Guinea Pig Care Guide and Check list.
Before getting any pet it is recommended that you research the needs of the animal and ensure that it is suitable for your lifestyle. Guinea Pigs are a naturally clean and easy animal to handle and they are fairly hardy considering their relatively small size. However, if all members of your household are out working or at school all day, you should consider two Guinea Pigs rather than one as they are very social animals and should always be able to socially interact. Two males are more likely to fight but generally when they are in the presence of females – in season. Be aware that females and males are both capable of territorial aggression.
If you do not wish to breed Guinea Pigs then make sure that your new purchase(s) have been in holding cages with the sexes separated. This is because Guinea Pigs can mate at the very young age of 4+ weeks and there is no “safe age” to house males and females together without the potential of a pregnancy. If you are planning to breed Guinea Pigs, first learn about their needs and then setup properly. This will mean that you will require at least three cages to isolate the young and the sexes. Unlike dogs and cats determining the sex of a Guinea pig can be difficult please ask our staff how it is done.
VARIETIES: There are a huge number of different types of Guinea Pigs available today. There are hobbyists and Cavy clubs whose members selectively breed for different characteristics and colours. Some varieties have smooth short hair whilst Abyssinians have medium length hair that forms “rosettes”. Angoras have long smooth hair and Peruvians have long rough hair. Types and colours have all been crossed at some stage giving pet lovers and incredible range to choose from. PIAA pet shops are very particular about their breeder/suppliers but generally only deal with cross-bred “pet” Guinea Pigs, for “pure strains” you will need to investigate the specialist breeders.
HOUSING: Guinea Pigs can be kept inside or outside but if they are to be housed in the garden, special consideration must be given to protection from draughts, rain and other extremes in the weather and from stray cats and dogs. It is important that the hutch does not get too warm as Guinea pigs suffer heat exhaustion. Coke bottle filled with frozen water can be placed in the hutch to keep them cool. With this is mind if the hutch is to be kept indoors it must be in a well ventilated, cool area of the house. In winter ensure that both indoor and outdoor houses contain extra nesting material or snuggler so they can keep warm. Whether the Guinea Pig is male or female nesting hay is a requirement for all hutches. Guinea pigs can also have outdoor open pens that can be placed in the garden for exercise but this must be attended at all times as the Guinea Pig(s) are exposed to predators.
TOYS and TREATS: Though Guinea pigs do not usually play with toys like dogs and cats they do require chew toys. Chew toys help maintain Guinea pigs teeth and provide entertainment for the Guinea pig. Without chew toys you may find that your Guinea pig eats any wood within its reach including the hutch itself. Guinea pigs often also like tunnels and houses to hide in. If you want your Guinea pig to spend some safe time out of its enclosure getting exercise, a harness or fully enclosed plastic ball is ideal. Guinea pigs also enjoy salt licks as a special treat that helps maintain their teeth and a healthy diet.
TRANSPORT: Your new Guinea Pig will probably be handed to you in a small ‘pet box’. This is the best method of transportation, and ensures that your new pet will remain safe and protected until you are ready to install him in his new home. It is not advisable to attempt to transport any small animals in uncovered open cages. The security and darkness of an enclosed box (with holes punched in it) will avoid stressing the animal during transit. Guinea Pigs suffer from heat stress and should not be exposed to long, hot journeys with stops on the way home.
It is critical that you take your new Guinea Pig home without delay, to avoid heat & stress.
SETTING-UP AT HOME: This is the procedure that should be followed when first taking home your Guinea Pig and setting up the hutch. Firstly, site the hutch in a shaded place that has a relatively constant temperature and away from draughts. The ideal temperature for a hutch is 18-23°C. It should be placed in a position where it cannot be interfered with by small children and/or other pets. The hutch should be set up complete with filled food containers and water bowl or tube drinker. The nesting hay referred to above should now be placed in the enclosed nesting area so that there is somewhere to hide. Let the Guinea Pig come out of the transport box and enter quietly into his new home. At first he may be a bit bewildered, and perhaps the unfamiliar surroundings of the new home will cause him to hide in the nesting area. Over-excited children can stress a new pet so if children are present, be very conscious of their behaviour at this time. Your new pet should be left to settle down on the first day and as he regains his confidence he will start to explore his new home.
HUTCH CLEANING: Whilst Guinea Pigs are clean little fellows to handle, they can be very messy around their hutch. Hutches need to be cleaned thoroughly weekly with hutch cleaner. Wet hay, droppings and any of the previous day’s fruit and vegetables as once this starts to decay need to be removed daily. If cat litter is used in the bottom the hutch the odour is greatly reduced. A daily change of water and thoroughly wash and rinse the drinking bottle and food bowls daily. Clean hutch with hutch cleaner as per directions, remembering to rinse all washed areas and dry afterwards because residual detergents and disinfectants can be very harmful. If you have an exercise pen to put your Guinea Pig into for an hour or so, you should stand the cleaned hutch in full direct sunlight as this is a natural sterilizing process that is effective and free! (Don’t put your Guinea Pig straight back into a hot hutch).
Note: It is very important that everyone that cleans the hutch – including the children, can recognise mouldy hay. New hay going into the hutch should be fresh and free of any mould.
FEEDING: Guinea Pigs are herbivores and if introduced to a wide variety of grass, fresh fruit and veggies when they are young, they will not become fussy eaters and be healthier for it. Feed lettuce cautiously as it can cause diarrhoea. Guinea Pigs must have vitamin C in their diet, either supplement with vitamin drops in the water or ensure the diet includes it every day, a good quality small animal mix contains an appropriate amount of Vitamin C. All fresh vegetable matter must be thoroughly washed as it is possible for residual pesticides to be on produce and if eaten, it is likely to cause serious problems or a fatality. Lucerne is a good source of vitamin C and it is available as hay or chaff. Most Guinea Pig mixes do contain Lucerne chaff so be avoid feeding too much extra Lucerne as it is a fatty treat.
