When I think of guinea pigs, the first thing that comes to my mind is cuteness overload. They are small, funny, gentle and a joy to have as a companion. Furthermore, guinea pigs are an excellent choice for pets for kids.
You will be showered with love if you are willing to give them the proper care and attention they need. Although they are not so difficult to look after, they still require effort to keep them healthy and happy.
How do you give proper guinea pig care and ensure you have a happy companion?
In the content below we will give you answers to the most important questions related to guinea pigs’ care.
Prepare for Your New Pet’s Housewarming Party
Have you chosen a cage?
Your new companion deserves the best guinea pig cage. With bigger cages, the little one will have ample space to move around and be active. If you are taking one guinea pig, then a space of seven and a half square feet is enough. But, if you want to take two, eight to ten feet should be more than fine. If you have decided to get two guinea pigs, ensure they are of the same gender. Unless you want to have a lot of baby guinea pigs.
Maybe the size of the cage will seem big to you at first, but your new friend will grow and the cages for small animals that are offered in the stores are not going to give enough space for your fully grown cavy.
Try to choose a cage with a solid bottom. Why? Because guinea pigs have tender feet and a wire or mesh bottom will hurt their feet. If you have already chosen a cage with a wire bottom, then buy a tray to cover the entire wire bottom. A solid bottom will make it easier for you to clean it as well.
If you are thinking about getting a multi-level cage, take into consideration that if a cavy falls from a height above six inches, it can hurt itself. Once your furry friend gets older, it may not be able to go up and down a multi-level cage.
The bedding in the cage needs to be a few inches. Before you go and buy one, ensure you know what is the best bedding for guinea pigs. First, you may need to line the bottom with paper (use if you have an old newspaper), then you can add the bedding. The most common types of bedding for cavies are paper bedding, fleece, and wood shavings. Cedar or pine beddings should be avoided because they can be unsafe for guinea pigs.
Paper bedding needs to be changed at least two times per week because it holds a smell. In addition, the fleece should be spot cleaned daily. But, you can add an absorbent underneath to take in everything so you don’t have to clean it off your little one.
Don’t forget about the cage accessories. Besides the bedding, you will need to purchase a dish for food, a bottle of water, and some toys for the little ball of fur to entertain itself.
Find a place in your home
You chose the best home for the new furry companion. That’s great. Before you bring the little one home, choose a suitable location for the cavy.
The room in which the cage will be placed needs to be with frequent human traffic. The little one has to get used to people. So, a living room or a spacious hallway would be a good choice. However, ensure that the cage is safely placed because if it gets pushed and the furry ball falls, it can be fatal.
Another thing to consider when choosing a room for the little one is to make sure that it has space for the cavy to stretch its legs once in a while. That means to remove any wires, close doors, and remove any other pets you may have. If you have another pet, introduce them gradually. Let the guinea pig get familiar with space first.
Think about the temperature in the room as well. Guinea pigs are quite sensitive creatures. Keep your new companion indoors if there is a danger of outdoor cats. But, also provide sunlight exposure regularly.
Choose the best hay for your furry friend
One of the things that should be always available for your piggy is good quality hay. They need to have something to graze on constantly; otherwise, their digestive system can stop working. And that’s only one of the consequences if they don’t have enough hay.
Some types of hay for cavies older than six months are timothy, bluegrass, alfalfa, or orchard grass. Whichever you choose, make sure you continuously supply it for your little one.
Soiled hay should be removed every day.
All those veggies
When it comes to fresh veggies, the best thing to do is get a list of safe products from your vet. You’ll need to know which veggies are safe for your furry ball of love because too much calcium, Vitamin A, and phosphorus can lead to diarrhea. This can become fatal for the piggy.
However, your cavy needs fresh veggies, especially the ones rich in Vitamin C, because it can’t produce Vitamin C on its own. Leafy greens are a good choice to feed your new companion. Include other veggies such as carrots, parsley, cucumber, raw broccoli, but be careful with the amount. Consult with your vet before deciding on the quantity and type of veggies. But one cup of greens per day, divided into two meals should be more than enough.
