Guide to Guinea Pigs

Posted on March 08, 2022

by Guest Contributor

Posted March 8, 2022

Guinea Pigs are small, sociable, and gentle animals. They can be a great alternative to cats and dogs. But like all companion animals, they require special care and attention. Let’s talk about the basics every Guinea Pig owner should know.

Enclosures:  Starting with enclosures, Guinea Pigs are solely ground dwelling animals that need a lot of floor space. Unfortunately, many of the marketed enclosures are too small or contain unnecessary climbing spaces. Here are some good tips to remember when choosing and setting up your pig’s home:

Cage Size:        

# of Guinea Pigs

Minimum Size 

Preferred Size 

Avg. Dimensions

1-2

 7.5 sq. feet 

10.5 sq. feet or more

30″ x 36″

3

10.5 sq. feet

13 sq. feet or more

30″ x 62″

4

13 sq. feet

16 sq. feet

30 “76”

Bedding Options:  *Good options include paper-based bedding (such as Care Fresh) or fleece  *Do not use wood shavings as they can cause medical problems.

Temperature:  *Guinea Pigs do best at 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit.    *Make sure they are not in direct sunlight or in any drafty areas.

Nutrition:

Hay: Hay is vital to keeping the guinea pig’s digestive system in good working order. Avoid alfalfa as it’s too high in calcium and causes bladder/kidney stones. Timothy hay, bluegrass, and orchard grass are the best options.

Vegetables:  All guinea pigs should have a variety of vegetables in their daily diet. When introducing any new vegetable, make sure to do it one at a time and introduce slowly over 3-5 days to make sure they tolerate it well before adding anything else new. Guinea pigs should have 3 servings of vegetables per day with at least one serving being a leafy green.  

  • Ideal vegetables for daily feeding include:

            Basil     Bok Choy     Brussel Sprouts     Baby Carrots     Celery     Chard     Cilantro     Cucumber    Radicchio     Radish Tops     Escarole     Bell Peppers     Mint     Peppermint Leaves    Leaf Lettuce     Wheat Grass    Raspberry Leaves     Romaine Lettuce   

  • Vegetables that should not be given more than twice per week:

            Broccoli     Carrot tops     Collard Greens     Dandelion Greens    Pea Pods     Watercress    Endive     Kale     Mustard Greens     Parsley

All guinea pig diets should be supplemented with a pelleted food. The average guinea pig should be given 1/8 cup per day. These pellets should be primarily timothy hay-based and should not contain “junk food” such as nuts, seeds, cereal, or other additives. Oxbow is our favorite brand.

Fruit should only be given to guinea pigs as a treat and not as a regular part of their diet. We do not recommend giving fruit more than once or twice per week. Fruits are very sweet and guinea pigs will often ignore other food in favor of fruits. On average, a guinea pig can receive 1-2 tablespoons per 2 lbs of body weight. Some good options include:

     Apples     Blueberries     Papaya     Peaches    Pears     Pineapple     Plums     Raspberries    Melon     Strawberries     Oranges     Tomatoes

  • Vitamin C – All guinea pigs need to have Vitamin C in their diet as they are unable to produce it on their own. If you follow the above recommendations, your guinea pig should be receiving an adequate amount of Vitamin C. However, in older or sick guinea pigs, we do recommend supplementation to make sure they do not get deficient. Please consult a veterinarian if unsure. There are several supplement options that can be purchased (tablets, liquid drops, etc). However, make sure to open a new package/bottle every 30 days as Vitamin C can break down over time when exposed to air. If your current package/bottle is older than 30 days, there may not be enough Vitamin C left to be effective.  

Behavior:

Some things to keep in mind when choosing a new friend:

  • Multiple females are a good pairing in most situations.
  • Two males can be paired but you will occasionally see more aggression and territoriality.
  • Try to match a dominant personality with a submissive personality.  
  • Any new introduction will upset the current social order and it can take time for things to settle back down.

Some things to know about your pig’s behavior:

  • Don’t poke your fingers through the cage bars. This can be very threatening to guinea pigs.
  • Wash your hands before handling your guinea pigs to remove any unpleasant scents.  
  • If your guinea pig is biting when being carried, it may be that he/she is scared and is indicating that they want to get down. Observe for signs of fidgeting before the bite and try to recognize when your guinea pig is ready to be done. Do not put your guinea pig down as soon as he/she bites however as that can reinforce that biting gets them what they want.  
  • Use a towel when handling your guinea pig to help them feel more secure.  
  • Other guinea pigs may start nipping when they have to urinate while being held. As above, watch for signs of fidgeting or attempts to get away. Most guinea pigs do have to urinate as often as every 15 minutes so try to avoid holding them longer than that.
  • Some guinea pigs do not like being petted on their rumps so try to avoid that area.
  • Do not pet your guinea pig against the lay of the fur. It can be uncomfortable.  
  • Your guinea pig may be bored, so see “chewing on cage bars” for some ideas to help.  
  • Never punish your guinea pig for biting. This will just make them more fearful and more likely to bite in the future.  

Thank you for taking the time to read about these adorable little mammals. Happy Pigging!


Emily Cleary has been with Ankeny Animal and Avian Clinic since 2016. Emily has a huge passion for small mammals and is a fantastic artist of many crafts, including cosplay. She is our go-to gal for all things small mammal related. We are lucky to have her as part of our team at AAAC!

 

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