In this article, you will learn how to take care of a guinea pig for beginners or pros. It doesn’t matter your experience level. A guinea pig is a guinea pig and it requires care always. Don’t ever have a second thought about giving it the best care possible.
Guinea pigs are small pets but as they say, size doesn’t always matter. The fact that they are small doesn’t mean they don’t want to be cared for. If you are a potential owner or already own one, you need to check this article that explains the pros and cons of owning one.
Once you are certain it’s the right pet for you, you have to know how to take care of it the right way. Guinea pigs require good housing, plenty of space, your time & effort, good grooming, veterinary, money for buying them food, and daily interactions with them. If you can provide all that, you will have an extremely happy, healthy, and cute-looking cavy. It definitely won’t be easy but you can do it.
Check out below for how you can care for your guinea pigs the right way
A large enough cage
A large enough cage is a guinea pig’s paradise. Who in this world doesn’t need a larger space? No one (including your piggies) needs a tiny space. It needs to move around and exercise and for that reason alone, it would need a large enough cage. The more guinea pigs you own, the larger the cage space you will obviously need.
When it comes to getting a cage, you have several options. You can make one yourself if you are skilled enough. You can as well buy a ready-made one online or from your nearest small pet store. The choice is obviously yours but the bottom line is that the habitat or where you want to keep your guinea pigs should be spacious and large enough to allow for unrestricted movement. The piggies would appreciate any extra space they can get.
I have written a whole article about cages that are large enough for guinea pigs, even two guinea pigs at the same time! Feel free to look it over here.
The cage should have a solid bottom
The other day I saw one of my friends who bought a cage with a wire bottom for her two guinea pigs and I told her to return it to where she bought it from. Why? because it’s not a good idea to get a cage that has a wire bottom. The cage should have a very solid bottom or else it would hurt the delicate and fragile feet of the guinea pigs. If you are not very careful, you might end up having a guinea pig with bumblefoot. That’s is something you don’t want and the only way to avoid it is to invest in cages that have a soft and solid bottom.
The cage should have a lid
While you can get a cage without a lid, it’s recommended that you invest in one with a lid. The lid would act as a buffer in case something which could harm the guinea pigs wants to enter it from the top. If the cage would be placed outside (which I don’t recommend), it should have a top lid that should always be closed to prevent any harm that might come the way of the guinea pigs.
Be cautious with multi-level cages
You can have flat or multi-level cages but you have to be cautious with the latter especially if some of your piggies are very young or very old. A fall from the level up to the one below might injure or harm a guinea pig’s delicate feet/legs and that is something you don’t want happening. Guinea pigs are not good climbers and it’s always recommended that you only keep them in flat cages especially if they are elderly or newborn babies.
A Good Bedding Is A Must
There are no two ways to good bedding. A guinea pig would need good bedding to come hell or high water. That’s how important good bedding is to it. Fleece and paper bedding are the two most recommended options when it comes to bedding as they have been proven to be the best in terms of giving the ultimate comfort and protecting the guinea pig’s delicate feet and legs.
I have seen some owners use cedar and aspen bedding and that is not recommended at all. You see, they can cause respiratory problems which could affect the health of your guinea pigs. So if you are currently using any of those two, please stop it for the good of your cavy.
If you are after some nice guinea pig bedding, feel free to check out an article I wrote up about this topic. I highlight all the different types of bedding you can get and I show you the best option to go for. Check it out here:
The location of the cage matters a lot.
Guinea pigs being the social and demanding creatures they are, need to be around humans. So don’t make the mistake of locating the cage in a very far place away from where people frequent. If possible, have the cage located in the living room since that is the place where there’s a lot of activity most of the time.
Having the cage in the living room could be risky but you can minimize that. Make sure people don’t trip, push or knock the cage as that could harm the guinea pigs.
Don’t place the cage outdoors
One thing you have to be aware of is that guinea pigs are very sensitive to temperature. That’s why they don’t do well in hot temperatures. It is therefore recommended that you keep them indoors but you can as well take them outside from time to time to experience some sunlight. Their cage should therefore be indoors as that is their favorite habitat.
Have two or more guinea pigs in the cage
Guinea pigs are social and heard animals and you don’t need to be told that they need company all the time. They don’t like to be alone and that is why you should consider having two or more in the cage. You have to be aware that male and female would naturally be met and if you don’t want your guinea pigs to multiply (because more would be born), you will need to keep ones that are the same gender. The bottom line is that it can be depressing for a guinea pig to live alone. If cage space permits and you can afford to take care of them, have at least a couple of them.
Tame them the right way
One mistake many owners make is trying to tame their piggies forcefully. Don’t ever try to chase them around the cage. Everything should happen naturally. You want them to trust you and you can build that trust slowly and they will eventually get used to you.
One thing you can do is sit by the cage and try talking to them. As time goes by, they would get used to your voice and smell. Let them also associate you with food. Every time you bring them their favorite food and treats, call them by name. Eventually, they would trust you and you would be able to tame them easily.
Feeding & watering your guinea pigs
Now that your guinea pigs have a comfortable place to live, they would need something to eat. Guinea pigs are heavy eaters and they can’t withstand hunger. As the owner, you are responsible for feeding them the right foods and giving them the water they need.
So when feeding or watering your cavy, you need to put the following into consideration.
Provide them plenty of freshwaters
All pets need fresh, safe, and clean water, and guinea pigs are not an exception. Make sure water is plenty in its cage so that it can drink any time it feels like quenching its thirst. You can use a leaking water bottle or just a normal bowl. The downside with bowls is that the water can get messy or dirty and the guinea pig might avoid drinking the water. Invest in good water dispensing bottle and you are good to go.
