Proper Care For Guinea Pigs
Did you know: Guinea pigs are actually called ‘Cavies’? Fun fact to kick this post off with. Yep – the Cavy is a rodent family native to South America of which the domestic Guinea Pig is a member of. Cool huh!
Also interesting to note – only the domestic cavy (our beloved Guinea Pig) are kept as pets. They live for up to 8 years on average so caring for them properly is very important to give them the longest, happiest & healthiest life possible.
1.) Their Home
Guinea pigs are naturally highly curious creatures and love to explore the world around them (this actually makes keeping them indoors and outdoors equally ok) so it’s important that they have a safe, secure space to roam in and one that is also big enough to accommodate their needs.
Another fact that people either forget or simply don’t know about – is that Guinea Pigs have quite sensitive hearing, so outdoors living often suits them better as it is usually quieter than a house that can get noisy (vacuum, loud TV, screaming kids etc)
Ideally, they need a large, predator-proof hutch and run so that they can exercise in. It is always a good idea to keep their sleeping area separate from the rest of the hutch – a nice quiet, dark area where they can retreat to get some well deserved peace and rest when needed.
For outdoor hutches, always keep them out of direct sunlight, to avoid them getting too hot and giving your Guinea Pigs the shade they need during the hot summer months. Also, making it draught and rain proof is also highly important for obvious reasons.
Never, keep guinea pigs in areas where they may be subject to poisons or fumes (for example in a Garage where cars are kept)!
For the cold winter months, they need to keep warm just as we do, so provide extra bedding that they can nestle down in for extra insulation around their bodies.
2.) Their Food
Guinea Pigs are the sort of animals who tend to graze throughout the day as opposed to eating sporadic, large meals – so it is very important to always have a mix of quality hay to keep their digestive systems healthy. This can be supplemented daily with some guinea pig food mix to keep things tasty and interesting.
Another good tip – add fresh fruit and vegetable to their daily diet as well, not just for variety but also for a source of Vitamin C (Guinea Pigs can’t produce this vitamin themselves – another interesting fact!). Good examples include: melons, oranges and any dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, cabbage etc.
As for what they eat out of – use heavier earthenware bowls as opposed to cheap, lightweight plastic ones. This makes is more difficult to be tipped over by an enthusiastic Guinea Pig. Always keep a fresh supply of clean drinking water too from a gravity bottle attached to the mesh cage wire so that they can keep themselves hydrated at all times.
Some do NOTs: never give Guinea Pigs rabbit food – it is bad for them due to different nutritional requirements & make sure not to overfeed your furry ones, you don’t want them becoming obese!
3.) Their Health
How do you know if your Guinea Pig is healthy? Actually it’s quite obvious – just look for clear-cut signs such as alertness, big bright eyes and a good, shiny coat of fur.
One common affliction for Guinea Pigs is Bumblefoot, where the foot (or feet if bad enough) become swollen due to a bacterial infection. This is usually caused by not changing their bedding often enough – so be warned.
In fact, dirty bedding can also lead to eye problems as well, so clean, dust-free bedding is essential at all times.
Keep an eye out for Guinea Pigs who itch & scratch themselves a lot – this can be due to not having enough fibre in their diet and/or obesity from the wrong food/too many ‘treats’. That said – always seek a vet’s advice if you are concerned about anything, no matter how small.
Grooming is also a very important part of a Guinea Pig’s life, especially for the long-haired varieties. Regular, daily grooming helps prevent their coats from becoming matted and uncomfortable for them.
4.) Their Exercise & Entertainment
Guinea pigs need space – the more the merrier! No such thing as too much space so be as generous with your Guinea Pig run as you can, especially in terms of floor space for them to run around in and explore. Their space should be at least 1.2m long and 60cm wide – at the very least that is. The bigger the better for them.
Unlike other pets, Guinea Pigs aren’t usually as entertained by toys and other distractions like that, but a good cardboard box to explore and nibble can be great! The same goes for tubes and tunnels that they can explore and play in.
5.) Their Companions
Guinea Pigs love company just the same as we do, however they do not socially intermingle with other species, so it’s always a good idea to keep guinea pig company within the same species.
A lot of people tend to keep Rabbits and Guinea Pigs together – and whilst on the surface they may seem to get along ok, there is a risk your Guinea Pig can get seriously bullied or injured.
The safest option is to keep one pair of Guinea Pigs together in the same enclosure who are the same sex & similar age. Guinea Pigs of different sex but who have been neutered can also work.
6.) Their Relationship with You
Guinea pigs are usually quite happy to be handled by humans once they have settled into their new surroundings and have gotten used to the sounds, smells and sight of you and family members.
To pick them up safely, use both hands and hold firmly enough without squeezing them.
It is also always a good idea to keep your furry one held closely to you or sit down with them on your lap so that they feel the most secure and happy.
If you follow all of these guidelines and tips, your Guinea Pig will be as happy as can be and should live a full and happy life!