Guinea pigs are fantastic little companions who make ideal pets, but before you bring your piggy home, find out 10 things you need to know first.
They need company of their own kind
Guinea pigs are sociable little critters who need the company of their own kind. Female guinea pigs (sows) will generally get on the best, however male guinea pigs (boars) can cohabit if brought up from a young age. Bonding adult boars can be tricky and won’t always result in success. A neutered male can happily live with females. Under no circumstances should they be kept with rabbits!
They like to play
Guinea pigs need things to do to keep them occupied. Tunnels they can run through and nibble make excellent toys, and if you are creative, cardboard box forts are always appreciated!
Gnaw toys are not only good for their mind but also good to wear down their teeth.
They are vegetarian
Guinea pigs need a special diet to keep them healthy. The best diets are the pellet ones which prevent your guinea pigs from selectively feeding and leaving the bits they don’t like, Burgess Excel and Science Select are popular brands. A pellet diet means every bite contains everything they need. If your piggies are babies, make sure you feed them an age-appropriate food.
As well as the pellets, guinea pigs need hay – and lots of it! High-quality hay is best for your piggies and will be slightly green and sweet-smelling. Piggies need unlimited hay, so don’t scrimp with it! Keep in mind that they may poop or wee on it, so offer fresh hay daily.
Guinea pigs also need vegetables to stay healthy and a varied diet is best.
They cannot manufacture their own vitamin C
They are vocal
Guinea pigs are little chatterboxes are use a variety of noises to communicate with each other and with you! A content guinea pig will purr, and they also have a variety of squeaks – the most common is a high pitched WHEEEEEK when a food bag rustles which means “Hurry up with the food!”
They need space to exercise
Although small, they need space to exercise. Guinea pigs should be kept indoors in the winter but can go outside in the warmer months. A secure run will allow them time on the grass, but be sure to give them somewhere to hide, provide shade and supply fresh water.
Be careful in the very warm weather as guinea pigs can suffer from heatstroke, so keep them indoors and in the cool on very hot days. If you don’t have access to a garden, you can let your guinea pigs out to exercise in your home. Make sure the area is cordoned off with no access to wires or dangers, larger pets are shut out the room and you keep an eye on them whilst they are exploring. Playpens are also available if you are worried about them exploring a room.
They have sensitive bodies
Guinea pigs are delicate little critters with sensitive respiratory systems. Wood-based litters should be avoided as these can affect their breathing, Fleece can be used to line their cage or paper-based bedding.
They can cost money if they become unwell
Whilst there are no vaccinations guinea pigs need to stay healthy, it doesn’t mean they won’t ever become unwell. Always make sure you have money put aside for unexpected vet trips; common reasons guinea pigs may need to see the vet are for simple things, such as nail clipping to more expensive procedures such as dental treatment. Make sure you find a vet that treats guinea pigs before you get them, so you know where to go should they become unwell. It’s a good idea to have a secure carrier in case of vet trips.
They are a long term commitment
The good thing about Guinea Pigs is they live much longer than other rodents, and their lifespan is between 5 – 7 years of age. This is a big commitment, so before bringing your guineas home, make sure you feel able to commit that much time to them. Where will you be in 5 years time? Can you take them with you should you move? Who will look after them if you go on holiday?
They are easy to tame
Baby guinea pigs or older ones who have not been handled as much can be skittish. It is important to get your guinea pigs used to you slowly. Talk to them softly and avoid sudden movements. Offering food as a bribe is usually a hit and can help the bonding process. Guinea pigs don’t really like to be carried, so sit on the floor with them on your lap as falls can hurt them. Careful, gentle handling will help you and your piggies become best friends.