Guinea Pigs are an underappreciated pet – no hear us out – so what better way to celebrate their cute little noises, cute little noses and even cuter little faces than telling you a bit about them on Guinea Pig Appreciation Day?
Guinea Pigs are sweet and naturally have a very gentle temperament, which makes them a great addition to the family – the thing is though, there are some important bits of Guinea Pig information that you might want to take into account before welcoming them into your home or garden.
Guinea Pigs can be kept indoors or outside, think of them like either large hamsters or small rabbits. They’re quite happy in either climate, though if you are keeping them outside, you will need to make sure that they have adequate shelter for when we have bad weather and also make sure that they don’t get too cold. If you’ve opted for a skinny pig (yes, that is a real thing – a skinny pig is a guinea pig that is born with no fur, they look a bit like small hippos) they will need to be kept as an indoor pet as they have no natural insulation.
Important fact number one – do not buy just one guinea pig.
If you buy from a pet shop, you will find you can only buy them in pairs or groups, if you buy from a breeder or from an ad, you might get the option to only buy one. If that’s the case, don’t do it. Guinea Pigs like to live in herds, they’re very social animals and they need that have more than one for them to be happy. A good combo would be a neutered male and one or more females, two females or two neutered brothers. If you’re not keen to have an entire litter, make sure to neuter, they breed A LOT and as cute as guinea pigs are, they can be a handful when you’ve suddenly got an army of them. A common misconception is that you can combine guinea pigs and rabbits – not so much. They have different dietary needs and rabbits, being a bit bigger, have been known to pick on guinea pigs.
Important fact number two – you will need to bathe them.
Yes. Guinea Pigs need baths. Whether they are an outdoor or indoor pet and particularly if they are a long haired guinea pig, you will need to give them a bit of a wash and brush now and again. Guinea Pigs tend to get dirty bellies and find it difficult to get to their undersides to clean themselves. A little bit of warm water in a sink or bath will do the trick. Longhaired varieties will need to be brushed daily. So be prepared to schedule a groom in every day.
Important fact number three – you need a large, secure living area
This is particularly important if they’re going to be outdoor pets, foxes, cats, hawks, you name it, they will try and eat your new pets, so make sure they have a secure hutch/pen. You’ll also need to make sure they have enough room to run around and hide from you and each other. Guinea Pigs are active for around twenty hours a day, so they will need lots of space to play. Be sure to attach a run/play area for them either indoors or in the garden. Guinea Pigs love playing and will need lots of toys and things to keep them occupied, if they get bored, they will tend to pull out their hair, get violent with each other or depressed – so give them plenty of things to keep them entertained.
Important fact four – Be prepared to do a lot of cleaning
Guinea Pigs, like any pet, will need to be cleaned out regularly, you will need to do a deep clean of the entire living area at least once a week – more so if you have a lot of piggies. Guinea Pigs do tend to select one corner as their toilet, and this will need to be cleaned every other day, as will their sleeping area. You might think this would make them a bit of a smelly pet to have around the house, but that’s not strictly true. Cavy owners will swear by using fleece to line their pens, which absorbs liquid and makes sure that smells don’t linger. Plus if you’re cleaning as much as you should be, you won’t notice any strange smells.
Important fact five – Unlike hamsters, guinea pigs can live up to six years.
Hamsters are an ideal, low maintenance family pet because if the children get bored of them, you know they don’t take up too much space or two much time. Plus, as sad as it sounds, you know you won’t be stuck with them for a number of years. Guinea Pigs though, they have a longer life span and you must be prepared to give them a loving home for that time.
Important fact six – Guinea Pigs have a specific diet
This is one reason why it isn’t such a good idea to keep guinea pigs and rabbits together – guinea pigs don’t make their own vitamin c – much like humans! Therefore, fresh, grass based food should be fed daily and replaced daily, not just topped up. You can also supplement their diet with kale, greens and broccoli. You might think vitamin rich foods like oranges etc would be good, but do not give them to guinea pigs – not unless you want to make them poorly! For treats, you can give them apple, carrot and cucumber, but only as treats. They should have grass to chew on and they will always appreciate a good dandelion leaf, so if they’re outside, let them have a roam around the lawn! Fresh water will need to be supplied daily.
Important fact seven – teeth and claws need maintenance
Guinea Pigs will need to have their teeth and nails maintained fairly regularly. Putting something in the cage for them to gnaw on will help keep their teeth strong and prevent them from growing too long. Their claws will also need to be trimmed. Though this can be done at home, it is always best to get a vet to do it, as they will have more experience of how long the nails should be.
Important fact eight – keep an eye on their behaviour and get them checked out as soon as you notice a change
Guinea Pigs don’t like to make a fuss when it comes to their health, so they often don’t show they’re unwell until they are REALLY unwell. As soon as you notice they’re behaving differently, especially when it comes to their food or general demeanor, take them to a vet to get checked out. Guinea pigs leaving outdoors are likely to attract flies, which can make them unwell, as well as pick up mites and other parasites.