Complete Guinea Pig Care Guide

First things first. Are you interested in having a guinea pig as a pet? If you are reading this article then most likely the answer is, “Yes!” Guineas are not for everyone, but those who have them love their pets dearly. 

Guinea pigs require time and patience, as well as the desire and determination to learn how to keep them healthy. Guinea pig care is not something that should be taken lightly or done in a haphazard way. It can be very rewarding, but it also has many challenges.

Read on to see exactly what you will need to do for your guinea pig in order to keep them healthy and happy.

Cute Reptiles as Pets
Cute Reptiles as Pets

Do Guinea Pigs Make Great Pets?

Do Guinea Pigs Make Great Pets?

This is a question only you can answer. If you don’t have the time and patience and desire to learn how to properly care for your guinea pig, then no pet of any kind will be rewarding for you.

On the other hand, if you love animals and enjoy learning about their proper care and handling of them, guinea pigs may very well be the right type of pet for you.

However, before rushing out to get one or more guinea pigs please read this article in its entirety so that you do not develop some incorrect ideas on what it takes to keep guinea pigs healthy and happy.

Please note: A basic guide such as this is intended to familiarize readers with certain facts about Guinea Pigs (cavies).

Some of the topics covered in this article may not be appropriate for younger readers. I would encourage parents to read this article first before sharing it with their children.

Appearance And Behaviors Of Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs (Cavia porcellus) are small, furry rodents with thick necks and stocky bodies. They have oversized front teeth which they used to dig and chew roots, shrubs, and other plants. Their back legs are somewhat larger than their front ones. 

Most people don’t realize that guinea pigs have poor eyesight and therefore do not see objects very well until they are very close.

This is why they will not immediately run away when you come near them. They may huff and puff a bit, but that’s just their way of trying to warn you that they are in your presence and don’t want you any closer.

How Big Do Guinea Pigs Get?

A full-grown guinea pig weighs between 1.5 and 2.75 pounds (700 to 1200 grams), depending on the breed, age, and sex of the animal. Males tend to be slightly larger than females.

How Long Do Guinea Pigs Live For As Pets?

Altogether, they can live from 5-7 years with proper care. Guinea pigs come in many different colors and varieties (I will not cover these in this article).

Guinea Pig’s Behavior

Guinea pigs, as a general rule, are gentle and sweet creatures that love to be handled. They enjoy interaction with humans and seem to relish their time being petted and groomed. 

Guinea pigs can also become quite attached to their human friends. The trick is for the human to be willing to take the time necessary in order to win.

When a guinea pig is frightened, it will typically dart away and seek shelter. Most of the time they run in short dashes as opposed to running long distances. 

If you need to catch one, simply corner it gently but firmly and wait for it to stop dashing about. Placing your hand palm up underneath them so they can run into it. 

Never pick up a guinea pig by its back legs, as this can cause injury to the animal. Guinea pigs are easily frightened, but once they become used to their surroundings, they will allow themselves to be picked up and carried around without too much fuss or bother.

Where To Purchase Guinea Pigs? 

There are several places to purchase guinea pigs. Local pet stores are often a good place to start. However, you may find that they have limited choices on what types of guinea pigs they have available for sale. 

Guinea pigs are readily available in most pet stores across the country so if there is some type or color of guinea pig you are looking for and they do not have it, you should be able to find it somewhere else.

Classified ads in the newspaper and online classifieds like Craigslist (www.craigslist.com) and other similar sites can be a good place to start looking for guinea pigs as well. 

However, please note that there may be risks associated with buying an animal in this manner. You do not get to see the guinea pig in person and it may come down to a “trust me” type of deal. 

It is recommended that you buy from a reputable breeder or store only, and not someone who just has one or two animals for sale out of their home.

How Much Do Guinea Pigs Cost?

There are about 14 guinea pigs breeds. Piggies are about $10-$35 each depending on the color and breeds. The average price is $25, but we’ve heard they can be up to $40 or even higher at some pet stores.

If you want a healthy one, expect to pay as much as $60-$100. The younger and healthier they are, the more expensive they tend to be. 

How To Care For Guinea Pigs

complete guinea pig care guide

Is it easy to care for guinea pigs? Guinea pigs are furry, clean and very social animals that can provide lots of love and attention to their owners.

However, keeping them is not an easy task. Guinea pig owners need to constantly monitor their pet’s health and behavior in order to identify any medical problem before it gets severe.

Guinea Pig Cage Setup

Offering your guinea pig a safe, comfortable environment is critical for its happiness and health. Although you’ll be the best judge of how to provide this for your pet, there are some useful accessories that will make the time you spend together more enjoyable.

