Guinea pigs are a top choice for many people seeking to become pet parents. After all, these cute balls of fur have funny personalities and are relatively easy to maintain. Better still, they are social animals capable of showing affection, and this makes them excellent first pets for kids.
Once you bring any pet home, you are responsible for ensuring its health, happiness, and welfare. Read on to learn all you need to know about taking care of a guinea pig.
First things first, your furry friend needs a unique home within your home. Choosing the right cage will go a long way in ensuring that your new pet is comfortable.
Even though baby guinea pigs tend to be very tiny, they grow large within a short period. This makes it ideal to choose a cage that is not less than 7.5 square feet.
Guinea pigs love getting attention from humans. However, they are super active creatures, and one of the surest ways to ensure that your pet is happy is getting it a companion of its kind. If you get two cavies, their cage should be at least 10.5 square feet.
The guinea pig pen is not complete until you get a few details covered. It is crucial to cover the base with a thick layer of bedding, perhaps shredded papers, wood shavings, fleecing, or layers of blankets.
Additionally, your cavy needs a small hood where it can hide and sleep during the night or daylight hours. Install at least one tunnel that can keep the pet engaged, excited, and busy. Toys also help in killing boredom, especially when the guinea pig cannot enjoy your companionship.
With time, your guinea pig may get along with your cat or dog. However, do not rush the introductions because the cavy could get scared. Allow it first to get used to the new environment before you introduce other pets. For the first three months, let it run alone without other pets present.
Guidelines for Feeding Your Guinea Pig
Each guinea pig needs at least 1/8 cup of pellets each day. Commercial guinea pig food is formulated to ensure the cavy gets balanced nutrients, including loads of Vitamin C. Any pellets that your pets do not finish within 24 hours should be cleaned out.
You should also provide an abundant supply of Timothy hay. Guinea pigs love chewing things. The hay not only promotes a proper digestive system but also offers them a way to prevent their front teeth from growing overly long.
Also, ensure your cavies get suitable portions of vegetables and fresh fruits each day. A cup of carrots, cucumber, spinach, kale, or other dark green veggies each day can help boost their immune system and general well-being. Be sure to also provide some fruits such as apples, oranges, and strawberries in moderation.
Guinea pigs take at least 5 ounces of water daily. Their consumption may increase depending on the weather, so make sure your pet has a constant supply of clean, chlorine-free water.
Tips for Picking up Your Guinea Pig
It’s hard to resist picking up your cute ball of fur, especially if you are a cuddler. The best time to pick up a guinea pig is when it is calm.
Slowly and calmly use one of your hands to support the pet’s body from underneath. Get your fingers wrapped around the cavy’s body gently and use your other hand to support its bottom as you lift it straight up.
Hold the pet as close to your body as possible because this will make it feel secure. Anytime the cavy feels threatened or nervous, it will try to escape, and this may cause unwarranted injuries.
Guinea pigs are playful and quite friendly. If you want to play with your furry friend, the easiest way to create a bond is by using guinea pig toys to engage it. Cavies love chasing tennis balls and ping pons. It is also a good idea to install a tunnel in their play area to make your play sessions more exciting.
When returning the pet in its cage, again, choose a moment when it is calm. Hold it properly (step 1), make it feel secure, and gently place it back in its cage.
How to Clean and Groom a Guinea Pig?
Unlike most domestic animals, guinea pigs only need a bath once in a while. They are relatively clean animals, and you can avoid frequent baths by brushing the fur of your furry friend regularly.
I have a long-haired guinea pig that needs to be brushed gently daily. Grooming short-haired cavies is easier because you only need to wipe their fur with a dry cloth and brush them several times a week.
If your guinea pig needs a bath, get the room warmed by turning off the AC and turning up the heat. Your pet mustn’t get cold. Ask your vet to recommend the best small-animal shampoo to use.
Also, ensure you have the right medicated shampoo in case your pet suffers from skin problems such as fungal skin conditions.
The water needs to be warm, not hot. Wash the cavy quickly and carefully rinse out all the shampoo. The next step is to wrap her up in a warm towel and gently rub her fur to remove excess water.
Keep the room warm until she is dry or uses a blow dryer with extreme caution. You do not want to scare your cavy or burn its sensitive skin.
Your grooming sessions should also involve clipping your pet’s nails. Clip out only the tip of the nail to avoid the risk of cutting into any blood vessels. In case you are not certain how to properly clip your guinea pigs nails, ask your vet for some tips or hire a mobile pet groomer.
How to Know If Your Cavy Is Happy and Healthy?
The whole point of taking pet care practices seriously is to ensure that your cavy is both healthy and happy. There are several proven ways to tell if something is amiss.
Check The Cavy’s Nose And Eyes
It is usual for guinea pigs to have some milky discharge from the eyes. In case their eyes look overly watery, or the discharge from their nose is discolored, consult your vet.
Inspect The Pet’s Coat
As you brush your cavy’s coat, you should check the skin for dryness, flaking, or redness. Any issues of concern should be addressed with the urgency they deserve. Also, report to your vet if the fur does not appear full, or it has some bald spots.
Check The Droppings
Another sure way to evaluate the overall health and well-being of your guinea pig is to inspect its droppings. Cavies have two kinds of bowel movements.
They have soft droppings called caecotrophs that they usually eat, so you will hardly ever find them in the cage. Then again, there are hard pellet-like droppings, and this is what you will find in their cage.
In case your cavy’s cage has no droppings, it could be that it is constipated. Usually, giving the pet some pears or apples can naturally address the problem. If you still do not find any droppings, contact your vet.
It is crucial to seek emergency healthcare services if you find diarrhea in the cage. Guinea pigs can become dehydrated in a matter of hours.
Check The Bottom Of Your Guinea Pig
As I mentioned earlier, cavies are generally clean animals. They know how to maintain their personal hygiene, so there is cause for alarm if your pet has a wet or smelly bottom. This is usually a sign of urinary tract infections or diarrhea.
Pay Attention To The Pet’s Behavior
It is good practice to note any changes in your guinea pig’s behavior. These are generally funny, adorable and active creatures, capable of sweeping you off your feet with their numerous personalities.
In case your social and friendly cavy is suddenly quiet or disinterested in playing, you have reason to raise an eyebrow.
Poor moods are often a sign of health issues. Check for signs of illness, and if your pet does not bounce back into its lively nature within a day, consult a vet.
With proper care, guinea pigs can live for 5-8 years. These are delicate animals, so you must call in your vet if you notice signs like weight loss, distressed breathing, lethargic, or skin lesions.
In case you choose to keep a pair of cavies, they need to be of the same gender. You can also keep a male and female as long as you get your male guinea pig neutered.