Guinea pigs make delightful pets but, as with all animals, they require effort on the part of their owner to ensure they have a happy life.
Before bringing a guinea pig into your home, make sure that it will be the right pet for you. Do some research and find out what guinea pigs need before you get one. Once you have decided to get your piggy, invest in a good book for hints & tips on proper piggy care.
Guinea pigs are social (herd) animals and require company of their own kind. It is unkind to keep a guinea pig on its own
To avoid unwanted litters, a good combination is female litter mates. If space allows, a neutered male with 3-4 sows works well too.
Guinea pigs should, ideally, be housed indoors or in a secure shed which is cool in summer and can be heated in winter. They must be able to run around and exercise their muscles so they will need access to an outside or indoor run. The size of the run will depend on the number of animals. Being prey animals, they like to hide so tunnels, houses, cardboard boxes etc within the run will make them feel safe. Ensure there are enough hidey holes for all the guinea pigs in the herd. Try to allow them time out of the cage every day – at least 3 to 4 hours is a minimum guideline.
Guinea pig houses need cleaning regularly. Again, depending on numbers, 2 to 3 times a week. Line the floor of the cage with newspaper then add shavings or other substrate. At cleaning time, simply roll up the newspaper with the soiled shavings and dispose of. Good quality barley straw (not chopped) is required for the sleeping area and good quality hay for the rack.
If you have room to let your guinea pigs exercise indoors remember to keep them away from electrical wiring, houseplants and anything you hold dear because they will nibble!
Especially hazardous are plastic bags. For some reason guineas seem to be drawn to them but they can kill them if they manage to eat any.
Never leave the guinea unattended when it is roaming free especially if you have other pets in the house.
Guinea pigs love to go onto grass in the summer and it is highly nutritious for them. However, never put them on to wet grass – wait until it has dried out completely. Also, never put them on grass that has been treated with herbicide/pesticide or been used as a toilet by cats and dogs. Make sure the run is secure and partially shaded to protect them from the heat and have water available at all times.
In very hot weather, _ fill some empty plastic bottles with water & freeze them overnight. The next day, put them in the run and the guineas will lie against them to keep cool if they begin to feel the heat.
Guinea pigs need a diet high in Vitamin C to maintain optimum good health. Proprietary dry foods have this vitamin added but the piggies will also need good quality fresh fruit and vegetables to keep them topped up with this important vitamin. Old & stale fruit and veg has little nutritional value so if you wouldn’t eat it yourself, don’t give it to your guinea pigs! Fresh water must be available at all times. Dry food only needs to be fed once a day according to the guidelines on the pack.
This is an important part of bonding with your guinea pig. Try to handle them every day. Pick them up with both hands and hold them close to your body. Talk quietly to them and stroke them. They particularly like to be stroked under the chin and will often close their eyes and make little contented squeaking noises.
There are endless toys in the shops for guinea pigs but it’s easy to amuse the herd without spending a fortune. For example, stuff an empty toilet roll with hay. The piggies will love throwing it around and nibbling it as well! Make a cardboard box tunnel. It will be played in, chewed and thrown around but they will love it and it’s easily replaceable. Hide bits of carrot or chicory around the run and watch them find it.
Some pet shops sell willow balls. These are a good investment because they can be stuffed with hay, the guineas will have fun rolling them around and the willow can be safely nibbled by them. One of mine, pulls all the hay out and gets inside it!
Guinea pigs are hardy creatures and, with the correct care, should remain healthy. They will need their claws trimmed regularly though and your vet can do this if you don’t feel confident to do it yourself. Check ears regularly too and clean the outer ear if necessary with a cotton bud and saline solution (but avoid getting water in the ear canal). Check the fur for mites & fleas and treat accordingly. Bald patches could indicate mange or ringworm and a visit to the vet would be necessary for treatment.
Snuffly noses & runny eyes could indicate a cold so keep the piggy warm and seek veterinary advice. Sometimes, the eye can be scratched by a piece of hay and will look opaque. This means that it has developed an ulcer and will need ointment from the vet to treat it. Never put your fingers in the guinea pigs eyes or try to remove foreign bodies. That is a job for the vet.
This is meant as a general guide only to keeping guinea pigs. Please do your research before you buy a guinea pig and have a good book to hand to refer to when necessary. There are many websites offering advice too.
Guinea pigs are delightful to have as pets but they have to be right for you.
By PetStreet Editor. www.Petstreet.co.uk is the UK’s leading social network for pet lovers.