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Caring For a Guinea Pig: The Basics of Feeding, Housing, and Sustaining Well-Being in Your Rodent Friend


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The first image that comes to mind for many individuals when thinking about having a rodent in their home is a messy, unsociable animal like a mouse or feral rat. Little do most people know, the options for fantastic, sweet, furry pets aside from dogs and cats are plentiful. Guinea pigs, large rodents native to many South American nations, are an excellent family pet that can easily be at home anywhere from a child's bedroom to a college dorm. The temperament and demeanor of guinea pigs allow people of all ages to handle them safely, and bond with their pet to a degree often not possible with many other domestic rodents such as hamsters and gerbils. This article will address many of the key components that go into properly caring for guinea pigs, including proper housing, nutrition, grooming, and socialization.

Living Spaces

Before purchasing a guinea pig, you must have the necessary equipment to keep your creature healthy and happy. Among the many accessories and items needed for proper care and maintenance, the most important may be an appropriately sized enclosure. To thrive, guinea pigs need enough space to explore, nest, and “use the restroom”, especially if they are not regularly let out of their cage for exercise and playtime. The Humane Society of America recommends at least 7.5 square feet of floor space in habitats for individual guinea pigs, and 10.5 square feet of room for pigs in pairs. Being a large species of rodent living in a relatively small cage for its size, you must provide opportunities for your guinea pig to stretch its legs and engage in stimulating exercise such as:

  1. Installing a raised platform in the guinea pig’s cage to offer more surfaces to engage in solo play or interaction with a companion
  2. Covering the bottom of the habitat with enough bedding to allow for burrowing and nesting activities
  3. Providing wooden toys for your pig to chew on and tussle with for recreation (as well as keeping their teeth from growing too long)
  4. Purchasing an enclosed playpen for supervised roaming outside of their cage

If you provide your guinea pig with enough room to play, nest, and exercise, you will dramatically increase its quality of life and give it the environment it needs to live a long, happy existence.

Delicious Diet

Novice owners may sometimes purchase a guinea pig without first having knowledge of the proper foodstuffs, or vitamin intake necessary for healthful living and wellness in their pet. Guinea pigs are herbivores and need to be fed on a diet of as much timothy hay, or meadow grass as they are able to eat. In addition, supplementation with a smaller portion of timothy hay based guinea pig pellets is also necessary for a balanced diet. Owners can serve the guinea pigs their food in a ceramic or plastic bowl with a relatively small amount of pellets, topped off with a heaping portion of loose timothy hay/ meadow grass.

In limited amounts, guinea pigs can also be fed certain fruits and vegetables as snacks on special occasions. The following fruits and veggies can be consumed by guinea pigs safely when used as treats to supplement the normal diet:

  1. Peaches
  2. Apples
  3. Oranges
  4. Pears
  5. Strawberries

  1. Kale
  2. Carrots
  3. Romaine Lettuce
  4. Tomatoes
  5. Peas
In addition to their food, Guinea Pigs need to be provided with supplemental vitamin C to maintain their health and prevent sickness. Guinea pigs, like people, do not produce vitamin C naturally and do not absorb enough in their meals to stay healthy, unlike humans. Because of this, owners need to give their pigs between 10 and 30 milligrams of Vitamin C daily in the form of either liquid drops added to their water, or chewable tablets which can be divided into pieces to give the desired dosage.

Like every living creature, guinea pigs need to have access at all times to plenty of fresh water and should be provided with either a water dish or water bottle mounted to the side of their habitat.

Proper Grooming and Hygiene

While traditional pet baths are typically not necessary unless your guinea pig has lice or gunk stuck to their fur, keeping your pig’s coat of hair and toenails well managed is important for its comfort as well as allowing you to spend some hands-on time with your pet. Because having their claws clipped and their hair brushed can sometimes be stressful for your animal, the following tutorials are meant to take some of the guesswork out of the processes and allow you to confidently keep your guinea pig hygienic and happy.

