Guinea pigs, with their adorable appearance and endearing personalities, have become popular pets around the world. These small, sociable rodents are not hard to take care of. They are low maintenance. Here are comprehensive guides to take care of guinea pigs and ensure their well-being.
Before bringing a guinea pig home, you need to know about these species: the breeds, their behavior, their basic needs, and other things. To know more about this pet, you can read our “Guinea pig facts” article.
If you still want to keep them as pets after reading, you can check our care sheet guinea pig below
1. Guinea Pig Housing
The first thing you need to do to take care of guinea pigs is to create a good environment for them.
a. Cage Size
Creating an optimal living environment for your guinea pigs requires prioritizing the size of their enclosure. The larger the space, the better, especially if they spend a significant amount of time indoors.
The recommended dimensions for a guinea pig cage should be at least 50 inches by 24 inches (1.25 x 0.7 m). In the case of having two guinea pigs, it is necessary to double the space, ensuring there is enough room for both of them. You should also let them sleep in two separate covered areas. While height is not as critical, it can be beneficial to incorporate small ramps and multiple levels to enhance enrichment and encourage exploration for guinea pigs that enjoy such features.
In order to minimize the chances of flystrike, it is crucial to take measures to make the enclosure fly-proof. This can be achieved by using flyscreen wire or mosquito netting. Ensuring proper ventilation is essential to prevent respiratory problems, considering the delicate respiratory tracts of guinea pigs.
When choosing a cage for guinea pigs, you should avoid grates or wires because they could potentially cause harm to their feet. Make sure the floor is sturdy and solid. You can line the hutch with newspaper and soft grass hay for cushioning. However, it is best to avoid using sawdust, straw, and wood shavings. It is crucial to maintain a soft, clean, and dry surface at all times to prevent foot problems.
Proper hygiene is essential when caring for guinea pigs due to their tendency to be messy and occasionally relieve themselves in food dishes. When selecting bedding, you should opt for 1-2 inches of high-quality paper-based bedding or washable fleece that can effectively absorb waste materials. Using wood bedding is not recommended as it can cause gastrointestinal obstruction if your guinea pigs ingested them.
To maintain cleanliness, it is advised to regularly spot-clean soiled areas daily. Additionally, a complete bedding change should be done every three to four days.
To make sure your guinea pigs are in good condition, it is essential to shield them from excessive heat and humidity. These species have a low tolerance for high temperatures and should not be exposed to temperatures exceeding 80oF (26oC). It is ideal to maintain their environment within the range of 18-26°C. Similarly, the humidity should be between 40% and 70% to prevent any discomfort or health issues, including heatstroke.
To establish an appropriate living environment, it is advisable to place their hutch in a well-ventilated and sheltered area. This location should be away from direct sunlight and strong winds, ensuring the guinea pigs have consistent access to shade. By adhering to these recommendations, you can ensure the comfort and safety of your guinea pigs.
To ensure the well-being and happiness of guinea pigs, it is important to offer them a diverse range of toys and activities that keep them engaged and prevent boredom. Providing opportunities for exercise and play is essential for their overall health. Some examples of these activities include teaching them basic commands, providing chewable objects, encouraging exploration, and creating hiding spots for them to enjoy.
- Here are some suggestions for providing popular enrichment items for guinea pigs:
- Offer paper bags, cardboard boxes with holes, and overturned boxes for hiding and exploring.
- Provide a chewing log made of untreated wood for them to gnaw on.
- Offer hay-stuffed toys or paper towel rolls for them to play with and chew.
- Set up tunnels for them to crawl through and explore.
- Consider purchasing commercially available guinea pig toys designed specifically for their enrichment.
- Avoid using exercise wheels or balls for guinea pigs, as they can potentially cause harm to their delicate bodies.
In addition to providing enrichment items, it’s important to ensure that each guinea pig has at least one hideaway in their cage. This will give them a sense of security and a place to retreat when they feel stressed or threatened.
You can give them ample space to exercise. Ideally, they should have access to a large, grassy area where they can roam freely without the presence of predators.
You shouldn’t house near or with rabbits or other species. Even though rabbits may appear healthy, they can carry diseases like Bordetella that can be deadly to guinea pigs. While a few guinea pigs may develop a liking for dogs or cats, it is crucial to remember that, as prey animals, such interactions can cause significant stress and potentially pose a danger to those rodents.
Guinea pigs possess a comparatively elevated metabolic rate and necessitate almost constant feeding.
Hay is the best food for guinea pigs. They should have unlimited access to hay as it is vital to their diet, constituting about 75% of their overall intake. Hay plays a crucial role in preventing dental and gastrointestinal problems in guinea pigs.
When it comes to hay varieties, Timothy hay is widely recommended for adult guinea pigs. Eating alfalfa hay regularly can make adults obese and have excessive calcium. Nevertheless, young or pregnant guinea pigs may benefit from this kind of hay.
To maintain a healthy diet, it is recommended that guinea pigs consume about one cup of vegetables daily. It is important to introduce new food items gradually to avoid the occurrence of diarrhea. Once they have adapted to a variety of vegetables, you can offer them two or three different types each day to ensure they receive the necessary vitamins and minerals.
Popular choices among guinea pigs include leaf lettuce, parsley, clover, romaine lettuce, asparagus, broccoli, celery, carrots, cabbages, spinach, and dandelion greens. Leafy greens and bell peppers are particularly beneficial as they are rich in vitamin C, which is essential for guinea pigs.
