Guinea pigs are one of the most popular domesticated animals in the world. Guinea pigs are easy to care for, cost-effective and cute, which is why many people buy them as pets. Guinea pig facts have been around since they were first discovered by European explorers in South America.
Guinea pig requirements vary depending on their age, breed, etc, but there are some basic things you need to know about them before buying one.
Today I will discuss guinea pig basics, including what they eat, how their habitat should be set up, and how they should be cared for, so that you can get started with your new pet!
Guinea Pig Basic Breed Facts:
- Guinea pigs are rodents that originate from Guinea and South America. Even though they’re now domesticated, guinea pigs descend from wild rodents found in South America.They belong to the Cavy family and resemble small rabbits with shorter tails.
- Guinea pigs are one of the most popular domesticated animals in the world. They can make great pets, especially for children.
- They typically grow to about 10-12 inches long (not including their tails) and weigh around two pounds when they’re fully grown!
- Guinea pigs do not hibernate like many other rodents, such as hamsters or chipmunks. They can also not produce their own body heat, which makes them more susceptible to weather changes.
- They actually have their own language too! Guinea pigs make noises that are known as “wheeking”. This noise can sound like whistling or chirping, depending on what they want to say.
The more these sounds vary in tone, the more they mean different things, so it’s important you listen carefully if your guinea pig starts making a lot of these sounds!
- Guinea pigs are wonderful pets because of their sociable demeanor. They are little and cute. They come in a wide variety of breeds and also come in a range of colors, hues, and coat lengths.
- The average lifespan of a Guinea pig is between 4 to 6 years. However, if really good care is taken of them, they can easily live up to 8 years at a minimum.
- Males and females achieve sexual maturity at different times. Males achieve sexual maturity at three months, and female guinea pigs achieve sexual maturity at two months. The normal gestation period is 68 days, and a litter typically contains 2 to 4 puppies.
- Guinea pigs are born with all of their hair and are ready to consume solid food within a few days, but they need 2-3 weeks to wean off of their mother’s milk.
Guinea Pig Housing Basics
One guinea pig needs a cage at least 4’x 2′ x 2’ in size. More guinea pigs should be kept in larger cages with various food and water sources.
It is highly advisable that you avoid cages that have wire or mesh flooring. Wire flooring may lead to foot issues in cages, therefore they should have a solid bottom.
Fleece or recycled paper bedding are good options for bedding. Certain types of wood shavings contain harmful substances such as respiratory irritants, skin irritants, and, in some severe cases, even toxins that are very harmful to your guinea pigs’ liver.
Guinea pigs are at risk of developing respiratory problems, so it is best to avoid types of bedding that contain these harmful substances. Aspen wood shavings are the preferred choice when it comes to wood shavings. Avoid pine and cedar shavings at all costs.
Cages should have a plastic bottom, because Guinea pigs can develop foot issues when they walk on wire mesh flooring. Guinea pigs love to dig and be playful, so having enough room for toys or tunnels in their cage will help them stay active during the day!
There are many different guinea pig cages available, such as DIY (do-it-yourself) kits with all sorts of addons like wheels and hay racks. Guinea Pig cages must always include:
- Hay rack/feeder – Hay is essential to your Guinea Pig’s diet. If you do not provide hay, then chances are your Guinea Pig won’t be eating very much. Guinea pigs should always have access to hay 24 hours a day.
- Water bottle – Guinea pigs require fresh water every day. If you do not provide them with a water bottle, then chances are they will drink out of their food bowl instead, which can lead to an upset stomach or even get your Guinea Pig sick! Make sure that the tip is big enough so that it doesn’t drip all over your guinea pig’s cage flooring.
- Dish for pellets– Guinea pigs feed on seed mixes and pellet foods. They should have easy access to this throughout the day in order to maintain proper dietary needs. Always check ingredients lists since some brands may contain nuts which could potentially kill your Guinea Pig if consumed .
- Chew toys– Guinea pigs require chew toys to stay healthy. They have teeth that never stop growing, so they need something hard to chomp on in order for their teeth to not grow too long or become misaligned. If you do not provide your Guinea pig with a toy then chances are it will find another means of entertainment by chewing up the cage bars instead.
- Hidey house – Guinea pigs love to hide when they feel uncomfortable or stressed. Make sure there is always an appropriate hidey house available at all times . This can be made out of cardboard boxes lined with clean bedding/hay inside. You can also purchase small Guinea Pig Cottages that are Guinea Pig safe for them to chew on and hide in.
Provide plenty of hiding spaces for your guinea pigs in their cages. To make them feel safe and comfortable in their cage, Guinea pigs prefer a hide box filled with straw. If you’re keeping many pigs in the same cage, make sure they each have their own hideout box.
- Tunnels– Guinea pigs love to explore, build tunnels, so your Guinea pig has a place to play or take cover if they feel threatened . They come in various shapes and sizes which can be purchased at pet stores. If you decide not to go with store bought options, then there are always DIY versions online!
- Food bowl/Rack – Make sure the food dish is easily accessible but also stable enough so it won’t fall over when guinea pigs jump around their cage . Guinea pig food should be changed daily because it becomes dirty quickly from being trampled by Guinea Pigs running around!
- Cleaning tips – Guinea pigs are very clean animals. Every day you should remove soiled bedding material from the cages. Cleaning out droppings at least twice a week is highly recommended, but also daily if possible!
Avoid using harsh chemicals when cleaning up your Guinea pig’s cage since it can harm them or even kill them. Instead, use vinegar or dish soap to avoid any issues with potential harmful chemicals that could hurt guinea pigs if ingested by mistake.
