It’s estimated that as many as 80% of households in the US is home to a guinea pig. It’s not surprising these pets are popular. They’re low maintenance, gentle enough to have around small children and above all, cute – pet ownership can change your life.
But what’s involved in caring for guinea pigs? We’ve put together this guide, all about guinea pigs. From choosing your pet through to feeding and even training, we’ve got the answers to your questions.
Before Buying a Guinea Pig
Before you commit to buying yourself a new pet, it’s worth knowing that the guinea pig lifespan is 5-7 years. Unlike hamsters & gerbils with shorter lifespans, a guinea pig is a long-term commitment.
Guinea pigs are social animals, they live happiest in small groups of other guinea pigs. If you’re thinking of getting a guinea pig, you should really consider having at least two. Pick pets with the same sex to avoid unwanted litters.
The advice used to be that you could keep a guinea pig with a rabbit, and that would be enough company. But rabbits may bully guinea pigs, and even kick them leading to a stressed pet and high vet bills.
Understand that the majority of cages sold in stores for guinea pigs are smaller than your pets would prefer. Many pet owners now make their own, giving their pets plenty of space to roam whether it’s indoors or out.
And before you go out and shop for a guinea pig from a pet store, there are often pairs who are available to adopt from a shelter. You have the chance to give a lonely pet a loving home, and save money into the bargain!
Choosing a Guinea Pig
There are several breeds of guinea pig that are kept as pets. Generally speaking, the short hair breeds are lower maintenance as they require less grooming. Although most breeds are social, some are better suited to family life than others. Here’s a brief guide:
This is the most common breed kept as a pet in the US. They have short hair and are known for getting on with people, making them a good choice for a first pet.
These small animals originate from the Andes, in South America, so it’s no surprise that the Peruvian breed exists. This is a long-haired version, so will need regular grooming but their playful and social nature makes up for that.
This is another long-haired breed, as the name implies. If you want to choose this breed, make sure someone is going to be happy with daily brushing.
Although the Teddy is a short-haired breed, their coat is very dense and wiry so they need brushing as often as a long-haired guinea pig. They are a very playful breed, with bundles of curiosity.
This is a long-haired breed, but they’re pretty good at looking after their own coats so don’t need as much grooming as others. They do have intensely mischevious personalities, though, and enjoy play so would be suitable for older kids who will make time to play with them.
This is a hairless breed, which obviously means no grooming! On the downside, they’re definitely not as cute as their furry cousins, so your child may prefer to have a less follically-challenged pet.
Caring for your Guinea Pigs
Although they can be kept outside, being a small animal guinea pigs can easily catch chills. They love running around on the grass, but don’t let them out unless it’s dry – they’re low to the ground and will quickly get soaked and chilled in damp weather.
It is better to keep your guinea pigs indoors in a cage or run. The humane society recommends around 10 1/2 square feet of space for a pair of guinea pigs, and make sure the bottom of their enclosure is soft as they are prone to getting sores on their paws. Fleece blankets make a great, washable, option.
You will need to give them access to clean water, add one water bottle for each guinea pig. It’s better to buy them a pre-made guinea pig food, as they have a need for high levels of Vitamin C. Pet stores usually carry a nugget or muesli-style food, and you can keep an eye out for discount codes to save money.
Guinea pigs also need access to hay that they can eat, this aids their digestion and also helps with dental care. Guinea pigs have teeth which grow continuously, so they need to gnaw to keep them down, adding hardwood chewing toys made from apple, maple or oak is a good idea.
You’ll also need to supplement dried food with leafy greens, like lettuce, kale or parsley. If the weather is dry, let your guinea pigs graze on grass or pick them some fresh. Dandelions are a firm favorite with these pets, and stores which carry small animal supplies often have them in dried form for the winter.
When it comes to the bathroom, guinea pigs tend to use one corner of their cage as a toilet. You can litter train them, and just remove the tray for cleaning each day to keep maintenance lower.
Playing with your Guinea Pigs
An important part of keeping guinea pigs as pets is play time. These furry balls of fun enjoy getting out and exploring and can be trained to come when called or follow more advanced commands.
Guinea pigs enjoy being handled, but teach young children to be gentle even though a guinea pig is unlikely to nip even when stressed. Let your guineas have time to play outside the cage, but keep them under a watchful eye whether they’re in or outside as they have a tendency to nibble wires!
Guinea Pigs Make Great Pets
All in all, guinea pigs make a great family pet. They don’t need too much of an investment in terms of cash, but they give many hours of fun to their loving owners. You’ll soon get used to their cute whooping noises when they see you coming.
We hope you enjoyed this article. For more tips on how to bring joy into your life, visit our happiness section.