Can guinea pigs eat kale?
Kale is one of the healthiest foods, and it’s also considered a superfood.
However, while piggies are obligate herbivores, there are vegetables they can’t eat, regardless of how nutritious they are.
If you want to feed your cavies kale, keep reading to learn its benefits, risks, and other foods safe for guinea pigs.
Can Guinea Pigs Eat Kale?
Yes, kale is safe for guinea pigs. It contains antioxidants, Vitamin A, and Vitamin C, which are some of the nutrients that piggies need.
However, feed them in moderation since they contain too much calcium and can lead to bladder stones in guinea pigs.
Kale also contains too much Vitamin A, leading to Vitamin toxicity, also known as hypervitaminosis.
Can Guinea Pigs Eat Kale Stems?
Yes, they can. Kale stems contain as many nutrients as the greens. They are also high in fiber, which is essential in maintaining gut health. Kale stems also have a rough texture, which can help trim and clean your piggy’s teeth.
Can Guinea Pigs Eat Kale Flowers?
Yes, they can. Besides leafy greens, these pets also enjoy flowers from a wide range of plants, including dandelions, marigold, clover, campanula, parsley, milk thistle, mimulas, and many more.
So, they’ll most certainly enjoy kale flowers. But they should be fed as treats, not form part of their main diet.
Check: Can Guinea Pigs Eat Dandelions?
Can Baby Guinea Pig Eat Kale?
Yes, baby cavies can eat kale, but only when they are at least 3 to 4 weeks old. From birth to 3 weeks, young cavies should only feed on milk.
When you introduce kale from a young age, they are more likely to be fond of it as they grow older.
Combine the kale with alfalfa hay, other veggies, and pellets, and introduce other types of hay as they grow older.
Can Guinea Pigs Eat Cooked Kale?
No, they shouldn’t. Guinea pigs can’t eat cooked food since it contains salt, oils, and other additives that aren’t suitable for their digestive system.
Besides, cooked food doesn’t have as much (and sometimes, hardly any) nutritional value for cavies. To reap all the health benefits, always feed your pets raw kale.
Does Kale Cause Bloat In Cavies?
Yes, it can. Kale is a cabbage, also known as cruciferous vegetables, and they are known to cause gas and bloating.
However, cavies will react to kale, or any other cruciferous vegetable, differently.
Wheek Care – a cavy rescue group- advises feeding kale in small amounts and observing your piggy afterward for signs of discomfort or reactions.
If they experience bloating, then avoid feeding them this type of vegetable and look for alternatives.
Other cruciferous vegetables to watch out for include collard greens, broccoli, cabbages, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower.
I will list some viable alternatives later…
Can Guinea Pigs Eat Frozen Kale?
Yes, as long as it’s thawed to room temperature. Like cooked foods, frozen foods also cause digestive issues in cavies.
Will My Guinea Pigs Like Kale?
Yes, they will. Cavies love leafy greens, including kale, spinach, lettuce, broccoli, and cabbage.
Unfortunately, vegetables only form a small percentage of their diet. Overfeeding vegetables could lead to bladder stones, diarrhea, digestive issues, and a wide range of health issues.
Which Varieties of Kale Can Guinea Pigs Eat?
All cultivars of kale are safe and nutritious for piggies. The most common varieties include red kale, curly kale, black kale, white kale, and purple kale.
Is Kale Good For Guinea Pigs?
We now know that cavies can eat kale, but how good is it for them? Below are some of the nutrients it contains.
Kales are high in Vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene. Vitamin A boosts vision, improves the immune system, skin health, and improves the functioning of the kidney, liver, and other body organs.
This study confirms that – like humans- animals, including cavies, can convert beta-carotene to Vitamin A for use in their bodies.
If you’re looking for an extra source of Vitamin C for your guinea pigs, then kale is a viable option.
It’s high in Vitamin C, which facilitates overall growth and healthy bones, joints, skin, and gums.
According to VCA Hospitals, Vitamin C is also essential in blood clotting, healing wounds, and boosting the immune system.
Conversely, a deficiency in Vitamin C leads to Scurvy, which has symptoms such as lethargy, diarrhea, swollen joints, poor skin, and ulcers.
Also, guinea pigs can’t make or store Vitamin C; they can only get it from their diet. So, always look for veggies that are high in Vitamin C.
This is another vitamin that’s essential in facilitating blood clotting and healing wounds.
Potassium is an essential mineral since it facilitates the functioning of body organs, and it also maintains the ideal cholesterol levels in a guinea pig’s body. And kale contains a lot of it.
Exotic Veterinarian Dr. Becky Burk also recommends feeding your cavies with a lot of potassium since it prevents the formation of cysts, also known as bladder stones.
