Guinea pigs are popular pets due to their cheerful and interactive nature and low maintenance lifestyle. Though shy, with frequent handling they become very affectionate and talkative. They are also entertaining little beings, having the ability to jump and kick out their legs like a horse; they are surprisingly agile and can run fast despite their egg shaped body!
Guinea pigs are very sociable and like to live in groups. If lonely they can become depressed, so adopting two or more litter mates of the same gender is preferable. It’s important to spend some time with your guinea pigs every day to ensure piggie happiness. Talk to them, cuddle and carry them as often as you can and you’ll be rewarded with healthy, happy guinea pigs.
Guinea pigs are grazing animals and ideally should be provided with a diet as closely matched to their natural diet as possible, so provide good quality hay and grass (guinea pigs are great lawn mowers) at all times. Guinea pigs, like humans, cannot manufacture their own vitamin C so it must be sourced from the diet. Many proprietary guinea pig foods have added vitamin C and are readily available, however this food should not be fed as a sole diet.
Fresh vegetables should make up 20% of your piggies daily diet. Be careful though as feeding too many leafy veggies can cause tummy upsets and diarrhoea. Veggies good for guinea pigs include celery, carrots, tomatoes, cucumber, corn and kale. Fruits such as Apples and strawberries are great as occasional treats. Foods to avoid include iceberg lettuce, rocket salads, red leaves, broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes and radishes. Fresh water is essential and should be available at all times.
Guinea pigs should be housed in an area as spacious as possible, safe from predators and away from direct sunlight as they can get hot very quickly. The cage should be cleaned and bedding changed regularly. Choose toys and accessories carefully as many available have detachable or moving parts which are choking hazards. As a guide choose accessories that are solid, smooth with no small parts that can be swallowed. Never use exercise balls or wheels as they are not safe and can cause toe, foot and spinal injuries.
Some breeds of guinea pigs require regular grooming to keep them looking fabulous. Researching the care of a particular breed is essential before purchasing. For a beginner the short haired breeds are recommended. Bathing too frequently should be avoided as it removes natural oils and can result in a dry coat. Guinea pig toenails need to be checked regularly and clipped if becoming long. Clipping can be difficult so it’s important to be taught by your veterinarian before attempting yourself.
Like all pets’ regular piggy wellness examinations are essential and allow your veterinarian to evaluate your guinea pigs general health and diagnose, treat or prevent any health problems before they become serious illnesses.
When looking for your perfect piggy pet it’s important to remember that, like cats and dogs, there is an overpopulation of guinea pigs and many are in rescues centres and shelters looking for a good home.