Simple Guide: From Acquiring To Caring For Guinea Pigs / Cavies
Guinea pigs/ Cavies are furry small pets that have no tail. They can grow to between 1 – 3 pounds heavy, the female being the lighter. Caring for guinea pigs is quite easy as you will see below. There are several breeds namely:
- Abyssinian guinea pig,
- Abyssinian Satin guinea pig,
- American guinea pig,
- Coronet guinea pig,
- Peruvian guinea pig,
- Peruvian Satin, Silkie,
- Silkie Satin,
- Teddy guinea pig,
- Teddy Satin,
- Texel guinea pig,
- Alpaca guinea pig,
- Sheltie guinea pig,
- Dalmation/ Roan guinea pig,
- Dutch guinea pig,
- Himalayan guinea pig,
- Tortoiseshell and
- White Crested.
Guinea Pig Lifespan
A guinea pig will live for 5-7 years. Some 8-9 years (not guaranteed) WITH PROPER CARE!!!!
Where do I get Guinea Pigs?
Where Can I Get A New Guinea Pig?
- From A Trusted/ Reputable Pet Store.
- Reputable Guinea Pig breeders.
- Reliable Adoption Agencies/ Rescues.
It is up to you, but Breeders are recommended. Why?
The minimum recommended age to acquire a young guinea pig is 7 weeks old or 1 to 1.5 months old. You can always get an older one if you want.
A Guinea Pig is Suitable for What Age?
10+ years though adult supervision is required.
Can A Guinea Pig Live Alone Or Does He or She Require A Companion?
Is It Okay to Get One or Do I Need More Than One Guinea Pig?
Guinea pigs REQUIRE a companion. They are herd/ group animals. They get very lonely and stressed if they are alone. If they get stressed, they tend to eat less and move slow and eventually become ill or die. IT IS BEST TO GET 2 AT LEAST of the same sex i.e. 2+ boys or 2+girls. Good to note is that having more than 2 becomes a full time job and this will take quite a chunk out of attention, care and money.
If you do not want baby guinea pigs, separate females from males before they are a month old. You can also have males neutered or females stayed.
Is A Guinea Pig Nocturnal?
They are neither nocturnal nor diurnal. Their sleeping times vary. They can nap at night or during the day at different intervals.
Handling Guinea Pigs
They really do not like being picked up. But, if you have to, wait until they are in an open space playing. If they are feeding, sleeping or resting, in their hideaway DO NOT disturb them.
Guinea Pig Housing
Guinea pigs can be housed outdoors or indoors. Having your guinea pigs outside brings upon risks of predators and harsh weather conditions. You may also end up spending quite a lot of money setting up and maintaining a secure outdoor enclosure. A majority of guinea pig owners keep theirs indoors. The information below caters for indoor housing of guinea pigs.
Guinea Pig Cage
Get a BIG CAGE!!! With a SOLID floor.
DO NOT get a small cage as you will be forced to take them out of their cage frequently to exercise, of course with supervision.
Many owners and experts have tried many cages and resulted to two options:
#1. Guinea Habitat” Guinea Pig Cage & Accessories by MidWest. See video on setting up this cage. You can get several of these and join them together for extra room.
#2. DIY cages (your creativity will be needed here)
If you decide to go for the DIY cages, you will need to know the proper dimensions required for the specific number of guinea pigs you have. See this site for the dimensions.
- Some people buy the Pet Playpen Bunny Cage Fence – Tespo DIY Small Animal Exercise Pen Crate Kennel Hutch for Guinea Pigs & Rabbits, Upgrade Version and put coroplast.
- Other people buy Coroplast (corrugated plastic) and Whitmor 6-Cube Wire Storage Shelves or Grid Wire Modular Shelving and Storage Cubes to make cages. See video:
How to cut coroplast:
- If you find that cutting coroplast for your grids to be too much work, there are already cut coroplast and pre-prepared grids that are sold for around $70-$90 and all you have to do is set up. Here is a video.
- Some people build creative wooden and glass cages. Since the wood can become dirty over time, you can get waterproof paint that is pet safe. See video on an example:
Guinea Pig Optimum Environmental Temperatures
#1. 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit/ 18-23 degrees Celsius- Keep away from strong heat sources, fire place, heat stove, heat vents and direct sunlight. They are prone to heat strokes.
#2. During very hot summers- You can either wrap a cold water bottle in cloth put in the cage, use roof slide bricks or tiles, remove heavy hideouts, give enough water and give watery vegetables. See this nice video.
Guinea Pig Bedding
Caring For Guinea Pigs(Recommended guinea pig bedding)
When determining what material to use for bedding various factors are considered:
- Safety to your pet
- Characteristics of your pet (does she/he like to burrow)
- Ease of cleaning (Do you mind regular cleaning? What cleaning works for you?)
- Your financial situation (what can you afford for your pet)
- Hygiene in the cage
Best Guinea Pig bedding material Options:
When using fleece for your guinea pig cage, a kitchen area is very important to bring down smells and also to make cleaning easier. Almost all the pee goes in the kitchen area crate/ box/ container. See images below. Image credit goes to guinea pig cages store.
