Caring for young guinea pigs
There is no doubt that young guinea pigs are super-cute. With their fun, friendly personalities, and adorable looks, welcoming young piggies into your life is an exciting time. Knowing how to care for a baby guinea pig will help you get these cute creatures off to the best start in life. So what do you need to know?
Fun facts:pregnancy, piglets and pups
- Baby guinea pigs are called pups not piglets…
- …but adults follow pig names, with sow (female) and boar (male).
- Pregnancy lasts 60 to 70 days, which is long compared to other small pets.
- A long pregnancy means the young are born well developed and can walk soon after birth.
- The pelvic canal of female guinea pigs is fully fused by eight months old, which means that…
- …if they have a first litter after eight months old, they are likely to have problems giving birth as the birth canal is unable to stretch.
Newborn guinea pigs start life with hair, open eyes and ears, and teeth that are already present, and they are able to walk within a short time of birth. Believe it or not, they start to nibble on solid food from as early as two days old and will usually be fully weaned at three weeks.
In the wild, being born ready to face the wider world has obvious advantages, making them less vulnerable to threats such as predation.
Best diet for young guinea pigs
Fun fact: baby guinea pigs grow from 60 grams at birth to 500 grams or more in a matter of weeks
Like most baby animals, young guinea pigs grow at a phenomenal rate, so it is important to make sure they get great nutrition right from the start. As well as having lots of growing to do, they also start eating solid food as early as two days after birth. This means that feeding the best diet, tailored to their needs is right at the top of the ‘must-haves’.
Science Selective Junior Guinea Pig provides the ideal balance of nutrients for guinea pigs up to 20 weeks of age. With extra protein to support growth, and high fibre to promote dental and digestive health, it is just the ticket for young piggies.
What’s more, the extruded nuggets are full of delicious natural ingredients like dandelion and fennel, making them irresistibly tasty without the need for added sugar. With enhanced vitamin C too, feeding Junior guinea pig will get your new pet off to a great start.
And of course, just like adult guinea pigs, youngsters need to start as they mean to go on, with a diet that is at least 80 percent hay. It is best to offer an unlimited quantity of high quality feeding hay, and as with adults, aim for a body-sized portion every day.
The importance of vitamin C
Like us humans, our piggie friends lack the enzyme necessary for making their own vitamin C. This means that they have an essential need for vitamin C in their diet. So what’s all the fuss about? Well, this crucial vitamin is used to make something called collagen, the building block for lots of different types of body tissues, so it is particularly important in diets for young guinea pigs.
One thing to be aware of, is that vitamin C is relatively unstable and tends to degrade over time, especially if it is exposed to light, heat and moisture. This means that you should always follow the storage and ‘use by’ instructions on packaging. Some diets, including all of Supreme’s guinea pig diets, contain vitamin C in a stabilised form to prevent it from degrading.
So what’s next on the list of must-haves for young guinea pigs? Well companionship comes pretty high up the priorities. Guinea pigs are social creatures and should be housed in pairs or groups of piggie friends. Single sex groups often work best, although a neutered male with a female can be a good combination.
In larger groups, females tend to get on well, but uncastrated males may fight, especially if there are females around. Besides which, keeping uncastrated males and females together is not wise because of breeding. Castration reduces the risk of fighting but does not eliminate it, so it is often best to have only one castrated male in mixed sex groups.
Young guinea pigs, especially those from the same litter, are the easiest to bond but with time and patience, bonds can be formed between older guinea pigs and those from different litters.
Guinea pigs are friendly creatures, but they can a bit nervous when they first move to a new home. Taking a little time to slowly build trust will pay dividends in the long run. Calm, gentle handling is key and having some tasty treats at the ready to help build that all-important bond is a great idea. Selective Naturals Woodland Loops are rich in natural ingredients with no artificial colours or added sugar and are suitable for all ages. High in fibre, they should be fed in moderation to ensure that treat time is healthy as well as delicious.
For more information on caring for your guinea pigs, head over to our blog on how to Keep Your Guinea Pigs Happy.
Image credit: @guineasgowheek