Timothy hay pellets per day should be a dietary supplement, rather than relying on them as the primary source of nutrition. You can give your guinea pigs 1–2 tablespoons of pellets. To prevent issues such as obesity and gastrointestinal problems, stay away from pellets that contain dried fruits, vegetables, or seeds.
d. Vitamin C
Guinea pigs lack the ability to synthesize their own vitamin C, making it necessary for them to obtain this essential nutrient from their diet in order to avoid conditions like scurvy.
Using vitamin C drops in their water is not an optimal solution. These water additives deteriorate quickly and can have an unpleasant taste that guinea pigs dislike, resulting in reduced water consumption and potential dehydration.
Instead, it is recommended to provide guinea pigs with vitamin C supplements, high-quality pelleted food, and vegetables that are rich in vitamin C. The average adult guinea pig typically requires a daily intake of 10-50 milligrams of vitamin C. However, it is important to consult with your veterinarian to determine the specific dietary requirements for your pet.
e. Fruits and Treats
Guinea pigs can indulge in occasional treats like apples, alfalfa cubes, cantaloupes, or carrot tops, but it’s crucial to ensure that these treats constitute less than 5% of their overall diet. Here are some fruits that your guinea pig can eat: apples, bananas, watermelons, strawberries, cucumber, oranges, red tomatoes, mango, pineapples, blueberries, plums, raspberries, cherries, apricots, pears, papaya, cranberries, and kiwi.
Excessive consumption of fruits and treats can disturb the natural bacterial balance in their intestinal tract, potentially causing issues such as diarrhea, bloating, and reduced appetite.
It is essential to ensure a constant water supply for guinea pigs to drink. The optimal method is to use a sipper bottle attached to the side of the cage.
g. Things guinea pigs shouldn’t eat
Please refrain from feeding the following items to your pet: grains, onion grass, rhubarb leaves, buttercups, lily of the valley, chocolate, bread, beans, seeds, sugar, potato tops, cereals, beetroot, onions, spinach leaves, breakfast cereals, raw beans, garden shrubs, biscuits, sweets, corn, peas, and nuts.
Keeping guinea pigs healthy and comfortable requires some grooming, although they are generally low maintenance. Regular nail clipping is essential, particularly as they age, to prevent overgrowth. Should you observe any nail abnormalities, it is crucial to reach out to a veterinarian promptly.
Long-haired breeds of guinea pigs require regular brushing to prevent the formation of mats and the ingestion of hair. If there is excessive hair loss, it may indicate stress or a medical problem, you should seek advice from a veterinary professional.
Guinea pigs generally do not stink, so they don’t need baths. It is important to consult a veterinarian before bathing them. Additionally, you should regularly check their teeth to ensure that the enamel is white and healthy
If any abnormalities are observed in the guinea pigs’ teeth, nails, or hair, you should consult a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.
If you have more than one guinea pig or your pet is prone to messiness, it is essential to clean the food and water dishes daily and the cage at least twice a week.
Given their nature as prey animals, guinea pigs tend to conceal their symptoms and become motionless when frightened. As a result, it becomes vital to establish a stress-free environment when assessing them for indications of illness.
Regular veterinary check-ups are essential for monitoring the overall well-being of guinea pigs, particularly for 3-year-old ones. A guinea pig in good condition will exhibit vocalization, activity, and a keen interest in eating.
Any abnormalities in their eyes, breathing, movement, and teeth are signs that your guinea pig is sick. Indications of illness commonly include reduced appetite, losing hair, weight loss, itchiness, breathing difficulties, bald patches, not drinking water, and overgrown teeth.
Guinea pigs commonly experience respiratory infections, vitamin C deficiency, dental problems, external parasites (fleas and mites), diarrhea, and skin infections. If your guinea pig gets any of these problems, consult a veterinarian promptly.
To reduce the likelihood of respiratory infections and skin issues, adopting good cleaning practices and providing appropriate nutrition are essential. Additionally, taking preventive measures such as using a flyscreen to cover their hutch can effectively prevent flystrike, particularly in long-haired guinea pigs.
Guinea pigs like to be petted, but they don’t like to be held. If guinea pigs are appropriately socialized, they can be easily managed; however, some may require a period of adjustment. When interacting with them, it is essential to maintain a calm demeanor, use gentle motions, and refrain from chasing them. Developing an understanding of their various sounds can foster a stronger bond. To know their sounds, you can check our guidelines.
When lifting a guinea pig, ensure to provide support to their rib cage and hindquarters with your hands, and hold them securely against your body. While they may make vocalizations initially, they should eventually calm down. It is crucial to observe any indications of discomfort they may exhibit.
In some cases, these animals might release urine or feces as a result of stress when being handled, which can actually be beneficial during health examinations. Allowing your guinea pig some time outside of its habitat encourages socialization and enhances its overall happiness. However, it’s crucial to prioritize their safety and closely monitor them.
Those are things to take care of guinea pigs. It’s gonna cost about $50 per month to give them proper care. By following a few simple tips, you can create a nurturing environment and establish a strong bond with your furry friends.
First and foremost, a balanced diet consisting of fresh vegetables, high-quality hay, and guinea pig pellets is crucial for their nutritional needs. Additionally, regular cage cleaning, ample space for exercise, and appropriate bedding will contribute to a clean and comfortable habitat.
Social interaction, gentle handling, and mental stimulation are equally important for guinea pigs, as they are social creatures that thrive on companionship and play. If you don’t have much time, you should keep 2 guinea pigs together.
Regular veterinary check-ups and preventative care will help identify and address any health concerns early on. Finally, love, patience, and understanding are key elements in forming a deep connection with your guinea pigs.