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an introduction to Guinea pigs

Guinea Pigs are social pets who love companions and daily attention. They communicate by various sounds which you will learn along the way and are also known for jumping in the air when they are happy.

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Guinea Pig housing & Bedding

Guinea Pigs should be housed in hutches which are protected from the elements, e.g. rain, wind and direct sunlight. Guinea Pigs cannot handle rapid temperature changes. 

The hutch should have plenty of room for exercise and play as well as areas for hiding and resting. The bigger the hutch you can afford the better! 

Bedding such as aspen or ink free shredded paper are appropriate for Guinea Pigs. We do not recommend Cedar shavings for Guinea Pigs as they will cause respiratory issues and will also cause allergic reactions which manifest in chronic skin conditions.

Different types of small animals, e.g Guinea Pigs and Rabbits, should not be housed together. Adult Male Guinea Pigs should be housed separately as they will fight.

Spot check should be done daily and entire bedding should be replaced once or twice weekly. Clean the the cage with hot water or small animal disinfectant and allow to dry completely before placing all bedding material back  into the cage.

Feeding

High quality Guinea Pig food will make up the majority of your Pigs diet. Other staples include fruit, vegetables and hay. We recommend brands such as Topflite which provides both pellets and grains and contains essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals. 

Grass hay is a staple of the Guinea Pig diet. Providing unlimited grass hay is one of the best things you can do for the health of your Guinea Pig. Unlimited hay:

  • Provides the necessary fiber required by herbivores' digestive systems
  • Keeps teeth properly ground.

Because the back teeth are continually growing, guinea pigs need to be constantly grazing and grinding to keep them a good length. Since hay is only a modest source of protein and nutrients it does not contribute significantly to obesity.

Alfalfa hay is much higher in protein, calcium and carbohydrates and is primarily fed to young pups and pregnant or nursing Guinea Pigs. Healthy Guinea Pigs, who are often already be eating an alfalfa based pellet, do not benefit from alfalfa hays. Some Guinea Pigs prone to stones or suffering from specific medical illnesses should not be fed calcium rich hays. Another popular choice is Timothy Hay, as it is not too high in calcium for Pigs. 

Guinea Pigs require 30-50mg of Vitamin C daily which can be derived from supplements however, with a constant mix of fresh fruit and veggies (red, orange variety and parsley). Grass is one of the best green foods for your pig (not lawn clippings!). Along with grass you can also feed dandelions and chick weed. Do not feed, hemlock, buttercup, rhubarb leaves or potato leaves. These are all poisonous to Guinea Pigs. 

Food that can be fed consist of foods such as: Cauliflower leaves, broccoli, celery, cabbage, pears, silver beat, spinach, carrots, carrot tops, swede, apple (seed removed), melons and corn.

 

Do not feed chocolate, alcohol or caffeine as these can do serious harm to guinea pigs.

 

Normal behaviour

Your new Guinea Pig will want to be left alone for the first couple of days after you get him home. He will probably run away from you when you put your hand into the cage however with patience and veggie or fruit bribes in your hand, they'll come around. 

Exercise is important and a large hutch will help here but giving your Guinea Pig a daily run on a large surface such as in the kitchen (while not in use!) bathroom, lounge etc. will offer a fantastic area for your Pig to enjoy. Make sure the area is safe and escape proof!

"Popcorning" is a term you may come across when owning Guinea Pigs. This is happy sign from your Guinea Pig. They will jump around in short burst that can seem quite strange at first! Older Pigs don't tend to be quite as demonstrative. 

Guinea Pig teeth continuously grow so it is essential that they gnaw in order to keep them at a manageable length. Always provide you pig with wooden chews and lots of hay!

Grooming

Guinea Pigs are particular about grooming and generally do not need baths. If you do need to clean them, we recommend a damp wash cloth and brushing with a soft brush. Short Haired Pigs will benefit from a brush once a week and Long Haired Pigs will require daily brushing. Nails will need to be done every 4-6 weeks.

 

signs of a healthy Guinea pig

  • Active, alert and social
  • Healthy coat
  • Clear eyes
  • Eating and drinking regularly
  • Communicative
  • Walking normally

 

Signs of an unhealthy guinea pig

  • Diarrhoea or a dirty bottom
  • Overgrown Teeth
  • Weight Loss
  • Skin Lesions
  • Hair Loss
  • Lethargic
  • Eye or nasal discharge
  • Gum bleeding