Though Guinea pigs are wonderful and small pets but they require a lot of care and attention. In order to keep them healthy you need to follow specific care. If you can provide them healthy food, good space, attention and veterinary care, then they will be happy and can live up to 5yrs on average.
This article going to help you with guinea pigs care for new pet owners. We are going to mention some basics of caring for cavies and things you should know about them. Now, let’s jump straight to the beginner’s guide for guinea pig care.
How to Care for a Guinea Pig?
As Guinea pigs are herbivores, you need to give them ideal diet which meets their specific nutritional needs.
Hay makes up about 75% of their daily diet. It is the most important part of their diet. Cavies need grass to gnaw because their front teeth are continuously growing. Grass hays are abrasive to their teeth so it will keep them from growing too long. Cavies need something to graze on at all times otherwise their digestive tracts can shut down that is why Hay is very essential for their digestive system as it keeps the intestinal tract moving at normal speed.
You can provide timothy, bluegrass hay, or orchard grass to guinea pigs older than 6 months. Alfalfa hay is high calcium so it should only be fed to guinea pigs who are 6 months and younger.
Pellets for Vitamin C
Guinea pigs do not produce vitamin C on their own. That is why, it is extremely important to give them enough vitamin C hence pellets can fulfil this need. Do not feed your pet pellets that are for rabbits or other small animals because it doesn’t contain enough vitamin C. Also vitamin C deteriorates very quickly so make sure to buy new products batches always.
You should feed alfalfa pellets only to pregnant and babies 6 months and under. For guinea pigs older than 6 months, you should feed timothy based pellets. Always look for pellets that do not contain any kind of seeds, coloured pieces, dried fruit, corn, etc. to prevent choking. They must be plain and simple.
There is also another option of giving your pet vitamin C i.e. orange juice. You can simple add some juice in water but make sure to change the water at least twice a day.
Veggies and fruits
You can offer up to one cup of veggies daily to your pet. But be sure to check the nutritional value of the vegetable as many of them contains a lot calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin A. too much of vitamins and minerals can upset your pets stomach or may even result in diarrhea which can be fatal. To avoid this problem, you can get a safe list of veggies and fruits from trustworthy online source or your local vet.
Provide your pet with fresh fruits and vegetables that contains vitamin C. Green leafy veggies like green lettuce, celery, cucumber, carrots, celery, little bit broccoli, small amount of spinach and pod-peas are great options. Fruits like strawberries, apple, grapes or other seasonal fruits can be given in small quantity only. Fruits contain sugar and acids, that is why limited quantity is better.
You can divide the portion of veggies in 2-3 servings instead of a one big meal as they are grazing animals and prefer to eat throughout the day.
Guinea Pig – Foods to Avoid
There are still some foods that are not good for your small pet. Let’s check them out.
- Any plant items that have been treated with pesticides.
- Anything with glue, varnishes, paints or dyes.
- Dairy (including yogurt, cheese, kefir, sour cream, cream cheese, and cottage cheese).
- Iceberg lettuce and lighter lettuces can cause severe diarrhea.
- Rhubarb or any plants high in oxalic acids,
- The meat of any kind (this includes dog food, cat food or ferret food).
- Tomato leaves or stalks are toxic (tomatoes themselves are fine).
- Any plastic toy.
- Chocolate or candy.
How to set up for a Guinea Pig? – Cage setup, Cleaning & Maintenance
Mainly there two type of cages you can consider: Indoor & Outdoor cages
Guinea pigs can be housed in cages that are made of wire, plastic, glass, or steel. You can select from the pet store but make sure that you get an appropriate cage for your guinea pigs. Now for a single guinea pig 7.5 sq. ft. of space is ideal but for two guinea pigs 9-11 sq. ft. will be fine. however bigger setup is always better.
Make sure the bottom of the cage is solid and not wired one as it is much safer. If it is wired, then cover it with a solid surface. If walls of the cage are 12″-14″ high then you don’t need to cover the cage but in case you have kids, you may consider a lid so that they don’t throw something in the cage. If you are using multi-level cages, take precautions as fall from higher than 6” can injure your pet’s feet or legs. Elderly guinea pigs should be kept in flat cages.
Find a suitable location that is away from noise, stress, and excitement for the cage. You should consider a separate room or corner in the house which is well ventilated and has frequent traffic. Avoid direct sunlight, cold damp areas, garages with cars, and hot temperatures. However, you should expose your pet to sunlight for 30 minutes or less regularly for health benefits.
