Guinea pigs make great companions. They are docile, rarely bite and love humans. They make excellent starter pets for older children. Guinea pigs not only love to be around humans, they also prefer to have another pig living with them. If you don’t want lots of little piggies, make sure your Guinea pigs are all the same sex. Your pigs should have a large cage with plenty of room to move around. They should only live indoors, and do well with cool or even cold weather, but should not be subjected to dampness or drafts. Never play with them outdoors in warm or hot weather, as they are extremely heat-sensitive. The three most common breeds of guinea pig are the Smooth-Coated, with short, glossy fur; the Abyssinian, whose hair grows in fluffy tufts all over the body; and the Peruvian, with long, silky hair that flows to the ground.
Guinea pigs prefer to live in small groups. Females get along best with each other. Since guinea pigs, like all rodents, multiply rapidly, keeping males and females together is not recommended. Place lots of exercise playthings in your guinea pig’s cage, such as cardboard tubes and boxes for hiding. Guinea pigs need an enclosed sleeping area. You can buy a covered sleeping box at a pet supply store, but a medium-sized never-used flower pot will work just as well.
The cage should be at least four square feet per guinea pig. A solid-bottom cage or a plastic-bottom “tub cage” works best. Line the bottom of the cage with bedding for added absorbency and odor control. Do not use cedar chips as aromatic oils in cedar bedding have been shown to have adverse health effects on small pets. Remove soiled bedding, droppings and stale food from the cage daily. Clean the cage completely once a week by scrubbing the bottom of the cage and soiled accessories with warm water and a gentle soap and replacing dirty litter and bedding. Make sure to rinse and dry everything completely before returning it to the cage.
Guinea pigs should have access to grass hay at all times – it is great for their digestive system and it satisfies their need to gnaw. The diet should contain a stabilized form of Vitamin C, which is crucial to your guinea pig’s health. Guinea pigs cannot manufacture this vitamin on their own like most other mammals, so make sure you include 25mg of Vitamin C in tablet form in their diets every day. Guinea Pig food is formulated to be complete and balanced diet, so you can be assured it is getting proper nutrition. Give sweet treats (like grapes or raisins) only on occasion because they contain natural sugars that can cause diarrhea. Provide fresh water through an inverted bottle with a drinking tube and change the water every day.
Even though guinea pigs are very social animals, it might take a little time for them to get used to being handled. Start by feeding them small treats. When they’re more comfortable with you, carefully pick up one pig at a time, with one hand supporting the bottom and the other over the back. Brushing your pig on a regular basis will help keep his coat clean and tangle free and remove any loose hairs. Guinea pigs love to get out of the cage and exercise, so let them roam in a small room with no openings. Keep an eye on your pets so they don’t gnaw on furniture or electrical wires. Also, make sure that no other pets can enter the room and that there are no house plants in reach that could be toxic to your pig.
Take your guinea pig to the vet for a new pet exam, and every six months for wellness exams. Ask your veterinarian how to clip your guinea pig’s nails to prevent injury and infection. If you think your guinea pig is sick, don’t delay – seek medical attention immediately. Common symptoms include sneezing, coughing, diarrhea and lethargy. Guinea pigs are also susceptible to external parasites such as mites and lice. If you think your pet is infested, you’ll need to treat the animal, housing and surrounding environment.