Is a Guinea Pig Right For Your Family?
Today’s domesticated guinea pig is a descendant of the wild guinea pigs of South America. Guinea pigs are long- or short-haired, tailless rodents that many children enjoy as their first pets. Guinea pigs can be very affectionate, live harmoniously in groups, and when they are happy, are known to jump straight up in the air! Here are a few important guidelines should you decide to make one of these social animals a part of your family:
Health. Feel to see if your guinea pig is too heavy or too lean, and regularly check for swellings, lumps, or bumps. A healthy guinea pig should be active and curious, with a well-groomed coat. Watch for bald patches, reddened skin, or soiling around the vent area. Check for discharge or wetness around the eyes, ears, and mouth and listen for labored breathing, as guinea pigs can be susceptible to respiratory illness. Observe your guinea pig when she plays to look for lameness or stiffness in her movements.
Daily Care. Native to South America, guinea pigs are used to warmer temperatures in the range of 65-75 F degrees. Avoid using an aquarium or tank as your guinea pig’s housing, as these pets require greater ventilation. It’s also important that the floor of the cage is flat and not made of wire mesh, since wire can cause injury. Add plenty of bedding in the form of non-toxic nesting material or shredded, ink-free paper. Because guinea pigs’ teeth continue to grow throughout their lives, provide your guinea pig gnawing logs so she can keep her teeth trim and healthy. Consider Timothy hay as a fantastic choice for both nesting and snacking. Guinea pigs can’t produce vitamin C, so be sure to supplement their diets with the vitamin, along with an array of healthy fruits and vegetables.
Interaction. Guinea pigs squeal, rumble, purr, and chirp to express themselves. They stretch out when relaxed and happy. As social animals, they do well when kept in pairs or groups, but be sure males and females are separated to prevent excessive mating or fighting. Regularly brushing and petting your guinea pig will not only encourage affection, but help you detect potential health issues early.
Remember, the life span of a guinea pig is between four and seven years…and the better a guinea pig is looked after, the longer she will live!