By Joanne Colangelo
Anyone who is lucky enough to share their lives with guinea pigs, knows how sweet it is to hear the wheeking of hungry piggies anticipating their next treat. While guinea pigs impatiently wait, we take pride in filling those little bellies with the fresh foods we so lovingly bought just for them.
Guinea pigs are unique from other little critters with their sensitive digestive system. Their primary diet should consist of unlimited, good quality hay, a serving of pellets made of hay (no nuts, seeds or artificial coloring) and fresh water. However, guinea pigs cannot live on hay alone!
Part of the fun of having guinea pigs as pets is spoiling them with fresh vegetables and fruits (I prefer organic). New foods should be introduced slowly and in small quantities in spite of how much your guinea pig squeals for more. So, why just toss lettuce leaves into their cages when you can unleash your inner Julia Child? Why simply wash and cut a squash when it could transform into an eye-pleasing meal?
As a guinea pig mom for many years, my pigs have trained me well. A baby carrot is always appreciated, but when I sing “Happy Birthday” with a carrot cake, now that’s something to celebrate! Check out eight great dishes to make for your guinea pigs.
[Editor’s Note: To create appealing visuals, the portions shown in some of the photos are larger than a single guinea pig needs. Actual treat portions for a single guinea pig per day would be much smaller, about an inch square.]
1. Pizza For Guinea Pigs!
Although guinea pigs cannot eat dough or cheese, they can still dine on a delicious slice of “cheese pizza.” A wholesome slice of watermelon topped with shredded, ripe cucumber is a special treat! Just be sure to remove all seeds.
2. Bring On The Burgers!
Burgers (or veggie burgers!) and fries are especially enjoyed by guinea pigs. Because they should not eat bread, an apricot becomes the bun, filled with lettuce (not iceberg as it contains few nutrients) and their “burger” is a slice of red apple. Hold the condiments! No potatoes or fried foods in a guinea pig diet, so yellow bell peppers make the perfect fries. Low calorie, too!
3. A Guinea Pig Tea Time
Little girls love tea parties, and guinea pigs can join in the fun, too! Simply choose tasty fruits and vegetables to be petit fours and cookies and set the table!
4. Guinea Pig Pasta!
Pasta is not part of a piggy diet, so how can guinea pigs possibly eat “spaghetti and meatballs”? Easy! Some piggies enjoy spaghetti squash. Wash the outside, throw out the seeds, peel the skin and serve it raw on a platter along with some radishes, apples (as shown) or tomatoes. No cheese (no dairy) and no garlic, please! Mangia!
5. Salad, Anyone?
What could be more refreshing than a big, fresh salad on a warm summer day? Toss together an assortment of fresh, organic greens. Most of these are easily found in the produce department of local supermarkets already packaged. If you add tomatoes, please remember to discard the green tops, which are poisonous. Seeded cucumbers, shredded carrots and sliced red peppers create a colorful dish. For safety, never add hot peppers, onions, beans, mushrooms or avocado. Watch your guinea pig dig in!
6. Happy Birthday, Guinea Pig!
If you and your piggies like to party, you know how special birthdays are. They only come once a year, so bring out the cake. Nothing could be easier than singing “Happy Birthday” over layers of veggies. They won’t even miss the frosting!
7. Pignic Food!
Picnics (better known as “pignics”) are fun for everyone. No pickles or fish, nuts or eggs for piggies, but corn silks are delicious! They can be given when in season, raw. [Editor’s Note: Corn silk should be cut into 1-inch long sections, so your guinea pig doesn’t ingest longer pieces.] If your guinea pigs are dining outside on the lawn, they will surely want a nibble of grass, too. Just make sure it is not treated with chemicals or in an area where other animals have been.
8. Make A Fruit Sundae
Nothing tops off a good meal like dessert. Once in a while, treat your guinea pig to a (small) “ice cream sundae” of his own. A few scoops of melon balls, such as cantaloupe, are a great source of Vitamin C. Hold the fudge, but don’t forget that (fresh) cherry!