Caring for a Guinea Pig
Origin: South America
Lifespan: 5-10 years
Guinea pigs are fantastic companions, each having their own distinct personality. Once settled into their new home, they are very inquisitive animals and are quite talkative, chattering to you during handling and even squeaking to you at the rustle of a produce bag. Being such social animals, Guinea pigs are happiest with at least one friend of the same sex, or separate sexes if neutered. After bonding, your Guinea pig will love to be handled and petted, though they are always cautious when being picked up. Children must be supervised during handling, as Guinea pigs are easily injured and may nip if not treated kindly. Regular exercise outside of the cage is essential and great fun for the whole family!
Guinea pigs should be kept safe indoors and need as large a cage as possible, with room to exercise. A single Guinea pig or a pair of Guinea pigs need a cage of a minimum of 27" x 41". Additional pigs require additional space. Aquariums are not suitable, as they do not provide adequate ventilation. Look for a cage with a solid bottom, because wire floors and ramps can easily harm their feet. Cover the floor of the cage with a low-dust bedding such as Carefresh. The cage is best placed in a room where your pets can enjoy your company, such as a living room. They love wood or plastic houses to rest in, and each Guinea pig should have their own hideaway house.
A healthy diet is based on quality grass hay like Timothy hay 24 hours a day, and Guinea pig pellets (no more than 1/8 cup of pellets per pet). Babies under 6 months of age need Alfalfa hay. Look for plain pellets containing vitamin C. Also provide a cup of mixed, fresh vegetables and fruit at least once per week. Remember to supply fresh water in a water bottle daily. For a list of safe foods for your Guinea pig, click here!
Spot clean the soiled area of the cage a minimum of 2-3 times per week and scrub out the entire cage weekly, including food dishes and water bottles. Always rinse and dry the cage well before adding new bedding.
Male Guinea pigs can be sexually mature at three weeks old. Make absolutely sure of your pet's sex and keep unneutered males and unspayed females separate at all times to prevent unwanted births. Due to health risks, breeding pet Guinea pigs is strongly discouraged. Breeding Guinea pigs without professional breeding knowledge can lead to serious complications for both mom and babies, including the birth of a lethal-white baby or death due to improper timing of conception.
Trim nails every 4-6 weeks, depending on how fast they grow.
Weight your pigs weekly to notice any weight changes; changes of greater than 3.5 ounces in one week is a serious concern.
Not only is it always a bad idea to "recycle" unused antibiotics, penicillin-based drugs that are commonly used for other pets are TOXIC to Guinea pigs.
Exercise wheels and balls, and harnesses are never recommended for use due to the Guinea pig's fragile spine.
Keep an eye on your Guinea pig so that if you notice changes in their weight, behavior, diet, or droppings you can get them the veterinary care they need. Signs that your Guinea pig needs urgent care include not eating/drinking, lethargy, sneezing/wheezing, crusty or runny eyes/nose, fluffed up fur, diarrhea, bloody urine, tilted head/loss of balance, and excessive scratching or hair loss.