If you’re new to guinea pigs and just started your research, this guide will take you through the essentials of guinea pig care.
It’s important to know how to take care of a guinea pig, before getting one. They are sensitive animals, and as such they need a proper diet and space to stay healthy and happy.
In this guide we’ll take you through the basics of guinea pig care, to get you an understanding of the essentials and things you need to know in order for your guinea pigs to stay well.
1. Diet: Hay, veggies, pellets
The diet is crucial to keeping your guinea pigs healthy, and it’s important to understand that in order to take proper care of guinea pigs, they need a proper diet.
A proper diet ensures the following:
- Keeps your pigs healthy
- Keeps their teeth from overgrowing
- Keeps your pigs occupied
Hay: 80% of their daily intake
Guinea pigs main food source is grass hay. They need hay of a good quality, and most swear to timothy hay because it’s rich on nutrition and fibers. Hay also keep their teeth from overgrowing, and guinea pigs need constant access to hay. Be aware that hay racks can obstruct the access, and your guinea pigs may eat less hay in comparison to keeping a pile of hay.
Vegetables: 15% of their daily intake
While the daily intake is only an estimate, their daily intake of veggies should only consist of 15% of their total daily intake.
Make sure you give your pigs a good mix of different veggies.
Some of the vegetables that are perfectly safe and healthy, include:
- Bell peppers (all colors)
- Beet roots
You can also feed your guinea pigs fresh untreated grass and other forage, but make sure you introduce it slowly and don’t feed them anything unless you’re 100% sure it’s safe for them.
Give 1 cup of veggies per pig on a daily basis.
Pellets: 5% of their daily intake
Pellets are only a supplementary food, and shouldn’t be based on grains or seeds. The best pellets are uniform cylindrical shaped, and offer a good range of vitamins and other nutrients that’ll keep your pig healthy.
Some guinea pigs don’t eat a lot of pellets, and that’s perfectly fine. Just make sure they eat a good range of different vegetables, so they get their daily recommended intake of nutrients.
2. Regular health checks
Guinea pigs are very good at hiding any illnesses, so you have to check them regularly to make sure they are healthy.
If you’re unsure if your guinea pig suffers from an illness or you see signs of change in its behavior, you should contact a vet as soon as possible.
Here are the things you should do on a weekly basis:
- Weigh your guinea pigs (and make sure their weight is maintained week after week). A kitchen scale can be used for this purpose.
- Check the eyes. They should be clear and bright with no cloudiness, and no discharge around the eyes.
- Check the nose and see if it’s clean.
- Run your fingers through the fur. It must be dense and clean, and the skin should be soft with no lumps. If you find any lumps, it could be a sign of an abscess or something else.
- Check their feet. They should be nice, clean, and soft, with no dead skin flaps or bumps.
- Check their nails, and cut them every 30 days. Nails have to be cut to a proper length, if they overgrow they can hurt, and make it difficult for your guinea pigs to walk around.
- Check their bottoms. They must be clean and dry.
3. Designing a safe habitat
Guinea pigs are prey animals, and they need a living space where they feel safe and comfortable, but also happy.
Related: Signs That Your Guinea Pig Is Happy
Here are some basic things that you should apply for your guinea pigs’ habitat, to ensure they feel safe and comfortable:
- Ensure the cage/hutch is as big as possible. The more space they get, the happier they’ll be.
- Get at least one hiding area per guinea pig. It is also recommended that all hiding areas have a least two entrances, to prevent them from cornering each other.
- Make sure it’s properly ventilated with holes on all sides, so their urine won’t start smelling and developing fumes.
- Avoid any plastics and other soft materials wherever possible. Guinea pigs are rodents, and they tend to bite and chew on everything. Untreated wood is recommended, as long as you steer clear of any hardwood.
- Use kiln dried wood shavings or liners, that are able to absorb their urine and keep them dry and comfortable at the same time.
4. Keeping the habitat clean
It’s crucial for their overall well being, that their cage is kept properly clean. Depending on its size and how may pigs you have, you need to figure out a pattern that works for you.
The general rule is to clean the habitat BEFORE it starts smelling and/or gets too moist.
Here are some basic pointers that will help you figure out when and how to clean their habitat:
Cage liners are great, but require daily spot cleaning to stay nice and fresh. You need to sweep up poops and rotate the liners, especially if your guinea pigs tend to pee in one corner. Liners shouldn’t be wet at any time, and their poops need to be removed so they won’t step on them.
Most people prefer to change their cage liners completely or partially every other day, so prepare for extra laundry days if you choose cage liners.
Bedding is typically made of kiln dried wood shavings or paper, and can be bought in most pet stores as well as big stores like Walmart and Target.
We use kiln dried pine shavings in our cage, and change it once every third or fourth day, depending on how warm it is outside, and whether it starts to smell or not. We keep an extra eye on the corners to see whether it’s wet or dry.
If there’s any signs of wetness at any time, we’ll change the wet area with a new layer of dry bedding. You want the bedding to stay dry, in order to prevent your guinea pigs from developing bumblefoot.