Guinea pigs make for great companions because of their docile nature, resistance to disease, and adaptability to their owner's lifestyle. They are a favorite among small pet lovers because of their size, friendliness, and endearing behaviors. These gentle creatures also make excellent starter pets for older children. Before purchasing a guinea pig as a pet, it is important to do plenty of research so that both of you can lead a happy and healthy life together for years to come.
Housing your Guinea Pig
Guinea pigs are very social animals and prefer to live in groups. To prevent extra litters of baby guinea pigs, house 2 guinea pigs of the same sex together. It is recommended that you purchase your guinea pigs at a young age at the same time, perhaps even from the same litter.
Guinea pigs are active up to twenty hours a day and need ample room to run around. You'll need a large cage
with a solid bottom (avoid wire mesh as it can injure your pets' sensitive feet) that is at least 30" x 18". If you are housing multiple guinea pigs select a larger cage. It is not recommended to house your guinea pigs in glass aquariums because of the poor ventilation that glass provides. Select an area in your home to keep your cage that is away from drafts or extreme temperatures.
We recommend lining the bottom of the cage with an all-natural, low dust small pet bedding
like CareFresh or aspen bedding to reduce odor and keep the animals from getting respiratory infections. Also provide a medium-sized ceramic food dish
and 32 oz. hanging water bottle
in the habitat.
Include a hideaway cave
for sleeping and resting, and cardboard tubes
for hiding and playing. Wooden chew toys
are also a necessary part of a guinea pig habitat. They have teeth that grow constantly, and gnawing is a natural behavior for these pets. The wood will help to keep the teeth worn to a comfortable length, and will help to curb boredom.
Feeding Your Guinea Pig
Guinea pigs are hearty eaters and spend much of their time grazing in the wild. We recommend feeding guinea pig pellets
, timothy hay
or other hay mixes, and small amounts of green leafy vegetables like romaine lettuce, kale, and spinach. Guinea pigs also enjoy some fruits, like oranges, pears and grapes, although they should be provided sparingly.
Provide an unlimited supply of timothy hay
for your pet to graze on. It is high in fiber, aids in digestion, and will help satisfy your pet's urge to chew.
Unlike other animals, guinea pigs are unable to produce their own Vitamin C. It is important to dose your pet's water with specially formulated guinea pig vitamins
and to offer fresh fruits and vegetables that contain Vitamin C.
Habitat Maintenance & Guinea Pig Care
Guinea pigs produce a lot of waste, and their cages should be cleaned two or more times a week. Wash the tray, dishes, and toys with soap and water at least once a week. You can spot clean your guinea pig's cage in between bedding changes to reduce odor.
Guinea pigs usually keep themselves quite clean, but they will need a little help from you on occasion. Brush your guinea pig on a regular basis to remove loose hair and dirt from their coat. Bathing is not necessary, but there are special guinea pig shampoos that can be used to bathe your guinea pig if the need arises. Be sure to dry your pet off thoroughly and keep it warm after a bath so it does not get sick.
Guinea pigs also require monthly nail clipping to keep their toenails short. You can trim your pet's nails as needed using a small animal nail clipper
. Have someone hold your guinea pig while you trim its nails. Do not cut into the pink area of the nail called the quick. If you accidentally cut into the quick, the nail may bleed. Use an animal safe anticoagulant
on the end of the nail to stop the bleeding if this happens.
Vocalizations & Behaviors
Guinea pigs are funny, inquisitive creatures that are social and also very vocal. Guinea pigs have a wide range of vocalizations from rumbling, whining, chattering their teeth and squealing. You may hear your guinea pig whistling from time to time. Guinea pigs make this sound when they are excited. They will often wheek or whistle when they recognize their owner, or when they are trying to locate other guinea pigs. Wheeking is very similar to the squealing noise made by pigs, hence their name! Like cats, guinea pigs also purr when they are happy and content. They often purr when they are being petted or when grooming each other.
Bringing Your Pet Home
Guinea pigs can make great pets for children, but it is important to supervise them when they handle the animal. Any animal, even a friendly one, will bite or scratch if it feels threatened. Handle your guinea pig in a quiet, calm environment, because loud noises and quick movements can startle these animals.
When picking up a guinea pig, make sure you are supporting its chest with one hand and the rump with the other. The guinea pig should be cradled in your arms, resting on your lap, or held to your chest while you are holding it so its feet are against you.
Your guinea pig may enjoy running around on the floor or in a playpen for short periods of time as long as you are supervising. Although they have short legs, guinea pigs are very fast. You should pet-proof your room, keeping dangerous objects, like cords, out of reach.
Once your new pet is home you may notice some interesting behaviors. Guinea pigs sleep for short periods of time, typically no more than ten to fifteen minutes at random intervals in the day. They will lie on their side and sometimes will keep one eye open. Some people call this "playing dead". Don't be alarmed, as you approach the cage your pet should wake up and move about normally
When a guinea pig stands completely still for a long period of time is trying to avoid attracting attention to itself, we call this "freezing". They will do this when they hear a strange noise or if something frightening happens and will listen intently for danger.
If startled, guinea pigs may suddenly run around in every direction, go into their hide-outs or pile up together in a corner. Typically, once they feel the danger has passed, the braver pigs will venture out of hiding first to see if it is safe.
Popcorning is perhaps the most endearing guinea pig behavior (hopping around in the air). This is a sign of a happy excited guinea pig! It will leap around, kicking its feet up, often while vocalizing, just for the sheer joy of it.
Wash your hands with warm, soapy water before and after handling any animal. This habit will help to prevent the spread of germs, and help to prevent accidental bites by washing away smells that may entice them (like if you recently handled food or treats).
When it comes to your new pet, knowledge is the best way to choose an appropriate addition to your family. Learn as much as you can about your new friend before you bring him home to ensure your pet enjoys a long, healthy life as your companion.
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our small animal department at 717-299-5691 ext. 1274 or [email protected]