Once you’ve found the perfect match, it’s time to supply your pet with all of the necessary supplies to make his life comfortable in his new home. Here are some items that will be useful:

Cage

A guinea pig’s home should be a cage large enough for him to have room to move around comfortably. The bar spacing on the cage should be no more than 1/2″ apart so he doesn’t get his head stuck between them. 

A guinea pig should be kept in either a wire cage or a solid plastic (not mesh) aquarium. The minimum size for one guinea pig is  30”x 36”, but bigger is better. If you plan to get more guinea pigs, make sure the cage is bigger than that.

If you have a wire-bottom cage, try lining the floor with wood panels or even fake grass mats so your guinea pig’s feet won’t get injured from the wires.

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Bedding 

Bedding is important because it gives Guinea pigs something comfortable and soft over which to walk. It also makes them feel more secure and protected in their homes by covering up the outside world.

Bedding also absorbs their urine and helps prevent your guinea pig’s hutch from getting too smelly.

The best bedding for guinea pigs is not cedar, pine or scented litter. Cedar, pine and scented litters have been linked to respiratory problems in small animals.

Instead use recycled paper or bedding made of aspen shavings. Recycled paper can be used on its own, it does not need to be combined with other types of bedding.

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What Accessories Are Needed for A Guinea Pig?

When choosing accessories for your guinea pig, it’s important to remember that guinea pigs are very social animals who enjoy living in groups.

For this reason, they require not only food, water and adequate cages, but also the companionship of other cavy friends.

If you can’t get another guinea pig or want to keep your pet healthy while it’s on its own during the day while you’re at work, try getting another animal.

This is especially true if you want an “only” guinea pig – they can become lonely and bored when by themselves for too long.

Water bottle 

Your pet will need water available to him at all times, so make sure he has a good supply of freshwater every day. Be sure that you pick one that isn’t easily spilled or tipped over since these accidents can be very dangerous for pets.

Food dish

A wide, heavy food dish is best because it won’t spill and guinea pigs like to eat while sitting on the floor.

Other items

You’ll need to include an exercise ball or wheel, a couple of baskets or boxes with lids (your piggy needs someplace cozy to hide.

Guinea Pig Diet

The ideal diet for a guinea pig would be hay, freshwater, fruit, and vegetables. Ideally one should only feed their piggie once a day as they don’t have a very fast metabolism. Using quality food pellets is also recommended.

However, these are only the basics of what every guinea pig needs to survive, there are many factors that can be improved upon which we will discuss in the following paragraphs.

Piggies should always have hay at their disposal as it is an important part of their diet. It provides them with fiber, which helps avoid health problems such as enteritis and other digestive disorders.

Hay should be dusty-free and fresh, not damp or mouldy. Guinea pigs cannot eat hay that has been exposed to the air for too long because it will lose its nutritional value and can become dangerous if they do try to eat it.

Because they are unable to produce their own vitamin C, Vitamin C is important for guinea pigs to produce collagen, which the body uses to make things like ligaments and tendons. 

They need between 10 and 30 mg/kg daily for good health. The best sources of dietary vitamin C for guinea pigs are fruits such as oranges, strawberries and papayas or from leafy greens, bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower and certain squashes. 

Guinea pigs can get small amounts of vitamin C from vegetables such as tomatoes and green leafy vegetables, but they need to eat ten times more vegetable matter than fruit.

But don’t overdo it! A guinea pig will not overdose on vitamin C, it cannot be stored in the body so any excess is quickly eliminated through the kidneys. 

Guinea pigs may also need to take medication if they are unwell, so it is essential that you can recognize symptoms of illness and know how to administer the treatment.

First of all, too many treats could change their natural diet by making them overweight or obese. This can lead to many other health problems, including heart diseases.

Secondly, some human foods are toxic for guinea pigs and can actually kill them.

What Food Need To Avoid For Guinea Pigs?

The following foods should be avoided for your guinea pigs including chocolate (or anything else containing caffeine); any food high in sugar content; beans; potato peelings; rhubarb leaves; Iceberg lettuce,  Avocados, Mushrooms, Garlic, and onions. These items may cause gas or other digestive problems for the cavy.

How Often To Feed Guinea Pigs?

Once or twice per day, at least once daily. Guinea pigs should be fed with small portions of food several times throughout the day so they can munch on it rather than one large serving.

Avoid feeding your guinea pig anything from your own plate. The cavy could become a fussy eater if you do this since it associates what

Grooming Guinea Pigs

Grooming Guinea Pigs

Grooming is a very important part of guinea pig care. In order to keep your pet physically and mentally healthy, you will need to take the time every day or at least once a week for proper grooming. 

First, you must ensure that your hands are clean before touching your pet in order to prevent any spread of germs. 

