Top Tips for owning Guinea Pigs

Anyone who knows me in person, or follows this blog, would know that I love my five guinea pigs a lot! I’ve made a few other posts on here about bringing them into my life, their cage set up, their bedding, and cleaning, but I thought I would make one that puts all that together in one place.

Of course I am not a qualified expert – I have taken advice from other guinea pig owners, or done things according to my own guinea pigs needs and my own personal opinion. You often come to learn along with your pet 🙂

So here’s everything I do to make sure my guinea pigs are healthy and happy, and my tips for owning these gorgeous fluff balls!

 

 

Housing

I purchased a double story hutch from Best Friends Pet Supplies for under $300, the extra level only costing a little more than the single level, so I thought it was definitely worth it. I’m so glad I did get it, because there was enough room for the surprise of 5 pigs!

The cage has ledges, ramps, and cover, as well as two igloos I bought from Best Friends Pet Supplies for them to hide in. It is important to provide your guinea pigs with places that they can hide and feel safe, and climb and jump on for exercise and enjoyment.

Bedding
I’ve tried multiple materials to line the cage with including hay and woodchips, however I’ve found that fleece is the best. It easier to keep clean, as you can easily see any mess, and urine soaks right through, so the bedding won’t become wet. I also lay down a few layers of newspaper underneath.
Overtime I’ve purchased a few meters of fleece for this, which I got from Spotlight for overall around $40.

Within their cage I include purchased/homemade fleece lined pouches for the pigs to hide/snuggle in, as well as a purchased cuddle cup. They really enjoy having the extra warm and safe spaces to curl up in, and it just adds an extra level of comfort to their cage.

I made a post about how I made some pouches at home from fleece and old pillow cases, which you can read here.

Weather
If you decided to have your cage outside, make sure that it is located in a safe area where they are protected from weather conditions. My set up is located outside (when I move into my own house they will be located inside), on our veranda under the roof – this way they can get a bit of sunlight, and are out of the poorer weather.

In summer and the warmer weather, make sure that they have protection from the sun and overheating. I keep water bottles in the freezer, wrap them in small towels, and place them in the cage. The pigs like to lie on or against the bottle, which cools their bodies down. (You don’t want them lying against the actual bottle of course, but when the bottle is less cold, mine like to go under the towel or completely take it off!)
It’s very important that they also have access to clean, cold water during summer, and that it is checked regularly. Watermelon is also a good sometimes treat to cool them down.
If it’s a really hot day, I bath them in some cool, shallow water. (Only occasionally, as guinea pigs should not be bathed regularly, which I will speak about more under grooming care).

Guinea pigs can catch colds quite easily, and can be a health concern for them, so it’s important that they have adequate warmth in the winter.
I provide my guinea pigs with extra pouches to keep warm in. When it’s windy, I clip folded fleece around the top open part of their cage, just to block the cold wind. You also want to avoid any rain from getting in and making their bedding or hay getting wet – so I’ve put some perspex covers on the sides of the cage exposed to rain and wind for extra protection, which I got from Bunnings for $19.

Cleaning
Cages should be properly cleaned at least once a week. I use a homemade solution of vinegar diluted with water and spray it in the cage (or you can buy one from most pet stores). I then wipe with a damp cloth, let it soak in, and dry with paper towel.
I do the same with the litter tray and removable draw, but wash that down with a hose rather than damp cloth, as it is obviously a lot dirtier.

You should also spot clean daily, but removing up any scraps, droppings, wet hay or other messes. I tend to do this in the morning and evening, especially because I have the 5 guinea pigs, so it can get messy quite quickly.

It’s also important to wash their bedding regularly. I tend to do this once a week in summer, and every 2 weeks in winter (I still like to air them out weekly).
After shaking out any excess hair, I soak the fleece bedding/cage lining in warm water and a guinea pig safe washing powder (something that is non irritant to skin). I then wash it in cool water to remove any excess soap. Then I hang it out dry, and if it’s quite warm this should only take a couple of hours.

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Guinea pigs don’t like to live in their mess, so I also provide a small litter tray filled with wood chips which my pigs use quite well. It may take a bit of training, but if you move their business in there, they will eventually associate the smell and use it as a litter tray. This of course needs cleaning regularly. I picked mine up for around $7 at Best Friends Pet Supplies, however most pet shops should sell them.

