Timothy Hay vs Meadow Hay – What is the difference between Timothy Hay and Meadow Hay?

We all know that hay is essential to Guinea pigs’ dental and digestive health.

But how much do we know about the types of hay that we feed?

Today we are examining the basic differences between Timothy Hay and Meadow Hay.



A perennial grass, Phleum pratense, of temperate regions, having erect stiff stems and cylindrical flower spikes: grown for hay and pasture.

Collins English Dictionary. Copyright © HarperCollins Publishers

Timothy Hay

  • Timothy Hay is made from Timothy Grass.
  • Timothy Grass is a tall stalky grass characterised by its furry ‘cat-tails’ and broad leaves.

Details Showing bulbous base and brown leaf sheaths Prof. Dr. Otto Wilhelm Thomé Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz 1885, Gera, Germany. Public domain.

  • It is said to be named after Timothy Hanson, a farmer who introduced Timothy Hay to the southern states of the US.
  • Up until reasonably recently it was quite unusual to find bags of Timothy Hay in UK pet shops.
  • The Timothy Hay you could find was imported and rather expensive.
  • Fortunately, in recent years Timothy Hay has become far more readily available in the UK.
  • Due to it’s stalkiness Timothy Hay is particularly high in fibre.
  • Timothy Hay is probably the best choice if you (or your pigs) desire a uniformed stalky consistency but does tend to remain slightly more expensive.




An area of grassland, often used for hay or for grazing of animals

Collins English Dictionary. Copyright © HarperCollins Publishers

Meadow hay

  • Meadow Hay mainly consists of native soft stemmed pasture grasses.
  • Containing more leaf than Timothy; Meadow hay tends to have a softer overall texture.
  • Some Meadow hay contains edible plants other than grass.
  • This can include plants such as dandelions, thistles, daisies and even cornflowers.


  • Some Guinea Pigs love these added extras whereas others look at them as inconvenient alien invaders, best left ignored.
  • If you are fortunate to live near farmland, you may be able to purchase large (about 15kg) bales of Meadow Hay for the price of a bag of “pet hay”.
  • This is great news if you have a lot of Guinea Pigs (and the space to store a bale!).
  • However; to get the best quality for your Guinea Pigs ensure you ask for “horse” hay, not “cattle” hay.
  • Meadow hay is less predictable in content than Timothy but being softer makes it far more pleasant to forage and/or make into a bed.

So which is best?

  • I personally feel that both Meadow and Timothy hays are great choices to feed Guinea Pigs.
  • Both provide vital fibre for digestion and lots of chewing opportunities to keep open-rooted teeth in good health.
  • From reading and reviewing a fair amount of hay; I’ve noticed the following hay facts regardless of type:
  1. The greener the hay is, the higher the levels of calcium and vitamin C are.
  2. The browner and stalkier the hay is, the higher the levels of fibre and vitamin D are.
  3. 1st cut hay tends to be stalkier and harder than 2nd cut. This is because spring conditions lead to thicker stems/stalks.
  4. 2nd cut hay is softer and leafier.
  5. Colour is largely decided by drying process. Many commercial hays are now rapidly dried to retain colour.
  • The nutritional content is generally only relevant if you know that your Guinea Pigs have a particular problem. E.g. If they are prone to bladder sludge they may benefit from a low calcium hay.
  • The overall quality of the hay, is; in my option, far more important than the type of hay.
  • I want the Squidgypigs‘ hay to be clean, not mouldy and with minimal dust.
  • When buying pet hay this should be a minimal standard, not a privilege.
  • However, with these requirements in mind; as long as any potential hay meets this requirement I am happy to feed it to the Squidgypigs.
  • I believe that feeding a variety of good quality feeding hay is beneficial because it prevents boredom and pickiness.

  • Whether you choose to feed Meadow Hay or Timothy Hay; the most important thing you can do is feed a hay suited to the needs and requirements of your Guinea Pigs.


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