Can Guinea Pigs Eat Pine Cones? Are They Safe?

Guinea pigs in the wild and pet guinea pigs avoid eating pine cones because they have other delicacies that they can consume in their place. Furthermore, unlike gray squirrels, guinea pigs can’t access the nut in pine cones because of its scaly layers.

It’s also worth noting that pine cones can cause constipation and gastrointestinal problems in guinea pigs if consumed.

One of my friends has several guinea pigs as pets, and she keeps them in a hutch in her garden.

According to her, the challenge she faces is to keep her guinea pigs busy and active.

One day I saw her repurposing pine cones to build toys for her guinea pigs to play with, and when I asked her if the scales on the cones could be harmful to the rodents, she replied that it depends on how you give them to the animal.

Intrigued by her answer, I decided to explore more, and here is the information I gathered.

Do guinea pigs chew pine cones?

A guinea pig may chew on the pine cone scales from time to time but after it gets a taste of how bitter it is, the rodent will be mindful of nibbling on it.

Can guinea pigs eat pine cones?

guinea pig

Pine cones do not fall under the usual food of guinea pigs in the wild because the scales on these brown cones act as a deterrent.

Moreover, the saponins in the pine cones can prove dangerous for these rodents. Hence, you will find that guinea pigs avoid consuming pine cones in the wild.

They have evolved the sense to avoid food that can prove dangerous. Moreover, unlike rabbits and squirrels, guinea pigs cannot access the seeds inside the pine cones.

Therefore, pine cones are nearly inedible to guinea pigs.

Why should guinea pigs bred in captivity never be given pine cones?

Guinea pigs bred in captivity should never be given pine cones.

Guinea pigs are curious animals, and since most are bred in captivity, they do not learn how to avoid naturally dangerous food.

Giving them pine cones to chew on can be dangerous.

Are pine cones toxic to guinea pigs?

Saponins irritate the membranes of the digestive tract and respiratory tracts. The membranes can even get damaged due to the saponins.

As a result, the rodent can go into a toxic shock, which can be fatal.

If consumed, pine cones can also lead to constipation and gastrointestinal issues in guinea pigs.

For additional guidance regarding the types of food that may be toxic to guinea pigs, you should reach out to your local veterinarian.

What are the symptoms of your guinea pig suffering from a toxic shock from a pine cone?

If your guinea pig shows signs such as increased lethargy, nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting, then there is a chance that your pet is suffering from a toxic shock from eating a pine cone.

The first thing you should do in such a scenario removes the cone from the hutch and take your pet to the veterinarian.

However, do not discard the cone as the vet might want to check the cone’s condition and ascertain whether the toxic shock has been caused by the pine cone or something else.

If pine cones are dangerous, how come some pet owners give these to their guinea pigs?

This is surprising because I have seen my friends giving pine cones to their guinea pigs as toys.

You, too, can do it, but you must be extra careful. First, you need to remove the scales from the cone and also the seeds from the cone.

Then, once you have the smooth cone, you need to heat it to remove the essential oils and other chemicals like paint.

This is especially true if you use a pine cone as a Christmas decoration.

Finally, you must wrap the cone in a suitable material like microsuede or denim for your guinea pig. Then you can let your pet play with the cone.

Do you have to chemically cure the pine cone to make it a toy for your guinea pig?

The answer to this question is yes. Suppose you plan to convert a pine cone into a toy for your guinea pig; you must chemically cure it of any pesticides it may have.

Here is what you need to do:

  • Mix one teaspoon of baking soda with two cups of water for two minutes.
  • Place the pine cone into the mixed solution and spin for 30 seconds (you want to do this fast to rid the cone of any chemicals because the scales shut tight when it gets wet).
  • Keep the pine cone submerged in the mixed solution for 3 mins
  • Rinse the brown cone in tap water
  • Next, you should place the cone in a ventilated area to dry it off

This is necessary to strip the cone of essential oils or harmful chemicals.

If you do this, you will not have to wrap the cone in any material suitable for the guinea pig to chew.

Instead, you can easily give a smooth and clean cone for the guinea pig to chew on and play with.

Can guinea pigs eat pine needles?

Guinea pigs shouldn’t be given pine needles because they can injure the rodents’ mouths.

Moreover, pine needles do not provide any nutrition to guinea pigs.

They have a robust phenol-based aroma which can cause respiratory problems in the guinea pigs in the long run.

So even if the guinea pigs don’t eat the needles, inhaling the fumes can be dangerous.

What should you do if your guinea pig has consumed pine needles?

First, you should not panic as it will not help your pet.

Secondly, If it has taken a few bites of a pine needle, you need not worry; your pet will not suffer any adverse effects.

However, suppose your pet guinea pig is still young, and you are observing a change in its behavior like it has become lethargic. In that case, you need to take your pet to the veterinarian immediately.

Should you keep your pet guinea pig away from Christmas decorations?

The simple answer to this question is yes. Even if you use organic decorations, items like pine cones and pine needles commonly used in holiday decorations can harm your pet because they see them as chew toys.

Guinea pigs are naturally curious and will chew on anything they think is edible. As a result, they can fall ill from the paint or artificial material on the pine cone.

Hence, you should keep your pets away from Christmas decorations and avoid decorating guinea pig hutches with pine cones.

Can dried pine straw be used as bedding for guinea pig hutches?

If you are thinking about your Christmas decorations and want to use pine needles as bedding for the hutches of your guinea pigs, then you should avoid it; when pine needles are dried, they become sharp and brittle.

Unknowingly, your pet guinea pig might chew on these needles, which can become a choking hazard.

You will find that the best bedding material for your guinea pig hutches is straw and hay. These are soft, unlike pine needles, and will also be comfortable for your guinea pigs. 

Still curious about other animals that like pine cones? You can check out that article for more information.

Further reading:

Science Direct – Rodents and Pine Cones

National Library of Medicine – Guinea Pigs

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