You should provide your pet with 1.5-2 inches of bedding which is clean, no-toxic, absorbent, and dust-free. Some of the beddings can be wood shavings (aspen/kiln-dried), shredded paper, commercial pellets, processed ground corn cob, or fleece bedding.
Never use cedar chips for bedding as it can cause respiratory problems. Saw dust should also be avoided.
You can go for outdoor cages if you live in a great climatic condition. Avoid keeping it in direct sunlight, facing straight oncoming icy winds and rain. In outdoor cages your pet can enjoy fresh green grass and cleaning is no problem as their droppings makes a great fertilizer.
Ensure that the cage is heavy so that predators cannot lift them or turn it over.
Food dish: It can be a small bowl so that food will not get spilled or have dirt in it.
Water bottle: Get a water bottle that doesn’t leak, easy to clean and hangs on the cage wall.
Hutches/mini caves: Guinea pigs are tiny and can’t defend themselves so they tend to hide all the time. They are easily scared so you need to provide them a small place to hide.
Cleaning & Maintenance
Cleanliness of the cage is extremely important. If you don’t do this, then your pet can get very sick.
- For paper bedding or wood shavings, make sure to change it once or twice a week depending on the humidity and its odour.
- For fleece bedding, spot clean it daily and do a full cage clean once in a week at least.
- Wipe or clean inside of the cage with 50:50 ratio of distilled vinegar and water to kill germs and odors. You can also buy a disinfectant spray for the cage.
- Also wipe the floor of the cage with disinfectant and then put the bedding back in.
- Wash food dish, water bottle, hiding sacks and toy if your pet has one.
How to keep your Guinea Pig Healthy?
Cavies are very social animals and live n herds or groups in the wild. Daily interaction of you with your guinea pigs is essential for their health. You can talk to them, cuddle them, or keep them on your lap. Spend some quality time with your pet and play with them.
It is always recommended that you should buy guinea pigs in pairs as they do well in companionship of another guinea pig. Your pet can develop depression like symptoms (appetite loss, inactive, etc.) if it’s not bonded with appropriately.
Give your pet some floor time each day. Let them loose in a safe area so that they can run, play and be happy. Give them safe toys and tunnels in play area and keep them under supervision. You can also train your guinea pigs as they are very smart. Training like standing on their hind legs, spinning, or jump can be very helpful in your pet’s overall well-being.
- Keep your guinea pigs away from rabbits as they carry bacteria that can make your pet very ill. Rabbits are strong and bigger comparatively so even a playful kick can kill guinea pig.
- Measure your guinea pigs weight weekly. If you see fluctuations in weight of up to 2 ounces its normal but more can signify some serious problem.
- Watch for sign of illness as it can prevent from getting things very serious.
Guinea Pig Grooming & Personal Care
Brushing: If you have a longhaired breed, you have to brush your pet frequently so that there no knots. Brushing can help you ensure that your pet has no lice.
Nail trimming: You can trim nails depending on the growth. Usually once or twice a month is sufficient.
Bathing: Guinea pigs don’t need bathing very much so avoid doing it frequently. Too much bathing can upset their natural body processes. If it’s hot outside, use normal temperature water for bathing. Use only shampoo that is for small pets.
Personal care: check your male guinea pig’s genital area as it can become impacted. You should clean the area with cotton swab.
How to handle Guinea Pig? – For Beginners
Although guinea pigs are small animals, you should be careful while picking them up. Always use your both hands to pick your pet placing one hand under the chest and other one supporting the bottom. Bring your little guy against your chest to make it feel secured. You should always support their backbone as its delicate while picking them up.
You can slowly start petting your guinea pig once it gets comfortable. Usually they like to be petted on head and love chin or chest rubs. Sometimes when they gets too excited they do “Popcorning” so it’s a good sign.
When to visit the vet?
Guinea pigs don’t require any type of vaccinations. Proper diet, good mental health, and cleanliness can keep health problems away, but you should consult the vet if you notice these symptoms in your pet:
- Overgrown front teeth
- Poor coat, open sores or any type of skin problem.
- Lumps or unusual growth.
- Trouble in breathing
- Lack of appetite
- Sore feet.
Now that you know all about caring, your little furry friend wont be in any trouble if you follow the above advice. You will learn a lot more about guinea pigs while taking care of them. They are so adorable animals that you will fall in love with them and you wont regret getting a guinea pig.