Cilantro, also known as coriander, is a strong-smelling herb used in many dishes. It packs a punch in the nutrient department, and it’s very rich in antioxidants. But can guinea pigs eat cilantro too, and do they even like it?
As a general rule, cilantro is safe to feed guinea pigs 2-3 times a week. It is one of the best herbs for piggies with the variety of vitamins and minerals it contains.
Cilantro is an excellent choice for a staple green in your guinea pig’s diet. But there are some potential risks you should be aware of first.
For example, you should not feed coriander to injured or pregnant guinea pigs as it can increase the risk of bleeding.
It also contains some calcium that can be problematic in large amounts. Read on for the best practices and frequency to feed this delicious herb to your piggy.
You can also check out the Guinea Pig Food Chart for an alphabetical list of everything your piggy can eat and how often they can have it, along with calcium and Vitamin C levels for each food.
*Important Note: The quantity of cilantro shown in the photos is for visual purposes only and not indicative of the correct amount to feed your guinea pig in one serving.
Nutritional Value of Cilantro for Guinea Pigs
Cilantro contains a wide variety of vitamins and minerals for piggies. I’ll list the nutritional facts per 100 grams of cilantro in the table below:
|Nutrient||Amount (per 100g)|
|Vitamin C||27 mg|
|Vitamin A||6750 IU|
|Vitamin K||310 µg|
Benefits of Feeding Cilantro to Guinea Pigs
As you can see in the table above, cilantro is rich in many vitamins and minerals, most notably Vitamins A, K, and potassium. These nutrients and others have a lot of benefits to offer when included in your guinea pig’s menu, which I’ll cover below.
Cilantro is An Excellent Source of Vitamins and Minerals
Cilantro is closely related to parsley, carrots, and celery. This herb is very nutrient-dense while being comparatively low in sugar and calories. It’s a good source of fiber, and it contains Vitamins A, C, E, and K.
Vitamin C is particularly crucial in your guinea pig’s diet, as they cannot manufacture this nutrient independently. Vitamin C boosts the immune system and prevents deficiency-related diseases like scurvy.
Coriander is a reasonable source of Vitamin C. According to the USDA food database, it has about 5.4mg of this vitamin in 9 sprigs of cilantro and 27mg per 100 grams.
This is similar to spinach but much less than kale, bell peppers, or other Vitamin C rich foods. However, it does contain more Vitamin C than many commonly fed fruits and veggies like lettuce, cucumbers, blueberries, or apples.
Additionally, cilantro contains some iron, magnesium, and potassium. Magnesium plays many essential roles in the body, including bone strength, turning food into energy, creating and repairing DNA, and regulating muscle and nerve function. Every cell in the body uses magnesium, and therefore, it is crucial in many bodily functions.
Potassium and iron are very beneficial as well. Potassium helps to regulate fluid in the body and keep the heartbeat regular. It also plays a role in muscle and nerve function. The body uses iron to produce hemoglobin and myoglobin, proteins that carry oxygen to all parts of the body.
Cilantro May Improve Memory, Reduce Inflammation, and More
Cilantro is also highly effective at lowering blood sugar, which reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes. It contains some anti-inflammatory properties as well, which may make it beneficial for senior guinea pigs with inflammation such as arthritis.
It can also be effective as a natural appetite stimulant. This herb also contains antimicrobial compounds that may help fight certain infections.
Coriander leaves even have the potential to improve memory based on a lab study with mice.
Cilantro is Very Antioxidant-Rich
In addition, coriander is a rich source of antioxidants. These compounds target and neutralize excess free radicals in the body that damage cells. When free radicals get out of control, they cause oxidative stress, which increases the risk of many chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and faster aging. Providing plenty of fruits and veggies containing antioxidants is a great way to reduce this risk.
Risks of Feeding Your Guinea Pig Cilantro
While cilantro has a lot of great benefits for guinea pigs, there are a few drawbacks and risks to be aware of before adding this leafy herb to your guinea pig’s menu.
Cilantro is High in Calcium
Cilantro is reasonably high in calcium at 67mg per 100 grams. However, it is one of the lowest calcium herbs you can feed your guinea pig. It’s also lower than many other leafy green vegetables.
Too much calcium can contribute to bladder stone formation, so it’s important to know how much calcium your guinea pig is consuming.
However, cilantro has a good calcium-to-phosphorus ratio, making the risk of developing stones lower. It is also low in oxalates, which further reduces the risk of stones. This makes it safe to feed cilantro to healthy guinea pigs more often than other herbs.
However, cilantro is still relatively high in calcium and it can cause stones if fed in excess. You likely want to avoid this leafy herb if your guinea pig has had previous instances with stones or bladder sludge. I’ve had a piggy who was prone to stones, and she developed new stones by only eating a couple of stems of cilantro once a week.
