Many people get to start with either a cat or a dog as a pet. Since these are common types of pets, you may already have a general idea of how to take care of them. You won’t ever have to be completely lost on what you’d need to feed your cat or dog for it to thrive.
However, if you’re thinking of adopting a guinea pig as your pet and have zero experience taking care of them, things could get a bit complicated. Guinea pigs are cute little animals you’ll probably get attached to pretty quickly. For that reason, you want to make sure you know the right way to take care of your pet to ensure it stays a part of your life for a long time.
This article is a complete guideline on how you can take care of a guinea pig as your first-ever pet. But first, let’s look at some quick pointers about your new pet.
Interesting Facts About Guinea pigs
It’s good to know a bit about the creature you want to start living with. That said, these facts might interest you:
- Guinea Pigs have originally come from South America, the Andes specifically. They are believed to have started as domestic animals, although the primary purpose was for meat. Around the 16th century, as they began to infiltrate Europe, they began to be kept as pets.
- In terms of size, they weigh anything from 1.5lb to 2.5lb while their length tends to range between 8-16 inches.
- Their general lifespan ranges roughly between four to eight years, depending on how well you take care of them.
- In terms of coat colors, you could choose a hairless guinea pig if that’s what you want, but if you’re more into color, you will not lack options. You can pick a black, white, or brown guinea pig or other unique blended coat choices.
- To differentiate between guinea pigs and rodents, you have to watch for their birth size. Guinea pigs will be a little bigger and more mature than rodents will be at birth. They won’t have a tail and will be generally smaller than the average rabbit.
You can explore more about guinea pigs by reading this specialized guinea pig blog.
Are They Good Pets?
To determine whether a guinea pig will be a good pet for you, you need to understand their nature. First, guinea pigs are friendly creatures, and they will probably love it if you place them in a cage with another guinea pig. Your piggies will likely enjoy it if you routinely interact with them by offering food by hand to them or if you start training them from an early stage when you play and handle them gently.
However, even while living in your home, a guinea pig will still adhere to its jungle instinct regarding its sleeping hours. Your pet will likely sleep only for a couple of hours at a time, sometimes opting to sleep with its eyes wide open. Even though you will see your new pet active any day, they’ll likely be at their most active around dawn and dusk.
For food, your guinea pig will likely enjoy fresh food, fruits, veggies, and hay, plus a good amount of water daily. Many guinea pig pet owners are particularly in love with the cute little squeaks they make when they’re giving them food, you’ll probably love them as well.
What Kind Of Home Should You Build For Your Guinea Pig?
You’ll need a larger cage than you’d need for a gerbil or a mouse. Your floor area would need to be big enough. A floor area of roughly 100 square inches will typically do. If you’re keeping two piggies, you’ll want to multiply that by two and work with a floor area of around 200 square inches.
You can use wire, sturdy plastic, or glass for the sides of your guinea pig’s enclosure; it doesn’t matter much. What you can’t compromise on is the floor. Ensure that the flooring of your pet’s structure is solid—avoid using wire at all costs. Walking on top of a wire floor will hurt your guinea pig’s feet or even break their legs if they should get caught up in the wires.
Although you might think it’s a good idea to share a bedroom with your guinea pig’s cage, its sleeping patterns will interrupt yours so much that you will likely hate the arrangement. The best position for your cage is away from your bedroom and somewhere where daylight and night are easy for it to follow.
Inside the cage that will be your pet’s home, you’ll need:
- Paper or fleece-based bedding
- A food bowl
- A water dish with a heavy base (so your guinea pig doesn’t tip the water over) or a water bottle
- A plastic or box house in the cage that acts as your pet’s hiding place
- Mineral or wood chews
How To Take Care Of Your Guinea Pig
Guinea pigs are creatures of routine. They love doing things at the same time every day. So, as you learn how to take care of your new pet, take special note of this: once you pick a time for feeding, try to stick to it as much as possible. The same goes for time to take it out of the cage to play. Make sure you do both these things when you’re most likely to be available every day. Suddenly changing things up could potentially stress your pet.
Feeding Your Piggy
Your guinea pig will do very well with the same kind of hay that rabbits eat in terms of food. These grasses are good for your new pet as they give them the fibers and other nutrients they need. The grass is also good because guinea pig teeth are always growing, and the grass’s abrasiveness helps file them down continually.
Guinea pigs don’t produce their own vitamin C, yet they need it. For this reason, you’ll need to add a lot of vegetables and fruits to their diet. The fruits and veggies you can feed your guinea pig include broccoli, pears, apples, collard greens, cucumber, sweet peppers, parsley, and basil. Give them a quarter to a half cup of these daily.
In addition to these, you might want to buy pellets for your guinea pig. Make sure you don’t just pick any pellets you see first in the shop, but ensure the ones you get are specifically for guinea pigs as they have additional vitamin c.
Water is another thing you’ll need to make sure your pets always have. Make sure your water container or dish is heavy-bottomed, staying in place once in the cage.
Remember to avoid giving grain products to your guinea pig, such as bread and cereals. You should also not give it salty foods, legumes, sugary and fatty foods. These foods might disrupt your piggy’s gastrointestinal (GI) bacteria and lead to death.
When handling your pet piggy, it’s advised that you do so with both hands. Use one hand to scoop at its bottom while the other is around the midsection. This is highly recommended because you hold it this way, you are way less likely to drop it.
Once you have picked it up from the cage, you might find out that your piggy enjoys snuggling in your lap or prefers to savor the expanded free space and roam about on its own. There is nothing wrong with letting it do either of these things as long as you’re sure it won’t get hurt or that you’re sitting comfortably and won’t drop it if it’s in your lap.
While you won’t need to bathe your guinea pigs, you might still have to spot clean them using wet cloths or a baby wipe. If it has hair, you may house soft brush once every weak to brush its hairs. If it’s hairless, then you may just need a nontoxic lotion, preferably aloe-based, that you will run on it from time to time.
See those yellow teeth on your piggy? Don’t sweat them; they come like that and don’t need cleaning. What you might need to worry about are their nails. Therefore, remember to get their nails trimmed every month to keep things neat.
Your pet’s cage should ideally have one window and be placed in a relatively cool area. The cage is to be placed somewhere with exposure to normal lighting hours. However, guinea pigs are also sensitive to extreme temperatures, so you must keep them away from direct sunlight. Having good ventilation for the cage will also help keep clean air in circulation and help keep the cage’s flooring relatively dry.
You should be providing your guinea pig with play or exercise time from time to time. Without these, your piggy might become bored and agitated. Agitation can lead to your guinea pig biting things it shouldn’t or trying to escape.
Another reason to set aside time for exercise is to help them get used to other piggies and humans. Without enough interaction with other piggies or humans, guinea pigs are likely to become hostile and timid. To avoid this, allow around 3-4 hours each day for them to walk about freely in the house or yard.
If you want to build a suitable cage for your piggy to exercise in, you’d simply have to mark where you want it to end the border with a fence or something. You may then throw in stuff like big enough pipes for your piggy to fit in, paper bags, boxes, and other items you can use for entertainment.
As established, your piggy is a very social creature and will do better with a partner than when staying alone. If you choose to have more than two guinea pigs, ensure that only one male is in your cage to avoid fights. Ideally, your cage should have one neutered male guinea pig and a spayed female. Moreover, if you want your piggy to be playful, you must also allow it to start socializing at a young age.
You should change your guinea pig’s bedding at least twice each week. But that doesn’t mean you should wait for your scheduled days to remove any wet spots, as you should ideally change these just as soon as they show up. This will ensure the cage doesn’t start smelling bad.
To disinfect the cage it’s a good idea to clean it using a solution with 3% bleach in it at least once a week on one of your clean days. The best time for this type of cleaning is when your piggy is playing outside the cage.
How To Notice If Your Guinea Pig Is Sick
You may notice your piggy suddenly being less alert and eating less daily. With such signs, you may be worried that it’s sick. If you want to make sure you’ll be able to take your pet to the vet as soon as possible when it gets sick, then you should watch out for signs or symptoms of sickness.
Common symptoms include:
- Excessive hair loss
- Weight loss
- Troubled breathing
- Abnormal lumps
- Skin lesions
- Dirty bottom/diarrhea
- Nasal and eye discharge
- Overgrown teeth
As soon as you notice these symptoms, you should schedule an appointment with your vet to have your pet checked as soon as possible.
While you can’t know in advance most times what sickness your guinea piggy is experiencing, there remain sicknesses that are most common among guinea pigs as, therefore, ones you should be watching out for. These include:
These will be similar to how allergies show up: runny eyes and nose, sneezing, labored breathing, and coughing, among other symptoms. These symptoms are most common among piggies because of cages in general and bedding issues. To avoid them, you should change their bedding as much as possible.
Guinea pigs can also develop a disease called scurvy due to a lack of vitamin C. Guinea pigs only get this essential vitamin when it’s supplemented to their diet, without which they may start developing dental problems. Additionally, their immune systems might gradually begin to weaken. Over time, this might even turn into a serious problem for its reproductive system and its joints. To avoid this, make sure your piggy takes at least 10 mg of Vitamin C daily.
A tumor can grow at any location on a guinea pig’s body. For this reason, it’s vital to keep checking your piggy for any abnormal lumps. Regularly doing this may help make it easier for you to notice as soon as a lump shows up. Lumps aren’t always tumors. Sometimes they are just pregnancies or fatty acids, but it’s still a good idea to stay alert and consult with your vet over anything you aren’t clear about.
Guinea pigs can be fun to have as pets. They are little playful and curious creatures you can easily travel with because of their size and ease of handling. Sure, a mouse or a hamster may require less maintenance than a piggy, but a piggy is by far the most interactive of the pack, and it’s a quality that’s beautiful in a pet.
Taking care of your new pet won’t be that hard if you know all the things you need to pay attention to. With the guide above, you can start nurturing the new friend in the house safely!
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