Don’t be fooled by a Guinea Pig’s size and soft fur – they make really exciting pets – they’re energetic, full of fun and talkative too!
Guinea Pigs are also known as “cavies” – a name that comes from their origins in South America where some of their cousins still live in abandoned burrows. Guinea Pigs like company and, although yours is nice, they’d prefer to have another Guinea Pig living with them.
They will want a really large cage so that they have plenty of room to run around. They can live indoors or out, although inside is best in extremely cold weather.
Which Guinea Pig Will You Choose?
There is a wide variety of colours and textures of coats. Cavy colours are classed in 3 sections – Agouti (the hair has several different bands of colour), Self-coloured (solid colour) and cavies with markings (combinations of colours in marks on the coat). We suspect that the ones you choose will be the ones you fall in love with on the day you go to make your choice!
Bringing Your Guinea Pig Home
Make sure that you have everything ready before you collect your Guinea Pigs, so that you can put them into their new home as soon as you arrive and they can spend the first 24 hours getting used to the new environment.
Don’t forget to talk to your Guinea Pigs and keep them company. We suggest you don’t handle your Guinea Pigs too much for the first day or two, just give them plenty of clean water and feed only hay for the first 24 hours to avoid digestive upset.
You’ll soon know when your Guinea Pigs have settled in – they will begin to eat, drink and groom themselves.
What to Feed Your Guinea Pigs
Guinea Pigs need feeding twice a day, every day (in the morning and in the evening). A good quality, heavy, earthenware bowl keeps food dry and clean and prevents the guinea pigs from tipping the food. Bowls must be cleaned after every use.
Guinea pigs need a healthy diet with fresh vegetables and freely available hay to provide them with the fibre, vitamins and minerals they require to keep fit and healthy; the hay also helps to wear down their teeth, support their digestive system and keep them environmentally enriched.
Guinea Pigs also need Vitamin C every day as they can’t produce their own and will fall ill without it.
Guinea Pigs sometimes feed selectively which can be bad for their health, which could mean you need to change the kind of food it eats. To see more about the right kind of food for your Guinea Pig, click here
If you’re changing your Guinea Pig’s diet, it’s vital that you introduce the new food gradually. Mix about one quarter of the new food with three quarters of the old food on the first day and then gradually increase the new food and decrease the old food over a 10-day period. This should make sure that your Guinea Pig has no tummy upsets.
To help keep your Guinea Pig’s teeth healthy, you need to provide lots of hay and perhaps a gnawing block and safe twigs to chew, such as apple, hazel or willow.
You can also feed treats from your garden such as fresh grass, parsley, dandelion, carrot, celery, broccoli, kale, spinach and cucumber, but remember; too much green food can cause diarrhoea.
Feeding plants to your guinea pig adds variety and interest to their diets, but some garden plants can be dangerous for your pet guinea pig to eat. Download our free Guide to Dangerous Plants to find out more. Supreme Petfoods’ Guide to Dangerous Plants
Treats should be an extremely small element of the animal’s diet – overfeeding may lead to health problems such as obesity, dental problems and heart disease. You can treat your guinea pig with small amounts of apple and strawberry. Click here to see our range of Guinea Pig treats
It is vital that you ensure there is fresh drinking water available at all times. You can provide fresh drinking water with a gravity-fed water bottle, attached to the front of the hutch. Use one of the large ballpoint bottles to prevent dripping and ensure a constant supply is available. If your guinea pigs find it difficult to drink from a water bottle, you can provide a water bowl, but change them regularly to make sure they don’t get tipped over or contaminated.
Housing / Hutches
In the wild, Guinea Pigs live in caves and burrows, spending the majority of their time foraging for food. Living in a hutch with a run allows your Guinea Pig to live outside and receive plenty of sunshine and fresh air every day.
Guinea Pigs need good, secure, roomy housing. Bought hutches and runs are not cheap but they can be perfect for your pet. Guinea Pigs naturally chew wood; so make sure that any wooden hutch you buy has been treated with non-toxic products.
You might know someone who could make one for you. A good hutch will have two compartments – one for the day and one to nest and hide in at night. The hutch should be placed in a position that is sheltered, out of direct sunlight. Extremes of temperature can cause stress that may result in discomfort or illness. In cold weather there must be adequate protection from draughts, wind and rain. Repositioning the hutch can make the most of winter sunlight, and remember to place the hutch on bricks or legs to avoid becoming damp during wet weather.
Hutches should be cleaned out on a regular basis. This is especially important in warmer weather in order to prevent flies being attracted to the hutch. In the wetter months, bedding can become damp and mouldy from extreme weather, so…
Remove any soiled bedding
Once a week
Remove all bedding.
Thoroughly sweep out all the soiled bedding. Rinse with warm water and mild detergent and wait until dry.