The kitchen area crate can be made from coroplast or just get a plastic tray big enough to fit your guinea pigs.
In the kitchen area crate/ litter pan/ box/ tray you can use either:
#2. HARDWOOD WOOD STOVE PELLETS for the entire cage or you can mix it up with fleece i.e. fleece in a particular area and hardwood wood stove pellets another). These do not give off guinea pig urine smell and they go for weeks without changing them out. All you do is scoop out areas you find soiled. These pellets are very economical as they cost about $5 for a 40-pound bag and easy to clean. They are heavy though. For those who hate too much cleaning, this one will be your best friend. DO NOT just use any wood pellets, most have strong wood odors especially pine and cedar, which are softwoods and are harmful to you and your guinea pigs, get HARDWOOD WOOD STOVE PELLETS. These just have a mild woody smell. DO NOT also use wood pellets that have accelerants.
#3. AUBIOSE (Guinea pig owners say it gets stuck to your guinea pigs bum) See video of AUBIOSE in use:
#4. EASIBED (same as AUBIOSE but cheaper and slightly bigger)
#5. Back 2 Nature (good but expensive)
CAREFRESH is RISKY as your guinea pigs might feed on it causing health problems.
Guinea Pig Cage Accessories
You can get the:
Since water bottles leak at times, you can have an area under the bottle where you can be changing out. See video.
These should be lead free and made of ceramic so that the guinea pigs do not knock them over. Good examples are:
- Living World Ergonomic Dish
- Petzilla Cat Ceramic Bowl for Food, Heavy Base Feeding Dish, Prevent Tipping or Spill Over
- Kaytee Paw-Print PetWare Bowl, Colors Vary
- STAYbowl® Tip-Proof Ergonomic Pet Bowl for Guinea Pig and Other Small Pets; 1/4-Cup Size; Sky Blue
Guinea Pig Hay Feeder/ Box/ Rack/ Kitchen Area
You need to have a guinea pig hay feeder/ kitchen area. If you get a rack, make sure to have a deep tray, or plastic bin below it filled with bedding. Here are examples of hay feeders:
- Nibbler Combo Mini RAW, 3in1 bunny rabbit hay feeder with built in litter box and a free standing water bottle holder, hay rack, hay feeder
- Nibbler Combo, 4in1 bunny rabbit hay and food feeder with built in litter box and a free standing water bottle holder, hay rack, hay feeder
- Trixie Metal Hanging Hay Manger, 20 x 18 x 12 cm
You can also DIY coroplast to make a kitchen area. See image above under bedding.
Guinea Pig Hideout
A hideout is important for your guinea pigs to hide and also sleep in. Put some hay where they sleep.
- Kaytee Woodland Get-A-Way Large Guinea Pig House
- Kaytee Tree of Life 3-in-1 Pet Habitat Accessory, Large
- Spring Fever Rabbit Dog Cat Pet Bed Small Big Animal Snuggle Puppy Supplies Indoor Water Resistant Beds (place a small fleece liner inside to absorb urine).
- Ware Manufacturing Hand Woven Willow Twig Tunnel Small Pet Hideout
Guinea Pig Bed
- Kaytee Super Sleeper Cuddle E-Cup Bed for Small Animals
- Hamster Bed Soft Warm Cushion for Small Animal
Some plastic or wooden tunnels/ tubes
You can get the:
- Willow Branch Ball for Small Animals
- WHEEKY Treat Ball for Guinea Pigs
- Emours Small Animal Activity Play Chew Toys for Bunny Rabbits Guinea Pigs Gerbils, 3 Valued Pack
Kitchen Area Crate/ Litter Pan/ Box/ Tray/ Litter Bin
Nice examples are:
AVOID Exercise wheel.
AVOID a crowded cage or else your guinea pig will suffer from respiratory problems.
Guinea Pig Feeding
Caring For Guinea pigs(feeding)
- Their teeth grow continuously and will require fresh supply of Timothy hay every day to wear down their teeth.
- Give small amounts of FRESH vegetable every day. You can give cucumber, fennel, celery leaves and stem lettuce. Excessive calcium rich vegetables will cause your guinea pig get bladder stones. See video on vegetable feeding.
- Give FRESH Guinea pig pellets
Young guinea pig below 6 months
- Oxbow Animal Health Essentials- Young Guinea Pig Food
- Oxbow Cavy Performance Young Guinea Pig (Alfalfa Based)
- Sherwood Baby Guinea Pig Food (No Soy, Wheat or Corn)- 4.5 lb. (Vet Used)
Adult Guinea Pig 6+ Months
- Oxbow Essentials Adult Guinea Pig (Timothy Based)
- Versele-Laga Cavia Complete
- Oxbow Animal Health Cavy Cuisine Adult Guinea Pig Fortified Small Animal Feeds
- JR Farm Grainless Complete Guinea Pig
- Rosewood Pet Meadow Menu Guinea Pig Food
- You can also give Supplemental Vitamin C daily tablets prescribed by a guinea pig savvy vet. (The liquid is usually not that effective. The guinea pig may not drink the water). Vitamin C obtained from guinea pig pellets is not sufficient. As an alternative, you can give BELL PEPPER (remove seeds) which is rich in Vitamin C. Broccoli as well, but introduce it slowly as it can cause bloating.
