Top Mistakes Guinea Pig Owners Make

Guinea pigs require more care than most people think.

When caring for guinea pigs, you should know what’s safe or not for them. There are so many care tips and items to buy for your piggies it can be hard to know what’s right or wrong. Many websites tell you different things about caring for guinea pigs, and you’d be surprised to hear that some offer incorrect information that can harm your piggies. Guinea pigs require specific care and can become ill or injured from negligence.

Here are 6 top guinea pig care mistakes to avoid.

1. Not enough Timothy hay. Guinea pigs require an unlimited amount of timothy hay. Never substitute timothy hay with alfalfa or any other food source. Timothy hay provides guinea pigs with the fiber, fat, and proteins they require and gives them the vitamins and minerals they need to be healthy. A guinea pig’s teeth never stop growing, so timothy hay provides a way to wear down their teeth. There are no disadvantages in feeding them timothy hay. Timothy hay can become quite expensive, but buying a hay bale from a farm can be more cost-effective and fresher than store-bought.

Timothy hay at a farm

2. Never house another animal with Guinea pigs. Guinea pigs should never live in the same cage with another animal, especially rabbits. For one, rabbits have large hind feet and can accidentally injure or kill your guinea pigs. Guinea pigs and rabbits communicate differently, and rabbits can become upset and hurt your piggy. Their hind legs are powerful enough that you can hear a thumping sound when they stomp. Some rabbits may even try to mate with guinea pigs. Guinea pigs and rabbits carry bacteria that can pass between each other. Rabbits contain a disease called Bordetella bronchiseptica which can be fatal to guinea pigs if they catch it. They have similar diets, but guinea pigs can’t make Vitamin C as rabbits can.

anytime your guinea pig interacts with another animal they should be supervised

3. Exercise balls, leashes, and pet costumes are all no-nos for guinea pigs. For starters, guinea pigs have fragile spines, and being put into an exercise ball can cause serious injuries. Exercise balls are for smaller rodents like hamsters. Leashes are never okay to put on a guinea pig. Leashes are restricting, and the feeling of them wrapped around your piggy can frighten and make them uncomfortable. Your guinea pigs won’t like it being put on and won’t voluntarily walk with it. They may fight you putting it on them or try to take it off after putting it on and injure themselves. Taking your guinea pig for a walk outside can expose them to things that are unsafe for them as well. Although pet costumes may look cute on your guinea pigs, it’s uncomfortable and constricting. Pet costumes pose the same concerns that a leash does. You wouldn’t want to wear something you don’t want to, so please don’t put your guinea pigs through this stress.

hamster balls are not intended for guinea pigs

4. Wrong size cage. You know those tiny pet cages they sell in stores that they advertise as suitable for guinea pigs? Those cages don’t nearly meet the space requirements that guinea pigs need. Guinea pigs need a lot of space, and putting more than one into one of those tiny cages constricts them from moving freely and can lead to health problems and depression. Two guinea pigs require 7.5 square feet of space. For each guinea pig, you should add at least 1.5 square feet. Never put your guinea pigs in a cage that has a grid on the bottom. They can injure their legs, and the wiring can cause problems like bumble foot. If left untreated, bumble foot can become so bad that they may need to amputate a foot.

these cages don’t give nearly enough space for your piggies

5. Keeping a guinea pig alone. One of the most common guinea pig care mistakes is owning only one guinea pig. Keeping a guinea pig by itself can make them depressed and ill. Guinea pigs don’t do well living alone. If left alone, they may stop eating and become lazy, which can lead to health complications. Believe it or not, a guinea pig can die from the depression of being alone. Guinea pigs are social, and you should have at least two living together. When you have a large group of piggies, you can see their personalities and how much they thrive off each other. Guinea pigs are like us in how social they are.

a herd of piggies enjoying some lettuce

6. Guinea pigs should never be a pet for children. Children don’t fully understand that guinea pigs are fragile animals and can seriously injure or kill a guinea pig accidentally. They aren’t starter pets and require more care and attention than most people think. If you decide to introduce guinea pigs to your children, you should be responsible for taking care of them. Never leave guinea pigs with a child unsupervised or handle them without you. Only let your child care for and handle guinea pigs when they’re old enough and understand how gentle they need to be.

children should be sitting & supervised while holding guinea pigs

Guinea pigs can be one of the best pets to have. When you have guinea pigs, you’ll realize that the positives outweigh the effort of caring for them. The work that goes into their care will ultimately create a bond between you and your piggies, and they’ll learn to trust you the more they see you. Providing your guinea pigs with the best care will help them live as long as possible. After all, you want your piggies to have the best life they can have, right?

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