Guinea pigs make good family pets, but need to be looked after responsibly under adult supervision. They usually live for 5-6 years, all though this can vary. Guinea pigs are intelligent animals and can become friendly if they are cared for well and handled from a young age. They are also very social animals and prefer the company of other Guinea pigs, the best combination is a neutered male with females or a pair of females. It is possible that two male guinea pigs may fight if homed together. Your vet can advise you on neutering and introducing a new guinea pig. It is important to be aware that rabbits should not be placed with guinea pigs as they can pass on diseases and on occasion injure them.
It is important that you provide your guinea pig with a balanced diet that contains vitamin C as they cannot produce it themselves. Never feed your guinea pig frozen food or lawn mower clippings as these can cause serious illness. Alongside your guinea pigs daily food fresh water must be provided, ensure that this changed daily and checked regularly.
Bottle snug provided a useful solution to keeping water cool in summer and preventing it from freezing in winter. The majority of a guinea pigs diet comes from hay and grass, the hay keeps their teeth down and maintains a healthy digestive system. Their diet can also be supplemented with specialist vitamin C enriched foods; this ensures they receive all the vitamins and minerals to keep them healthy. It is also advisable to give your guinea pig fresh greens daily, these include broccoli and kale. But keep high sugar foods such as apples and carrots to a minimum. If you are making any changes to your guinea pigs diet make sure you do this gradually to ensure they suffer no adverse effects.
A guinea pig’s teeth grow all the time and it is important to provide them with ways to wear their teeth down and keep them at the right length, this can be done by giving them wooden toys, hay and grass. It is important to groom your guinea pig regularly, long haired breeds require this daily and short haired once a week. This is also a good time to
check their nails and clip them if necessary, it is best to get your vet to show you how to do this safely.
Guinea pigs can be prone to eye problems; this is why it is important to buy dust-free bedding to avoid infections. They can also suffer from skin problems such as mange, but this can be combated by regular grooming.
Good hygiene can reduce the risk of your guinea pig getting ill so make sure that soiled bedding is removed daily and that their home is thoroughly cleaned weekly. This can be done using disinfectant (make sure this is pet safe), try to keep a small amount of dry bedding to place in their cleaned cage so your guinea pig has familiar scents.
If your guinea pig suffers from a vitamin C deficiency it can cause them to be very ill, this is why it is vital to provide a mixed and varied diet for them. If you have any concerns about your guinea pig’s health take them to your vet immediately.
When you need travel with your guinea pig, either to a new home or just the vets it is important to put familiar smelling items in their carrier and if possible with other guinea pigs.
For your personal health wash your hands after handling your guinea pig and after cleaning or grooming them as all animals carry diseases and germs that can be passed on. If your guinea pig is around children always make sure they are supervised and wash their hands and avoid kissing their pets.
You can keep your guinea pigs indoors or out as long as they have a large sheltered area and place for them to exercise. It is important that the sheltered area is dry with plenty of ventilation and it gives them space to rest and feel safe. If you decide to keep your guinea pigs outside their home needs to be insulated and weatherproof to protect them from the elements. During winter you will need to bring them inside to an unused garage or shed, it is important that you never house your guinea pig in a used garages the exhaust fumes from vehicles are very dangerous.
Guinea pigs have very sensitive hearing so if you are keeping yours indoors ensure that it is in a quiet area of the house away from radiators and other pets. For an exercise area you could either provide them with a pet-proofed area or create an outside exercise area with tunnels and boxes for them to explore.
Guinea pigs can get bored if left with nothing to entertain them, providing them with toys or something to chew will keep them happy and healthy. To encourage their natural foraging behaviour you can scatter food around their home.
It is important that your guinea pig has time to get to know you and their new home before handling them. They are often nervous about being picked up and held, but if you are picking them up be sure to use both hands to support the chest and rear. It is best to interact with them on their own terms and at ground level.
What you’ll need
- Large indoor/outdoor house
- Specialist Guinea Pig Food
- Dust-free Hay/Straw
- Safe Wood Flakes
- Gravity Water Bottle
- Bottle Cover
- Ceramic Food Bowl
- Fresh Greens
- Disinfectant (Pet Safe)
- Things to Chew
- Nail Clippers
- Places to Hide