Guinea Pig Care Information

Guinea Pigs

guinea pig

Guinea pigs are considered rodents and relatives of rats and mice. They come from Peru in the Andes Mountains. The name the Peruvian Indians gave them is cavy. They do make noises such as oinks, whistles, snorts, and honks. It is believed this is why they are called pigs. Cavies can become as tame as rabbits if handled frequently. Guinea pigs can be potty-trained. In addition, they will be affectionate and seek you out if you are kind to them. Guinea pigs can be purchased at your local pet store either as a baby or adult. Your best bet is to purchase a young cavy and pick the calmest one you can find. They will scamper away when you try to pick up a baby but one that squeals and kicks when you pick it up may have a bad temperament. A well-socialized cavy will purr when scratched behind the ears. Make sure to examine the body of each cavy you pick up. It should feel solid and heavy not skinny and light. If it is a smooth coat it should be glossy and whatever the variety, should have thick fur. Look at the eyes to make sure they are not runny and the rear end for signs of diarrhea.

Guinea pigs can live in hutches just like rabbits. Guinea pigs should not be kept on a wire-bottom hutch. They have tender hairless feet that can be easily injured. Many, many guinea pigs come to my rescue with a condition called Bumblefoot, a severe infection of the foot caused by wire cages. They may be purchased at a pet store or made from wood and chicken wire. Usually a 2-foot by 3-foot cage is adequate. Newspapers spread on the floor of the cage will catch droppings and urine. The cavy leaves much urine so is prepared to clean the cage often. Cavies like to have a perch in their cage and a good idea is to use a small cardboard box so he can crawl onto it. You can also cut a door so he can crawl into his little house. You can keep the hutch outside but make sure to protect it from wind, rain, and sun. He should be brought in during the coldest weather. They love to be let out of their cage but if you do so outside make sure you can see him at all times.

The primary element of a guinea pig's diet should be grass hay (Timothy, Orchard, Bluegrass, Oat Hay). This wears down the teeth and keeps the digestive system working properly. Pellets are really just a side dish.They should be left in a bowl for him to nibble all day. Don't be fooled by pet shops telling you rabbit pellets are fine for cavies. This is not so. Insist on guinea pig pellets. You can feed your guinea pig fresh vegetables, cabbage, apples, spinach, corn, cauliflower, beets, lettuce, bark, seaweed, grass, hay, and leaves. Give only small amounts at a time of fresh foods so your cavy doesn't get diarrhea. The pellet food is important because it helps to keep the teeth short. In nature the cavy chews on twigs for this and you may find you need to give him twigs if the pellet food doesn't completely do the trick. Water should be given through a water bottle, which will prevent the pellets from becoming mushy. The most common problem with guinea pigs is vitamin deficiency. They are vulnerable to getting scurvy caused by too little vitamin C. The first symptom you'll see is thinning hair along the center of the back (this may also be caused by mites. Consult your vet). The best way to ensure ample Vitamin C is to give a cup full of Vitamin C-rich veggies per day, like cilantro, red bell peppers, oranges, and dandelion greens.

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