Guinea pigs are great animals to have as pets, but they require a good deal of upkeep to keep them healthy and happy. The first and most important thing to know is that guinea pigs should never live alone and should always have a partner or be a part of a herd. They’re very social animals and will get depressed if left alone, which can lead to life-threatening illnesses.
Important to know
Their life span ranges from 4-8 years. They’re very vocal and have a variety of different sounds they make. Guinea pigs are timid, but you can help tame them over time by hand-feeding them their favorite snacks like lettuce or carrots. There are 13 different guinea pig breeds in total. They require 7.5 square feet of space to live comfortably. For each guinea pig, the cage size should increase by 20 percent. Their cage should give them enough room to run or hide for comfort. Always keep your guinea pig’s cage away from any windows and drafts. Their bedding should be natural paper or fleece that wicks moisture away to an absorbent underlayer like towels. GuineaDad brand fleece liners come with a bamboo layer and a vinyl back to stop the liner from any leaks. The bedding should be spot cleaned every day and replaced twice a week. The ideal temperature for a guinea pig is between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures above 75 degrees can cause heat stroke and other heat illnesses. The cage should provide one hiding spot for each guinea pig and toys to keep them entertained and moving around. Ideal toys include toilet paper rolls, cardboard boxes with holes cut out, fleece hideys, wooden chew toys, etc. Never place a guinea pig in an exercise ball or wheel because they have very fragile spines and can injure themselves badly.
Guinea pigs are herbivores and always need an endless supply of timothy hay. They’re constantly eating, so having fresh timothy hay always available allows them to keep their teeth worn down and provides them with the fiber they need to be healthy. Feed a 1/8 cup of timothy pellets daily. Guinea pigs can’t make vitamin C, so make sure their timothy pellets have it and that they’re fed vegetables that supply vitamin C. Guinea pigs require 1 cup of fresh vegetables each every day. Some good vegetables that are safe to give every day are green and red-leaf lettuce, bell peppers, and cucumbers. Some vegetables you can offer 2-3 times a week include carrots, broccoli, kale, spinach, herbs like parsley or cilantro, radicchio, and tomatoes. Fruit should only be fed once a week as a treat because of the sugar content. Safe fruits to offer your guinea pigs can include bananas, apples, berries like strawberries or blueberries, watermelon, and oranges. Guinea pigs should consistently have fresh, clean water.
Guinea pigs are prey animals and will freeze in place or run away if they sense danger or are sick. A way to tell if your guinea pig is ill is if you feed them and they don’t react to your approach with food. A guinea pig’s eyes should be clean and clear, with no bald patches in their fur, have clear and even breathing, and be generally active. Common signs of illness to look out for include weight loss, fur loss, refusing to eat or drink, not moving much, constantly hiding, change in urine or droppings, difficulty breathing, lumps, and any eye or nose discharge. If you see any of these signs, you should contact an exotic veterinarian immediately. When guinea pigs aren’t well, they often hide the illness until it’s too late or they’re very sick. Seeking vet care as soon as possible can save your guinea pig’s life.
They don’t require much maintenance, but guinea pigs need to have their nails cut at least once a month. If you aren’t comfortable cutting your piggies nails, you can always make an appointment at a veterinary office for a small price to cut them. Overall, guinea pigs are clean animals, and you can catch them grooming themselves throughout the day. Most guinea pigs don’t need fur grooming, but the exception would be pigs with long fur, as it can get tangled, dirty, and uncomfortable for them. Typical grooming for a guinea pig with long hair would be daily brushing and trimming fur as often as needed. NEVER bathe your guinea pig unless recommended by your veterinarian for medical reasons. Washing a guinea pig can make them extremely ill and strips its skin of natural oils that keep its coat healthy. If you ever notice bald spots in your guinea pig’s fur, this could be signs of stress, illness, boredom, or overcrowding. Always contact a vet if you notice bald spots in your guinea pig’s fur.
Interacting with your Piggies
If you want to tame your guinea pigs, a trick that can work overtime is hand-feeding them their favorite snack or treat. Taming a guinea pig from a young age can make it easier for the guinea pig because it’ll be more used to you and willing to let you pet or interact with them. Getting a guinea pig to be tame can take a lot of time, so you have to have patience with them because they are prey animals. It’s natural for them to run away or hide. When interacting with them, move slowly and don’t make sudden movements or noises to scare them. Never chase them around the cage. Always hold your guinea pigs with a firm grip and with both hands. One hand should support its bottom and the other around its belly. When you handle your guinea pig, I’d recommend putting a blanket or towel underneath them because they may go to the bathroom on your lap.
Guinea Pigs are basically awesome
They often aren’t the first animal that comes to mind when you think of a pet, but guinea pigs are wonderful pets, and once they’re comfortable with you can show you so much love. Some guinea pigs may even cuddle with you. They’re curious animals, so giving them an hour of free time outside their cage every day will promote that, and it’s another opportunity to try taming them some more. While sitting on the floor, let them go up to you by themselves and offer snacks from your hand, and once they’re more comfortable, you can even try getting them to stand up on you! The key to taming them is getting them to trust you, and as they start approaching you by themselves, awarding them with a small piece of lettuce or cucumber will reinforce that in them as something positive. Therefore, they’ll be more willing to come up to you more often the more you do this. Some people even train their guinea pigs to do tricks!
Just remember, guinea pigs are a big responsibility and can live almost ten years, so if you decide to get guinea pigs, be sure you can give them all the care they need.
Here’s a list of items you should have as a guinea pig owner:
- Large enough cage
- Fleece liners or suitable bedding
- Hiding spots and items for each pig
- Water bottle (I like the glass ones, they last longer and don’t leak like the others)
- Food bowl (ceramic or heavy bowl they can’t knock over)
- Timothy hay (I find that buying a bale of Timothy hay from a farm lasts longer, is cheaper in the long run, and is better quality than store-bought)
- Timothy hay-based pellets with Vitamin C
- Hay rack (you don’t necessarily need one, but it keeps the mess at bay and keeps the hay clean for your piggies)
- Plenty of vegetables (guinea pigs eat a lot and need 1 cup each of fresh veggies)
- Toys (toilet paper rolls- you can stuff them with hay, wooden toys, cardboard boxes)
- Kitchen scale (you should monitor their weight every month to check for any fluctuations)
- Brush & scissors (for long-haired pigs to keep up with grooming)
- Nail trimmer (you should be cutting their nails at least once a month)
- First Aid kit (ointment, Critical Care, favorite treats, syringes, styptic powder, Epsom salt, Bene-bac pet gel)
- Emergency veterinarian (you never know when you’ll need to contact the vet for a pet medical emergency)
Common Guinea Pig Sounds
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