Spray inside of hutch with a safe cleaning product and wait until dry.
Replace with clean bedding (check for signs of mould etc. on bedding and discard if necessary).
Treats should be an extremely small element of the animal’s diet
Keeping your Guinea Pigs warm and cosy at night is very important. As well as providing warmth for your Guinea Pigs, it can also be absorbent, which makes cleaning easier for you. To find out more about suitable bedding products, click here.
It is extremely important that your Guinea Pigs have the opportunity to exercise every day. Even house guinea pigs require fresh air, daylight and grass.
Your Guinea Pigs will love to come out and run around in a pet safe room or exercise run. It’s a lot of fun to watch them darting around and playing, jumping and squeaking from pure enjoyment. You need to provide a large, secure run for this. It can be freestanding or attached to the hutch.
Security and position are extremely important to avoid any harm or stress to your pet during his playtime. A pet safe room works just as well as long as there is nothing dangerous for them to chew on or otherwise injure themselves.
Make certain they can’t get to any dangerous plants or chew on electrical cords.
One thing to remember is that Guinea Pigs are not as easy to litter box train as rabbits, so if you give them run of an indoor room they may make a slight mess.
Some Guinea Pigs will let you take them for a walk with a harness around the garden. Always try this at home first to be sure the harness fits properly and your pet can’t wriggle out of it.
Their natural instincts are to forage, explore and socialise. It only takes a short time to put together an exciting playground for your pets. Guinea Pigs explore around the edge and hiding places first, rather than the middle of the area or run.
Place objects like tubes, tunnels, untreated wicker baskets and boxes in the run for them to play with. They also like to look under and hide in cardboard boxes, wicker baskets and flowerpots. Large plastic pipes make great hiding places and excellent tunnels. Change the items around occasionally to provide added interest for your Guinea Pig.
Handling your Guinea Pigs
To ensure that your Guinea Pigs become tame and affectionate it is important that you handle them frequently and correctly. Picking up a Guinea Pig incorrectly could lead them being permanently frightened and may lead to them becoming aggressive.
Remember that most small animals are prey in the wild. So, if approached from above they’ll see a large shadow and become scared. They might run and hide or try to attack you.
The best way to pick up your Guinea Pig is to talk to it as you approach – on the same level. Crouch and let it come to you, presenting the back of your hand for it to sniff.
Place one hand flat in front of your Guinea Pig and with the other hand gently scoop it towards you. Be sure to support its weight with one hand, while bringing the other over the top to make sure that if it begins to wriggle it will not fall.
Place it on your lap or hold it to your chest and very slowly stand up. Always talk to your Guinea Pig to calm and reassure it. A small treat will make it happy as well.
Guinea pigs are generally hardy animals, but there are some ailments that can befall them.
Dental Problems – as with all rodents, guinea pigs’ teeth continue to grow throughout their life. Guinea pigs require a high fibre diet to ensure the teeth are evenly worn and to prevent overgrowth. If the teeth are not worn, they grow incorrectly, leading to discomfort, abscesses and/or anorexia. Indication of dental problems may be saliva around the mouth, chest or front paws, and an inability to eat or teeth grinding.
Ensure the diet contains sufficient fibre and that your guinea pigs have as much fresh hay and they can chew!
Seek veterinary advice if you are at all concerned.
Abscesses – can be caused during knocks or fights, or even by food that is sharp and has injured the mouth. You will be able to feel a hard lump. It is best to move the guinea pig into an area of its own and take him to the vet as soon as possible, so the abscess can be treated.
Skin Complaints – Guinea pigs are prone to skin conditions. Perhaps the most common is mange. Mange is caused by a little mite that burrows into the skin surface. You will notice little raised spots on the skin that can become “scurfy”. Your guinea pig will scratch these itchy areas which will develop scabs and cause its hair to fall out. It is important that you take your guinea pig to the vet for treatment.
Hypovitaminosis C or ‘scurvy’ – Vitamin C is essential for building and repairing collagen. Collagen fibres form the basis of bones, cartilage, tendons, muscles and blood vessels. Vitamin C is also essential for many other processes in the body. Guinea pigs are not able to produce vitamin C themselves and therefore need vitamin C in their diet, so make sure you feed a diet that has sufficient vitamin C. A lack of vitamin C can lead to lameness, loss of teeth, rough coat, alopecia and anorexia.
It is important to take your guinea pig to the vet for treatment as soon as any of these symptoms occur.
Keeping the hutch clean, dry and regularly treated with Keep It Clean should give your pet guinea pigs the best chance of a long and healthy life.
Always consult a vet if you have ANY reason for concern.
If you need to know more
For more detailed information about Guinea Pigs, you can contact us and we will get back to you with our experts’ advice. However if you have any concerns about the health and wellbeing of your rabbit, you should seek veterinary advice immediately.
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