All about Guinea Pigs

All about Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs are a great pet to have but there’s a lot of things you should know before owning one. This article will help you understand guinea pigs and how to care for them.

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What is a Guinea Pig?

Coming from South America, these rodents, scientific name, Cavia Porcellus, belong to the Caviidae family and are often called Cavies. They can be quite vocal, but if tamed can be an endless source of enjoyment for young and old alike.

Guinea Pigs are large-headed, with short ears. Their legs tend to be short and the soles of their feet are usually hairless. Their claws are short and sharp, with 4 toes on the front feet and three toes on the rear.
The guinea pig generally grows to be between 20 and 40 Centimetres long, weighing in at between 0.5 Kg and 1.5Kg. They also have no tails to speak of.

They have a variety of fur lengths including short and long smooth fur and short and long coarse fur.
There is quite a large variety of colours available, black, white, brown, cream or tan. Or a combination of any of those.

How long do guinea pigs live as pets?

The expected normal lifespan of a guinea pig in captivity is between 4 and 6 years although they have been known to live to 8 yrs old. The oldest known Guinea pig, named Snowball, died in 1979 at the ripe old age of 14yrs and ten and a half months, according to The Guinness Book of Records.

Do guinea pigs need a lot of care?

In reality, Guinea pigs are fairly easy to care for. However, they do require fresh hay and water, and a warm and cosy place to live. Its also recommended that their diet also be supplemented with fresh vegetables and Guinea Pig formula pellets.
Their homes should be cleaned out at least once a week.

It’s also well recommended that they have a large home, with plenty of room to run around.

Another point worth noting, Guinea Pigs are not solitary animals and prefer to have a friend to live with, so if considering a Guinea Pig as a pet, then ideally, you would have 2. Don’t mix the sexes though, unless you are planning to breed from them, even then they ought to be separated.

Regular handling of your Guinea Pig will help with taming it.
A good, large, clean and warm home, with plenty of room to run and move about, some toys, treats and activities, along with regular handling and you’ll have a very happy Cavy, and get an enormous amount of pleasure yourself.

What should I feed it?

As herbivores the guinea pig diet should be based on good quality hay, with an additional guinea pig pelleted food. They also ideally require daily fresh fruit and veg. They should also have access to a supply of fresh water, particularly if they live indoors or their food doesn’t have a very high moisture content.

Hay

It is absolutely vital that guinea pigs have a constant supply of fresh, good quality hay, it is an integral requirement for other digestive systems. We used cheap but dust free meadow hay for bedding and better quality Timothy Hay for feed.

They can also have a daily ration of any of the following to supplement their daily diet. Don’t overfeed them though. Cos if it’s there, they’ll eat it. Carrot Tops, Kale, Spinach, Green Beans, Rocket, Cucumber, Celery, Radish, Red, Green and Yellow Bell Peppers , Occasional Broccoli spears, other dark green leaf vegetables are all suitable foods. Ours used to go absolutely mad over dandelion leaves too.

Just like humans, Guinea Pigs are unable to produce their own vitamin C, so it’s recommended to give them regular, but not everyday items such as Apple (no pips), Pear, Strawberry, Orange, Mango, Papaya, Grape.

What you must not feed your guinea pigs.

Under no circumstances should you feed any of the following to your piggie. If it doesnt poison them it will definitely cause major discomfort/illness and/or potential damage to the digestive system.

  • Lawn Trimmings
  • Garlic
  • Mushrooms
  • Iceberg lettuce
  • Avocados
  • Nuts
  • Potatoes
  • Seeds
  • Corn kernels
  • Chocolate
  • Anything with caffeine in it
  • Peanut butter
  • Rhubarb
  • Onions
  • Bok choy
  • Dairy products
  • Bread
  • Meat

Where can they live?

Your choice really, they can live indoors quite happily, I’ve seen areas set aside for them in bedrooms, or under the stairs in open-plan rooms., there have been complete rooms in a house dedicated to them. Ideally, they can also live outside, but give them protection from birds of prey, foxes, the local cat and indeed some dogs.

Ideally, a hutch, like the example below, would be ideal for two guinea pigs. Coupled with a covered run in the garden and some shelter in that run (in which to hide if feeling threatened). I’ve given examples of three items below that work very well together. The hutch should be placed so as not to be in an all-round draft, tuck it up by a fence panel or a garden wall.

The run, should at least have some shaded area throughout the day. If necessary, throw an old blanket over a section so as to create shade. Don’t block all the sides in though, try and maintain a steady airflow. Although Guinea Pigs like to be warm, it is also possible to very easily overheat them, potentially causing heatstroke.

NEVER use straw for bedding, only ever use a good quality, clean, meadow hay. This will also be eaten by your furry friends too. A bit like breakfast in bed really. 🙂

Firstly a hutch and home with a little space for the horrible days that you don’t put them out in the run. For guinea pigs I would recommend lifting the botttom of the ramp as its quite steep.

This is a really useful shelter for all types of runs, the front ramp closes up and the top is hinged for full-size access to the inside.
According to the dimensions, this will fit inside the run I’ve suggested, thus adding extra security for your little piggies

This run is an alternative to the one I had used in the past but the dimensions are roughly the same. The beauty of it is, it folds away when not needed. Our two piggies would cut the grass inside here in 2 days quite happily.

Keeping Guinea Pigs Amused.

If your Guinea Pig lives outdoors and has access to a run, its still worth putting a gnawable item or two into their run.

How much attention does a guinea pig need?

That all depends on how you want to keep them. If you just want to sit in the garden and watch them, then, not a lot. That being said, I personally find no satisfaction in keeping animals as pets just to forget about them and let them “do their thing”, apart from the general fact its not very nice or healthy for the pet. In fact, In my opinion, if that’s all you want from them then you shouldn’t be keeping animals, try fish instead, or better still, Don’t keep anything.
Guinea Pigs, by their very nature tend to be skittish and jumpy, however, regular handling can tame them, after which picking them up, sitting with them on your lap can be quite satisfying. Our two used to happily curl up and go to sleep sat on my chest while I was watching tv.

Erm! wassat bloke doing with that camera thing?

Are guinea pigs good pets?

Thats the wrong question. Most domesticated animals that we like to call pets, do actually make very good pets. It all depends on what you prefer.

The real question is, Am I going to be a good pet owner?

Other Questions

Guinea pigs grow to between half a kilo and one and a half kilo’s in weight, and generally between 20 and 40 CM in length.

If you have taken the trouble to tame your guinea pig, there is no reason why a guinea pig won’t happily sit on your lap for short periods.

It’s not ideal to only have one Guinea Pig as they like to be in company, however, when I was a kid we always had a rabbit too and they both happily co-existed together, sharing a hutch and a run.

Really depends on if you have another pet they can live and share with. Guinea Pigs like to be in company so ideally 2 would be the answer. Get both the same sex though, unless you are planning on breeding with them. Breeding should really be left to an experienced breeder though.

This goes back to the taming and here again I cant emphasise enough, the importance of handling them in their early years. I’ve not had one yet that didn’t enjoy snuggling down on my shoulder or neck when sitting down. Its extremely important that they feel safe and secure, then it shouldn’t be a problem.

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