Caring for your guinea pig
Picture of Guinea Pig goes here….
Leigh at the shelter cares greatly for all animals, especially the Rabbits and Guinea Pigs. She recommends this document to assist you with caring for your beloved Guinea Pig.
Karla Knower has written an article to help you with what to feed your guinea pig. Please read on….
A Healthy Guinea Pig Diet
What do I feed my piggies?
Guinea pigs are herbivores that enjoy eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. The most important part of a guinea pig’s diet, however, is HAY! This makes up 80 -90% of their daily feeding and should always be provided to your piggies. Fruits and vegetables complement the hay to make it a well balanced diet. Hay is important as it is high in fibre and keeps the piggies’ digestive system healthy. It is also essential because grinding hay keeps a guinea pig’s back teeth trim.
Oaten and grass hay are the best hay for adult guinea pigs. Lucerne hay is for guinea pigs under 6 months of age, as they need the added calcium and calories.
Fruits and vegetables are also essential for a healthy piggy diet and should be given fresh every day and removed after 24 hours. One cup of freshly chopped up fruit and veggies (90% veggies) should be fed per piggy a day. Below is a list of recommended fruit and veggies (taken from the Australian Cavy Sanctuary website):
Rocket, Endive, Coriander, Mint, Basil, Coral lettuce, Cos lettuce, Grapefruit, Green and Red capsicums, Dandelion, Spinach, Wombok, Bok Choy, Pineapple, Grapes, Green beans, Corn and husks, Asparagus, Kiwi Fruit, Orange, Apple, Banana and leaves, Cabbage, Brussel Sprouts, Broccoli, Strawberries, Cherries, Cauliflower, Zucchini, Pumpkin, Parsley, Parsnip, Carrots, Tomato, Cucumber, Watermelon , Rock melon, Honeydew melon, Paw paw, Sweet potato, Celery
Unsafe fruits and vegies include: normal potatoes, onions and radish (all toxic), raw beans wild mushrooms, wild berries and iceberg lettuce. These can cause serious digestive problems and of course the risk of toxicity is to be avoided at all times!!
There is also a variety of grain mixes which are sold in pet shops and supermarkets…none of these mixes are good for guinea pigs!! Despite their claims they are actually quite unhealthy because they contain sugary and fatty ingredients without providing any actual nutrition. The Oxbow company produces a product called ‘Cavy Cuisine’, these are pellets high in fibre and rich in vitamin C. These are the only pellets recommended by competent vets as being good for you piggy’s health. Visit http://www.oxbowaustralia.com/ to see where you can obtain this product.
Water should always be available and should always be fresh. It is easy to assume that water stored in a suckle bottle will be ok for days on end but this is not so. Water should be changed daily. Some piggies prefer to drink out of a water bowl and this is fine if that is what they are used to, this water should also be changed daily
Guinea Pigs Need Guinea pigs!
Guinea pigs are extremely social and need to be kept in pairs at a minimum. Keeping one guinea pig is cruel and will only make them feel sad and depressed and this can lead to behavioural problems because the piggy needs attention. Imagine going your whole life without the companionship of another human being?
It is also important to note that guinea pigs need to be kept with compatible furry friends of their own kind! A popular practice is to keep a guinea pig with a rabbit…this is NOT ok for several reasons. Rabbits can inadvertently hurt guinea pigs, need a lot more hopping around space (therefore different housing) and have slightly different dietary requirements. There is also the issue of interspecies diseases. For the sake of the guinea pig and the rabbit, it is never wise to let the two be housed together.
Guinea pigs are active, curious and playful; they like to run around…which is why the home you choose for your piggies must be spacious and provide sections for eating, sleeping and play time. A small home increases the chances of the piggies developing health problems and also makes for very bored piggies.
There is a variety of ‘cages’ sold in pet shops, often these are inadequate and way too small. A lot of them have a wire bottom which is harmful for your piggies’ feet (their feet can get caught in these, leading to fractures or breaks, extremely painful for the precious piggy and a very expensive visit to the vet for you!) or they are designed to be kept outdoors permanently.
An outdoor home increases the chances of your piggies getting sick and exposes them to predators. Guinea pigs are prey animals who find themselves literally defenceless during a predator encounter so making sure they are safe should be high on the priority list. If you wish to take your piggies outside temporarily during the day make sure you have a protected enclosure away from other pets and make sure someone is always around to keep an eye on them.
As a guideline, two piggies should be kept in a home around 6ft by 4 ft. A wide variety of ‘small animal’ homes can be found on eBay, some of these come with sleeping quarters and running areas. Be sure to double check dimensions, it may look ‘big’ on the picture but not necessarily so when constructed. Do it yourself homes are also good if you have the skills. The advantage of this is that you can custom design your piggies’ home to make it as lavish as you wish so they special.
A cramped guinea pig ‘cage’ C&C set up ebay option
A different alternative is a C&C cage. Their website is: http://www.guineapigcages.com/. These are very simple to assemble and easy to clean and manipulate within the space you have at home. The corflute is easier to find than the wire cubes, some detective work is required but well worth the effort when the job is finished. It is also a good idea to allow your piggies to have some floor time so they can run around in a larger area. Usually guinea pig parents will have a playpen to provide boundaries for the piggies. Playpens are a hassle free way to protect your piggies from walking around the house and hurting themselves as a result of their curious nature (e.g. chewing on cables, getting stuck in narrow spaces, being stepped on etc.).
The most important thing is to always keep in mind the quality of life you want to provide for your piggies. By allowing them to have a suitable nice ‘home’ to live in rather than a ‘cage’ you will not only give them the gift of a happy life but you will avoid a premature and unnecessary death as a result of health problems arising from poor hygiene, predator attacks, behavioural problems and/or depression.
Guinea pig homes should be cleaned regularly and as needed. At least once a week but more often if required. A smaller home will get dirty quickly. This is also another advantage of having a bigger home for your furry friends. A happy piggy is a healthy piggy!
Monitoring your guinea pig’s health
A very important indicator of your guinea pig’s health is their weight! Guinea pigs are eating/pooping machines and when they are healthy their weight should be constant with minor fluctuations. One of the first signs of guinea pig illness is a reduced appetite and/or an inability to eat, which in turn leads to less pooping and weight loss. Your piggies should be weighed once a week and if their weight deviates from the usual see a competent vet. A great website to check out is http://www.guinealynx.info/weigh.html. Here you will find tips on weighing your piggies and other health tips for your piggies. Overall this website is very useful for guinea pig owners as it provides loads of information and guidance.
Guinea Pig Behaviour
It is important to get to know your guinea pig’s behaviour not only so you can detect when something may be wrong, but also so you can enjoy watching their little idiosyncrasies! It is a joy to see them ‘popcorn’ or ‘rumble strut’. For a description on various terms used to describe guinea pig behaviour please visit: http://www.guinealynx.info/behavior.html