Nail Trimming

Regularly clipping your guinea pig’s nails is very important because as they grow, the nails can curve back into themselves, causing difficulty walking and pain. When proper technique and care are applied, owners can consistently clip the claws of their rodents regularly without invoking stress or agitation. The steps highlighted below illustrate the basics of trimming the toes of your furry friend”

  1. Grasp your guinea pig securely, making them as immobile as possible without harming them or causing them to try and nip your hand. Regular handling of your pig can help condition them to be comfortable with this step.
  2. Maneuver your guinea pig so his head is upright and he is facing away from you while you maintain a ginger grip on his body.
  3. Using store-purchased nail clippers meant for use with small mammals, trim the sharp tip of the guinea pig’s nails . Trimming any part of the nail other than the very tip can cause you to sever the quick, a blood vessel that provides circulation to the nail. While accidents happen, and cutting the quick is not life-threatening to your pig, extreme caution should always be exercised to prevent causing any unnecessary harm.
  4. After you have completed trimming each toe on all 4 feet, place your guinea pig gently back into their enclosure and reward them with a treat, either store-bought, or a fruit or vegetable of their liking

*In the event of accidentally clipping your guinea pig’s quick, there may be some bleeding which you should take measures to promptly stop. Many pet stores carry hemostatic (blood stopping) powders to dip the afflicted toe in if necessary. Corn starch can be applied to the bleeding nail as an alternative to store purchased powder if unavailable.

Hair Brushing

Brushing out your guinea pig’s hair is a ritual that often proves to be much less nerve-racking than clipping their toenails. Because guinea pigs shed their fur frequently, regular grooming can prevent excess fur and dander from getting into your home and possibly causing allergies. In just a few steps, you can have your pet looking spick-and-span, and feeling fresh:

  1. Acquire a small, rigid metal toothed comb from either a pet store or the toiletry section at a grocery store.
  2. Gently brush your pig’s fur in the direction that it naturally flows, getting out any mats or knots that might cause it discomfort
  3. Inspect your guinea pig’s body for any sores, or lice which may be hidden below its coat
  4. Repeat in accordance with how much your guinea pig is shedding

Getting Social

Guinea pigs are naturally highly social creatures, and require regular interaction with either a companion or an owner to stay mentally stimulated and emotionally healthy. Giving your pig a friend of the same age and size, or you personally engaging in gentle, positive interaction daily, are the best ways to ensure that your furry pet will be well socialized and content.

If you choose to pair your guinea pig with a companion, it is important to take into account the genders of your pigs beforehand. Two female guinea pigs, aka sows, will be able to live together with minimal risk of butting heads. Two male guinea pigs, if siblings from the same litter can also safely be kept together under harmonious circumstances. Having two guinea pigs of the opposite sex is not recommended unless the male has been neutered, as breeding can produce a litter in a matter of weeks.

Personal interaction with your guinea pig is especially important if it is living alone in its cage. Owners can promote healthy responses to being held, by regularly holding their pig and rewarding good behavior with nutritious treats. Alternatively, you can allow your guinea pig to free roam in a room with the door closed, or in a playpen, under close supervision. A well-socialized guinea pig can be presented to family and friends, and be held by people other than the owner, helping introduce more people to the joys and perks of keeping them as pets.

The Long and Short of It

Guinea pigs can be one of the best pets for those who do not have the room and yard space needed for a canine or feline but want a friendly and fuzzy companion. When properly cared for they can live to be four to eight years old, giving pet owners years of quality time with an amazing animal whose affection and personality provide for a supremely rewarding pet ownership experience. Consider for yourself bringing one of these spunky rodents into your life.
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New member
A clean and safe place not in the open to cold and damp ect.if your making something homemade to house them and if your thinking of using chicken wire don't.a small rectangle wire is better.can stop most rats ect mice ect from entering.How many pigs have you got ? Or thinking of getting?pigs will get on in groups,I've had groups of 14,7,4 and 2, and had no problems,a large group need a large home.but will sleep happy together.the problem becomes hard when groups get smaller,and you may have a pair and one dies.If your left with a old male,put a young male with him.one the same age you can end up with fights.Female is harder,females the same age,or a young female,sometimes better with a male,but females in large groups can do better.but it's so down to the nature of the pig.And don't have to be from the same litter.It's dad to keep a pig on its own I've had some of an old age who have had a number of partners over the years.no one was on there own.I've had pigs up to 8-10years old.