Guinea Pig Care

Guinea Pig Care

Guinea pigs are intelligent, charismatic and most importantly adorable little friends to introduce into your family.

Guinea pigs are friendly and easily tamed but they require commitment and regular attention. Long-haired guinea pigs can be especially hard to look after. Before you think about getting a pet you should think very hard about whether you can provide everything it needs.

Lifespan
Guinea pigs can live for up to ten years

What do guinea pigs need?

  • Companionship from other guinea pigs.
  • A gnawing block.
  • To be combed every day if they have a long coat.
  • Feeding twice a day with a mixture of meadow hay, pellets, washed fruit and vegetables.
  • A constant supply of fresh, clean water in a drip-feed bottle with a metal spout.
  • A large weatherproof home that is kept off the ground, out of direct sunlight and strong winds.
  • A separate sleeping area for each animal inside the home. Their sleeping area also needs to be covered.
  • A clean layer of hay or shredded paper for bedding.
  • Daily exercise in a large, grassy area, free and safe from any predators.
  • Their home cleaned every day and their bedding changed every week.
  • To be looked after when you are away on holiday. 

Care and Maintenance

Most guinea pigs will live from five to nine years but, if kept in optimum conditions and in good health, some are known to live up to 10 years.

Guinea pigs are very sociable and group-oriented pets. If you’re bringing more than one guinea pig into your home, avoid choosing different sexes. Non-familiar males will generally fight, though males brought up together may not. If you’re keeping guinea pigs in groups, ensure they are single-sex or desexed individuals as this may help to eliminate aggression. Desexing your guinea pig may also reduce their risk of disease, increase their lifespan, make them calmer and stop them reproducing.

Your guinea pigs require a safe home, complete and balanced diet and plenty of love and attention. So be prepared to share lots of love and affection with your adorable new friends.

Setting up

The more guinea pigs you have, the bigger the hutch you’ll need. Line the hutch with newspaper covered with soft grass hay for bedding. Hang a drink bottle on the outside of the enclosure with the spout pointing inside. A heavy food bowl is necessary, as is a hidey hut and toys.

Place the enclosure out of reach of other animals and out of any areas exposed to draughts and direct sunlight. Provide adequate heat protection as guinea pigs are susceptible to heat stress. Avoid exposing guinea pigs to temperatures above 25°C for long periods of time. These pets will thrive in temperatures ranging from 18–25°C.

Spot clean your guinea pigs’ cage daily and do a thorough clean every two to three days. Replace the bedding, wipe down the cage with hot water and wash the elements, such as toys and drink bottles, with disinfectant. You’ll need a substitute home for your guinea pigs while you clean – a travel cage is perfect.

Feeding

Your new pet will need a constant source of hay as food and bedding to stay healthy. Chewing will also stop their teeth from growing too long. Your pet will also love to munch on veggies like broccoli, cabbage and celery, as well as herbs like mint, parsley, and coriander. If harvesting plants from your backyard ensure they are free of pesticides, as these chemicals can be harmful to your pet. Keep in mind that you should throw out any fruit and vegetables that have been in their hutch for more than 24 hours.

You can also give guinea pig pellets. These should only supplement other items on the menu, and not be the main basis of their diet. Avoid feeding your guinea pig grains, cereals or nuts as this may cause digestive problems.

Guinea pigs are unable to make their own vitamin C. While some vegetables contain vitamin C, you will need to provide your pets with a suitable supplement to keep them healthy.

Do NOT feed your guinea pig:

  • Grains
  • Cereals
  • Nuts
  • Lawn clippings
  • Rhubarb leaves
  • Pink clover
  • Hemlock
  • Chocolate
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol

A guinea pig needs about 100ml of water per day, and it’s important to change their water daily. We suggest using a hanging water dispenser, as water bowls can be messy and are often tipped over. It’s best to refresh your guinea pig’s water every morning, but keep an eye on their water during hot days.

Grooming

An essential part of parenting a guinea pig is grooming. Just like you, your guinea pig will need some hair maintenance every once in a while. Using a firm, soft brush, remove any excess hair, tangles, or anything else that may have been caught up in there, like twigs and leaves.

During your regular grooming routine, make sure to check your guinea pig’s skin and nails.

Handling and grooming your guinea pig once a day will give you plenty of bonding time and will improve their confidence and comfort when being handled. Guinea pigs are best picked up when they’re in the crouch position. Placing your hand over their shoulders will encourage them to get into this position so you are then able to scoop them up from underneath with your other hand. Be sure to use both hands to hold them, as they startle easily and may scamper off. Hold them close to you and support them from underneath. Consistent daily interaction is the key to winning over your guinea pig. Use a gentle voice and steady movements to settle your pet and help them develop trust.

Health care

Guinea pigs are susceptible to contracting various ailments. A few of the many guinea pig veterinary needs offered for you and your pet are: desexing for both male and female guinea pigs, parasite control, dental care, preventative medicine, nutritional and husbandry advice and supplies, and nail trimming.

Your guinea pig is vulnerable to skin ailments, fleas, vitamin C deficiency and dental problems. One of the key things to remember with your guinea pig is that their teeth grow constantly. They need to have plenty of chew sticks and abrasive foods such as celery, broccoli, corn and husks to gnaw on and keep their teeth trim and in check. If their teeth become overgrown, it can lead to serious health problems and will need to be looked at by your vet.

If your guinea pig shows signs of lethargy, irregular bowel movements, a dull coat, itchiness or are disinterested in eating, they will need medical attention. A healthy guinea pig will be alert, active and have a shiny coat.

If you notice your pet is showing any of these signs, don’t hesitate to visit us and we can recommend the right health products or treatments your guinea pig may need.

Pet Safety Tips

Let your pet run inside or outside every so often. Get a playpen for outdoor runs. For indoor adventures, block any small holes and ensure no other animals have access to the room. Remove electrical wires, ingestible items and toxic plants and maintain supervision at all times. When they’re feeling energetic, a guinea pig is likely to start ‘popcorning’, where they jump around in excitement. This is a happy sing from your pet, though they may grow out of it when they get a little older.
Don’t house guinea pigs with other small animals such as rabbits. Mixing guinea pigs with rabbits is not recommended as it can spread disease. You want to create a stress-free environment for your new pets and housing them with animals double their size will have the opposite effect.

Guinea Pig Checklist

Housing

  • Hutch
  • Bedding
  • A hiding place or nesting box
  • Hay rack
  • Water bottle
  • Food bowl

Food

  • Veggies
  • Vitamin C supplements
  • Hay
  • Pellets
  • Fruits (as treats only)

Miscellaneous

  • Hair brush
  • Parasite prevention