What You Need to Know Before Getting a Guinea Pig

 In Exotic Pet

Guinea pigs are known as “pocket pets” or small animal companions. They are cute, cuddly companions that will each develop their personality and grow to love your family. Building trust with your new pet is critical, and they love to cuddle and enjoy regular human interaction with their new owners. Here is what you need to know before getting a guinea pig:

Guinea Pigs Are Social Animals

We know Guinea pigs are social animals, which means they will usually do best in pairs or small groups (more than two can be housed together if given an appropriate cage). Most owners keep two guinea pigs of the same gender (males or females) to avoid unwanted reproduction. However, if a male or female is spayed or neutered, they can stay with the opposite gender guinea pig, and most will get along quite well.

Cage Sizes

Guinea pigs need a good amount of space to move and run around. A cage of about 10.5 square feet gets recommended for two guinea pigs. That means an enclosure that measures at least 30″ x 50″ for a pair of guinea pigs. You will need more space if you house three or more pets in the same cage.

Bedding Requirements

Safe pet bedding options include fleece liners with absorbency pads underneath to absorb urine and water dripping (from water bottles). If you prefer not to wash the bedding (fleece) regularly, you can choose cardboard or paper-based bedding that is safe for your pet. Place 1-3″ of it at the bottom of the cage and remove wet bedding with feces and leftover vegetables daily.

Dietary Needs

Guinea pigs have the following dietary needs that should be met daily to help them live in optimal health:

  • Guinea Pig Pellets: Guinea pigs need to be supplied with about 1/4 cup (per pig) of quality guinea pig pellets daily. Rabbit pellets are not appropriate as they lack the Vitamin C that guinea pigs cannot produce. Guinea pig pellets get made of ground-up Timothy hay, which is suitable for guinea pigs.
  • Fresh Grass/Hay: Guinea pigs need an unlimited supply of fresh Timothy hay or Orchard Grass supplied to them daily. Guinea pigs have constantly growing teeth that need to be filed down, and the roughage of grass and hay helps do that. Moreover, it also aids in proper digestion and regular bowel movements by adding fiber and bulk to their diet.
  • Fresh Vegetables/Fruits: Guinea pigs need about 1 cup of dark, fresh leafy greens added to their diet. Lettuces like green/red leaf, kale, and romaine are great choices. Bib and butter lettuces work well, too. Other treats guinea pigs will love to include colored (NEVER HOT) bell peppers, carrots, snapped green beans, celery, cucumber, and even a piece of corn on the cob, to name a few treats. Veggies should get given daily. Parsley and cilantro are great choices to add Vitamin C to your guinea pig’s diet.
  • Fresh Water: Guinea pigs should have an unlimited fresh water supply changed daily.

These proper dietary needs ensure that your guinea pig can live a long, healthy, happy life and have a proper diet to keep them healthy in the long run.

A Place to Hide

We know that guinea pigs are prey animals in the wild; therefore, they need a place to feel safe and secure. Each guinea pig must have a hideout to feel optimally safe and secure. One hideout per guinea pig is an excellent rule of thumb. That way, they can hide separately and keep their personal space without feeling violated or trapped by other guinea pigs in their habitat when they want solitude.

Cleaning Cages

Their cage should be cleaned at least once weekly, with feces and wet bedding removed daily to avoid smells and unpleasant odors.

In return for great care, you will get a healthy pet that can easily live upwards of 5 to 7 years, sometimes up to as long as ten years. Your guinea pig will become part of your family and share the same love with you that you share with them.

Guinea pigs (and other small pocket pets) can make excellent companion animals and provide your family with the love and companionship of a pet without the added responsibility of a cat or dog. They make great pets for people who work full-time yet want companionship after their workday ends. They also make great pets for apartments or smaller living spaces, as they do not need the extra room a cat or dog would require.

For further assistance about what you need to know before getting a guinea pig or a wellness check for your pocket pet, please feel free to contact us here at Andes-Straley Veterinary Hospital to set up an appointment today.