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Can Guinea Pigs Eat Cardboard? (Is It Safe for Them?)

Tim Rhodes
Written by Tim Rhodes Last Updated: Sep 17, 2022

Many guinea pig toys are made of cardboard, which these small animals like to chew and sometimes swallow, so new guinea pigs are unsure and wonder whether guinea pigs can eat cardboard.

Chewing cardboard is not dangerous for guinea pigs but swallowing large amounts of this material can cause health issues such as intestinal blockages that can be fatal for these small animals. Therefore, eating cardboard (or any other type of paper) is not safe for guinea pigs.

The digestive systems of guinea pigs allow them to chew wood and wood-based products such as paper and cardboard without harm.

Before you put cardboard in your cavy’s cage, make sure it won’t become a health hazard.

Check that any box or other cardboard container destined for your guinea pig’s cage has not previously been used to store anything toxic to your guinea pig.

Can Guinea Pigs Eat Cardboard?

Many guinea pig owners believe that their guinea pigs can eat cardboard (or any other type of paper).

While there is nothing wrong with allowing them to chew on it and even eat some of it, eating too much of it can be fatal.

Guinea pigs are herbivores with digestive systems capable of breaking down the majority of plant materials.

Cardboard is simply a plant-based material derived from trees.

Why do guinea pigs constantly chew something?

The teeth of a guinea pig grow continuously throughout his life, so chewing is necessary to keep them worn down and prevent dental problems.

Chewing cardboard is safe for guinea pigs but swallowing large amounts of it can be fatal.

While cardboard isn’t the worst thing your pets can eat, it’s also not a healthy diet for them.

Cardboard should never be used in place of hay (or fresh food) for piggies just like commercial food treats should not be used in place of hay.

The cardboard will fill your guinea piggies up, but it will not provide them with the nutrients they require for a healthy diet.

Can Guinea Pigs Digest Cardboard?

If you let your guinea pigs eat much cardboard, their gut bacteria will change, resulting in intestinal obstructions and other health issues.

Guinea pig digestive systems are built for grass (and hay) diets, and guinea pigs love their hay above anything else.

Grass hay is the most important part of their diet.

Alfalfa and clover are legume hays, which means they have more calcium, protein, and calories, but they are not suitable for adult guinea pigs unless you’re giving them to a pregnant or lactating guinea pig.

They are better suited to expecting female guinea pigs and very young piggies.

Why Do Many Guinea Pig Owners Recommend Cardboard Toys for Guinea Pigs?

Vets and rescue and animal shelter personnel often recommend cardboard as an inexpensive toy and hideaway option for guinea pigs.

Cardboard is a fun and low-cost way to keep your guinea pig entertained with something new and different every time.

To keep your guinea pigs safe, keep the following in mind:

  • Don’t feed your guinea piggie dirty cardboard.
  • Use cardboard without added chemicals.
  • Before allowing your guinea pig to play with cardboard boxes or paper rolls stuffed with hay, remove all glue and tape residue.
  • Make sure that the cardboard is dry and clean.
  • You should never give your guinea pigs colored cardboard because the dye can be toxic to your pet guinea pig.

Many people have used cardboard boxes from Amazon or other deliveries to make guinea pig toys but these boxes are frequently sprayed with chemicals that can make your little furry friend very sick.

Why Do Guinea Pigs Need So Much Chewing?

There are two main reasons why guinea pigs constantly chew hay or something else.

The first reason is that guinea pigs’ teeth never stop growing. Constant chewing allows them to keep their teeth trimmed.

The other reason is that guinea pigs’ digestive tracts must be constantly moving. When stress (or anything else) prevents them from digesting food, their gut completely shuts down and digestion completely stops.

Thus, guinea pigs will die if they go without food for an extended period.

Guinea Pigs Chew To Trim Their Teeth

One of the many difficulties of guinea pig owners when caring for their small animals is keeping their teeth trimmed at a reasonable length.

If left unchecked, their front teeth (which grow constantly and without limit) will grow right through their jaw.

A misalignment of the jaws or teeth is referred to as malocclusion.

Unfortunately, unless the disease is detected early, a permanent cure is extremely difficult. 

A change in the angle at which the teeth grow occurs, so so even with correction, the teeth continue to grow back abnormally.

Malocclusion has the terrible side effect of preventing guinea pigs from eating properly, which can lead to starvation and malnutrition.

How To Prevent Malocclusion?

Weekly dental health checks for your guinea pig are essential. 

In some extreme cases, a vet will have to trim a guinea pig’s teeth.

To prevent such extreme cases, make sure to check your guinea pig’s teeth weekly:

  • Examine your pet’s incisors (front teeth) and make sure that they are not overgrown or chipped.
  • Feel along your guinea pig’s jawlines and check for sensitive areas to eliminate the presence of spurs.

