How To Take Care Of A Guinea Pig For Beginners

In this article, you will learn how to take care of a guinea pig whether you're a beginner or a pro. ​

A guinea pig is a guinea pig and notwithstanding special medical conditions, they all require the same basic care. 

Guinea pigs require safe housing, plenty of space, your attention, time, and effort, grooming, veterinary care, money for the initial purchase as well as monthly upkeep, and plenty of hay, fresh veggies, and quality pellets.

If you can provide all that, you will have an extremely happy and healthy to provide company and enjoyment for years to come. 

Here are some of the basics that you need to focus on when you first get your new guinea-pig companion.

A large enough cage

A large enough cage is a guinea pig’s paradise.

Who in this world doesn’t need a larger space?

No one (including your piggies) wants to spend time confined in a tiny space.

It needs plenty of space to move around and exercise. The more guinea pigs you own, the larger the cage space you will obviously need.

When it comes to getting a cage, you have several options.

You can make one yourself to create a truly unique home for your new friend. 

You can, of course, buy a ready-made one online or from your nearest pet store, but these tend to be quite small and pricey.

The choice is obviously yours, but the bottom line is that the habitat or where you want to keep your guinea pigs should be spacious enough to allow for unrestricted movement.

Check out our square foot calculator here

Your piggies would appreciate any extra space they can get.

Cage should have a solid bottom

The other day i saw a friend of mine who just bought a cage with a wire bottom for her two guinea pigs. I immediately told her to return it to where she bought it from.

Why?

Because you should never house your guinea pig in a cage with a wire bottom.

The cage should have a very solid bottom or else it will hurt the delicate and fragile feet of your guinea pigs. If you are not very careful, you might end up having a guinea pig with bumblefoot. That’s is painful and costly, and it can easily be avoided simply by investing in a cage with soft or solid bases.

Cage should have a lid

While you can get a cage without a lid, it’s recommended that you invest in one with a lid.

The lid protects your guinea pig from anything that can enter through the top and harm him or her.

If the cage were be placed outside (which is not recommended), it should have a top lid that stays closed to prevent any creature from attacking your guinea pigs.

Never put your guinea pig in an aquarium. Aquariums are for fish and don't allow sufficient air flow.  Also, bacteria and viruses have plenty of surfaces to adhere to and multiply in aquariums. Just don't do that. ☺

Be cautious with multi-level cages

You can have flat or multi-level cages but you should be very careful with multi-level ones, especially if some of your piggies are very young or very old.

A fall from the level up to the one below might injure or harm a guinea pig’s delicate feet or legs.

Guinea pigs are not good climbers, and it’s always recommended that you only keep them in flat cages - especially if they are elderly or very young.

A good bedding is must

There’s no two ways about it - good bedding is crucial.

Fleece is comfortable and protects the guinea pig’s delicate feet and legs, but it requires daily maintenance and washing.

I have seen some owners use pine shavings, cedar shavings, and aspen bedding. Never use pine or cedar or other aromatic wood shavings! They can cause respiratory problems and other health problems.

Carefresh is popular with many guinea pig owners, and although it costs more than fleece, many guinea pig owners swear by it.

Location of the cage matters a lot.

Guinea pigs are social creatures, and they need to be around humans.

Don’t make the mistake of placing the cage in a far-away place where you won't see it often, like a basement.

If possible, put your cage in the living room or bedroom, so your guinea pig will be seen and monitored often.

They are also the most likely places where he'll be sure to get the most attention, too.

Make sure people don’t trip, push, or knock the cage around, though. Also don't put it where dogs, cats, or other animals might try to get at it.

Don’t place the cage outdoors

Guinea pigs are very sensitive to temperature.

They can die from heat exhaustion even when the outside temperature seems fine to you. Too many guinea pig owners have put their pets outside and then found them dead within an hour or two.

It's better to keep them indoors, but you can as well take them outside from time to time to experience some sunlight as long as you continuously monitor them!

Have two or more guinea pigs in the cage

Guinea pigs are social animals, and they need company all the time. In Sweden, it's illegal to have one guinea pig without offering it a companion.

Guinea pigs don’t like to be alone, so consider dousing two or more in the cage. Just make sure there's plenty of space and that they are of the same gender!

It can be lovely, stressful, and depressing for a guinea pig to live alone. If cage space permits and you can afford to take care of them, have at least a couple of them together.

Tame them the right way

One mistake many owners make is trying to tame their piggies forcefully. Don’t ever try to chase them around the cage or "punish" them with physical force.

Everything should happen naturally. You want them to trust you, and you build that trust slowly and gradually. Before long, they will bond with you.

One thing you can do is sit by the cage and talk to them. After several sessions, they get used to your voice and smell. Let them also associate you with food. Every time you bring them their favorite food and treats, call them by their name. Once they are calm and trust you, you should be able to tame them easily.

Feeding & watering your guinea pigs

Now that your guinea pigs have a comfortable place to live in, they need something to eat. As the owner, you are responsible for feeding them the right foods and giving them the water they need.

There are plenty of articles on this site about the proper foods to feed (and not feed) your guinea pig. But be sure they have plenty of fresh timothy hay available throughout the day, fresh fruit and veggies, and high-quality guinea pig pellets (not rabbit pellets or pellets formulated for other animals).

Provide them plenty of fresh water

All pets need fresh, safe, and clean water and guinea pigs are no exception.

Make sure water is plenty in its cage so that it can drink any time it feels like quenching its thirst.

It's better to use a hanging water bottle than a bowl.

Bowls get messy and dirty quickly, and the guinea pig might avoid drinking the water.

