||Guinea Pig Basics
Guinea pigs have an average life span of 5 to 8 years. An adult male normally weighs about 2.0 to 3.5 lbs.; an adult female weighs a bit less on average.
They are sociable creatures, usually happiest in pairs or where they can see and talk to other pigs, but they can also live happily by themselves if you show them lots of affection! Your favorite TV shows will quickly become theirs if it means they can sit on your lap. (Use a towel under pig, as it will likely urinate after 15 minutes or so.)
Guinea pigs can hurt themselves in big plastic balls.
The cage bottom must be solid. Wire mesh should not be used on the bottom of the cage because it can cause injuries to their feet and even broken legs. The sides and top should be wire so air can circulate. Glass aquariums lack proper ventilation and circulation of oxygen. Minimum space for one adult animal is 16” x 24”, for a pair 24” x 24”. More space is better!
Bedding should be provided in abundance. The best bedding materials include plain pine or aspen shavings (no cedar and no lemon scented material, etc.). Take out the wet parts and as many of the stools as possible once a day. The bedding should be changed frequently—once a week is generally good. Clean and rinse out the cage bottom and dry
A hiding box for sleeping, or as a place for the guinea pig to retreat if startled, is advisable. Heavy-duty PVC pipe joints (elbows and T’s) short, straight sections, igloos, and wooden and cardboard boxes make good guinea pig tunnels and hiding places. Once you have your guinea pig’s cage set up, it is suggested that you don’t redecorate; however you may
remove their hiding place for part of every day so your guinea pig doesn’t become too shy. Guinea pigs like continuity and routine. Recommended room temperature is 60–75°F. Temperatures above 80–85°F may cause heat stroke. Avoid drafts and direct sunlight.
Guinea pigs are enthusiastic drinkers. Be sure to purchase a large water bottle so they will not run out of water during the day. Be sure to change water daily.
Guinea pigs have a three-part diet.
1) Give as much timothy hay as they want. This provides necessary fiber and keeps their teeth ground down. Avoid alfalfa hay because it is too rich.
2) Commercial guinea pig pellets—give about 1/3 cup per day and leave out so they can graze. Pellet mixes should contain vitamin C and not be too loaded with “treats.” Check the expiration date—the vitamin C breaks down if you keep the pellets too long.
3) Fresh veggies and maybe a little fruit every day. Avoid iceberg lettuce; all other lettuce is fine. So are carrots, parsley, broccoli, collard greens, turnips and parsnip. Give fruits in moderation such as apples, cantaloupe, raisins, grapes and bananas You can buy treats, but give sparingly. Avoid the ones with high sugar or fat content such as yogurt drops.
Initial estimated expense including the guinea pig, and care book, cage and dishes is about $150.00. Estimated yearly expenses including toys, food, shavings, and annual vet checks are about $450.00.
|photo by Pam Brooks
Guinea pigs don’t require shots, but an annual exam by a vet who specializes in exotics is recommended. If your guinea pig shows any symptoms of illness such as lack of appetite, lethargy, or persistent scratching, take it to your vet ASAP.
Guinea pigs will mostly bathe and groom themselves, but long haired guinea pigs need regular brushing to prevent knots. Trim toenails every 6-8 weeks. A small clipper used for cats works just fine. Take off just the tip of the nail. It’s good to have some styptic powder handy in case you cut too much and the nail bleeds.
A guinea pig’s front teeth may require trimming or filing by a vet if they overgrow. Untreated wood can be placed in the cage to avoid this, although with enough hay, this should not be a problem.
Food bowls (heavy ceramic ones are best) and water bottles (purchase the ones with a metal tube) should be cleaned regularly. Be especially sure to clean the top to the bottle—soak it in soapy water once a week or more as needed. If it’s really dirty, use a little bleach in the water and rinse it thoroughly.