Pay attention to other signs such as weight loss, as guinea pigs with teeth problems eat less and gradually stop eating completely due to immense pain caused by overgrown teeth that can even break through their jaws.

Also, feed your guinea pigs with lots of hay, every day! Guinea pigs need to constantly chew grass hay throughout the day.

As a result, it’s critical to consider not only what you feed your guinea pig, but also what you provide as chewing toys.

There are numerous chewing options to keep your guinea pigs occupied (without having to feed guinea pigs cardboard).

There are safe chewing alternatives for your guinea pigs:

Hay

Hay is an important source of fiber and nutrients for guinea pigs, so provide them with unlimited amounts of clean, fresh daily servings of this nutrient.

Keep a large pile in your guinea pig’s cage at all times.

You can add some leafy greens into the hay and watch your guinea enjoy their meal.

To make things more fun for your piggies, you can fill cardboard tubes made from toilet paper rolls.

That can keep them entertained for hours.

Pellets

Guinea pig pellets should be fortified with a high concentration of vitamin C.

Guinea pigs love them but they can be harmful if you give them too much.

Most adult pigs require about 1/8 cup per day.

Grass Mats

Grass mats are an excellent and healthy way to help your guinea pigs wear down their teeth.

Handwoven mats can be made without threads or wires that are harmful to your guinea piggies.

They are a tasty snack high in fiber that’s easy to digest for these small animals.

By giving them a grass mat to chew on you won’t have to worry about your guinea pig’s molars!

Wooden Blocks and Chews

Guinea pigs will find wooden blocks and chews delightful.

Just make sure that they don’t contain any varnish and chemicals.

Wooden block chews and twigs that are safe for guinea pigs are made of:

  • Oak,
  • Apple
  • Birch
  • Blackberry
  • Hazel
  • Pear
  • Pecan
  • Pine (Kiln-Dried White)
  • Poplar
  • Sycamore
  • Willow

Trees that belong to the Prunus family are dangerous for rodents, including guinea pigs, chinchillas, and squirrels.

Therefore, never give your guinea pigs Prunus family wood such as almond, nectarine, cherry, peach, apricot, and plum twigs and chew blocks.

Also, evergreens and soft, resinous, and aromatic woods, such as redwood, eucalyptus, cedar, and pine contain phenols that can harm the guinea pig’s sensitive respiratory system.

Can Guinea Pigs Chew Pine Cones?

Just like pine wood, pine cones are toxic to guinea pigs.

Pine cones contain aromatic oils, which are harmful to guinea pigs.

Twigs

Don’t ever give your little furry friend hard plastic or rubber toys!

Your guinea pigs will chew on them and ingest them, which can cause big problems to your guinea pig’s digestive system.

Is It Safe To Feed Toilet Paper Rolls To Guinea Pigs?

Guinea pigs can safely play with toilet paper rolls and chew on them.

If you fill them up with hay, you will make your pet’s life much more fun!

To prevent curious guinea pigs from getting their head stuck, cut the tube down the middle.

However, don’t feed guinea pigs with toilet paper rolls. 

Cardboard rolls are not food and, if ingested in larger quantities, they present a serious health hazard.

Also, before giving your pet a toilet tube filled up with hay, make sure that rolls are free of paper and glue.

Is It Possible for Guinea Pigs to Live in a Cardboard Box?

Guinea pigs shouldn’t live in a cardboard box but in a hutch or guinea pig cage that is at least 7.5 square feet large, which is enough to accommodate one guinea pig.

If you have more than one guinea pig, the cage size should be much larger.

However, guinea pigs need their hideouts or “hide boxes”, where they run to hide whenever they are afraid of sudden noise or movement.

Also, they will hide when they need to sleep, or simply want some privacy.

In these case, a cardboard box is a great choice, but never let your guinea pigs eat the box.

They can still chew on it.

Final Thoughts

While clean cardboard that doesn’t contain chemicals is safe for guinea pigs to chew on it, eating cardboard presents a danger when ingested in larger quantities.

So don’t let your piggies eat cardboard.

To turn their attention from cardboard, fill up toilet paper tubes with hay and pieces of vegetables that are safe for guinea pigs.

Your pets will have fun for hours.

Also, consider providing your pets with healthier alternatives such as grass mats, wooden blocks, and twigs, all made of trees that are safe for your guinea pigs. 

Author

Tim Rhodes
Tim Rhodes

Hi there! My name is Tim Rhodes and I'm a guinea pig enthusiast through thick and thin. My mission is to teach others useful tips and tricks about these cute creatures. When I'm not writing, I enjoy kickboxing and work as an animal trainer.

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Last update on 2022-09-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API