There is a lot more to guinea pig care then people realize and it is VERY important that when purchasing a guinea pig, you don’t underestimate their needs. I have had a lot of people ask me about their care lately and what they need. I decided to sum this up for you in a nutshell!
For the first time owner, there are a few things that you need to be aware of. First of all. Guinea pigs are not “easy” to care for. In fact, they have a lot more NEEDS then your average pet. A bit like fish! -First you think they are wonderful “beginners pets” then you realize that they need to have the temperature monitored, filters, phd and water testing equipment. Before you know it, you have taken on a larger task then was anticipated! Obviously guinea pigs aren’t exactly the same as fish, but they do have a few special needs…
Not many people realize that guinea pigs actually have to be inside. Not outside in an itty bitty hutch where they can freeze, over heat or be eaten by predators. Personally, I have never had a guinea pig that survived living outside. And I live In New Zealand where the temperature is quite mild and the predators are fewer! The bitter truth is there. They will get Upper respiratory infection if the temperature drops, which can be deadly. URI comes on suddenly and if not noticed immediately, it can deteriorate rapidly.
Then there is just the opposite! Heat stroke! Guinea pigs have a similar body temperature to ours, but they cannot sweat. So many people have left their pigs in the baking sun and come back to find them dead. It is very sad, but if you live in a climate with soaring or freezing temperatures, you MUST supervise your guinea pis outside.
Keeping guinea pigs outside only works if you have a pet-shed or a chicken coop that is the right size. The temperature must be monitored and the appropriate warm bedding and heating pads provided in cold weather. In cold weather make sure they are kept cool in a shady place and that their water bottle is kept cold.
Nevertheless, guinea pigs are a lot of fun to have indoors! Here is why…
- You can decorate the cage however you like
- Your guinea pigs become part of the family
- Because they are with people all the time, they become very friendly!
- They don’t smell as long as the cage is cleaned
- They don’t bite (rare is the biting guinea pig)
- They aren’t particularly loud and their noises are super cute!
I won’t go into detail about cages because this is a summary, but c&c cages are the absolute best! Read more about them here!
We covered diet pretty thoroughly in the diet section, but here it is. The most important aspect of guinea pig care. Many guinea pigs have died from malnutrition and poor diet.
They MUST have…
1 cup of high vitamin c veggies a day (per pig)
1/8 cup of recommended Oxbow pellets
A water bottle
Things to consider when buying a guinea pig
- Please try to adopt from a rescue or find an unwanted guinea pig listing near you! So many hundreds of guinea pigs are sitting in shelters and need a home! At the time of writing, the Palace Piggies Rescue has over 300!!! I have an extensive list of guinea pig rescues so if you want to see if there is one near you, please drop a comment below and I will get back to you!
- Pet shops are not the place to find information on care. Sometimes the staff only care about the sale of their pets and not about their health. They sell a lot of treats that are bad for guinea pigs and toys that are very dangerous. Guinea pigs can get their heads stuck in wire hay racks, break or damage their spines on harnesses and exercise balls.
- Are you the carer or are they for your children? Lots of children get bored pretty quickly and you may end up being the primary caregiver! Are you prepared for this?
- Do you have anything set aside for vet care? You may want to put aside $5 a week for any emergency expenses.
- Are you prepared to groom your guinea pigs and check them over? Each week perform a regular health check -weigh your guinea, -check ears for wax buildup, -clean the grease gland at the base of the tail if it needs cleaning and brush them regularly.
Guinea pigs should have an hour of playtime in an enclosed area or secure room every day! Can they roam free range around the house? Only if your prepared to either put up with the mess or undertake the painstaking task of potty training them! Plus move all the cords out of reach and block off spaces behind and under furniture!
Some people have one room for free ranging which is easier then the whole house! Potty training is very possible, but it takes consistency and patience. It is not as easy as a dog or a cat.
Guinea pig care takes a lot of initial set up and planning, but once you have all these things in place, you are free to enjoy your wonderful pets! Just remember- Guinea pigs aren’t the “put me in a cage and leave me” type of animal. They need love, care and attention.
While the correct housing, diet and amount of exercise will help your guinea pigs to live long, healthy, happy lives, there are still a few things that you will need to do to ensure that they are comfortable.
1) Clip their nails once every two weeks. Just like us, piggies need their pedicures too! If they are getting lots of space to run around in then they will wear down their nails a little bit, but they do need to be clipped or at least checked. If they are not attended to, their nails will continue to grow and curl around becoming very uncomfortable and hazardous if they were to catch on something.
3) Clean the grease gland once every three weeks: how to clean your guinea pigs grease gland
4) Weigh them once a week to monitor their weight. Weight loss is a serious sign.