Keep the water bottle clean always
If you don’t clean the bottle regularly, it will get dirty inside from algae building and the water you put in might harm your piggy. So you need to always keep the water bottle clean always. Uncooked rice & warm water is the best way to clean the bottle. All you have to do is place the uncooked rice and warm water in the bottle and shake it
Don’t add anything to the water
You might be tempted to do things like juices and vitamin C tablets to the water but that is not recommended at all. They don’t add any nutrients and could even prevent your guinea pig from drinking the water because of the change in color or taste. If you are interested in finding out more in regards to vitamin C supplements, check out my article here.
Hay should be readily available in the cage
If there’s one thing guinea pigs like consuming a lot, it’s hay and it should therefore be readily available in the cage. Guinea pigs are crazy hay consumers and they need it in plenty to meet their strong appetite for grazing.
Invest in a good hay rack and fill it for them with hay. Just make sure you pat it down so that there are no pointed or sharp pieces sticking around that could hurt their eyes. Hay is so important to guinea pigs that without it, can lead to the misalignment of the guinea pig’s teeth and shutting down of the digestive tract which has the potential to lead to death. In short, hay is a very important component in a guinea pig’s diet and there should be enough of it in the cage always.
Daily fresh vegetables are a must
Fresh vegetables should make up a good percentage of your guinea pig’s diet. I have already mentioned the list of safe fruits & vegetables that you can feed guinea pigs with. You can refer to that list if you are not sure if what you are already feeding your guinea pig(s) is in the safe vegs list.
Just avoid vegetables that have a lot of phosphorous, vitamin A and calcium as they can cause stomach upsets and diarrhea which can cause untimely death. The vegetables should ideally be high in vitamin C since guinea pigs need to get that vital vitamin from their diet since they don’t produce it naturally.
Vegetables should also be cut or sliced into smaller chunks for the guinea pig to consume easily without much of a struggle. It’s also advised you divide the vegetables into two or even more servings as it’s better to feed them several times a day instead of one big meal.
Exercising your guinea pigs
Chances are that your guinea pig would need to exercise somehow and have some fun. It would get boring if you just keep it in a plain cage. This is where things like exercise balls, tunnels, toys, etc come in and help.
Here below are things you can do to exercise and have fun
Give them some floor time from time to time
Chances are that your guinea pig’s cage isn’t big enough to allow for it to run around and exercise. If that is the case, you will need to let them loose in a bigger space. It could be outdoors (if weather permits it) or indoors in your room but the idea is that you should be able to run around and exercise your limbs. You can put some toys and tunnels in the area as well.
If you are exercising them outside, be very careful so that they don’t slip away from you and get lost. Also, look out for predators like foxes and hawks that could kill it.
They would appreciate toys & tunnels
Guinea pigs like playing with toys & tunnels and they would definitely appreciate it if you get them some. You can buy or make your own toys. If you opt for the purchasing option, they don’t cost much as you can get decent ones for less than $10 in small pet stores near you.
If you are after some nice guinea pig bedding, feel free to check out an article I wrote up about this topic. I highlight all the different types of bedding you can get and I show you the best option to go for. Check it out here
Interact & play with them
As a good owner, your guinea pig would like you if you interact and play with it regularly. It would surely get happy if you pet or cuddle it. If it trusts you well, it won’t have a problem interacting with you. Make it your best friend and it would get contended and like you for that.
Keeping it clean, well-groomed, and healthy
The final ingredient/requirement to taking care of your guinea pig is keeping it clean, well-groomed, and healthy all the time. How can that be achieved? Check out the recommendations below.
Clean the guinea pig’s cage
Guinea pigs are generally clean animals but if you don’t clean the cage, their well-being and health might be compromised. Regular cleaning of the cage is mandatory. Remove droppings and uneaten vegetables from the previous day. It’s also recommended that change the bedding from time to time.
Trim its toenails
Like us humans, guinea pig nails would grow and you will therefore need to trim them from time to time using only the recommended trimmers. Just make sure you only cut the nails and not the tissue around. If you are unsure how to cut them or are fearing you might hurt them, take them to the veterinarian to have the toenails clipped.
Bath them from time to time
Guinea pigs don’t get that dirty too often but it doesn’t hurt if you give them a good bath from time to time. A Daily/weekly bath is obviously not recommended but a few times a year doesn’t do harm. Just make sure you use recommended shampoos and not soaps meant for humans. The water you are using to bathe them should also be at the right temperature. It should not be too hot and neither should it be too cold. Use a sensitive part of your body (like your elbow) to test the temperature of the water before you use it on the guinea pig.
Be on the lookout for illness
Ill guinea pigs are not easy to identify. There are signs that it might display when it is sick and it is good to know about them. Sometimes things like the sudden loss of appetite could be the beginning of an illness. Take it to the vet from time to time to have it examined, vaccinated against diseases, and treated. You can also keep your little guys healthy with a healthy supply of probiotics. Feel free to check out my article focusing on guinea pigs and probiotics here. If you want to learn a bit more about the different types of illnesses your guinea pig can potentially contract, check out my guinea pig illnesses article here.
Don’t keep it in the same cage with other small pets
Guinea pigs should not share a cage with other small pets like rabbits. Since rabbits are bigger and stronger, they can kill guinea pigs. Rabbits also carry bacteria that can make guinea pigs sick. So the bottom line is you should not keep guinea pigs and other small pets like rabbits in the same cage.
Monitor its weight
It’s important that you monitor the weight of the guinea pig. Their weight doesn’t fluctuate that much but if you see a sudden weight loss, something might be wrong with it. Take it to the vet to have it tasted.
In conclusion, taking care of a guinea pig is not a difficult task as long as you are willing to put in the time and effort. A healthy guinea pig should feel firm to the touch, not soft and wobbly. By following these simple tips, you can help ensure your guinea pig stays happy and healthy. Thanks for reading!