Begin by gently brushing their fur, starting from the back and working your way toward their head until all their fur is free of mats and tangles.

If a mat does not brush out easily you may need to use some scissors to carefully cut them apart. You will want to be careful as you do this as guinea pigs have very thin skin that can be easily injured. 

Guinea Pig Handle Tips

The most important part of handling guinea pigs is not to handle them. As soon as they know you will pick them up and carry them, they will let you do it all the time.

Instead, sit with piggies on the floor and watch TV or read a book, show food treats and wait for the pig to come over and let you pet her.

If the pig is not used to being picked up, it can be a scary experience for both of you. Some pigs will panic and try to escape. Others just freeze in terror.

When this happens, put the pig down as soon as possible before things go from bad to worse! If your piggie does not like to be picked up, then don’t do it. 

Try sitting with him on the floor. Never pull or drag a pig that does not want to go! If you keep doing this, your pig will start to fear you and avoid you at all costs.

Forcing your piggie to interact with you will only cause her more stress, and she may even associate you with being in a threatening situation.

It is important to always have a good relationship with your guinea pig. If they do not trust you, then it will be harder for you to bond with them.

Another way to interact with them is through their home turf. Guinea pigs are very territorial about their space. Try sitting on the floor and watching them for a little while.

You can move very slowly so as not to startle them, but be careful about sudden movements. They might interpret those as an attack from outside their territory!

If you have more than one guinea pig, it is important to separate them during handling sessions because they will definitely fight.

Guinea pigs adore being petted behind the ears, on top of the head, and on the tops of their muzzles.

If you want to pick up and hold your piggy, then put one hand under her bottom and the other on top of her back like this:

This is a safe way of picking your guinea pig up. Giving them treats while you hold them will help them associate you with good things.

Try putting the treats in their hand and letting them eat them from your hand. If you want to pick up a guinea pig that is not used to being handled or if you have never picked one up before, then go very slowly and gently.

7 Common Health Problems Of Guinea Pigs

Pet guinea pigs will have some health problems, sometimes they have a serious illness and this makes them uncomfortable. The following is a list of the most common diseases seen in pet guinea pigs:

  • Upper respiratory infection
  • Urinary Tract infection
  • Tumors
  • Skin infections
  • Teeth overgrowth
  • Vitamin C deficiency 
  • Tooth root abscesses 

Respiratory infections (otherwise known as “wheezes”) in guinea pigs are extremely dangerous and can lead to death. The respiratory system is very sensitive and highly susceptible to infection.

The slightest cold, flu, or other infection can turn into pneumonia very rapidly and therefore needs utmost attention.

In general, each disease will have a different severity depending on when the owner discovered the disease. So, learning about common diseases in guinea pigs allows you to identify and take care of your pet in time.

10 Fun Facts About Guinea Pigs

10 Fun Facts About Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs also have some characteristics that are very different from the other small pets you may be familiar with – namely their social structure and how they breed! Guinea pigs (or “cavies”) are herd animals, not solitary like rabbits or most pet rodents.

There are many interesting facts about piggies, here are the top 10 facts.

  • Guinea pigs are nocturnal
  • The guinea pig’s teeth never stop growing
  • A group of guinea pigs is called a herd or fluffle.
  • They can jump as high as one foot into the air
  • They are cousins to rabbits, but they are more closely related to camels
  • They can be trained to do tricks, can learn their names, and respond when called
  • Unlike most rodents, guinea pigs are known for being “cuddly” and friendly with humans.
  • Guinea pig’s front teeth grow at an amazing rate of 3 inches per year
  • When they sleep they either sleep on their backs or on their side with their feet in the air

Guinea Pigs FAQs

How many guinea pigs should a beginner get?

A new guinea pig owner should get at least two pigs. Guinea pigs are herd animals, so they’re happier when living in pairs or groups of three or more.

Do guinea pigs like to be cuddled?

Yes. They enjoy being petted on the head and under the chin, on their backs and on their legs. Guinea pigs even seem to enjoy being picked up and held.

Is a hamster or a guinea pig better?

Whether one of these pets is better than the other depends on personal choice. Guinea pigs have a longer lifespan, though it is still only 5-7 years on average.

They also tend to be shy and cuddly, enjoying gentle interaction with their owners, whereas hamsters are active and more independent.

Conclusion

Guinea pigs are very sweet pets. They require a lot of care, but they are very trainable and adorable. They should always have a large cage to live in and lots of time to play outside their cage. 

Guinea pigs need toys and exercise equipment such as ramps, slides, and ladders. They also require hay every day and fresh vegetables to eat twice a week.

Guinea pig care is not hard once you understand what you are doing. Hope this article helps you better understand guinea pigs.

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