With cardboard and paper hides available for guinea pigs in stores, it’s common for pet owners to ask if guinea pigs can eat cardboard.
The answer is both yes and no. While some paper and cardboard are safe for your guinea pigs to gnaw on, they should never consume large amounts.
Keep reading to learn what types of cardboard and paper products guinea pigs should never eat.
Can Guinea Pigs Eat Paper?
Guinea pigs can eat some types of paper. Paper products are mostly plant-based, so most paper products aren’t dangerous for guinea pigs to eat in small quantities.
Eating paper products is not nutritionally beneficial to guinea pigs, but that doesn’t mean that paper is entirely unhelpful.
Guinea pigs reap benefits from gnawing on paper, not from consuming it. Guinea pig teeth are constantly growing, so purchasing things that can adequately wear down their teeth is pertinent.
Although paper can help keep piggy teeth short and comfortable, it is important to know that not all types of paper are safe for guinea pigs to eat.
Keep reading to learn which paper guinea pigs can chew and which types they should not.
The Only Reason for Guinea Pigs to Chew Paper Products
While timothy hay does an excellent job of wearing down your piggies’ teeth, for some piggies, hay alone is not alone to keep their teeth short.
If guinea pig teeth get too long, your pets may struggle to eat comfortably. Even if their eating process is slowed only by a fractional amount, there can be dangerous results.
If there is competition from other piggies, your guinea pig may feel stressed to eat enough food before it disappears.
While it is dangerous enough that your guinea pig might be fighting to eat fast enough before the food is gone, the stress in itself can cause a guinea pig to become ill.
For this reason, it’s essential to watch your pets while they eat.
Signs that your guinea pig’s teeth might be too long include:
- Struggling to hold food in their mouths while eating
- Weight loss
- A slower eating pace
- Red gums
- Irregular stool
If you notice any of these signs or suspect your guinea pig’s teeth are abnormally long, make sure to take your guinea pig to a veterinarian to have them examined.
Guinea pigs with overgrown teeth may need teeth trimmings performed by an exotic vet if the length of their teeth is interfering with their health.
To keep your piggy from having overgrown teeth and spending a lot of money for expensive vet visits, giving your guinea pigs things to chew like paper may be okay.
Dangers of Eating Paper
Not all papers are safe for guinea pigs to eat, and guinea pigs should never be allowed to consume large amounts of paper.
Papers with inks or dyes should not be given to guinea pigs since they can be toxic. Paper products with any adhesive or a gloss finish should not be given to guinea pigs to chew.
If you give your guinea pigs paper, monitor them carefully to ensure that they are chewing but aren’t swallowing large portions of the paper.
As a rule, if your guinea pig is swallowing more than they are chewing and spitting out, then the paper is not safe to leave with them in their cage and should be removed.
Guinea pigs who eat too much paper may experience various digestive issues, including irregular stool, difficulty passing bowel movements, and intestinal obstructions.
If paper isn’t the right chew option for your guinea pigs, don’t worry! Applewood and cherrywood sticks make excellent chewing options for cavies, and they can be found at your local pet stores.
Can Guinea Pigs Eat Cardboard?
Guinea pigs can eat cardboard if given to them in the right conditions.
Like paper, cardboard is typically composed of plant-based products which aren’t inherently dangerous to guinea pigs.
However, this doesn’t mean all types of cardboard are safe for guinea pigs, or that guinea pigs should eat large amounts of cardboard.
Cardboard is not nutritionally beneficial to guinea pigs, and it should not be seen as a food item. Like paper, cardboard can be used as a tool for your guinea pigs to gnaw.
Gnawing on cardboard helps piggies keep their teeth short, and it can be an entertaining activity.
Making your guinea pig homemade cardboard hides can be a great way to save money and give your guinea pigs something new to play with.
Types of Cardboard to Avoid
If you plan to make your own cardboard chews and hides, it’s important to know what cardboard you shouldn’t use.
