Pet Care Guides Small Pet

Guinea Pig


South America, Andes Mountains & Grasslands

Max Weight:

3-5 lbs.


5-8 years, depending on breed

Guinea Pigs & Children:

Guinea pigs are good for children when cared for properly.

Having a guinea pig as a pet can be a very rewarding experience! Before purchasing, do plenty of research to understand their behaviors, proper handling and care requirements. Help them live a long and healthy life in your care.

Guinea pigs make for great companions and are a favorite among small pet lovers because of their size, friendliness, and endearing behaviors. Most guinea pigs will have a friendly personality, but every guinea pig is different-just like us.

Guinea pigs are very social animals and prefer to live in groups; but bonds may not form in every case. Special precautions must be taken when introducing one guinea pig to another as any two animals may not get along, even if they were together when young. They should be separated if there is any sign of aggression, and some may never want to be housed with another guinea pig. That Pet Place cannot guarantee that any animal will get along with any other animal, even if they are purchased from the same cage.

To prevent extra litters of baby guinea pigs, only house 2 guinea pigs of the same sex together. We recommend you purchase your guinea pigs at a young age, at the same time, and even from the same litter. That Pet Place cannot guarantee the sex of any animal of any age, especially young rodents, since they are very difficult to sex.

Housing your Guinea Pig

Guinea pigs are active up to twenty hours a day and need ample room to run around. A large cage with a solid bottom and plenty of additional room for essential exercise are a must when caring for a guinea pig properly. For 2 guinea pigs, provide a solid bottom cage that is a minimum of 60”x 30” or 8-12 sq ft. Bigger is always better. For 1 guinea pig, provide a cage that is a minimum of 36”x18”. Add a pet playpen to give them plenty of room for essential exercise. Do not house your guinea pigs in glass aquariums because of the poor ventilation. We also recommend that you keep your guinea pig in the controlled environment of your home. Keep them safe, secure, and away from outside dangers that could include excess heat, debilitating stress, and predators.

Ideal indoor conditions for your guinea pig are 60-75 degrees, normal household humidity of 40 to 70%, and away from drafts. Temperatures above 8o degrees are too high. Guinea pigs are very susceptible to heat exhaustion. If it is too hot, provide your guinea pig with a frozen water bottle, fan or “chinchiller” to lie next to and cool off.

Line the entire bottom of solid bottom cages with small pet paper bedding to absorb waste and odors. Change the bedding daily or at minimum once every 2-3 days. Soiled wet bedding can lead to health issues with breathing and sore feet. Also, the cage itself must be cleaned at least once a week with pet friendly disinfectant.

Use a hay rack to keep hay relatively contained and a ceramic food dish for the pelleted food. Provide unlimited fresh spring water in both a bottle and bowl, not one or the other.  A water dish can get dirty and younger guinea pigs can have a hard time moving the ball bearing in a water bottle to get water flowing. Use spring water.

Guinea pigs drink a little water at a time, but drink frequently! Drinking plenty of water keeps them hydrated and it also helps excess calcium leave their body through their urine. Ridding themselves of this excess calcium helps prevent the development of urinary stones. You must provide hiding places to help your guinea pig to feel more secure and calm. Plastic or wooden hides, timothy bungalows and nylon play tubes can all provide safe places to spend time and escape potential stressors.

Lastly but VERY importantly, guinea pigs’ teeth continue to grow throughout their lives. Provide required wooden and other chews to keep their teeth worn down and healthy.

Feeding Your Guinea Pig

Your guinea pig’s diet should be:
• 70% Hay
• 20% Pellets
• 8% Fresh Produce (after 3 months old)
• 2% Treats

As grazers, guinea pigs eat a little at a time and do so frequently! Their gut and intestines must stay in constant motion by providing unlimited hay and water. Provide a pile of hay at least 2 times the size of the guinea pig themselves. NEVER let your guinea pig run out of hay.

Alfalfa hay is great for young guinea pigs, nursing mothers and undernourished guinea pigs, However, healthy adult guinea pigs should be given alfalfa hay only as a treat.

Pelleted food contains the remaining nutrients and minerals they will not get from hay alone.
• Provide YOUNG guinea pig food until 6 months of age.
• Transition to ADULT guinea pig food at 6 months.
• Transition to SENIOR guinea pig at 4 years of age.

Follow the instructions on the food packaging. Typically, it will suggest what amount of food to feed based on the weight of the guinea pig. Provide fresh food in the morning, no need to top off or refill dish at night.

Unlike other animals, guinea pigs are unable to produce their own Vitamin C. It is necessary to provide your guinea pig with Oxbow Vitamin C tablets or fresh green peppers that contain Vitamin C.

Once they are 3 months or older, offer fresh vegetables daily. Introduce greens gradually and in small amounts to avoid upsetting their stomachs. Selections may include romaine lettuce, chicory, collard greens, turnip greens, carrot tops, mustard greens, parsley, and dandelion leaves. Eventually, up to ½ cup of leafy greens per 2lbs of body weight can be offered daily. Add up to 1 tbsp of mixed vegetables per 2lbs of body weight. Spread the total amount fed over the entire day. For example, give them a 1/3 in the morning, 1/3 in the afternoon and 1/3 of it in the evening.