If you notice that it doesn’t want to eat vegetables, try cutting them into small pieces. Also, observe and notice if the ball of fur prefers certain veggies.
Vegetables you will need to avoid are cauliflower, iceberg lettuce, radishes, potatoes, red leaves, and beet greens.
Every day you need to remove any vegetables that your cavy won’t eat, so they won’t get spoiled.
What about pellets?
If you choose to feed your new friend pellets, make sure they are for guinea pigs. The pellets for rabbits or other small animals don’t have the same quantity of vitamins and minerals that is necessary for guinea pigs.
If your piggy is healthy then it might not need nutritional pellets. But if it is used to eating them, continue feeding it with pellets, but gradually try to acclimate it to its new diet.
If you have to feed it pellets, choose a good quality brand. Timothy-based pellets are good for cavies older than six months. Pellets that are alfalfa-based are good for a baby piggy or a pregnant one.
Choose plain, seed-free pellets to prevent your furry companion from choking.
Your guinea pig needs only hay, fresh veggies, untreated and fresh grass, and pellets. You don’t need to feed it anything else, or you may put its health in danger.
Hydration is important as well
Fresh and clean water is another very crucial thing you need to provide to your piggy.
You could use a bowl or water bottle. If you choose a bottle, it may get messy because it leaks.
In addition, drinking water from a bowl is a little bit more natural for guinea pigs. But, you will find some wood shavings in it if you decide to use them.
A good choice for a water bottle is the one that contains a little ball in the discharge.
Getting Fit and Healthy
Let it stretch its legs
In the content above we mentioned that you should let the little one run around freely in a room. This is crucial for its happiness.
In a secure and safe room, you can set up a playing space just for the furry friend and let it play and exercise with any accessories you might have. Ensure the room is safe and closed to prevent the piggy from escaping.
Another option is to set up an enclosed playing space outdoors. However, be mindful of any holes because the cavy can move through them and it can get attacked by other animals.
Nevertheless, guinea pigs shouldn’t be unsupervised whether they play indoors or outdoors.
Toys and other fun stuff
Get your new furry companion a lot of toys and accessories for the cage, and for playing outside of the cage.
If you are into arts and crafts, you could even create your own toys. Use paper bags, containers, boxes, and whatever else you have around. Let your creativity work.
Bond with your ball of fur
These little creatures are naturally social and in their natural habitat, they live in groups. So, interacting with the cavy is of paramount importance for its happiness. If you have decided to own a guinea pig, make sure you have time to spend with it every day.
But, before you start carrying your new friend around, let’s see how you should start your first interaction.
In the beginning, choose a socializing time when both of you are calm. Pick it up slowly with one hand under its chest and the other under its bottom.
You want to make your new furry friend feel secure, so hold it close to you. Once you get acquainted you can start making the time you spend together more interesting.
Play with the little one, pet it, carry it, you could even talk to it. Furthermore, you can teach the furry ball of love some tricks. They are very smart, and if you teach them, they could jump, stand on their hind legs, and other amazing activities.
How about another furry companion?
Did you know that in some countries you have to buy two guinea pigs? They enjoy the company of another fellow cavy. Even if you spend as much time as you can with your piggy, it can’t replace the companionship of another guinea pig.
If they don’t bond with their owner, or with another pig, they can display symptoms similar to depression in humans, like inactivity, or loss of appetite.
Clean and shiny
Clean home, clean piggy
Two days a week, clean the droppings, leftover veggies, add more hay and wash the bottle for water as well as the food bow. You will notice that your cavy is generally clean, so twice a week should be enough to avoid a buildup of uneaten food and droppings.
Besides these two set days, you should schedule a deep cleaning of the cage a least once a week. This means removing bedding and cleaning everything.