A study published in the NCBI journal also confirms that higher amounts of potassium are essential, especially when your guinea pigs are feeding with foods with high calcium to phosphorous ratio.
Both the greens and the kale stalks contain considerable amounts of fiber which help in digestion, bowel movement, and overall gut health in guinea pigs.
Other Health Benefits
Below are more health benefits your guinea pigs get from kale.
- Kale contains carbs and proteins, which are good energy sources. Proteins are also essential in overall growth and fighting diseases.
- More Antioxidants
- Other than Vitamins A and C, kales also contain kaempferol, quercetin, and other antioxidants that can help prevent inflammation, stress and regulate blood pressure.
- As mentioned earlier, kale contain high amounts of sodium which leads to increased thirst. This, in turn, can encourage your cavy to drink more.
- Low fats and calories
- Since guinea pigs live a relatively sedentary lifestyle, foods with too much fat and calories aren’t suitable for them. Kale is low in both of these elements, so you don’t have to worry about weight gain or blood vessels clogging.
- Kales are also low in sugar, which is good since guinea pigs don’t need a lot of sugar in their diet. Excess sugar leads to digestive issues and diarrhea.
Risks To Consider When Feeding Guinea Pigs Kale
Below are some risks associated with overfeeding guinea pigs kale.
- Bladder Stones
- Also known as bladder sludge, bladder stones result when calcium binds with oxalates, forming “stones”. These stones can be quite painful.
- When small, they can be washed away by drinking a lot of water, but the larger cysts may need surgery.
- Now, kales may be low in oxalates, but if you combine kales with foods high in oxalates, such as broccoli, you increase the chances of the stones forming.
- Vitamin A Toxicity
- According to this study, feeding guinea pigs with excess Vitamin A leads to symptoms similar to those caused by Scurvy. These include lack of appetite, lethargy, swollen joints, scaly skin, and hemorrhages.
- Most farmers use chemicals to grow their crops, and the residues from these chemicals are often harmful to humans, let alone guinea pigs.
- If possible, make sure you purchase organically grown kale or grow some kale in your yard or containers.
- Regardless of where you get the kale, make sure you wash it and rinse it to get rid of dirt, insects, and any residues.
How Much Kale Is Safe For Guinea Pigs and How Often?
One or two leaves are enough for guinea pigs, at least 2 to 3 times a week. Ensure you mix kale with other vegetables, preferably low calcium veggies (more on this later).
Preparing Kale for Guinea Pigs
- Purchase organic kale or regular kale from a trusted supplier.
- Check for yellow sections, dark marks, or mouldy sections and get rid of them.
- Wash the kale thoroughly and rinse it.
- The kale leaves are soft, so you can provide them with the whole leaves and let them munch on them.
- Chopping the leaves into smaller pieces is still a good idea, but make sure the kale is served raw, not cooked or frozen.
- It’s also best to cut the stems into smaller pieces to prevent choking.
- Please get rid of any leftover kale from their cages after 24 hours to prevent contamination.
- Kale induces thirst, so make sure they have a continuous supply of fresh water.
Note: If your guinea pigs have suffered bloat, bladder stones, or any other issues caused by cruciferous vegetables before, do not feed them kale or any high-calcium vegetable.
Other Vegetables to Feed Your Guinea Pigs
Below are some veggies to mix with kale for a balanced diet or offer as an alternative.
Cucumber is one of the best vegetables to feed your cavy when it’s too hot. This is because of the high water content.
They can also help quench some of the thirst caused by kale. However, they are not that high in Vitamin C or fiber, some of the essential nutrients for guinea pigs.
And too much water content could lead to diarrhea. Therefore, only feed them a few times a week.
Lettuce is a good source of Vitamin C and fiber, but not all lettuces are safe for guinea pigs. Romaine lettuce is the most nutritious variety and one which you can feed your cavies daily.
Other healthy lettuces include green leaf, red leaf, buttercup, Bib, and Boston. Iceberg lettuce is very low in nutrients and high in water.
It could lead to diarrhea and Vitamin C deficiency if fed in excess. For more info, check our guide “Can Guinea Pigs Eat Lettuce?”
Carrots are high in Vitamin A, which is good for eye health and boosting immunity. They are not that high in Vitamin C compared to kale, but they have more vitamin C than lettuces.
Guinea pigs can eat all parts of carrots, including the inner flesh, the skin, and the carrot tops. But due to the high sugar content, feed your guinea pigs 2 baby carrots or one medium-sized carrot not more than twice a week.
Sweet Bell Peppers
Sweet bell peppers are quite high in Vitamin C. They actually contain more Vitamin C than carrots, oranges, lettuces, and cucumbers. They are also good sources of antioxidants and fiber.
