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Let's start with some obvious facts:

1) APPEAL - Guinea pigs are cute - that's an obvious clue unless you have an aversion to rodents in particular.  They shed minimally and many people allergic to cats and dogs will unfortunately fall prey to guinea pig allergies too.  It's a personal choice on whether you keep one or more, but they do love companionship.  If you plan on handling and playing with your pig on a daily basis, you may be all your pig needs for friendship.  If you work long hours, another same sex guinea pig (unless spayed or neutered) will be ideal.  

PLEASE NOTE - A guinea pig is unlike any pet you will ever own.  Ignore everything you know about cats and dogs as it will not apply.   A pig is so low on the prey chain, it is scared of it's own shadow.  It does not trust you like a dog.  It does not need you like a cat.  You will need patience and understanding to own a pig you can eventually love on and snuggle with.  It takes effort, kindness and perseverance to achieve results.  Do not read any further if you do not have these traits - you will be deeply disappointed and parting ways with your rushed choice of pet.  I CAN NOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH!!  

2) HOUSING - The ideal cage for a guinea pig should be more about length than height, since guinea pigs can't climb.  Super Pet make ideal cages as the white wire top can be used outside as a makeshift run.  Ensure that the cage top is weighted down to prevent it tipping over and prevent any exposure to grass soiled by dogs or heavy pesticides.  The cage bottom is easy to clean and should be washed out weekly with white vinegar to prevent that annoying ammonia crust forming in the corners.  Failing to remove the crust will result in the cage smelling again in a matter of days.  An ideal cage for one pig should be 20" wide by 36"/40" long.  Two guinea pigs kept in a too small cage will fight due to territory and lack of space.  If you have the room, C & C cages are more humane and provide your guinea pig with lots of space and room to be active.  These can be custom built to your specifications, to include ramps and multiple stories.  Most cages are easy for a child to clean and maintain. 

One benefit to caging is lack of 'poop scavenger hunts' in the back yard or minefield exposure when allowing your children to play outside.  The 'bottom of the shoe' checks at the door for the offending culprit are part of the daily life of dog ownership - (I have owned many dogs)!

3)  VACCINES - Guinea Pigs do not require vaccinations or rabies shots, so the elimination of these medical expenses is a blessing.  However, medical care can not be avoided when your pet is sick.  Good food, a meticulous clean cage and careful observation of your pig should prevent them from getting some of the more common illnesses brought on my neglect!

4) SIZE The guinea pig has the advantage of being a good size and weight for a child to handle comfortably.  Not too small to squirm away and get lost, nor too big too pull you across the street in a state of sheer excitement.  They make the perfect lap warmer and television buddy just to name a few!

5) DIET -  A good diet in vitamin C vegetation and fruits is a must.  However, most of their requirements are items that you probably already have in your fridge.  Carrots, broccoli, spinach, lettuce (no lethal ice burg please!), apples, kale, oranges etc are some good basics to have on hand.  One cup of fruits and veggies per day per pig is ideal, splitting the ration in to half in the morning, and half in the evening to prevent overload and bloat.  DO NOT purchase the food containing nuts and seeds similar to hamster food.  Your guinea pig can not digest this matter and will often leave them uneaten.  A good nutritional pellet food (Kaytee/Oxbow) is perfect and well balanced.

6) VETERINARY CARE - Do your research and find a good veterinarian who has experience with guinea pigs.  Sometimes they are classified as exotics pets so that's often a good indicator when looking for a referral.  An experienced vet can often be the difference in life and death when these little pigs get sick!  Guinea pigs can get pink eye, strep throat, pneumonia, influenza and the common head cold.  Upper respiratory infections are quite common and are more likely to be caused from insanitary conditions, being kept in aquariums which are totally unacceptable housing choices due to poor ventilation etc.  Their nails do need clipping every six to eight weeks. 

7) BEDDING - There is a wide variety of bedding choices on the market and each has their own pro's and cons.  I personally do not like Care Fresh since it's small fibers can often irritate the nasal passages and has been linked to some guinea pigs ingesting the matter accidentally and becoming impacted.  Aspen is also a popular choice.  NEVER USED CEDAR - it's aromatic oils are toxic and can be absorbed through your guinea pigs skin.  Cedar should personally have no place in pet care, and should be restricted to furniture and closet pesticide preventions.  Pine shavings are ideal and my personal choice.  Do not use shavings unless they are pet approved, and not the consistency of mulch.  Fine shavings (triple milled etc) are perfect and are more absorbent, plus they are comfortable for your pig to walk on.  Their foot structure is similar to ours so do the math and realize that if you can't walk or lay on it comfortably - neither can your pig!

8)  EXERCISE BALLS - those ghastly dangerous toys are for hamsters and gerbils only!  They are not, nor will they ever be suitable for pigs.  The guinea pig does not have a flexible spine so forcing him or her to walk around with it's spine at an unnatural angle will result in irreparable damage to it's ligaments and muscles.  Let your pig explore freely in a confined room like a bathroom; whereby the floor is easy to clean up little accidents.

9)  HAY - Hay is an important part of your guinea pigs daily dietary needs and should be available at all times.  Whether a handful is thrown in one end of the cage for them to play and lay in, or structured in a hay rack on the side of the cage, your guinea pig will enjoy eating this roughage.  Timothy hay is ideal, as is Timothy mixed with orchard or other types of grasses.  Try and ensure that it smells sweet, is minimally dusty has does not produce grey or black clouds of dust when pulled apart - a sign of mold!  

10) ILLNESS - Just like humans, we can become unwell for a variety of reasons.  Guinea pigs can contract the common head cold from humans, resulting in an upper respiratory infection.  A hunched stance, crusty eyes/and or nose, and an overall change in behavior/appetite is most common.  Antibiotics (Baytril) are almost always necessary to eradicate the symptoms.  You can use a humidifier, menthol plug in (Vicks Vapor) and saline spray drops (example: Little Noses etc) to assist with relieving your pig and making him/her comfortable.  Lack of care will often result in pneumonia and your guinea pig passing away.
Mites - are another common illness that guinea pigs can contract.  They are a burrowing parasite that invade your guinea pigs skin, resulting in a very painful itching condition that will make your guinea pig scratch itself until it bleeds.  Neglecting this condition will cause the pig to have hair loss, infected skin from open wounds caused by scratching nails and possible stroke due to the stress of the condition.  Ivomectin is a parasitic medication given orally or topically applied from the neck to the base of the spine - (think Frontline/Advantage etc).  Mites can not be seen but guinea pigs often have a few obvious signs, from irritate and grumpy demeanor, biting and dandruff, as well as painful reactions to being stroked.
Fractures/Broken bones - are often caused by poor handling or falls.  Just like babies, do not leave your guinea pig unattended on a surface more than 3" above the ground.  Guinea pigs have fine bone structures and their quick startled movements when being handled can cause multiple fractures and crush injuries.   Children carrying guinea pigs have often lost control and the pig has climbed up and over their shoulder to hit the floor behind them.  ALWAYS use the cuddle sack to prevent such accidents!

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