To start cleaning your pet’s cage, first remove everything from the cage, toys, bowls, bottles, bedding, and any leftover food. You will need to wash and clean all toys and other accessories with an antibacterial spray that is pet-friendly.
Afterward, clean the inside of the cage with the same antibacterial spray, or you could kill the bacteria naturally with water and sunshine.
When you deep clean the cage, you can start setting it up for the little one. Put a newspaper before you start spreading the layer of bedding. Or, if you are using fleece, you could put towels as a liner.
Create a sleeping area for the cavy. You could buy an igloo, or just put extra loose hay and the furry friend will burrow in it. But, keep in mind that the hay needs to be soft to prevent it from poking your new friend’s eyes. Before putting the piggy inside the cage, pat the hay a little to make it softer.
Piggy’s special spa day
You know how to clean thoroughly your cavy’s home, but what about the cavy? It needs to be cleaned as well.
You won’t need to bathe your little one very often, because it will keep itself clean. But, to maintain its cleanliness, brush it frequently. If it has short hair, brushing it a couple of times a week is going to be enough. However, if it is a long-haired piggy, you will need to brush it every day.
A healthy furry companion should be bathed two to three times a year. If it is more than that, it may interfere with the natural processes of the body.
If your furry friend has a skin condition, then it will have to be bathed more frequently. Consult with your vet and check how often you need to bathe it and what kind of shampoo you should use. It will be a special shampoo for small pets.
When it’s time for a bath, warm the room so the ball of fur doesn’t get cold. The water should be warm, not hot, and rinse the shampoo thoroughly.
Clipping your furry companion’s nails is a ritual you’ll do every few weeks. Use a nail clipper, and trim just the tip of the nails. Be careful because you might cut into the blood vessel. Use a flashlight if your little one has dark nails.
The first time, it’s best if you go to a veterinarian to clip your pet’s nails and watch how they do it.
Is the little one happy and healthy?
Guinea pigs can hide their illness quite well, so you need to be very observant. Do a frequent checkup yourself and if you notice any changes, take it to the vet immediately.
Your piggy’s eyes and nose should be clear. If you notice any discharge, it needs to be checked by a vet. Although, if the discharge is milky, don’t be alarmed. Milky discharge from piggy’s eyes is normal.
When you brush your pet’s coat, check its skin. Any dryness, redness, or bold spots should be reported to your vet as soon as possible, because it may need some medication.
Check the bedding, and see if there are any droppings. If there isn’t, it might mean that your furry friend is constipated. You may want to give it a little bit of pear or an apple, but if you don’t notice any changes you take it to the vet. Diarrhea is a cause for concern and it requires immediate attention, because your cavy may get dehydrated.
Since guinea pigs are clean creatures, if you notice that their bottom smells, take it to the veterinarian. The little one may have diarrhea or a urinary tract infection.
If your furry companion is male, then check its genital areas. They can get impacted, so you just need to massage the area, and if you notice a soft substance coming out, clean it with a cotton swab.
Your new pet’s behavior can tell you something about their health. Furthermore, guinea pigs are social and active beings, so if they seem withdrawn and not up for playing, there is a big possibility that something is not right.
If you decide to take care of more than one piggy, you will need to take them all to the vet if one displays some symptoms. Some diseases can be spread from one to another, so it’s better to be safe.
If you want to keep your new companion healthy, keep it away from rabbits. Why? Rabbits carry bacteria that can make your furry friend very sick. Moreover, since they are stronger and bigger, even if they don’t mean it, they can kill a piggy with just one playful kick.
Do you have a digital kitchen scale? You have to weigh your pet once a week. If you notice a difference of more than two ounces, the little furry friend may have some serious health problems.
Our Final Thoughts
Guinea pigs are amazing companions. You will have a lot of fun with your new furry friend. But, you need to take care of them properly and give them special attention. If they receive all your love and care, you can spend four to eight years with them.