AVOID diets rich in sugar, starches, fruit and carbohydrates.
- Give FRESH WATER
How often should I feed my guinea pigs?
- Ensure that your guinea pigs have a handful of Fresh Timothy hay available at all times.
- Give 1/8 cup of pellets once a day.
- Give small amounts of FRESH vegetable every day.
Ensure that your guinea pigs have fresh water available at all times.
Do Guinea Pigs Smell?
Yes, they have a smell especially their urine. Males (boars) have more odor than females (sows). The odor can be controlled by keeping your guinea pigs’ cage clean.
If you are very sensitive to smell, you can get females (sows). They will have a smell as well, but not as much as males.
See bedding and cleaning cage sections to see what works in controlling the smell.
Can Guinea Pigs Be Trained?
#1. Guinea pigs can be potty trained
See video. This is a really nice video we gave thumbs up to. It also shows how you can organize your cage.
#2. Guinea pigs can be trained to do tricks
Cleaning Guinea Pig Cage
Caring for guinea pigs (cleaning their cage)
Regardless of what bedding you choose; the cage should be:
- Spot-cleaned at least daily or every 2 days
- Completely cleaned once a week or twice a week or when needed (this depends on the type of bedding you are using).
See Spot cleaning video
See videos on complete cleaning
Some cleaning videos are at the bedding section above.
Guinea Pig Travelling
Before thinking of travelling with your Guinea pigs, think of getting a pet sitter or letting a family member or friend take care of him or her.
If you are moving house or going to the vet, then here is what you need to do:
Get a SAFE Guinea Pig Carrier.
If you are going for a short distance and will take less time a smaller travel cage is okay, for example,
- Catit Design Cabrio Multi-Functional Carrier System (Amazon.com)
- Catit Design Cat Cabrio Carrier Warm Flight and Airline Approved (Amazon UK)
- Favorite Dog Cat Rabbit Two Door Top Load Car Travel Vet Visit Pet Carrier
- Yvettevans Portable Airline Approved Pet Kennel Cats Travel Cage Car Travel Vet Visit Dogs Carrier Crate Outdoor Kennel
- Petmate Two Door Top Load Kennel
If you have many guinea pigs that need extra space or you will be travelling for a number of hours you can get a larger travel cage, for example:
- Hagen Zoozone Indoor Guinea Pig / Rabbit Cage
- Zoozone Habitat, Medium, Pink
- Zoozone Habitat, Medium, Blue
Before travelling, let your guinea pig spend some time in the carrier to get used.
Do not attach a water bottle, instead give cucumber and vegetables.
Inside the carrier
- Place fleece bedding, substrate bedding or some towels to absorb urine.
- Put in hay so that the guinea pig can feed.
- Put in cucumber chops
If you are going on holiday get a friend or family member to look after your guinea pigs or hire a pet sitter.
If you usually frequent to a relatives place for a couple of days, you will require to have another guinea pig cage where you are going.
Guinea Pig Health and Vet
Things to look out for when getting or looking after your Guinea Pig!
Keep them away from cats, dogs and other predators. However, there are some cases where guinea pigs interact well with cats and dogs. KEEP Guinea pigs Away from rabbits. Each carries bacteria that causes serious illnesses to the other if they ingest each other’s poop.
Older guinea pigs do not like moving a lot. They should be encouraged to move.
Perform health checks (once or twice a week)
They really hide their illnesses so it is important to inspect them weekly.
- Eyes, ears and nose– look for discharge, crusty eyes and running nose or eyes. Look inside their ears to make sure they are clean and no bugs, fleas or parasites are in there. There should not be any redness.
- Fur- They should not have hair loss, no bald patches that show redness.
- Respiratory health– Check how they are breathing. You should not see any wheezing or heaving. A healthy guinea pig will breath lightly, barely noticeable.
- Mouth– You should not see any drooling.
- Teeth– Check if there are broken or missing teeth.
- Behaviors– Inactivity is a problem (sleeping all day and stops feeding). Loss of appetite and weight. Hunched posture is also not good. Limps are not also good. Sneezing frequently is also not good. Tilting head is also not good.
- Weight– Check their weight weekly to make sure it is not dropping rapidly.
- Body- Blood on the body. It shows presence of a parasite or shows he or she is fighting with another guinea pig.
- Check grease glands to see if it needs some cleaning
- Tumor– look for abnormal lumps on your guinea pigs’ bodies.
- Feet– check for sores
- Anal and genital area should not be bloody, should not have any discharge, should not have faeces stuck to the fur. Check for abnormal droppings in the cage.
Try and get a guinea pig savvy vet not just a random one. (See a vet once or twice a year or when you notice something wrong with your guinea pig)