Keep pigs away from solid-sided cages,such as aquariums. These do not offer enough ventilation for the animals.
Ideal Temperature For Guinea Pigs
Maintaining the correct temperature is very important for bringing up a healthy guinea pig. The ideal temperature for them is between 15°C to 25°C. Temperaments that are too high or too low should be avoided with Guinea pigs.
Guinea pigs should not be kept in a place where the temperature is above 30°C. Guinea pigs cannot live if it’s below 13°C .
Mixing Social Groups
Guinea pigs are extremely social animals, and in fact, they get depressed if they are kept in isolation. In fact, most guinea pigs prefer the company of a companion.
Socialize Guinea pigs at a young age by keeping them with other guinea pigs for short periods of time, but monitor them closely during playtime since not all piggies get along!
Always introduce new animals gradually and under close observation in a neutral area. Guinea pigs should never be housed alone!
Handling Guinea Pigs
Guinea pigs are very gentle creatures that love to interact and cuddle with their owners . If you’re holding your Guinea Pig correctly, then it will sit still in your hands for extended periods of time without struggling too much.
Make sure guinea pigs do not get overheated when being held! Only hold the back half of its body by keeping one hand under its chest area but resting on top of its hind legs (the ones closest to the tail).
Keep fingers away from eyes , mouth & nose at all times since Guinea Pigs may mistake fingers for food pellets and attempt to nibble on them which could end up hurting you or your Guinea Pig.
If Guinea Pigs are handled too roughly, then they may become startled and attempt to jump out of the owner’s hands, which could result in injury .
Guinea Pig Diet Basics:
Hay And Grass :
Allow adult Guinea Pigs unlimited access to Timothy hay and orchard grass at all times to improve dental and gastrointestinal health.
If you have guinea pigs that are young, or pregnant, or nursing, give them alfalfa hay since it contains more calories, protein, and calcium,than other types of hay.
When feeding adult guinea pigs, Timothy-based pellets are preferred over other types of pellets. Only little amounts of pellets should be provided to some adult guinea pigs in order to encourage hay consumption and prevent obesity.
Young guinea pigs, pregnant guinea pigs, and nursing mothers should be preferably fed alfalfa pellets, since these are more suitable for their nutritional needs.
Consult with your veterinarian for advice on appropriate feeding amounts.
Pellet mixtures containing grains, dried fruits, nuts, or seeds should not be used as a food source. These are high in carbohydrates and fat.
Veggies: Guinea Pigs should be fed according to the following guidelines. The more variety you give them, the better their chances of getting all the necessary nutrients.
Guinea pigs need a daily intake of fresh vegetables and can eat a wide range of vegetables, from leafy greens such as kale and spinach, to colourful veggies like broccoli florets or red peppers, to root vegetables such as carrots.
List of the Best Guinea Pig Vegetables And Herbs :
- Bell Peppers
Fruit: Guinea pigs adore fruits.They especially enjoy strawberries, blueberries, and bananas as well as apples without seeds, which are poisonous to them. .A small piece now and then will do good, so don’t overfeed your Guinea pig with fruits since they have plenty of sugar in them. Guinea pigs should not be raisins.
List Of The Best Fruits For Guinea Pigs
- Kiwi fruit
Seeds And Nuts:
Seeds & Nuts: Guinea Pigs can eat seeds on rare occasions when they’re part of the veggies mentioned above. However, avoid feeding them nuts because they are too fatty and high in calories, which makes Guinea Pigs obese very quickly!
More importantly, never feed avocado to your Guinea pig!It is absolutely poisonous to guinea pigs.
It is recommended that you don’t give more than 1/2 tablespoon to 1 tablespoon of treats to your guinea pigs. Treats should never be part of their staple diet and they should be always given in moderation.
Some healthy treats can include fruits such as apple pieces, cucumber pieces, carrot pieces and strawberry pieces.
Avoid treats that are made up of sugar or any other processed food based treats. These are very harmful to your guinea pigs’ health. Instead of store bought sugar laced treats, you can always opt for natural hay-based treats.
Your local pet store will surely carry a wide variety of hay based treats which you can joyfully indulge your guinea pig in.
Guinea pigs should have a constant supply of fresh water. Guinea pigs will not drink from a bowl if the water is stale and has been sitting out for too long.
If you keep your guinea pig’s cage in a warm area, make sure to change their drinking bottle every day.
They also dislike the taste of chlorine very much, so always use filtered, spring, or purified water that does not contain any additives such as fluoride salts .
- Guinea Pigs should be taken to a Guinea Pig-knowledgeable veterinarian for regular checkups and health screening.
- Guinea pigs must also have an annual dental examination performed on them by their Guinea pig-knowledgeable veterinarian.
- If your Guinea pig is not eating, it may indicate pain or illness which needs veterinary attention immediately.Make sure that you contact your local Guinea pig specialty veterinarian clinic as soon as possible before the problem gets worse!
- In certain instances, spaying and neutering are recommended (discuss with your veterinarian)
- Nail trimming as required (discuss with your veterinarian)
- Guinea pigs that show weight loss over several weeks or months should be monitored closely and, if possible, taken to a Guinea Pig-knowledgeable veterinarian for health assessment.
- Monitor their weight on a weekly basis so that you’re always aware of what’s going on in their bodies.
If you’re someone who loves animals and wants to get a pet guinea pig, I hope that this article has been helpful in your decision-making process.
From what type of cage they need for their diet to how much time each day they should spend outside the cage , I have covered it all!
Remember, not only is caring for them important, but so too is getting your new furry friend vaccinated regularly.
Lastly, remember that these adorable creatures are living beings with needs just like any other animal out there and deserve our love and care!