Guinea pigs are small mammals native to South America that have been kept as pets for several hundred years. These little creatures are calm and friendly by nature. Not only are guinea pigs easy to care for, but they are very active, entertaining and make wonderful pets. If you are thinking about adding a guinea pig to your family, take the time to learn the basics about these creatures so you can provide them with the best care possible.
What You Need to Know About Guinea Pigs
Guinea pigs range in size from one breed to another but, for the most part, they weigh between 1 ½ and 2 ½ lbs. (0.68 to 1.1 kg). These small mammals come in a wide range of colors and different breeds have different coat types. For example, the American guinea pig has a short, smooth coat while the Abyssinian guinea pig has swirls of hair all over its body. The Peruvian and Silkie guinea pig breeds have long, flowing hair and the Texel has long, curly hair. The average lifespan of a guinea pig is between five and seven years and, in case you were wondering, they are not related to pigs!
Tips for Housing Guinea Pigs
Though guinea pigs are not very large, they are a very active pet so they require a good deal of space. The minimum case size recommended for a single guinea pig is 2 by 4 feet (0.61 by 1.23 m). Because guinea pigs are very social animals, however, they are best kept in same-sex pairs in a cage twice this size – about 4 by 8 feet (1.23 by 2.44 m). The best type of cage for guinea pigs provides a large area of open space with a firm foundation – wire-bottomed cages are not recommended for guinea pigs because the pads of their feet are very sensitive. Cages with wire sides are recommended, however, because they allow air to flow freely in and out of the cage, which helps to reduce cage odor.
In order to cushion the floor for your guinea pigs, and to soak up urine and droppings, you should line the bottom of your cage with two to three inches of shaved pine bedding. Cedar shavings are not recommended for guinea pigs because they contain chemicals called phenols that can be dangerous for your pet. To keep your guinea pig’s cage clean, you should spot-clean on a daily basis, removing soiled bedding, and replace all of the bedding once a week. Additional accessories you should include in your guinea pig’s cage are a water bottle, food bowls, wooden chew toys, and some kind of shelter – a plastic igloo or a cardboard box will provide your guinea pig with a place to hide when he wants privacy.
Guinea Pig Feeding Guide
Feeding guinea pigs is not a difficult task, but that doesn’t mean you can just feed them any old food. Look for a commercial guinea pig pellet food that is made primarily of timothy hay – some formulas also include seeds and dried veggies. This commercial food will form the bulk of your guinea pig’s diet, but you should also supplement this with fresh fruits and vegetables as well as timothy hay. Guinea pigs enjoy a variety of vegetables including leafy greens, fresh herbs, cucumbers, and carrots – they will also eat some fruits including pears, grapes, and apples. Make sure your guinea pig always has pellet food available and offer about one handful of fresh veggies per day and a small portion of fruit up to three times per week. In addition to feeding your guinea pig, you also need to make sure he has plenty of fresh water available. Clean and refill the water bottle daily.
As long as you meet your guinea pig’s nutritional needs and provide him with a safe home, he will be happy. Your guinea pig may express his happiness by squealing when you walk in the room with food. Guinea pigs also exhibit a behavior known as “popcorning” when they are happy – the mammal will jump and shake its head while making an excited noise. Guinea pigs are very vocal so keep in mind that a noisy guinea pig is a happy guinea pig. We hope you hear the sounds of a contented guinea pig soon!