Do not feed Guinea Pigs – Beetroot, Potatoes or peelings, Rhubarb, Onion, Bread or any baked product or Oxalis weed as they are all toxic. Ask staff for a complete list of safe fruit and vegetable for your Guinea pig.
TAMING: To hand tame a pet Guinea Pig is very easy. They very rarely bite or scratch and they generally tame-up without any special skills being applied. If young children are involved, until your Guinea Pig is tamed, it should only be allowed to be handled by one child at a time. If more than one child is present during the initial handling stages, the animal may become stressed due to over-enthusiastic young hands. Once explained, children understand this and a handling routine is established. If this policy is adopted, taming will be a very quick and easy process. It is simply a question of handling the Guinea Pig in such a way that it feels secure (close in to the chest), best done whilst sitting down and not handled for extensive periods of time. In other words, handle your pet gently, securely and for short periods but often. If it is telling you “I don’t want to be handled this way” by struggling, either change the way it is being held or release it completely and give it some time before repeating the process. Within a few days it will be happy to be held and come to you for a fresh vegetable food reward. Commercial treat mixes are available to aid in taming your Guinea Pig.
HEALTH: If your Guinea Pig does become sick, you need expert advice and you need it immediately after you discover that there is a problem. Guinea Pigs are usually trouble-free and hardy; they should appear bright-eyed and have a shiny appearance. Many of the commonly encountered problems are the result of not providing the balanced diet including vitamin C referred to above or failing to maintain a clean and healthy environment also referred to above. Mite and lice spray can be used for the treatment of mange mites and lice in Guinea pigs. It is important that any new toy or animal being introduced is treated with mite and lice spray.
If you suspect your pet Guinea Pig is unwell due to inactivity, diarrhoea or anything else is “abnormal” then talk to your vet.
A list of things you should consider in preparation for the arrival of your new guinea pig:
- Housing: – A secure well ventilated enclosure is recommended. For Guinea pigs kept outdoors a water resistant cage with a fully enclosed sleeping area is recommended. This should be placed in a shaded undercover area where Guinea pig/s is protected from weather extremes. Indoor Guinea pigs can be kept in any of the various forms of Guinea pig enclosure (including the fully open wire mesh version). The enclosure should be kept in a well ventilated, draft free area of the house. Ask our staff for help in choosing the perfect house for you Guinea pig/s.
- Food: – A good quality small animal mix is always recommended over cheaper alternatives. We have a variety of foods available. Please ask our staff to explain the differences. Small animal mix should be fed in conjunction with a variety of fruit and veg. Ask staff for a full list of the safe fruit and veg for your Guinea pig/s.
- Bowls: – A bowl is recommended for food and a hanging water bottle is best for water. A hanging water bottle for water is recommended over a bowl as Guinea pigs are messy, being quick to foul water bowls.
- Bedding: – Cat litter should be placed in the entire bottom of indoor enclosures and can be used for sleeping area of outdoor enclosures. Cat litter is great as daily removal of fouled cat litter means that odor is kept to a minimum. We have various types of cat litter please ask staff to explain differences. For indoor Guinea pig enclosures a sleeping hutch is recommended. They can be made from a variety of materials but in winter a snuggler type is recommended. Straw should be placed an the sleeping area of both indoor and outdoor enclosures.
- Care: – Guinea pig enclosures only require a thorough weekly clean with hutch cleaner if cat litter is used (and it is checked daily with fouled litter being removed). Cage cleaner is the best product as it is a safe cleaner and disinfectant for your Guinea pig. Food bowl and water bottle should be cleaned daily with soap and water and rinsed thoroughly.
Mite and lice spray can be used to treat mite or lice on your Guinea Pig it should also be used to treat any new toys or animals upon arrival to avoid infestations. Worming drops should be administered to your guinea pig every 3 months. Vitamin drops should be used regularly as Guinea pigs can become vitamin C deficient.
- Toys: – Toys are a great way for these little creatures to use up large amounts of energy, making them easier to handle (should be handled at least once daily to keep tame). Guinea pigs must have chew toys especially wooden chew toys or they will eat any wood the find (including their own sleeping area or hutch!). They also like tunnels to hide in or big fully enclosed plastic wheels.
- Treats: – A variety of healthy or natural treats are available. Treats aid in the taming of Guinea pigs. Salt licks are a great treat that can be left in the cage, helping to maintain the teeth of your Guinea pig. They also love Lucerne which is a good source of vitamin C but it should be used sparingly as it is fattening and is usually already present in most good quality small animal mix.
- Shampoo: – Many people like to wash their Guinea Pig. This is recommended as they can get very smelly but only specially formulated small animal shampoo should be used.
* = high sugar content
◊ = can cause stomach upset/bloat
|Good Vegetables||Good Plants||Feed Sparingly||Toxic food|
|Baby Spinach||Basil||Broccoli ◊||Potato|
|Bok Choy||Chamomile||Cauliflower ◊||Beetroot|
|Brussel Sprouts||Chicory||Apple *||Bread|
|Capsicum||Chickweed||Banana (including leaves) *||Any baked product|
|Choko||Comfrey||Cherries*||Lettuce (too high water content, no nutritional value)|
|Corn (including husks)||Coriander||Dried Apricot *|
|Cos Lettuce||Fennel||Honeydew Melon *|
|Pak Choy||Lemon Balm||Kiwi Fruit*|
|Parsnip||Milk Thistle||Mango *|
|Sweet Potato||Oat Grass||Pawpaw*|
|Wombok||Raspberry Leaves||Pineapple *|
|Wandering Jew||Watermelon *|