Guinea Pigs Care Sheet
Guinea pigs can be the most endearing and wonderful pets. Their life span on average is anywhere between 5 to 10 years, so the decision to bring one home must be made carefully. Guinea pigs can be very shy and can spend a lot of time hiding, however they can become very tame and love to be cuddled. Guinea pigs make great pets for children over six. Children under six should have help when holding guinea pigs because they need to have their full body supported when being picked up and this can be very difficult for younger children. If not handled properly, guinea pigs may nip or bite. Guinea pigs are also easily startled. If frightened, they may run around their enclosure at a very fast speed, which makes them hard to catch. When attempting to pick up your guinea pig, you should use a quiet voice and slow movements to help keep them calm.
When deciding what kind of house to buy for your guinea pig, keep these few things in mind. With guinea pigs, the bigger the cage, the better. A larger cage requires less frequent cleaning and gives them space for play, toys and exercise. When purchasing a cage, try to avoid those cages with wire bottoms, ramps and shelves because they can injure your guinea pig’s feet and legs. The best choice is a spacious cage made of wire cubes and coroplast sheets. It is best to have about 7 square feet of space for one guinea pig. Add at least one additional square foot for each additional guinea pig you might have. Aquariums and plastic tubs are not recommended because of their poor ventilation. They can also limit your guinea pig’s sight, sound, and smell. For your guinea pig’s house, you will also need to have a water bottle; small, heavy untippable dish for pellets; hay rack and a small covered box for a sense of protection and a place to sleep. Your guinea pig will probably spend most of its time in its house, so remember this when picking out the cage you think will be right for your guinea pig.
When deciding where in your house to place the cage, there are a few things to know. Their cage should be placed in a bright, draft-free room with a constant temperature between 68 and 72 degrees. It should be out of direct sunlight and placed somewhere near household activities so your guinea pig doesn't’t get lonely. Guinea pigs also enjoy quiet time and should have some time for this during the day.
There are many different types of bedding available that can be used in your guinea pig’s cage. Some recommended types are aspen shavings, kiln-dried pine shavings, shredded newspaper or a paper product called Yesterday’s News. Cedar shavings are not recommended because of the potential for respiratory or liver problems. Sawdust and clay litter are also poor choices for bedding. You should cover the cage floor with 1-2 inches of whichever type of bedding you think is best for you and your guinea pig.
Guinea pigs love to eat and have been known to overeat and cause themselves to become obese. Because of this, it is wise to feed your guinea pig just once a day. It is best to feed plain, high quality guinea pig pellets that contain 20% crude protein and 16% fiber and are formulated with Vitamin C. Do not feed rabbit pellets. They do not have what guinea pigs need nutritionally. They will typically eat 1/4 cup of pellets a day. They also need unlimited high quality grass hay (timothy or orchard grass) to keep their digestive system running smoothly and help with their teeth. Alfalfa hay should only be used as a treat for the average, adult guinea pig because it is high in calcium and an excess of calcium could contribute to the formation of bladder stones. Small amounts of clean, fresh vegetables can also be offered as an additional source of Vitamin C and other nutrients. Some popular vegetables for your guinea pig to get as treats are parsley, romaine lettuce, carrots, tomato, green or red pepper and spinach. Cantaloupe and apples can also be offered as treats. Limit treats to no more than 1-2 tablespoons in a 24 hour period so as not to cause diarrhea. Water should be given in a water bottle equipped with a sipper tube. The water should be changed and the bottle cleaned daily to keep the water free from contamination. Also, since guinea pigs can’t process their own Vitamin C, you will need to add it to their water. Add 50mg/cup (8 oz) drinking water daily or add 1 teaspoon liquid Vitamin C to 12 oz of fresh drinking water. Guinea pigs also need something to chew on to prevent their teeth from getting over grown and causing problems. Hay, wood sticks and alfalfa sticks would all work.
Daily exercise will help keep your guinea pig healthy. Guinea pigs love to run around outside of their cages. When selecting a place for exercise, be sure the area is free from electrical cords and other possible hazards. Choose an enclosed space with a floor that is easily cleaned. A few hiding spots provide them with a sense of protection while getting used to the new area. Guinea pigs love to chew on paper towel rolls. Toilet paper rolls stuffed with hay also make a great toy. Some love to toss and roll cat toys with bells. They also love tissue boxes with holes cut in the sides as a place for hiding. Exercise wheels are not recommended for guinea pigs. Your guinea pig should get some form of exercise every day. If you give them exercise at the same time everyday, they will start looking forward to the time when they get to run around. Because of the way guinea pigs play, you and your guinea pig will enjoy playtime.
Guinea pigs are excellent family pets, since they are easy to tame, rarely bite and have generally wonderful personalities. If you choose to get a guinea pig, it will prove to be a fascinating and wonderful pet for you and your family.