Also, bottles allow you to monitor their water intake. If you notice that they're suddenly drinking a LOT in a short period of time or not drinking at all, it can be a sign that something is wrong and he needs to see a vet.

Keep the water bottle clean always

If you don’t clean the bottle regularly, it will get dirty.

Algae, bacteria, and even viruses will multiply and your guinea pig may get sick.

Uncooked rice & warm water is one way to clean the bottle. All you have to do is place the uncooked rice and warm water in the bottle and shake it.

Never use harsh chemicals that can leave a residue. Residues can potentially poison your guinea pig.

Don’t add anything to the water

You might be tempted to add things like juices and vitamin C tablets to the water. Don't do that. Vitamin C will degrade in just a short period of time, and you don't want stuff sitting in there polluting the water. Also, you wouldn't even be able to gauge how much each guinea pig was consuming, so you have no idea whether he's getting enough or not enough.

Adding things to the water can prevent your guinea pig from drinking the water because of the change in color or taste.

Hay should be readily available in the cage

If there’s one thing guinea pigs like consuming a lot, and that's hay. Clean hay should always be readily available in the cage. 

Invest in a good hay rack to keep the hay off the ground where it can become dirty or contaminated. Just make sure you pat it down so that there’s no pointed or sharp pieces sticking around that could hurt their eyes.

Hay is so important to guinea pigs that without it, can lead to the misalignment of the guinea pig’s teeth as well as serious digestive-tract problems.

Hay is a very important part of your guinea pig’s diet, and there should always be plenty of it in the cage at all times.

Daily fresh vegetables is must

Fresh vegetables should make up a good percentage of your guinea pig’s diet. We offer a detailed list of safe fruits & vegetables that you can feed guinea pigs. 

Avoid vegetables that have a lot of phosphorus, vitamin A, and calcium as they can cause stomach upsets and diarrhea. The vegetables should ideally be high in vitamin C, since guinea pigs need to get that vital vitamin from their diet.

Vegetables should also be cut or sliced into smaller chunks for the guinea pig to consume easily without much of a struggle. You should also divide the vegetables into two or even more servings because it’s better to feed them several times a day instead of just once at one big meal.

Remove old, stale food!!

Exercising your guinea pigs

Just like you, guinea pigs need exercise.

Exercise stimulates their body and mind. How bored would you be sitting in a cage all day without the ability to run and play?

Exercise balls, tunnels, toys, etc. are wonderful, but always monitor them for safety and cleanliness.  Once they get chewed or worn, replace them..

Here are various ways you can contribute to their need for exercise and have fun with them at the same time:

Give them some floor time 

Chances are that your guinea pig’s cage isn’t big enough for it to run around and exercise. Even if it is, your guinea pig still needs a change of scenery!

Let them run around in a bigger space. It could be outdoors (if whether permits it) or indoors, but the idea is that they should have some time to run around and exercise their limbs. Add some toys and tunnels in the area as well.

If you are exercising them outside, be very careful that they are protected from any possible predators and that they can't slip away from you and get lost.

Predators like foxes, hawks, racoons, cats, and dogs can quickly kill a guinea pig.

They appreciate toys & tunnels

Guinea pigs need mental stimulation, too. They like to play with toys & tunnels or even hay stuffed in a toilet-paper roll. You can buy toys or make your own.

Purchased toys generally don’t cost much. You can get decent ones for less than $10 in pet store.

Interact & play with them

Your guinea pig wants you to interact and play with it regularly. 

IA good owner spends time petting, talking to, and cuddling their guinea pigs.

If it trusts you, it won’t have problem interacting with you. Make it your best friend, and you'll have a great friend for several years.

Keep it clean, well groomed, and healthy

The final requirement for taking care of your guinea pig is to keep it clean and well-groomed. Cleanliness helps him be a healthy guinea pig.  

Clean the guinea pig’s cage OFTEN

Guinea pigs are generally clean animals, but if you don’t clean the cage, they can get sick easily.

You must keep the cage clean.

Remove droppings and uneaten vegetables from the previous day. Clean the water bottle. Change the bedding frequently. 

Trim its toenails

Like us humans, guinea pig nails need trimmed occasionally using only recommended trimmers. Just make sure you only cut the nails and not the tissue around it. If you are unsure how to cut them or are afraid you might hurt them, take him to the veterinarian to have his toenails clipped.

BathE them from time to time

Guinea pigs don’t get that dirty too often, but it doesn’t hurt if you give them a good bath from time to time.

Daily/weekly bath is obviously not recommended, but a few times a year doesn't do any harm.

Make sure you use recommended shampoos and not soap meant for humans. The water you are using to bath them should also be the right temperature. It should not be too hot but not too cold, either.

Use a sensitive part of your body (like your elbow) to test the temperature of the water before you use it on the guinea pig.

Be On the lookout for illness

Ill guinea pigs are not easy to identify. Sometimes things like sudden loss of appetite could be the beginning of an illness. The only way to know if your guinea pig is sick is to interact with it and understand its typical behaviors. Then you'll quickly notice when something seems "off". Take it to the vet regularly to have it examined, vaccinated, and treated if sick.

Don’t keep it in the same cage with other small pets

Guinea pigs should not share a cage with other small pets like rabbits. Since rabbits are bigger and stronger, they can kill guinea pigs.

Rabbits also carry bacteria that can make guinea pigs sick. You should never keep guinea pigs and other small pets in the same cage.

Monitor its weight

It’s important to monitor the weight of your guinea pig. Their weight doesn’t fluctuate a lot, but if you notice a sudden weight loss, something may be wrong. Take it to the vet to have it tested.

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