Part I How to Care for Guinea Pigs
Guinea pigs are smaller pets, but they require plenty of space, time, effort, and human interaction. If you are willing to give your guinea pig a good home with proper food, attention, living space, grooming, and veterinary care, you will be rewarded with a happy, healthy, and fun guinea pig.
Setting Up for Your Guinea Pig
1. Make or buy a large enough cage. You should allow at least 7.5 square feet of cage space as a minimum for one guinea pig, or 10.5 for two. However, a bigger cage would be even better.
The cage must have a solid bottom (not a wire bottom) to protect guinea pigs' fragile feet.
A lid is unnecessary if the walls of the cage are at least 12"-14" high.
Use caution with multi-level cages. A fall from higher than 6" can injure guinea pigs' feet or legs, and elderly guinea pigs should only be kept in flat cages.
Provide the guinea pig with several inches of bedding made of paper or aspen, and be sure to change it at least twice every week or more often if you live in a humid area. Make sure to never use cedar bedding, as it can cause respiratory problems. Also, you can use a soft fleece blanket with a UHaul pad underneath to absorb everything without having to clean off bedding from your guinea pig.
2. Find a good location for the cage. A place where the family frequents several times a day for extended periods of time is the best location. A living room, bedroom, or hallway is the best choice because there is frequent traffic.
Guinea pigs are very sensitive to temperature, so many veterinarians recommend keeping them indoors, which has the additional advantage of allowing for more interaction. However, some experts do suggest exposing guinea pigs to sunlight regularly. The best balance of indoor and outdoor time will depend on a variety of factors, including your climate. Talk to your veterinarian to make the best decision for your particular guinea pig.
Ensure that no one will trip, push, or knock the cage over.
Do not place the cage in a garage with cars because the fumes can harm or even kill Guinea pigs and the temperature is usually not regulated in a garage.
3. Adopt two or more guinea pigs so they are not lonely. Guinea pigs need company because they are herd animals. Spend some time with your pets every day. Keeping a sociable animal alone can lead it to become depressed.
You can put together two females, two neutered males or two males who have never been separated.
You can adopt a male and a female, but be aware that they might mate. If you suspect that the female has become pregnant, separate the Guinea pigs and call your vet for care instructions.
Part 2 Feeding and Watering Your Guinea Pig
1. Give your guinea pigs plenty of water. One of the most important elements of caring for any pet is providing it with fresh, clean water at all times.
Keep your guinea pigs' water bottle clean and change the water daily. The best water dispenser is a guinea pig/rabbit bottle with the little ball in the spout. A dog water bowl that has never been used by a dog can work if the bowl is low enough for the guinea pig to put its front legs on the rim and dip its head in to drink. Be aware that guinea pigs can poop in the dog bowl and or pee in the dog bowl. It's advised to use hanging elevated food and water dispensers
Be sure to clean the water bottle nozzle frequently with a Q-tip to keep it free of obstructions and food residue that can breed harmful bacteria and clog the water flow.
The water bottle itself can be cleaned by placing uncooked rice and a little water in the bottle, and then shaking it vigorously. The rice will dislodge any greenish (algae) build-up.
If the cage is in the sun for part of the day, this can contribute to algae build-ups. In this case, cover the bottles with an opaque cloth to avoid algae.
Avoid adding anything to the water such as vitamin tablets. They do not provide effective nutrients and can make your guinea pigs refuse to drink.
2. Make grass hay available to your guinea pigs constantly. Guinea pigs are grazing animals, so they need something to graze on (such as timothy or orchard grass) at all times or their digestive tracts can shut down. But, they can also poke their eyes out on it, so make sure to pat down the hay so no pointed or sharp pieces stick out!
Alfalfa hay should only be fed to babies 6 months old and younger, and pregnant or nursing sows, because they have a lot of extra nutrients that healthy adult guinea pigs do not require.
Timothy, orchard grass, or bluegrass hay should be fed for guinea pigs older than 6 months. It should be fed 'free choice,' which means they have some in the cage all the time.
Lack of hay can lead to malocclusion, a misalignment of the teeth that may require surgical correction, and GI Stasis, shutting down of the digestive tract often leading to death.
3. Feed your guinea pigs fresh vegetables daily. Green leafy vegetables should make up about 20% of your guinea pigs' diet. Be careful about leafy vegetables as too many of these can cause stomach upsets and diarrhea. It is useful to get a list of safe fruits and vegetables from a trustworthy guinea pig website or your local vet.
Guinea Pig servings should include plenty of vegetables high in vitamin C (as guinea pigs are unable to produce their own vitamin C, and too little of the vitamin can lead to illnesses).
Veggies that are good for guinea pigs include celery, carrots, off-the-vine tomatoes, cucumber, corn, kale, a bit of raw broccoli, small amounts of spinach and pod-peas. Be sure to limit servings of some vegetables to avoid serious harm to the guinea pigs’ digestive tracts. Some fruits are okay for guinea pig treats such as strawberries and apple pieces but these can only be given occasionally as some of the acids can be harmful to guinea pigs.
If a guinea pig seems unwilling to eat any vegetables, try cutting them up into slices or small chunks. Also be aware that guinea pigs may have individual tastes or preferences and may like or dislike different vegetables.
Vegetables to avoid feeding your guinea pigs include iceberg lettuce, rocket salads, red leaves, cauliflower, beet greens, potatoes, and radishes.
Each guinea pig will require about one cup of vegetables per day. Dividing the veggie meal into two servings is a good idea since guinea pigs are grazing animals who prefer to eat throughout the day instead of eating one big meal.
4. Use pellets sparingly in your guinea pigs’ diet. Healthy guinea pigs do not need to be fed nutritional pellets. However, if your pigs are used to being fed pellets, you need to acclimate them to their healthier new diet slowly. Ask your vet for details.
If your guinea pig is sick, feed good quality pellets. Oxbow's Cavy Cuisine is best for pigs over 6 months, and their Cavy Performance is best for pigs under 6 months. Kleenmama's Timothy Choice pellets are best for pigs over 6 months, and Alfalfa choice pellets only for pigs under 6 months. Try to find pellets that are lower in calcium.
Do not feed a guinea pig rabbit or other small animal pellets - the vitamin content is not the same, and can be harmful to your guinea pig.
If you do feed a guinea pig pellets, be sure that they are seed-free to prevent choking. Be sure to select pellets that are plain. They should not contain any colored pieces, dried fruit, corn, etc. It should contain nothing but pellets.
5. Do not feed your guinea pigs other foods. Pellets, hay, untreated fresh organic grass (wheat or standard lawn grass) and fresh veggies are all the foods that guinea pigs need. Feeding them other types of food can be very harmful to the pigs’ health.