Wash their veggies, and remove seeds, pits and stones. Other treats can be given a few times a week. Avoid whole seeds, excessive amounts of sugars or fats, and dairy products. If a vegetable or treat causes digestive issues, discontinue its use.

It is important to know that guinea pigs eat some of their own poop, called cecotropes. It is NORMAL, NECESSARY and a GOOD THING. Cecotropes are softer, pasty, and darker than normal poop pellets. Don’t confuse them with diarrhea Lastly, guinea pigs poop as much as 200-300 times a day!

Habitat Maintenance & Guinea Pig Care

Guinea pig’s require attention and care every day. You will need to:
• Provide fresh food, hay, and water daily.
• Spot clean their bedding daily or change it a minimum of once every 2-3 days.
• Wash dishes and bottles once a week or more if necessary.
• Clean the cage itself at least once a week with pet friendly disinfectant.
• Replace toys and chews as needed.

Grooming your Guinea Pig

Brush and remove loose hair that can cause hair balls. Inspect them for bumps, and scratches. Brush long-haired breeds daily and short haired weekly. Trim sanitary area of long-haired breeds every 2-3 weeks. Do not bathe unless medically necessary. Small pet wipes are best as a stress-free, dry bath if need be.

Skinny pigs sometimes develop dry skin. It is a good idea to apply and rub in their skin cold pressed virgin coconut oil daily or as needed. It helps keep their skin from drying out.

Trim your Guinea pigs nails monthly with a small pet nail clipper.

As mentioned previously, a guinea pig’s teeth never stop growing. Overgrown teeth are painful and can cause loss of appetite, drooling & weight loss. Provide required wooden and other chews to keep their teeth worn down and healthy.


Enrichment for your Guinea Pig

Enrichment, exercise, and fun are required! Toys, chews, and mats encourage natural behaviors essential to a guinea pig’s health and happiness.

Your guinea pig may enjoy running around on the floor 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

Can’t guinea pig-proof a room…. set up a pet playpen. Put them in there a few hours a day and make sure they have access to water, hay, food, and their toys

Bringing Your Guinea Pig Home

Allow your guinea pig time to get used to their new surroundings. Put their cage in a quiet area for the first few weeks and limit handling for the first 2-3 days.

We recommend that all guinea pigs younger than three months of age be given only water and hay for the first 2-3 days, then introduce pellets. Avoid giving them treats at first, feeding only hay and pellets for at least the first few weeks. Check on them often for signs of illness such as lack of appetite or loose poop. Their eyes, ears, and nose should be free and clear of any discharge. Treat any sign of illness immediately

At times, the stress of bringing a new guinea pig home can cause an upset stomach or affect their pooping in 1 of 2 ways. They will have loose poop (diarrhea) or they may not poop at all (GI stasis). You must act immediately.

1. Stop feeding pelleted food and continue to provide unlimited hay and water.
2. Provide herbivore critical care and benebac. Follow instructions.
3. Encourage exercise in an open area to help expel gas.
4. Monitor closely. If poop is loose or no poop after 8-12 hours, seek veterinarian care.

Handling Your Guinea Pig

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).

Handle your guinea pig with easy, calm movements; loud noises and quick movements can startle these animals. Any animal, even a friendly one, will bite or scratch if it feels threatened

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.

If your guinea pig falls or is dropped, they can become seriously injured. They should be seen by a vet, as not all injuries are visible to the naked eye.

Guinea pigs can make great pets for children, but young children should always supervised by parents when interacting with their pet. Not only are these animals fragile, but they can, if frightened, bite or scratch. Parents are encouraged to handle their pets first to get them used to contact and to teach children the proper way to hold or carry their pet.

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.

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.

Popcorning is perhaps the most endearing guinea pig behavior and is a sign of a happy & excited guinea pig! When popcorning, your guinea pig will leap around, kicking its feet up, often while vocalizing, just for the sheer joy of it.

Guinea Pig Care Summary

1. Provide a large cage with hides and a playpen for exercise.
2. Provide unlimited fresh clean water.
3. Provide unlimited timothy hay 24/7/365. (70% of diet)
4. Provide a balanced guinea pig pellet food. (20% of diet)
5. Provide fresh greens daily. (8-10% of diet)
6. Provide a chew for good teeth health.
7. Provide clean, fresh, dry, paper bedding every few days or daily if necessary.
8. Handle carefully on or near the floor for lots of supervised daily exercise. 9. Provide a brushing weekly and nail trimming monthly.
10. Provide love, care, and company. Guinea pigs are social. They like having a friend.

Thank you for taking the time to learn about your new family member.  

We recommend having a veterinarian check-up soon after you bring your new pet home. It is helpful to keep a medical record about your pet should an emergency ever occur.

Pet care is always evolving & changing. Please continue to research and monitor your pet’s behavior to assure they are thriving.  If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact our small animal department at 717-299-5691 ext. 1274 or

For more information & fun facts about your new pet guinea pig, check out the Oxbow Guinea Pig Care Guide!