Chatty and sociable, this small rodent is a well-known animal which can be, and already is, owned by households throughout the world. There is over 1.3 million pet guinea pigs in America and over 1 million in the UK alone!
Guinea Pigs are sociable and full of character which makes them great pets for any potential owners out there. Even for children!
Keep reading to find out more about these small bundles of joys and how you need to care and look after them.
In this blog
The Guinea Pig is a chatty and affable pet to include into your family. Not only are they great for children, but once you have gotten them used to handling, they can be friendly pets for your whole family.
Unlike little hamsters, which are known to live for only 3 years, guinea pigs can live up to 10 years, however, the average lifespan is between 5 and 6 years. They can reach double digits provided they receive the appropriate care and are looked after well.
As with any pet, they are a long-term commitment which needs to be considered before purchasing.
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Our Guinea pigs are herbivores which means their diet consists of forage, fruit, and vegetables.
Always offer them a fresh supply of hay as they are known to be grazers. The best hay for your little piggies is timothy or meadow hay. Either of these are suitable for them and they each have their pros and cons of feeding them.
This hay is simply made from timothy grass, hence the name, and it is becoming increasingly popular within the UK. It contains more stalks meaning it has a high concentration of fibre which is ideal for your Guinea Pig.
Not only does it benefit from the high fibre, but the stalks also help grind down their teeth and prevent them from overgrowing. The downside to this hay is the cost, as it does tend to be slightly more expensive than meadow hay.
Another great hay to feed Guinea Pigs is meadow hay. Whilst this is not considered to be as stalky and is a softer type of hay, it is typically known to contain flowers and few surprises for them. Things such as thistles, dandelions, and daisies can be mixed in whilst they cut it. Some may love the hidden snacks, whilst others may see it as an inconvenience and pick through it.
If you are lucky to live near a farmer who supplies meadow hay, you may be able to purchase a larger bale of this for less than a bag of hay from a pet shop. But you will need to have somewhere to store it where it will not get damp or mouldy.
Fruit and Vegetables
They love fruit and vegetables and will be very happy to enjoy these as a treat with there being so many different types you can feed them!
We all love to spoil our pets, especially on special occasions like their birthday or the anniversary of bringing them home, but we always need to remember to spoil them safely and responsibly. Here is a small list on some of the item you can spoil your Guinea Pigs with:
Grapes (white or red)
These items should not be given regularly, instead only being given as a treat to them occasionally. Their main diet should always revolve around their hay.
These may not be the most important part of their diet, but they are still very beneficial to their health. Good, quality pellets contain a high level of proteins and fat which can be useful for young guinea pigs in their growing stages. They can also help with digestion due to containing antioxidants and fibre.
Always give them access to fresh water and clean out water and feed bowls every day, whether they look clean or not.
They may be small, but our little guinea pigs need a large house to run and exercise in. Unlike their smaller relatives, such as hamsters which climb and dig for exercise, our piggies need space on the ground for them to achieve the correct amount of exercise.
The recommended size for their home is 120cm x 60cm x 45cm, but the bigger the better, and if you are housing more than two in the same hutch, allow additional space for them. If you are wanting two males to live together, you may want to consider a bigger area no matter how many live in there.
When you are considering a hutch for them, be sure that the bottom is smooth and wire is not used. They have delicate little feet and you don’t want them damaging them or going through the holes.
Whether you keep them inside where it is nice and warm or they are in an outdoor hutch, they need to have an area to explore and run around which is not in their hutch. This may be a run for them, or a spare room in your home. Your guinea pig will really appreciate having somewhere to exercise in the warmth, especially in winter!
Hide and seek
They are very sociable animals so they should never be left alone without a companion. Ensure that they are provided with a safe place, a place to hide if things become too much or they are startled. Everyone needs their own quiet time! A house or cave will be a great place for them to hide away in and sleep.
Lastly, your guinea pig deserves toys to play with and keep them entertained. Not only is this a reason to spoil them, but they actually need toys for their health. We are being serious! Much like hamsters, their teeth never stop growing, so they need to be chewing on something to keep them level and prevent dental issues.
By treating them to a chew toy, this will help assist their dental care whilst keeping them entertained and their mind occupied. You are also getting to spoil them! Win-win.
Guinea pigs are known to be relatively healthy pets, but they can still come with some health concerns and are prone to certain diseases.
Respiratory issues are very common within Guinea Pigs, and it isn’t uncommon for these issues to progress into pneumonia which can be fatal for your little pigs.
Due to them commonly being a result of a viral or bacterial infection, once one of your guinea pigs have picked up a respiratory condition, it is likely that your others living with the affected one will also become sick.
To prevent this from becoming deadly and leading to pneumonia, it is good to be able to recognise the early signs.
- Runny nose
- Loss of appetite
This condition can lead to sudden death so prevention is always better than cure. The quicker you are able to catch this the greater chance you have of being able to return them to optimal health.
If you have males, you are in luck as this is something you will never have to worry about, however, pregnancy complications are actually very common issues for females.
There are two types of complications which can affect them during their pregnancy and in the final stages of giving birth. During the pregnancy, they can develop ketosis which is a problem in their body developing ketones. This can lead to death if it isn’t spotted before they go into a coma.
Once they have gone past the age of 8 months, their pelvic structure tightens and this can lead to complications during birth. Dystocia’s can happen if your guinea pig becomes pregnant before this age but gives birth after 8 months.
The best way to avoid these complications is to not breed your little guinea pigs. There are far too many risks involved which can be not only costly for yourself but will risk their wellbeing and put them in great discomfort with most mums not making it through the whole process.
Whether you are new to owning guinea pigs or are a professional, they are such fun, loving pets to own and include as part of your family.
Before purchasing any pet, always be sure you are buying from a reputable place and your pet is healthy and old enough to leave their mum. Always do your research before committing to anything. But most importantly, enjoy owning a guinea pig!