Diet

Like any animal, there are things Guinea Pigs can and can’t eat, and with so many different sources that tell you different things, it can get very confusing. So it’s important to watch and understand your own pet’s diet, from how they react to different foods and what they like/don’t like.

Firstly, guinea pigs should have constant access to fresh hay and pallets at all times. These are both great sources of fiber and help to keep their teeth from overgrowing.
Try to find a hay without weeds, that contains thicker/larger pieces, rather than small pieces. Timothy hay is often the most recommended type.
I give my pigs the simple, one type pallets, as they prefer it. However, you can buy ones that contain grains or dried food in addition to pallets.

They also love grass! So make sure you include that in their diet, whether it’s accessible from their cage, or they have supervised time in the garden (make sure they are only eating grass while in the garden, as things such as gum leaves can be toxic)

Guinea pigs should be fed fresh vegetables every day for an optimum diet. There are many websites that tell you what they can and cannot have, so make sure that you know what you’re feeding them.
I often like to give them something different everyday, and their vegetable diet usually consists of any of the following:

  • Carrots (peels or cut up)
  • Green spinach leaves (removing the stalks)
  • Cucumber
  • Corn curnalls (they can also nibble on the cob but make sure you remove once they have)
  • Zuccini
  • Capsicum (remove all the seeds)

I feed them a bowl of fresh vegetables every morning, and a bowl (or grass) at night.

Guinea pigs also love fruit, but should only be given in moderation due to the high level of sugar. I wouldn’t feed them fruit more than once a week, or as a special treat. They love eating

  • Strawberries
  • Watermelon (excluding green part of rind/any seeds)
  • Apples/Apple skin (they can also nibble on the core, but do not let them eat the seeds)
  • Cantaloupe (excluding skin)

Of course, ensure that they always have access to fresh, cool water. I like to use a small animal water bottle, as it stops them from contaminating it with any food/mess.

Weight
Optimal weight is important for a guinea pigs health, and should be checked regularly. Their weight can change easily from week to week, so it’s important to note any changes.

The ideal weight for boar/male is 900-1200 grams, and for a sow/female it’s 700-900 grams.

If your guinea pig is not within these ideal weights, you may just need to re-evaluate their diet. If you do notice any drastic changes, a trip to the vet may be worthwhile.

 

Grooming

Guinea Pigs are relatively clean animals, and will often clean themselves. They do this with a solution from their eyes that they rub on their paws/or lick their paws, and then clean their body.
Grooming may be a stressful time for your guinea pig, so be sure to include treats to create a rewarding experience for them.DFogr15XYAUa5DH

Bathing
You can bath your pig, but this should only be done occasionally, as the water/soaps can strip the natural oils on their skin.

When you do bath them, make sure your using a specialised small animal shampoo/conditioner, not a generic pet one, and especially not one designed for humans. You will most likely be able to find these at your local pet store.
Ensure that the bath water is not too hot and not too cold. Your guinea pig may also be a bit scared of the water, so it’s best to start by only using shallow water and keeping your hands on them. Be careful not to get any water in their ears or eyes, as they are very sensitive.

Nails
Clipping nails can be a difficult task when it comes to pets, and requires a lot of patience. Guinea pigs do need their nails cut regularly to stop them from becoming overgrown, which can then cause further health problems. It depends on your own guinea pig how often you need to do this – for mine, I only need to clip them around once a month, when they start to get long and scratch me. I find a small nail clipper is the best tool for this.

If you trim them regularly, you will find that you don’t need to take off much of the nail. You can see in lighter nails a pink area within in, this is known as the quick and is the blood supply. Be very careful not to clip this part, as it will cause your piggy pain and sometimes bleeding.
Darker nails are much harder to do. You can try shining a light, or if this doesn’t work, I would recommend only clipping the tip.

I find the most effective way is to have your pig on the table and have them against your body – this makes them feel safe and stops them from pulling away. Hold one foot at a time while clipping the nail (massaging the foot or speaking to them may also help to calm them). The main trick is to be patient with your pig, you may have to try multiple times to get one nail.

