grown in Washington’s Kittitas Valley and hand-packed into hay is available in 2-pound, 9.5-pound, 10-pound, 12-pound, 20-pound, 25-pound, and 40-pound durable corrugated boxes that “breathe.”
Because it’s never wrapped in plastic, it’s as close to “meadow fresh” hay your piggies will ever eat.
All of Small Pet’s products come with a 100% satisfaction guarantee.
Best Second-Cut
Small Pet Select 2nd Cutting Perfect Blend Timothy Hay
  • Fragrant and sweet-tasting
  • Perfect ratio of leaf, seed head, and stem
  • Packed in durable corrugated boxes
  • Vey high quality
Check Amazon

4. Best Hay Cubes: Exotic Nutrition Timothy Hay Cubes

Exotic Nutrition Timothy Hay Cubes are a convenient, less-messy way to give your piggy the hay they need. These small, compressed blocks of sun-cured Timothy hay are intended to supplement conventional loose hay, not replace it. They’re particularly handy for when you’re traveling with your guinea pig.  They also make an excellent low-fat, low-calcium treat. Because they’re compressed, they offer a more “challenging chew” than traditional hay, providing variety for your furry friend.

These Timothy Hay Cubes are made from compressed Timothy hay (40% minimum) and compressed alfalfa, which is used as an “adhesive” to hold the cubes together. They come in three-pound bags.

Exotic Nutrition has been family owned and operated for 22 years. While they manufacture all of their pet foods in the U.S., this product was produced in Canada.

Some reviewers said they didn’t know that these cubes contain alfalfa.

Pros and Cons of Exotic Nutrition Timothy Hay Cubes

ProsCons
Hay cubes are a convenient, less-messy way to feed your guinea pig the hay they need when you travel or as a treat.Some reviewers said they didn’t know that these cubes contain alfalfa.
They’re made from compressed Timothy hay (40% minimum) and compressed alfalfa.
These cubes come in three-pound bags.
The company has been family owned and operated for 22 years. They manufacturer their pet food in the U.S., but this product was produced in Canada.
Best Hay Cubes
Timothy Hay Cubes
  • Contain sun-cured Timothy hay
  • Convenient to use when traveling
  • Excellent low-fat, low-calcium treat
  • Good for dental health
Check Amazon

5. Best Hay for Babies (Pups): Small Pet Select Alfalfa Hay

Baby guinea pigs, which are called pups, have very different nutritional requirements than adults. That’s because their bodies are creating a foundation for a healthy life, including building strong teeth and bones. That’s why they need the extra calcium found in alfalfa hay instead of low-calcium Timothy hay until they’re six months old.

Pregnant and lactating adult females can also benefit from eating alfalfa hay because their bodies need more calcium.

Alfalfa hay is an excellent source of protein, calcium, and other trace minerals. It also contains a wide variety of vitamins, including many of the B’s, C, D, E, and K, and the minerals phosphorus and zinc.

Our choice for the best hay for pups is Small Pet Select Alfalfa Hay. Unlike most companies, Small Pet Select hand-selects their hay from local fields in Washington’s Kittitas Valley. They hand-pack small batches in super-strong corrugated boxes. Then, prior to shipment, they recheck each box for quality. The result: Your piggy will receive the freshest, softest, most fragrant, sweetest tasting hay they’ve ever tasted.

This nutrient-rich alfalfa hay is available in 12-ounce, 2-pound, 5-pound, 10-pound, 12-pound, 20-pound, 40-pound, and 50-pound easy open/easy close corrugated boxes. Plus, your piggy’s satisfaction is 100% guaranteed.  

Some reviewers said that the hay wasn’t fresh.

Pros and Cons of Small Pet Select Alfalfa Hay

ProsCons
Baby guinea pigs (pups), and pregnant and lactating females require alfalfa hay instead of Timothy because it includes more calcium.Some reviewers said that the hay wasn’t fresh.
Alfalfa hay is an excellent source of protein, calcium, and other trace minerals, B’s, C, D, E, and K vitamins, and the minerals phosphorus and zinc.
This hay is grown in Washington’s Kittitas Valley, hand-selected, and packed in super-strong corrugated boxes.
Each box is rechecked for quality before it’s shipped.
It’s available in 12-ounce, 2-pound, 5-pound, 10-pound, 12-pound, 20-pound, 40-pound, and 50-pound easy open/easy close corrugated boxes.
It’s 100% satisfaction guaranteed.
Best Hay for Babies
Small Pet Select Alfalfa Hay Pet Food
  • Extra calcium for strong teeth
  • Good option for pregnant and lactating adults
  • Added vitamins and trace minerals
  • Very high quality, fresh hay
Check Amazon

Choosing the Best Hay: What to Look for

When selecting the best variety of hay for your guinea pig, you should consider the following factors:

Timothy Hay Quality IndicatorsWhat You Should Know
FreshnessFresh hay smells sweet when you open the bag or box for the first time
CutFirst-cut hay has firmer stalks and more seed heads.   Second-cut hay is softer, less fibrous, and leafier.
Dust levelDust refers to broken hay particles. No hay is completely dust-free, but premium companies take great care to make it as dust-free as possible since hay dust can cause respiratory problems in guinea pigs.
Lack of pesticidesSelect hay that has not been sprayed with pesticides since they can cause serious illness in small animals that consume them.
PackagingMost hay for small pets comes in bags or boxes. Bags are convenient because they are resealable. Boxes “breathe,” allowing
PricePremium hay may be more, but it’s fresher, usually hand-selected, and contains fewer broken pieces, and dust.

The Different Types of Hay: Pros and Cons Compared

This review discussed two varieties of loose hay – Timothy and alfalfa – and compressed hay cubes. The pros and cons of each are as follows:

Timothy

ProsCons
Best for adult guinea pigs six months old or above due to low calcium contentNot suited for baby piggies (pups) because their developing bodies require more calcium

Alfalfa

ProsCon
Best for pups six months old or under and pregnant and lactating females due to high calcium contentNot suitable for adults except pregnant or lactating females because of its high calcium content

Compressed (Western Timothy) Hay Cubes

ProsCons
Cubes are a convenient, no-mess way to feed hay to your guinea pig when you travel. They also make a good treat because they’re more difficult to chew than loose hay.They are designed to supplement the loose hay in your piggy’s diet, not replace it. Ounce-for-ounce, they are more expensive than loose hay.

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About the Author

My passion is writing about animals. I’ve published articles on pet parrots, birds, and small animal care and reviews about pet food and products. I have an ever-evolving aviary and menagerie that has included cockatiels, parakeets, conures, European starlings, a chukar partridge, guinea pigs, dogs, and cats. I’m also the author of Faith without Labels: a Guide to Eclectic Spirituality.

The Best Hay for Guinea Pigs FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Do guinea pigs really need hay?

Yes! They need access to a continuous supply of fresh hay. These adorable herbivores eat hay for nutrition, to aid their digestion, and to keep their teeth from growing too long.

How often should I change my guinea pig’s hay?

Every day, you should remove any hay that your piggy has peed or pooped on and replace it with fresh hay. If you purchase a hay rack, it will keep your pet’s hay off the ground. Then you will only have to replenish the rack so it doesn’t run out of have.

What is “popcorning” in guinea pigs?

When a guinea pig is feeling super joyful or excited, it will spontaneously jump straight up horizontally. This is called popcorning because it’s reminiscent of a popcorn kernel popping

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.