Don’t give your pets cardboard to chew if it has any of the following qualities:
Inks and Dyes
Many cardboard boxes today have product images on the outside. Cardboard containing inks or dyes may have toxic chemicals that guinea pigs should not consume.
Plastics and Glues
It’s common for cardboard boxes to have plastic coverings on top or glues to hold them together. Guinea pigs should not chew on any parts of cardboard that have adhesive or plastic on them.
Wet or Stained
These can be dangerous for guinea pigs for multiple reasons.
If the liquid that had contact with the cardboard is unknown, it is impossible to say if it is toxic or contains any bacteria that might be unsafe for guinea pigs.
Secondly, wet or stained cardboard can begin to mold or mildew. Mold and mildew should never be anywhere near a guinea pig cage.
Guinea pigs have susceptible respiratory systems, and introducing mold or mildew to their habitat can cause dangerous upper respiratory diseases that are frequently life-threatening for cavies.
It is crucial to ensure that there wasn’t anything dangerous held previously inside the cardboard before giving it to your guinea pigs.
Cardboard that previously held fragrant objects like candles, cleaning supplies, or essential oils are unsafe for guinea pigs.
Equally, guinea pigs should not be offered cardboard that may have held shattered glass or similar objects.
Dangers of Eating Cardboard
In stores, you may see cardboard chew toy products for guinea pigs.
Cardboard hides are favorite piggy options available on the market, and many often come with hay or treats inside.
Guinea pigs are curious creatures that like toys and hides to entertain them. These cardboard hides help to add stimulation to their day and prevent boredom.
Although these toys are usually safe for guinea pigs, it still isn’t advised for your guinea pigs to eat large quantities of cardboard.
Verify that your guinea pigs are primarily gnawing on their cardboard toys and not eating them.
If you suspect that your guinea pigs are predominately eating their cardboard toys instead of chewing them, safely remove them from their cage.
Guinea pigs that eat too much cardboard can experience similar symptoms to over-eating paper.
If you notice your guinea pig is passing irregular stool or is having difficulty passing stool, call your veterinarian immediately.
If guinea pigs eat too much cardboard, it may accumulate and create an intestinal obstruction.
Signs Your Guinea Pig May Have an Intestinal Obstruction
Guinea pigs who have intestinal blockages can be in extreme danger, and it’s necessary to get them veterinary help as soon as possible.
Signs of intestinal obstructions include:
- Unwillingness to move
- Bloated and extended abdomen
- Teeth grinding
- Absence of bowel movements
- Severe abdomen pain
Guinea pigs with intestinal obstructions will need emergency medical care, and the obstruction will have to be surgically removed.
Surgery for guinea pigs is extremely dangerous as anesthesia is hard on their small bodies, and many guinea pigs don’t survive the anesthesia alone.
Surgical treatment for guinea pigs can be costly because they are exotic pets, so it is even more imperative that pet owners avoid feeding their pets any items which may cause intestinal obstructions.
How Can Guinea Pigs Safely Enjoy Cardboard?
If your guinea pigs can’t be trusted with cardboard hides in their cage, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t include them in your guinea pigs’ lives.
Cardboard hides make great playthings for guinea pigs during floor-time activities.
Guinea pigs need floor time to run around, stretch their legs, and keep themselves from becoming overly bored.
If your guinea pigs tend to eat rather than chew their cardboard hides, you can monitor their mouthfuls more easily during floor time.
Including fruits, veggies, and hay in their floor time can discourage them from eating the cardboard hides by focusing their attention on some of their favorite snacks.
Using the right paper and cardboard products to create toys and hides for guinea pigs can be a fun and inexpensive way to add variation to your guinea pigs’ daily routines.
To safely let your pets experience these gnawing tools, always monitor your guinea pigs’ cardboard and paper consumption.
When used correctly, cardboard and paper products are entertaining for your piggies and beneficial for their teeth, but always give them to your pets under careful supervision.