Brushing/Cutting Hair
Similar to nails, this all depends on your own guinea pig. Guinea pigs with longer hair require frequent brushing and cutting of their hair, while shorter guinea pigs may not need a trim at all (however, I would still recommend brushing them). Some guinea pigs also don’t enjoy this, so be patient and calming with them – this tends to take a long time with my Kova, who needs it the most!

3 of my guinea pigs have longer hair, however, I tend to give all 5 of them a grooming session every couple of weeks – a month, depending on how their hair is.
The main reason for cutting their hair is to avoid any mess becoming tangled or making the hair wet (particulary around the bum area), also to stop ‘dags’ from forming (clumps of mattered hair). If your pig does have dags, cut them off straight away to avoid them becoming worse.

I brush my pigs with a fine tooth pet comb, carefully removing any knots or excess hair. Pat your guinea pigs at the same time, as it does help to keep them calm.

As for cutting, I hold the hair between my fingers, trimming a little bit at a time. Obviously, you also need to be careful in this process as you don’t want to hurt your pig. Make sure if they’re jittery that you hold onto them, as you don’t want them to suddenly move when you have something sharp near them. Of course I’m not a professional groomer, so I wouldn’t say it’s completely perfect, but as long as it’s keeping them clean, then I’m happy.

 

Happy Guinea Pigs

Socialising
Guinea pigs are social animals, and should not be kept alone. They are much happier to have a friend with them. I’ve even heard that in some countries it’s illegal to have one on their own as it’s considered animal cruelty, and they must be purchased in pairs.20632576_1653504948001334_1986736242_n I did buy Newt first, as they didn’t have two male guinea pigs, however I felt much happier when I was able to get Hazel.

Guinea pigs are also big breeders! If all your guinea pigs are in the same cage, it’s best to keep to one gender. You can also get them desexed (this costs around $130), and it’s much better to have the male done, as there can be many complications with female guinea pig spaying.

Also be sure to spend lots of time with your guinea pig yourself. They may seem like jitterish pets, but the more time they spend with you, they more they will come to trust you. By simply sitting in a safe place with your pig, whether they’re on your lap or on the floor, they will eventually get used to you. Remember that each guinea pig is different, and have different personalities.
Don’t forget that you are much bigger than them, so you do need to act slower and quieter around them, and always handle them gently.

Entertainment
Like any pet, guinea pigs need enjoyment in their life. They love to explore, so things such as ramps and tunnels can be great fun for them! DSC_0123
Wood chews can also help with boredom, which you can buy to either place or hang in their cage. They are also great for keeping their teeth healthy. You can find these in most pet stores.

I also like to give my guinea pig plenty of time out of their cage, whether that’s floor time to explore, or a safe place in the garden to eat some grass. Do make sure that when they are out of their cage that they are constantly supervised – move anything that could cause them harm and keep other pets separate.

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High maintenance pets 
Being such small animals, guinea pigs are often considered low maintenance and easy first pets. I personally think, that if all the proper care is taken, guinea pigs require a lot of time and money.

I had a few guinea pigs growing up, but people didn’t know as much about their care as they do now. We only had a small, triangle cage on the ground. I of course loved them, but I think I was still too young to understand how much care they actually needed.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to be sure of these things before getting any pet, and ensuring you can provide the right care for their well-being.

 

I think I’ve covered everything I do to ensure that my guinea pigs are happy and healthy!
They truly are the most wonderful pets, and beautiful animals. They show so much personality- not only are they little cuties, but they can be really funny and affectionate too! I love observing mine, and spending afternoons just sitting or playing with them 🙂

If you want to read more about my own guinea pigs, I’ve left the links for my other posts below.

Let me know in the comments if you have any guinea pigs. Even if you have in the past, or may be planning to get some. I’d love to chat more about these gorgeous animals! I hope that this was able to provide information to those wanting to own guinea pigs, or interested in how to care for theirs.

Jess xx

 

My own Guinea Pigs, and their stories 🙂
Gorgeous Guinea Pigs: Meet Newt and Gus
Guinea Pig Surprise!
Guinea-Pig Update!

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