c/k/a Cavia porcellus
There are three main varieties of Guinea Pigs and all come in an assortment of colors and personalities. The Smooth Coated or English has short, fine and straight hair. An Abyssinian has a rougher coat with wiry rosettes or whorls – resembling a bad hair day. Peruvian guinea pigs sport long, straight and silky hair. Wonderful if you are committed to extra grooming and brushing.
Guinea Pigs are easy to care for and fast become interactive members of their families. They have cheerful vocal squeaks, especially if its dinnertime. They are diurnal, require vitamin c supplements daily and live on average 5 years. Extra large cages are best for guinea pigs since they do running laps for exercise. Gentle and regular handling conditions them to being picked up and held. Keep them in an area where they can see what’s going on and conditioned to the noises and activities of your home – they are happiest that way. Being social, you may want to consider a companion. Littermates are usually a best match (opposite sexes) but some do accept other guinea pigs if they are at a young age. They may be housed together or prefer to have their own cage for sleeping and eating. Some owners create community run-out pens from separate cages.
Although Guinea Pigs may seem skittish, they are curious and quickly become used to regular household activities and pets. They are non aggressive and respond to gentle supportive handling.
• Guinea Pigs are moderately larger and active. They require much larger habitats than those for hamsters or gerbils.
• Pick a plastic, metal or wire enclosure (not glass) that gives good ventilation. The top can be open (if at least 10 inches) and he/she is safe from other pets. Guinea Pigs don’t climb.
• Provide a hide for her/him to retreat to or sleep.
• Rotate or update chew toys for busy work.
• Provide a safe play pen with ramps, platforms and levels for curiosity play (no open wheels) and PVC tubing seems to be a favorite.
• The cage floor should be solid and bedding choices include aspen shavings or paper beddings. Pine is acceptable but cedar is to be avoided due to irritating oils and vapor.
• Place your guinea pig in cooler areas and away from direct sunlight and heat
• Water sipper bottle (cleaned and rinsed regularly)
• GP’s can be heavy drinkers, so check water level every day
• Use heavier food bowls that won’t be knocked over easily.
• Provide Vitamin C fresh foods (since GP’s don’t produce Vit. C)
o carrot tops, parsley, broccoli leaves, dandelion greens, collard greens, beet greens, kale, apple (seeds removed) orange slices, strawberries and more. Concentrate on greens and fruits as treats. No lettuce such as iceberg, rhubarb, nuts, potato, celery stalks, salty foods or sugared foods.
• Provide fresh portions of a pelleted diet and Timothy Hay daily (no Alfalfa since this is high in calcium) to aid digestion and teeth grinding.
• Introduce new foods in small quantities, especially when switching food brands.
• When young, introduce new foods slowly in small quantities so they don’t develop food aversions.
• Your guinea pig will likely use one area of the habitat to urinate in. You can spot clean and put fresh bedding in this area regularly.
• At least once a week (especially in summer) wash out the cage with hot soapy water, use diluted bleach if necessary and rinse well.
• Wash dishes and water bottles regularly.
• Monitor nails and clip when getting long.
• Provide chew toys, hides
• If your GP is squirmy whilst you are holding her/him – it might be a bathroom break warning. GP’s will do anything not to urinate in public, so put her/him back in the cage for a few private minutes.
• Take your GP out of the cage head first and return them to the cage bottom first. This reduces wiggling and potential drops.
• GP’s don’t survive most falls, so supervise smaller children and have them sit when holding her/him.
• Male GP’s can be neutered if needed. It’s a simple procedure.
Enjoy your Guinea Pig!