Baby guinea pigs are adorable little creatures with over-sized legs and ears attached to tiny little bodies. Knowing how to properly care for a baby guinea pig is essential.
Here we cover the basics of proper care, and answer questions such as “When can they be separated from their mother?” and “How and when can they be sexed?” Also, we list places where you can potentially find a baby guinea pig.
Prepare for a baby guinea pig
Before you bring a baby guinea pig home, make sure you have all the essential items you’ll need ahead of time. Here’s a shopping list of essential items:
Be sure it will provide enough space for when he gets bigger, but be sure the openings are not too big that a baby can slip through them.It should be a minimum of 24” long, 18” wide, and 18” high, with 1/2” bar spacing. If you’re going to house more than one guinea pig, the cage needs to be bigger. Each guinea pig should have a minimum of two square feet of space – per animal. Also make sure the bottom is not rough or hard on the feet. Wire-bottomed cages are not good for guinea pigs.
- Water Bottle
- Timothy Hay
Your guinea pig should have access to hay 24/7.
It’s not a good idea to use cedar shavings, because they have been known to cause chronic respiratory problems and liver changes. Also, they’re aromatic, and guinea pigs have an excellent sense of smell. The Carefresh company offers a safe alternative to cedar shavings with bedding that’s safe, non-aromatic, and helps absorb odors. You could also use timothy hay as a bedding. Guinea pigs love eating it and borrowing through it. Straw is not a good idea because it does nothing to absorb odors, and it’s stiff and can potentially cause eye injuries.
- Food Dish
Make sure it’s not top-heavy and is difficult to tip over, but not big enough so that when the guinea pig gets bigger, he is able to lay in it on top of the food.
- Something to Hide in
Like everyone, guinea pigs need to feel safe. Providing a small hiding place is necessary. You can buy these at stores, or you can easily make something yourself out of PVC pipe or a plastic container.
- Guinea Pig Food
Get high-quality food. Ideally, it will have stabilized vitamin C in it, and will have an expiration date marked on it. Stay away from alfalfa pellets. Opt for timothy pellets instead. The Oxbow company offers high-quality guinea pig pellets.
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
Guinea pigs need fresh vegetables daily. A guinea pig should eat about 1 cup of vegetables daily, and fruit should be given at least 1-2 times per week. Too much fruit might cause intestinal upset or diarrhea, so a good rule of thumb for fruit is 1-2 tablespoons of fruit for each 2 pounds of body weight.
When should a baby guinea pig be separated from his mother?
Unlike a lot of other animal babies, guinea pig babies are not born really needy and helpless. In the wild, they have lots of predators, so baby guinea pigs are born with a bit more independence and ability. While guinea pigs drink their mother’s milk, the milk isn’t absolutely necessary.
If you have to care for a really young baby, you don’t need to try to give it milk. You can mash up pelleted food and hand-feed it from a spoon. If it’s really young and won’t take food from a spoon, you can use a syringe, but you have to be careful that he doesn’t get any into his lungs and aspirate. Baby guinea pigs can eat solid food at three days old.
Three weeks is the ideal time for babies to wean and separate from their mother. Males can exhibit mating behavior at three weeks of age, so it’s important to get them sexed and to separate females from males to avoid unwanted pregnancies.
Some people contend that it’s optimal to leave a female guinea pig baby with its mother for four weeks. But males should definitely be separated at three weeks of age.
How Soon After Birth Should You Handle a Baby Guinea Pig?
You can handle infant guinea pigs as soon as they’re born. Unlike other animals, a mother guinea pig won’t reject the baby just because you handled it. If you handle baby guinea pigs early on, they will become more accustomed to people and form bonds better than if you wait until they’re older. If handled early, they usually are more calm and relaxed around people later on.
When Can You Sex a Guinea Pig?
Guinea pigs can be sexed as soon as they’re born, but usually it takes a skilled person to sex that early, like a vet or a professional breeder. You should definitely have them sexed before they reach three weeks old. As you don’t want a 3-week-old male impregnating one of the females.
How Do You Sex a Guinea Pig?
Look at their anal area. A female will have a Y-shaped flap of skin on top of their anus. Males don’t have this flap of skin. Take your fingers and gently separate the fleshy skin on the genital area. Then you can clearly see a Y-shaped opening if it’s a female.
Boys have a narrow slit that resembles an “I”. To make sure, you can press gently on the genital area with your finger. If it’s a male, you should be able to get a male’s penis to ease outside where you can see it. There are some great pictures of sexed guinea pigs at cavyspirit.com.
Where Can I Find A Baby Guinea Pig?
There are a lot of guinea pigs needing homes, so the first thing you should do is check with guinea pig rescues and shelters. Here are some directories to aid you in your search:
Also be sure to call your local humane center or animal welfare league to see if there are abandoned guinea pigs needing a good home.
Finally, here’s a video of a guinea pig giving birth: