A type of rodent which, despite their strange name, are not from Guinea or related to pigs.
As social creatures, guinea pigs thrive in groups of two or more (boars tend to do better in pairs) however there are some guinea pigs who do not take to others kindly, but this is a rare occurrence. They can live for 4-6 years on average and are a long-term commitment. It’s best to rehome paired guinea pigs from your local animal shelter or rescue instead of supporting commercial pet stores as they can have bad breeding policies which lead to health problems and expensive vet bills.
You should not house guinea pigs with rabbits, although they can get along a rabbit’s kick is powerful enough to kill a guinea pig. With each additional guinea pig, it is key to expand the size of the cage habitat. Guinea pigs can be housed outdoors or indoors but in winter it is important to move them to a shed or garage as they must be kept at a minimum of 16 degrees Celsius. Also, remember to fox and snake-proof all habitats.
Guinea pigs live on a diet of hay and fresh vegetables.
Not all vegetables are cavy friendly so check online before feeding anything new. They do not need nuggets but it is good for additional vitamin c unless supplements are supplied e.g. through water bottles. They should be kept on dust-free bedding as their species are prone to respiratory problems. This means no wood shavings. Do not use straw as bedding as this can cause eye-related injuries. Good bedding includes shredded paper, hemp (auboise), newspaper, hay and fleece.
Your guinea pig should have hides or houses, chews or toys…
E.g. tunnels, hanging treats etc. If you have more than one guinea pig (which, if you do, you need to give attention at least for two hours per day if not much more) you need to have more hides, water bottles, food bowls and toys to avoid fighting. You can use toilet tubes but if you have younger, smaller pigs you need to cut these to ensure none get stuck trying to fit through the tube.
Check toys from local pet stores are not dangerous as often glue or unsafe materials can be a choking hazard. Do not use hay dispensers—especially the metal balls or ones which hang on the side of the cages—these can strangulate and cause severe injury. Make your own from a cardboard box!
They jump in the air when they are happy and this is called popcorning.
To show dominance they wiggle and vibrate at other guinea pigs which is dubbed rumble strutting. This is not an aggressive behaviour. If a guinea pig starts to chatter its teeth, yawn to show its teeth or stomps side to side, this is a risky sign and indicates something is about to go off. You should separate any guinea pigs who draw blood. Be careful as an angry pig can bite its owner without realising. Re-introduction is rare but can happen through trying ‘buddy baths’ together.
Their claws require monthly clipping to keep short or a run around on a concrete patio to rub them down.
This can be difficult and take care not to cut the quick of their nail which will bleed profusely and be painful. If in doubt, go to your vet or pay an animal grooming service.
Guinea pigs have sweat glands on their back end which can get sticky and dirty in hot weather which will need bathing in luke-warm, not hot or cold, water and at most some baby shampoo.
They are lovely natured creatures who have their own personalities and are very demanding if you rustle any bags that could sound like food.
Satin Guinea Pigs – Do not breed they are prone to serious healthcare conditions.
Guinea pigs have delicate spines you should not use the ‘guinea pig leads’ advertised online as this has been known to cause paralysis.
Females become fertile at 21 days and need to be separated from males.