When providing them to your guinea pigs, wash them thoroughly and remove the seeds and the stems. The seeds can cause choking, while the stems are not suitable for them.
Due to the high sugar content, feed your cavies a few pieces of these peppers up to 3 times a week.
Sweet Potato Leaves
Sweet potato leaves are an excellent low-calcium vegetable for your cavies. They may not contain a lot of Vitamin C, but they are high in fiber.
That’s why I emphasize mixing different vegetables. Make sure you always feed your guinea pigs fresh sweet potato leaves. Wilted or fermented leaves can cause stomach upsets.
What Should Guinea Pigs Eat?
Now that we know that kale, or vegetables generally, can’t form the main party of a guinea pig’s diet, let’s see what they should eat.
- Guinea pigs mainly feed on forage when in the wild. That’s why, according to the RSPCA Knowledgebase, hay should form at least 70% of their diet. Hay contains all the nutrients they need, and it’s also rough, which helps trim a guinea pig’s teeth.
- Timothy, oaten, grassy, or barley hays are the best varieties for adult guinea pigs. But very young guinea pigs, or lactating guinea pigs, can be fed alfalfa hay. You can also make hay balls or fill paper bags with hay just to make their feeding time more fun.
- Veggies and Fruits
- Vegetables and fruits are excellent supplements of Vitamin C, antioxidants, and fibre. PDSA advises guinea pig owners to feed their pets a cup of mixed veggies daily. Some excellent fruits to include in the mix include apples, melons, blueberries, strawberries, pineapples, bananas, and oranges.
- Commercial Food
- Pellets are also an additional vitamin C and fibre source, so add at least 1/8 of a cup to their diet daily.
Tip: Always introduce the new food gradually as you watch your pet’s reaction to it. If your pet suffers from any medical condition, consult your vet before introducing new foods.
Can Guinea Pigs Eat Kale FAQs
Is Too Much Kale Bad For Guinea Pigs?
Yes, it is. Kale is high in calcium, which is associated with the formation of bladder stones. It’s also high in Vitamin A, and excess Vitamin A can cause lethargy, diarrhea, and other medical issues. So feed your cavies kale in moderation and mix it with other vegetables.
How Many Times A Week Can Guinea Pigs Eat Kale?
2 to 3 times would be ideal. The ideal serving size is 1 to 2 kale leaves. You can also offer them the stem as a source of fiber. They’ll love the flowers, but these too should be fed in moderation.
Below is a summary of kale for guinea pigs.
- Kale is a cruciferous vegetable, and it’s in the same family as Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, collard greens, and Bok Choy.
- Kales are rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Vitamin C, antioxidants, and low in sugars and calories. This makes them a healthy superfood for guinea pigs.
- Is kale suitable for guinea pigs? Yes, you can feed your cavies this vegetable.
- The ideal serving service is at least two leaves, at least three times a week.
- The flowers and stems are also safe for guinea pigs.
- Always mix kale with other vegetables when offering it to your pet.
- Too much kale exposes your guinea pigs to vitamin toxicity, digestive issues, and kidney stones (they’re high in calcium).
- A guinea pig’s diet should mainly contain hay, with vegetables, fruits, and pellets being additional sources of nutrients.
- Dean, Marlin. n.d. “The Effect of Hypervitaminosis a and Other Dietary Factors on the Young Pig.” https://lib.dr.iastate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=4833&context=rtd.
- “DIET | Wheekcare.” 2015. Wheekcare. 2015. https://www.wheekcare.org/diet.
- “Feeding Guinea Pigs.” 2021. Vca_corporate. 2021. https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/guinea-pigs-feeding.
- “Guinea Pig Feeding.” 2021. The Humane Society of the United States. 2021. https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/guinea-pig-feeding.
- National Research Council (US) Subcommittee on Laboratory Animal Nutrition. 2021. “Nutrient Requirements of the Guinea Pig.” Nih.gov. National Academies Press (US). 2021. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK231932/.
- Perry, Leonard. 2021. “Interesting Cool Crops.” Uvm.edu. 2021. https://pss.uvm.edu/ppp/articles/cabbage.html.
- Ware, Megan. 2020. “What Are the Health Benefits of Kale?” Medicalnewstoday.com. Medical News Today. January 17, 2020. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/270435.
Can guinea pigs eat kale? What are your thoughts about it? Please share below!
Barry Stingmore is a British content writer living in Fuerteventura, Spain. An animal lover at heart, he shares his home with a dog and four rescue cats and has a passion for writing about animals big and small.
Barry loves finding answers to your animal-related questions, the more research involved the better! You can rely on him to find the facts.