SO, YOU WANT TO ADOPT A GUINEA PIG

Guinea pigs make wonderful pets – they’re hardy, relatively quiet, gentle, and extremely personable, making them a good choice for families with children.

Contrary to their name, guinea pigs are neither from Guinea nor are they pigs. They are actually members of the rodent family, believed to originate from South America, and come in a variety of breeds, from the popular smooth American guinea pig to the (almost) hairless skinny pig, each with its own temperament and maintenance requirements.

Wondering if a guinea pig is the right pet for you? Here are a few things to consider before making the decision to add one of these wonderful creatures to the family:

TIME

The average lifespan of a guinea pig is four to eight years, longer than other small animals such as mice, rats and hamsters which only live a couple of years or so. This makes the care of a guinea pig a long-term commitment. It’s important to be certain that you’re willing to care for this pet throughout its entire life.

Guinea pigs are very social and it’s important for them to spend time outside of their cage every day, whether it’s simply for a little run around for exercise or cuddling with you. Activities that provide exercise, enrichment and human interaction will stimulate the senses, and help prevent your guinea pig from being cage bound which can lead to boredom, undesirable behaviors and territoriality. Furthermore, these activities will reinforce the human-animal bond & trust; both contributing to your guinea pig’s level of comfort when being handled, vital for the well-being of your relationship.

Guinea pigs need to be groomed regularly, particularly long-haired breeds, that require a good brushing daily.

Guinea pigs poop a lot! Regular cage maintenance not only makes for a happy and healthy guinea pig, but a pleasant environment for you too.

DIET

A balanced diet is essential for a guinea pig’s health and should include the following:

  • Unlimited amounts of grasses and hays
  • A high-quality extrusion food
  • Healthy enrichment foods
  • Occasional treats
  • Constant supply of water

Daily consumption of hay contributes to healthy digestion and trim teeth, which are both very important for a guinea pig’s overall well-being.

Because guinea pigs are prone to scurvy, Vitamin C is an extremely important addition to their diets as they cannot produce it on their own. Vitamin C can be found in good quality extruded foods like Living World Green Botanicals, which should be fed in addition to an unlimited fresh supply of hay. Extruded foods prevent selective eating, ensuring guinea pigs receive all the necessary nutrients for optimal health, while minimizing waste.

HOUSING

Guinea pigs need a lot of room and require a cage large enough to accommodate all their accessories such as a litter box, hideout, hay wheel, food dish and water bottle, while still providing them enough room to move about easily. The cage should be secure and escape-proof.

Location is important too. You should position the cage away from direct sunlight or any area that is too hot. Guinea pigs are intolerant to drafts, high temperatures, and extreme heat can cause sunstroke and even lead to death. Remember that they are social and enjoy being near the family action – placing the cage in a room where they’ll get some attention, like the living room or den, is a good idea, as long as they have access to a hiding spot if it gets a little too busy.

BEDDING

Bedding provides guinea pigs with a comfortable sleeping and nesting area and should be changed on a regular basis to eliminate odors, fungus and bacteria, maintaining a healthy environment. Keep in mind that bedding should be absorbent and dust-free, without scented oils or chemicals which can be harmful to tiny respiratory systems. Using hay as bedding is unhygienic as the animal may sit in it, soil it and eat it.

ACCESSORIES

Guinea pigs have teeth that continue to grow throughout their lives. To make sure their teeth don’t become too long it’s important to provide them with something they can gnaw, such as chew toys or wood chews.

GUIDELINES FOR SELECTING ACCESSORIES

Here are a few other points to keep in mind when thinking about adopting a guinea pig:

Looking for more practical information about basic guinea pig care?

Download our Guinea Pig Care Guide