Cilantro Can Affect Blood Clotting
Coriander has also been known to reduce blood clotting and increase the risk of bleeding. For this reason, it’s best not to feed it to pregnant or injured piggies.
Also, avoid giving it to guinea pigs going in for surgery or recovering from one. It is perfectly safe to feed cilantro to most average healthy guinea pigs.
Bad Reactions to Cilantro
Like with other foods, there is always a chance that your guinea pig is allergic or has a bad reaction to cilantro. This is rare, but it’s always important to introduce new foods gradually and keep an eye on your guinea pig in case they have an adverse reaction.
How Often Can Guinea Pigs Eat Cilantro?
Guinea pigs can eat 4-5 cilantro sprigs 2-3 times a week. Cilantro makes a great staple food in your piggy’s diet, but it’s essential to feed it alongside some low-calcium foods to ensure they get a good balance of nutrients.
Guinea pigs should not eat cilantro every day due to its calcium content. While the calcium is lower than many other greens, it is still too high to be feeding it daily.
Do Guinea Pigs Like Cilantro?
Coriander has a strong smell that guinea pigs will either love or hate. However, most guinea pigs seem to love the taste once they get past the smell. It also has a tempting leafy texture that guinea pigs are especially drawn towards.
Some piggies have sensitive noses that may stop them in their tracks before they even think about tasting it. Some may even be spooked by the pungent odor and hide from the new food! If this is your guinea pig, try offering them cilantro multiple times.
I’ve had a couple of guinea pigs that refused to go near cilantro at first due to the overwhelming scent but discovered they loved it once they gained the courage to start nibbling on it. Guinea pigs will sometimes change their minds once the smell becomes more familiar to them.
If you’ve tried offering this leafy herb multiple times and your piggies just aren’t interested, that’s fine too. All guinea pigs have their own preferences, just like people. Some other foods you can try are strawberries, watermelon, endive, zucchini, dill, celery, or radicchio.
Can Guinea Pigs Eat Cilantro Stems?
Cilantro stems are safe to feed your guinea pig. Each stem with leaves from a cilantro bunch is referred to as a sprig of cilantro. Guinea pigs are usually happy to eat the entire sprig, stems and all.
Can Guinea Pigs Eat Cilantro Flowers?
It is safe to feed cilantro flowers to guinea pigs. Most parts of cilantro are edible, but it’s best to avoid giving the roots or seeds, as seeds pose a choking risk, and roots are unknown for their effects on guinea pigs. Ensure that any cilantro flowers you feed your guinea pig are grown in your garden or otherwise known to be free of pesticides.
Can Baby Guinea Pigs Eat Cilantro?
Cilantro contains some calcium and Vitamin C, which is beneficial for growing guinea pigs. However, it’s crucial to introduce herbs in small amounts to young guinea pigs as the essential oils can sometimes cause digestive upset.
Start by giving your baby guinea pig (over four weeks old) a few cilantro leaves, or let them nibble on a sprig a bit. Offer another little bit after a day or two.
Gradually increase this amount over time. As baby guinea pigs reach 3-4 months old, they can eat most of the same foods that adults can.
Growing Your Own Cilantro For Guinea Pigs
Cilantro is very easy to grow in planters on a balcony, windowsill, or in the garden, making it an excellent choice for someone new to growing produce.
Coriander can thrive in small spaces and provide a great source of organic herbs for you and your piggies.
It’s also a great way to save money if your guinea pigs really love cilantro. You can grow these herbs by seed earlier in the season or purchase some small started plants at a garden center in the spring to get started faster.
How to Prepare and Feed Cilantro to Your Guinea Pig
To feed cilantro to your guinea pig, start by selecting some green, healthy-looking sprigs. Throw away any leaves that are rotting or yellowed. Rinse the sprigs thoroughly under cool water to remove any traces of dirt, pesticides, tiny bugs, or eggs.
If your guinea pig has never tried cilantro, introduce one sprig at first to give their body time to adapt to the new food. You can offer it by hand or leave it in the cage to investigate at their own pace. Be sure to check back and remove any uneaten food after a few hours, so it doesn’t go bad in the cage.
Sometimes guinea pigs take a bit of time to adapt and try a new type of food, especially a strong-smelling herb like cilantro, so if they don’t eat it right away, try it for a few more days.
It also often helps to give the new veggie separately from their regular vegetables (i.e., cilantro in the morning, regular veggies at night.) Guinea pigs are often more willing to try something if they have fewer options.
Observe your guinea pig for several hours after they try the new food. As long as there’s no diarrhea or odd behavior, you can gradually increase the amount of cilantro next time.
More Fruits and Vegetables That Guinea Pigs Can Eat
For a complete list of all the fruits and vegetables that guinea pigs can eat, check out our article, Complete List of Safe Foods for Guinea Pigs.