Caring for Guinea Pigs Responsibly
Have you ever thought about adopting one of the cuddliest rodents around? Guinea pigs are larger than most rodents, slower, and easier to handle. Also known as cavies, guinea pigs are quite communicative, with a number of different ways of “talking” from an excited “wheeeeet wheeeet” at mealtime, a warble in response to music or the ringing of a bell, or warning clicks when they’re ready to be left alone. These animals are not only fascinating, but can be a lot of fun too. Guinea pigs are extremely social animals, and therefore are happiest when housed in pairs or groups.
Guinea pigs enjoy a varied diet of timothy hay (and/or meadow grass), fresh vegetables, and high-quality commercial timothy-based guinea pig pellets. It’s important that all three types of food be available. Vitamin C supplements can be given in addition to the diet since, like humans, guinea pigs cannot make their own vitamin C. Because of the need for this vitamin, it is important to purchase guinea pig food in small quantities, since it spoils quickly. Keep in mind that hay can also spoil. Freshness is key to good health. Buy hay only in small, closed containers since bulk hay can carry mites or lice. Alfalfa hay may be given as a treat, but it is too high in calcium for daily feeding.
Choose vegetables and fruits that are high in vitamin C and are well balanced. Some of the preferred foods include red bell peppers, apples, carrots, mustard greens, collards, and the like. You can learn more about your piggie’s dietary needs from the recommended books and publications listed below.
The largest cage you can afford will make your piggie happiest, but a single cavy should have a cage no smaller than 2′ by 3′, with plenty of out of cage time. There are wonderful guinea pig playpens available to allow your pet to play safely. You may want to buy two and link them together to cover a larger area. Placing this on wood or linoleum flooring makes cleanup easy with just a cleaning wipe or damp paper towel. In-cage bedding should be made of aspen or paper pulp (such as Cel-sorb or Carefresh), never cedar, corncob, or pine. It’s important that your piggie have a secure hiding place such as a large plastic igloo or wooden house. If you choose wood, you will need to replace it frequently since it will likely be chewed and wood retains urine and cannot be cleaned well. It is also nice to offer plenty of toys, such as ferret jingle balls, sturdy plastic cat toys with bells, wooden chews, paper bags, and rabbit toys. These will help keep your guinea pig busy during the hours when he or she is confined to the cage.
Another cage option is one you build yourself. This can be an economical and fun way to give your guinea pigs more space than you could otherwise afford. Instructions can be found at www.guineapigcages.com
Please do not keep cavies outdoors, since our climate is inappropriate to their species and sadly, outdoor pets are often forgotten.
There’s no need to breed! Plenty of animals need homes. Check out your local animal shelter, rescue, or contact 3R Raleigh Rodent Rescue to adopt an animal who needs a home. Breeding drastically reduces the life span of your female and ads more animals to an already overpopulated world.