guinea pig care guide
Caring for your Guinea Pig
Guinea pigs are sociable and friendly animals. They enjoy the company of people when they are used to them, but also need the companionship of other guinea pigs. When choosing a guinea pig you will find they come in a wide variety of coat colours and types, from the smooth coated British to the long coated Peruvian, but all are of a similar size. All of these animals need grooming to help keep their coat healthy. Guinea pigs do not like to live alone so, if possible it is best to have 2 females and introduce them together when young. If male guinea pigs are preferred then it is wise to have them neutered to prevent fighting.
Handling your Guinea Pig
When you first bring your guinea pig home they will be nervous and apprehensive, so it is important that they are allowed to get used to their surroundings before you try to handle them. Once your guinea pig seems happy with its home you can then start getting your pet used to you. This is done by:
- Placing your hand in the cage, perhaps wiggling your fingers a little, and letting your pet get used to your smell and your presence in your home territory.
- When they seem happy for you to do this, then gently stroke them.
- You can then pick up your guinea pig.
- In order to pick them up correctly you must always approach your guinea pig from the front, so they don’t get frightened and can see what’s going on, then pick them up use both hands – one under the chest and tummy, the other supporting the hind quarters – then hold close against your body so your pet will feel safe and secure.
- If you are patient you will find they enjoy having you around and will start squeaking excitedly whenever they see you. However, there is one word of warning, your guinea pig has very sensitive hearing and will be scared by loud or sensitive noises. It is important that young children are always supervised when playing with their pet.
Housing your Guinea Pig
Before getting your guinea pig you need to decide where to house it. In all cases the accommodation has to be large enough to provide both living and sleeping areas. For 2 guinea pigs this should be at least 120cm long x 60cm wide x 60cm high with separate sleeping compartments for each animal. If housed outside the cage needs to be off the ground, insulated, weatherproof, draught-proof and predator proof. They need plenty of bedding to allow them to burrow and hide if they want to. If possible an outside enclosure should also be provided to enable your pet to exercise and graze. Guinea Pigs are very prone to heat stroke so extreme care must be taken that they have access to shade and that cages are not placed in full sun. Bedding should be plentiful but dust free. It may consist of shavings, hay or shredded clean paper. Pine or cedar wood shavings should be avoided, as should printed paper, as they can all be toxic to your pet. The cage and feeding bowls should be cleaned out every day and the bedding changed at least once or twice a week. Ceramic or stainless steel feeding dishes, which are shallow enough for your pet to feed from but difficult to tip over, should be used. Clean water, in a gravity bottle attached to the side of the cage, must always be available.
Feeding your Guinea Pig
Your guinea pigs needs a special diet in order to keep them healthy and strong. A good quality pelleted guinea pig diet, when fed together with a plentiful supply of good quality hay and small quantities of fresh vegetables (not lettuce or grass cuttings as these may cause stomach upsets) will supply sufficient vitamins, minerals and plant fibre to your pet. Because guinea pigs are grazing animals their teeth continue to grow throughout life. It is, therefore, important to give your guinea pig sufficient plant fibre to keep the teeth from becoming too long. When introducing a new diet to your pet it must be done gradually over a few days. This is done by adding small amounts of the new foodstuff to the existing food and gradually reducing the level of the old food.
Finally a healthy guinea pig will have bright eyes and a shiny coat, its appetite will be good and it will be active and sociable. If you think your pet may be unwell then it is essential you take it to a veterinary surgeon.