How to give your guinea pigs the best care
Guinea pigs are fantastic pets that will live for between 3- 8 years, given the right care. They are social animals who should be kept in pairs or groups so A.R.C. will only rehome a single one if we can bond him or her with a guinea pig you already own.
They can be shy and sensitive at first, but with patience they will learn to trust you. All guinea pigs are different and have their own personalities. Some are extremely confident and trusting, others are a little more flighty.
They make an ideal pet as they don’t bite like hamsters and are much happier to be picked up and cuddled. However, small children must always be supervised whilst handling them as they have very delicate bones which can be easily crushed and they will suffer serious injury or death if dropped. They are best held in the lap rather than carried about. Adults should supervise or be fully responsible for feeding, cleaning and overall care. A weekly check-over is very important.
Guinea pigs will ‘talk’ to you and make a variety of noises – ‘wheeking’ to shout for food, ‘purring’ when happy and ‘chattering’ their teeth when cross!
They quickly learn that the sound of the fridge door, a rustling bag and chopping mean food!
Every day guinea pigs need water from a bottle or bowl, a big handful of hay, pellets such as Excel (not muesli as they pick out the nice bits), and a handful of fresh food containing vitamin C. This could be grass, parsley, apple, carrot, carrot tops, grapes, pepper, spinach, broccoli or dandelions. Lettuce is not recommended as it does not contain enough vitamin C which is vital for a guinea pig’s health.
Guinea pigs need fresh fruit and vegetables every day as they can’t store Vitamin C in their bodies. They will get extremely poorly without it.
Guinea pigs need company
Guinea pigs should never be kept with rabbits, as rabbits can accidentally kill or injure them by kicking them with their strong back legs. Guinea pigs can be kept in same sex groups or pairs. A neutered male can be kept with a female (see Neutering tab above). Pairs of young males may need to be separated and neutered to later bond with females, should they start to fight as they grow up.
Get your guinea pig professionally sexed if you are looking for a companion. Many innocent mistakes have been made and it is extremely dangerous for females aged over 10 months to breed as their pelvic bones fuse, resulting in obstructed birth which can be fatal. A rescue guinea pig will have been sexed before re-homing.
Guinea pigs can be kept either indoors (they don’t smell!) or outdoors. They need a hutch or cage measuring 120cm for a pair, 140/150cm for a trio and bigger for a quad or more. ARC does not recommend 2-storey hutches with ramps. Guinea pigs have suffered injury and death from falling off the ramp. There is a wide choice of guinea pig housing these days from pet shops and online.
Outdoor hutches need to be single-level, raised slightly off the ground, wind and rain-proof and of solid build. Guinea pigs suffer from the cold, so hutches should be covered with tarpaulins, thick plastic or bubble wrap in the winter, or they should be brought indoors during the coldest months.
Hutches must always be fox-proof, with secure bolts and strong rigid wire – chicken wire is easy for foxes to bite through.
Use newspaper to line the home/hutch and hay as bedding. Avoid straw which can hurt guinea pigs’ eyes. Sawdust and wood shavings can also be dangerous, causing breathing problems. Other bedding such as Carefresh, Back2Nature, SmartBedz / SmartPets, or Vet Bed is available. Vet Bed is also machine washable.
When cleaning the hutch/home spray with an animal friendly antiseptic before putting newspaper and hay back down.
If your guinea pig lives outside, please make sure that ‘out of sight’ is not ‘out of mind’. Guinea pigs need daily care in ALL weathers. You will also need someone to care for your guinea pigs when you go away for the weekend or on holiday – guinea pigs need daily fresh food and water.
All guinea pigs love to graze on grass in warm weather. They need a secure run with a roof to keep them safe from predators and a shelter to protect them from sun and rain. They love an upturned cardboard box to hide under (cut a doorway in it first!)
Other good guinea pig resources
https://www.facebook.com/piggybank.gpr a Facebook based UK wide guinea pig rescues, owners & volunteers network
www.theguineapigforum.co.uk – here, you can join and start a thread with your own question/s, or read up on questions and answers posted by others.