GUINEA PIG CARE
Life Expectancy: 5–8 years -› Weaning: 3 weeks
Breeding: 2-3 months -› Pregnancy: 59–72 days
Litter size: 1–10 -› Adult body weight: 700–1200g
Guinea pigs are sometimes referred to as “Cavies”. They are a rodent animal native to South America. They can make ideal pets due to their small size, ease of care and quiet nature. They can become very used to handling, especially if started at a young age. They are often very vocal animals exhibiting a range of calls. There are many different breeds of guinea pigs including the short haired Abyssinians and long haired Peruvians.
- Guinea pigs can be housed in a range of cage types. Provide a cage as large as possible (minimum dimensions for one guinea pig is 1m x 0.5m x 0.25m high)
- Guinea pigs do not tolerate heat very well and are vulnerable to heat stress. Ensure that the area they are kept in will not become too hot.
- Their enclosure should be well ventilated. Regularly change their bedding to avoid ammonia build up
- If kept outdoors, make certain that the cage is predator proof.
- Suitable bedding materials include shredded paper (preferred) and hay or straw.
- Provide overturned boxes for ‘hiding’ places (at least one per guinea pig)
- Use at least 2 dripper type water bottles (in case one becomes blocked), as water bowls are more likely to become soiled.
- Guinea pigs are sociable animals and should not be kept alone. They can be housed in colonies.
- Mixing guinea pigs with rabbits is not recommended as guinea pigs can get diseases from rabbits.
- Guinea pigs can usually be handled quite easily. Pick them up by placing your hands under them and be sure to support the full length of the body
- Be sure to wash your hands after handling your guinea pig. It is also wise to ensure that your hands don’t carry odours of other animals before you handle your guinea pig as this may frighten them.
- Guinea pigs are herbivores. Their teeth grow continuously throughout life.
- They are naturally ‘coprophagic’ which means they eat some of their own droppings
- They should be offered a wide variety of food types from a young age as they can potentially become ‘addicted’ to their usual foods and not be open to trying new food types.
- Guinea pigs should be offered a constant source of grass or grass hay eg Timothy, Oaten, Wheaten, Pasture, Paddock, Meadow or Ryegrass hays. (Not lucerne or clover hays as they are too high in protein and calcium). This is paramount in providing the complete diet and encourages chewing for long periods of time. Fresh leafy green vegetables and herbs should also be offered. Some examples of these include:
- Veges – broccoli, cabbage, celery, endive, beet/carrot tops, brussel sprouts, spinach leaves, bok choy / other asian greens, dark leafed lettuce varieties
- Herbs – parsley, dandelion, coriander, basil, dill, mint etc
- Some high quality “Guinea Pig pellets” should be offered (minimum 16% fibre content) in small quantities only, not ad lib – a high quality product recommended is Oxbow Cavy Cuisine.
- Guinea pigs require a dietary source of Vitamin C. This is usually supplied sufficiently by the fresh leafy green veges
- It is safer to supplement this with small quantities of Vitamin C rich foods such as citrus or kiwi fruits.
- No-No’s! (these should not be offered to pet guinea pigs) – Cereals, grains, nuts, seeds, corn, beans, peas, breads, biscuits, sweets, sugar, breakfast cereals, chocolate!
- Any dietary changes should be made gradually.
Health & Veterinary Care
- Have newly acquired guinea pigs checked by a vet especially if you intend to mix it with others! Thereafter have them checked regularly (at least annually)
- Coats may require regular grooming and nails may need occasional clipping
- At home you should always monitor closely your guinea pigs food intake, body condition, eyes, ears, mouth, feet and toileting behaviour.
Article written by David Vella 2008. Used with permission.