Monday, April 28, 2014

Can Guinea Pigs Eat Plantains?

There are some foods that we can have nearly everyday, such as Belgian endive and cherry tomatoes. The food we're reviewing today (plantains) is not one of them. We should only be fed a tiny piece of plantain once a month. This is because they are high in sugar, and the calcium to phosphorous ratio is off; if you give us too much, we can start to develop health problems. Seriously - if you're not going to use moderation with this one, you're better off not feeding it at all.

We should also note that there is also a small plant called a plantain (AKA plantago); this plant is unrelated to the banana-like plantain we're reviewing today, although if you're curious, we can also eat this kind.

The humans cut off one tiny piece for each of us. Looks like I might have all three to myself, though!
Spoke too soon!
What do you mean that's all we get for the month?
Plantains were good, but we're going to have to take off a point for being unhealthy. We prefer something that we can safely munch on to our heart's content and not have to worry about our health. Humans, I guess what I'm really trying to say is that you should add Belgian endives to your shopping list and go to the grocery store ASAP.

We'll give plantains 4/5 stars.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Can Guinea Pigs Eat Yellow Peppers?

We've already reviewed red, orange, and green peppers, so we figured it's about time we tried the yellow ones. Now we just need to try purple peppers, and we'll have eaten a rainbow of peppers!

You may remember from our review of orange peppers that yellow bell peppers are in a level of maturity between green peppers (the least mature) and red peppers (the most mature). This means that they have a bit more sugar than green peppers, but less than red peppers. We can eat yellow peppers almost daily. Make sure you only feed us the outer flesh and not the seeds since they're a choking hazard.

As we mentioned in our Ask A Guinea Pig installment on color vision and preference, one experiment claimed that guinea pigs seemed to prefer the colors yellow and blue, so we're expecting big things from you, yellow peppers!

Here I am, the dominant pig, surrounded by my subordinates.
I think I like yellow peppers!
Hey! I'm the dominant pig! You can't block my access to the food plate! This is mutiny!
Yellow peppers were so good that they made Broccoli and Buffy go crazy and forget who the dominant pig is. I'll have to remember to steal their food later for that.

We give yellow bell peppers 5/5 stars!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Product Review: Small Pet Select Third Cutting Timothy Hay

Long time readers probably already know that we're big fans of Small Pet Select's hay. Our previous review of their hay was of their second cut hay. The difference between first, second and third-cut hay was something we didn't touch on in our Ask A Guinea Pig on hay, so let's start with their characteristics:

  • First cut hay: Has lots of seed heads and stems; rather tough and irregular; slightly lower in nutrition; slightly higher in fiber; tends to be lighter in color, with more yellow/brown parts; tends to be harder to digest;
  • Second cut hay: Some seed heads; softer than first cut; fewer stems; more uniform; more nutritious than first cut hay; darker green color than first cut; 
  • Third cut hay: Very few seed heads and stems, very soft; lower fiber content.

Here's an image showing the difference, courtesy of Small Pet Select's blog:
I wish those two hays were in front of me right now so I could nibble on both of them!
So what does first, second and third cut actually mean? It refers to when in the growing season the hay is cut. The first time it grows and gets cut makes it the first cut. When it grows back and you cut it again, it's the second cut, and so on. If the second cut hay had enough time to mature, it too would start to take on the characteristics of first-cut hay, such as lots of stems. However, by that point in the growing season, cooler weather has generally started setting in, and the growth is slowed. Each additional hay cutting produces lower yields, so it will tend to be more expensive and to run out quicker. Third cut hay requires a longer, warmer growing season to be produced at all.

Looks like I can eat my hay in peace--Oh, look who just showed up.

Lola got randomly spooked. That was odd.

I'm hiding off to the side (off-camera) so Lola can't see me.
Small Pet Select's third-cut was really good. It's incredibly fresh and green. However, one thing that we did learn the hard way is due to the lower fiber content, if you only eat third cut hay, it can make your poops softer, which freaks out the humans. The only other complaint that we had about this stuff is that as good as it was, we kind of missed the seed heads from second-cut hay. Therefore, we recommend that you mix your third-cut hay with second-cut hay so your piggies still get their fiber and seed heads.

We give it 4/5 stars!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Ask A Guinea Pig: Can Guinea Pigs Eat Frozen Fruits and Veggies?

Kelly B asks: "Can [guinea pigs] eat frozen raspberries?"

Answer: Good question, Kelly! Ordinarily, we can eat fresh raspberries in small (25 gram) portions almost daily. However, does freezing fruits and vegetables like raspberries change anything? As it turns out, this subject is a bit controversial. Here are a sampling of different opinions on this subject:
  • One person who's studying chemistry says: "There is actually no harm in feeding your pets frozen vegetables." 
  • The diet expert at says: "Fresh veggies have high content of vitamins. When you use frozen veggies, the vitamin content doesn't hold up well and degrades and like someone else said, frozen veggies often are mushy after being thawed." 
  • A former moderator at says: "Feeding a GP frozen veggies can cause severe gastro intestinal upset which can have grave consequences... [including] severe illness, even death"
  • Several people report feeding frozen fruits and vegetables to their guinea pigs, apparently without incident.

So frozen foods are either harmless, or can kill us? Hmm...
Let's explore some of these issues.

Nutrition Loss
One of the major concerns some people have about freezing foods is that they lose their nutritional value from being frozen. Some scientific studies show that this is not necessarily the case, however. In addition, fruits and vegetables that are sold fresh in supermarkets out-of-season often lose a lot of their nutritional content during transport, while the freezing process can help stop this nutrient loss. On the other hand, during the blanching process (see below) that frozen produce usually go through, about 25% of the vitamin C may be lost, and vitamin C is especially important to guinea pigs.

