April 20, 2016

All About Guinea Pigs!

Author: Gail Brasie


Guinea Pigs Can Make A Wonderful Cuddly Pet!

Looking for a small pet that’s relatively easy to maintain? Guinea pigs make cute, fluffy floofins with loads of personality! They can be super friendly and fond of their human companions. Some of them love gentle cuddling as well. On the larger side for rodents, adults weigh about 1-2 pounds and the average lifespan is 5-7 years. Guinea pigs are fairly easy to care for, and can make great pets for families with older children; although parents will need to expect to help out, but also to get in on the cuteness!

Guinea pigs are social creatures and as pets they tend to do better in pairs or groups. Consider adopting two guinea pigs of the same sex (to avoid breeding). Males can be territorial, but adult male guinea pigs can live together if they’re introduced early, have enough personal space and if there aren’t any female pigs in the habitat.

Care, Cage and Diet:

Guinea pigs need lots of room; they aren’t much for climbing, so floor space is key. Since Guinea pigs are born to chew, make sure the cage is not wood or plastic. There are several types of cages for guinea pigs available commercially. It’s important to make sure your guinea pigs’ cage has a flat bottom and not one made from wire mesh. These mesh floors can cause serious injury and infection to the feet. Bedding should be made from paper products–shavings from soft woods like cedar and pine are thought to contain phenols, which are toxic. Each guinea pig will also need a little hideaway in the cage to retreat to.

The standard diet for guinea pigs is Timothy hay and pellets designed for them, along with green leafy veggies and a vitamin C supplement. Guinea pigs eat all day, so having enough food is important. Like people, guinea pigs cannot make their own vitamin C, and a deficiency can cause serious health problems or even death, so make sure you give your pig a supplement! Guinea pigs also drink loads of water, so having this available is essential.

Additional Considerations:

Cleaning. Cute as they are, guinea pigs can be a bit messy when it comes to their food and water dishes; they’ll sometimes kick bedding or waste material into these as they play. Keep an eye on food and water bowls and clean as necessary. Weekly cage cleanings and spot-cleanings throughout the week are a must.

Chewing! Guinea pigs just love to chew! Hay and some toys will help direct this need, but you’ll have to watch them to make sure they don’t chew on things like their cage or your stuff when they’re out playing with you. Chewing is good for them—it keeps their teeth in good condition, since guinea pigs’ teeth grow continuously.

Separate Spaces: Guinea pigs don’t do well around other types of pet, including other rodents like mice and rats, as well as larger animals such as cats and dogs, all of whom can injure them. This doesn’t mean you can’t have guinea pigs if you already have other floofins; just make sure they’re separated. For instance, keep the guinea pig cage in a separate room with a door you can close.

Babies! Guinea pigs reach sexual maturity very early, and can breed year-round. If you’re planning on housing pigs of the opposite sex together and do not want them to breed you’ll need to talk with a veterinarian that specializes in small pets/exotics about the option of spaying or neutering. It may be best to house same-sex pigs together to avoid the issue altogether.

Allergies: Some people are allergic to guinea pigs. Keep this in mind when adopting; it’s important for every family member to meet the guinea pigs before you bring them home to avoid unpleasant surprises.

Although guinea pigs are available in some pet stores, if you’re looking to add some to your family, consider adoption! There are several guinea pig shelters in the US, including Illinois. Check out the Critter Corral Guinea Pig Rescue and Catnap From the Heart, a cat and small animal shelter that often hosts guinea pigs. Additionally, other shelters and rescues will sometimes have guinea pigs, so keep them in mind while you search as well.

Guinea pigs, with their loads of personality, companionable natures, and relative ease of care can make wonderful additions to attentive, loving families. If you’re considering a guinea pig (or two!) make sure you do your research. Some good websites to start with are  and this Humane Society of the United States tips page, which offers a handful of helpful links.

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