Although guinea pigs can eat catnip, current research shows that catnip provides no nutritional value to your cavy. Catnip contains nepetalactone, a chemical cats react to, but guinea pigs do not. Catnip isn’t a staple in a cat’s diet and should not be one in your cavy’s, either.
Guinea pigs love vegetables. This is an undeniable truth. However, as pet owners, we frequently pity their limited diet and wish to offer them more variety. For the sake of convenience and to save money, you might want to consider growing your own vegetables. However, it’s important to select vegetables and plants that will work towards the health benefit of your cavy.
If you’re considering growing herbs for your guinea pig, you may have noticed the small catnip planters at your local pet store. These planters are usually either catnip or wheatgrass, meant to stimulate your feline friends… but is it ok for guinea pigs to eat catnip?
It’s Better to Be Safe Than Sorry
Though catnip is easy to grow and convenient to harvest, some risks come with feeding it to your guinea pig. There is a high level of uncertainty concerning catnip’s effect on guinea pig biology, but there are also a few known facts about the herb that are worth mentioning.
First, catnip is highly fragrant and filled with powerful chemicals that can severely affect your cavy’s stomach. Scientists have limited knowledge of what specifically causes this irritation, but it’s best to be avoided altogether.
Your guinea pig may exhibit the same hunger and fighting spirit when exposed to catnip as they do to their regular vegetables, but they should not be allowed to eat it. Many great veggies with nutritional benefits (like kale, parsley, green leaf lettuce, and peppers) serve as perfect alternatives to catnip and other potentially harmful herbs.
As a rule of thumb, sticking to commonly fed veggies will ensure a long and healthy life for your pet.
How Catnip Can Benefit Your Garden
While catnip is not a vegetable, it can be grown alongside plants in your garden. Catnip has proven to be a reliable and natural pesticide, preventing bugs and parasites from ruining your precious harvests.
Furthermore, growing collard greens for your guinea pigs would be difficult with mosquitoes, flies, and other pests laying eggs and chewing holes in them. It almost guaranteed you a bountiful, delicious harvest with catnip planted alongside your veggies.
Growing your own garden is also cheaper and more convenient in the long run if you have the space available. We recommend either trying this method or buying veggies from local farms!
Will My Guinea Pig React to Catnip?
Guinea pigs love veggies almost as much as they love you. But can they tell the difference between nutritional versus non-nutritional vegetables?
No, they can’t. Which is why it’s important for you to know what should and shouldn’t go into your cavy’s mouth.
They may like the texture and flavor, but they don’t know what can cause them potential harm. So, while they might eat anything you give them, they also might suffer severe health consequences later.
Catnip is an herb-type plant containing the chemical nepetalactone, famous for making cats go bonkers.
However, you’ll be disappointed to hear that this chemical has zero effect on guinea pigs. If there is no entertaining effect nor any nutritional benefit from feeding your cavy catnip, why do it?
It’s also important to note that cats don’t eat catnip the way guinea pigs eat vegetables. This is why catnip is typically sold in “spice” form, dried, and minced in a plastic container (not fresh).
The scent of the chemical is what cats react to, not the taste.
Healthy Alternatives to Catnip
While catnip can technically be fed to guinea pigs, it’s recommended you don’t for the reasons mentioned above. However, don’t be discouraged! There are alternatives to catnip that both cats and guinea pigs can enjoy without the potential health risks.
Wheatgrass is one such alternative to catnip, as it can be grown similarly and harvested quickly. You can find wheatgrass at local grocery stores and some pet stores. Wheatgrass contains vitamins, minerals, and enzymes that will make your guinea pig very happy. Your pet will also enjoy the flavor and health benefits supplied by the herb.
Because of the nutritional value of wheatgrass, guinea pigs can eat it daily without a problem. It contributes to the much-needed calcium and magnesium and provides rich proteins in your cavy’s diet. Wheatgrass is a wonderful alternative to catnip and much healthier!
Silvervine or Silverbeets
Cavy’s and felines alike also enjoy the flavorful indulgence of the silverbeet. It provides nutritional value and a different flavor profile that will surely excite them.
Other alternatives include mint, carrot tops, thyme, basil, oregano, and arugula. To be safe, always make sure you aren’t feeding your guinea pig a toxic herb and that when you give them these flavorful treats, it is in moderation.
Do What’s Best For Your Guinea Pig
Guinea pigs are already very entertaining creatures, with their characteristic “pop-corning” and delightful “wheeking.”
Though a hyper-active pig under the influence of catnip would be a sight to behold, it isn’t worth the risk to your pet’s health, and you’ll be disappointed in the end.
We mentioned that feeding catnip to your cavy is technically ok, maybe once, or if you’ve already given some to your pet. However, with all the tasty and healthy alternatives, why introduce something that might decrease the quality of life of your guinea pig?
We hope that as you weigh your options, you think about the health and happiness of your pet. The next time you make a visit to the pet or grocery store, consider checking for wheatgrass, silverbeet, or another safe option instead of potentially toxic herbs. Your guinea pig will thank you later!