Freezing Processes Changing the Chemical Structure of Foods
Another concern that some people have is the loss of natural enzymes in frozen fruits and vegetables, which make them difficult for herbivores like guinea pigs to digest. According to the Food Safety team at the University of Minnesota: "Fresh produce contains chemical compounds called enzymes which cause the loss of color, loss of nutrients, flavor changes, and color changes in frozen fruits and vegetables. These enzymes must be inactivated to prevent such reactions from taking place. Enzymes in vegetables are inactivated by the blanching process. Blanching is the exposure of the vegetables to boiling water or steam for a brief period of time. The vegetable must then be rapidly cooled in ice water to prevent it from cooking." (This process is more common for vegetables than fruits. Fruit are often treated with a chemical called ascorbic acid to destroy the enzymes that cause browning.)

Some people have asked about freezing the vegetables themselves in order to avoid the blanching used in commercially frozen vegetables. However, according to the former moderator at, "It's not just heat that cooks fruits and veggies, freezing does it too. It breaks down the cellular make-up and kills the good live enzymes. Essentially, freezing 'cooks' food too."

Some people also have concerns about bacteria from frozen foods. However, according to someone studying chemistry, the danger is no greater than that of fresh foods. Freezing does not kill bacteria on fruits and vegetables; it only keeps them from multiplying. Therefore, frozen vegetables will be about as safe to eat as they were at the time they were frozen. Whether you buy frozen or fresh, you should always be selective about your produce.

Known Safe Frozen Foods
Watermelon and cantaloupe rinds are safe for guinea pigs to eat frozen, according to the diet expert at We haven't come across an explanation as to why these are safe while other frozen foods are supposedly not, however.

Frozen fruits and vegetables can actually have certain nutritional advantages in certain circumstances, although they tend to lose their vitamin C, which is one of the most important nutrients for us. In addition, commercially frozen vegetables are usually blanched and/or have preservatives added, and the freezing process itself can alter the contents in ways that some have raised concerns about. We would like to see some more evidence before we believe the claim that frozen fruits and veggies can cause "severe illness, even death," given that we haven't yet come across a single case where a guinea pig's GI tract was disrupted from eating thawed frozen foods. On the other hand, why risk it if fresh fruits and vegetables are readily available? Just stick to fresh produce, and perhaps some frozen watermelon and cantaloupe rinds if your piggy wants a cool treat as the weather warms up.

Let us know if you have any additional information on this topic, and keep those questions coming!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Can Guinea Pigs Eat Sweet Pea Shoots/Sprouts?

In general, sprouts are an occasional treat, and pea sprouts are no exception. This is because the calcium-phosphorous ratio of pea sprouts is 1:7, while the idea ratio for guinea pig foods is about 2:1. (We'll probably do a future post on calcium-phosphorous ratios.) Therefore, we're going to suggest you feed us sweet pea shoots/sprouts no more than 1-2 times per week.

We recommend buying organic fruits and vegetables for your piggies whenever possible.
New food feeding frenzy!
Hmm... Started to get a little bored now.
You two can finish it off.
Sweet pea sprouts were pretty good, but I got bored of them towards the end. Buffy and Broccoli never got tired of them, however. We'll give sweet pea shoots 4/5 stars!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Why Do Guinea Pigs Have Whiskers?

If you have a guinea pig (and you probably do if you're reading this blog), then you may have noticed our adorable whiskers sticking out the sides of our faces. If you look a little closer, you may notice that we have whiskers in multiple places, including: under our noses like a human mustache, under our chins, and around our eyes. And, if you have certain breeds of guinea pigs like texels and teddies, your guinea pigs' whiskers might even be curly!

As I said, adorable whiskers!
Have you ever wondered why we have them? Are they just for decoration? Do they serve a function?

As it turns out, they do serve a function: whiskers supplement our sense of touch. They allow us to feel our surroundings when it's dark or otherwise difficult to see. They can also help us determine if we're able to fit into a particular space or not.

Because they serve a sensory role for us, you should be careful not to cut our whiskers if you're trimming our fur. However, if you accidentally cut them, you shouldn't worry too much because they will grow back. Similarly, some guinea pigs use barbering (gnawing on each other's fur) as a dominance-establishing behavior, and this sometimes includes biting off whiskers. If your guinea pigs are biting each others whiskers off, it might also be boredom, overcrowding, or a lack of fiber, so make sure they're getting enough quality hay and floor time, and have a big enough cage.

We have also read that blind guinea pigs can still get around fine using their whiskers and other senses. Therefore, if you happen to have a blind guinea pig, be especially careful with their whiskers!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Product Review: All Living Things Willow Tunnel

Today we're reviewing All Living Things Willow Tunnel. The package for this one says that it "encourages your pet's natural instincts to play and chew," and "offers comfort and security." As far as we can tell, willow is safe for guinea pigs to chew on, and other guinea pigs like to chew on them. But will we?

Make sure you get the right size. These things come in different sizes for different pets.
Buffy was the first to check it out, but wasn't impressed.
The humans put down some pellets inside the tunnel so we'd check it out. That got our attention! 
After the pellets were gone, we lost interest in the tunnel, and decided to search the floor for more pellets.
Once we were convinced there weren't any more pellets, I decided to give the tunnel another chance. 
And you know what? I kind of like it!
After floor time was over, the humans decided to put the willow tunnel inside our cage. I immediately went inside it again. I don't know why Buffy and Broccoli aren't interested in this thing! I think it's great, but apparently, guinea pigs opinion vary on this one. I suppose I'll give it 3/5 to reflect their lack of interest, although it would get a higher rating if it were just up to me.