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February 2024

Basic Guinea Pig Care You Need to Know


Guinea Pigs are beautiful, intelligent, and curious pets. These small little creatures can make the perfect addition to any family. And just like every other pet, they have their own care requirements.

If you’re thinking about adding a guinea pig to your family or already have, here’s everything you need to know about guinea pig care.

Guinea Pig Care Essentials Checklist

Guinea pig care covers a variety of topics, each equally important to your guinea pig’s health and wellbeing, including:

  • Guinea pig food and water needs for a balanced diet
  • Choosing the right cage and home for your guinea pig
  • Exercise and enrichment for your guinea pig
  • Guinea pig grooming requirements
  • Guinea pig healthcare and illness
  • Guinea pig dental care

Caring For Guinea Pigs

Life expectancy: Up to ten years

Diet: Herbivore

Personality: Sociable, inquisitive, and friendly

There is a commonly held consensus that Guinea pigs are cheap and easy pets. However, all pets come with their benefits and challenges and Guinea pigs do require regular care, attention and enrichment. They also need dental and health checks twice each year. But with the right diet, enrichment, and shelter, your guinea pig should live a long and healthy life.

Guinea Pigs Food and Water Needs

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Every animal has a unique diet and water requirements; let’s cover the basics of hydration and food for your guinea pig.

Guinea pigs are herbivores. Provide your guinea pig with regular fresh grass, leafy greens, and vegetables daily to meet their nutritional requirements. Additionally, hay must always be provided. Also, offer a small number of pellets four times a week and some form of vitamin C daily (this can be in the form of vitamin-C rich foods or supplements). Fibre is another key dietary inclusion to assist with gastrointestinal and dental health.

Hot Tip

Guinea pigs (unlike most animals) can’t store vitamin C. Unless they receive sufficient natural vitamin C (which can be hard to do) through their daily diet it must be given as a supplement.

What do Guinea Pigs Eat?

  • **Fresh hay: **Hay should make up between 70%-80% of your guinea pig’s diet. We recommend Timothy Hay.
  • Grass: Fresh grass can be provided daily, though it isn't essential, and hay should form the bulk of their diet. Never feed your Guinea pig alfalfa/lucerne.
  • Pellets: Fibre-rich pellets can be included as a small portion of your guinea pig’s diet - recommended to no more than 4 times a week, and less if they start putting on weight.
  • Vegetables: Guinea Pigs should get a cup of mixed vegetables per kg of their bodyweight daily. Recommended vegetables include Brussel sprouts, broccoli, carrots, cucumber, capsicum, celery, cabbage, kale, bok choy, raddish roots, dandelion, greens, parsley & more. If unsure if a vegetable is suitable for your Guinea Pig, always check first.
  • Fruit: Bananas, apples, oranges, strawberries, and raspberries, plus more! Fruit should be limited to treats.
  • Vitamin C: Guinea Pigs need at least 25mg per kg of their weight daily. Some leafy green vegetables and fruits contain vitamin C, and if enough of these are included in their diet this will be sufficient, but you can also purchase supplements to help with vitamin C requirements.

For more information on vitamin C requirements, speak to your local Petstock VET.

*Without vitamin C in their daily diet, guinea pigs are susceptible to Scurvy (vitamin C deficiency), leading to multiple illnesses – one of which is heart failure, a common cause of death in guinea pigs.

What Your Guinea Pig Shouldn't Eat

  • Seeds with kernels
  • Nuts
  • Peas
  • Dried beans
  • Corn
  • Onion grass
  • Sugar
  • Human food
  • Iceberg lettuce
  • Animal by-product
  • Mineral blocks
  • Human food
  • Lawn clippings

How Much Does a Guinea Pig Need to Eat Every Day?

While feeding your guinea pig enough food is important – it’s just as important to ensure their diet has variety so that they can get all the proper nutrients they need from a range of foods.

A daily guinea pig diet might look like: 1 cup of fresh vegetables and 2 tablespoons of pellets plus unlimited access to fresh hay and grass. Their diet should also be supplemented with fruit snacks as well – though they need less of these than vegetables.

Guinea Pigs Hydration

Guinea pigs should always have access to fresh water. Give your guinea pig the option of multiple water sources and replace the water every day to keep it fresh. Replacing the water will also help to prevent any algae growth. Hanging water bottles are the best water container for a guinea pig.

Hot Tip

Don’t add anything extra to your guinea pig’s water supply unless it’s a health-related additive directed by an expert or vet.

Shop guinea pig food today.

Guinea Pigs Cages & Houses

A key aspect of guinea pig care is choosing suitable housing. The right home will ensure your guinea pig is comfortable, safe, and enriched. Your options for housing include both indoor and outdoor hutches and cages.

Bigger is often better when it comes to choosing the right house. It should be a minimum of 7000sq cm per guinea pig and include an activities area. You want to provide your guinea pig enough room to exercise, roam and interact with different elements within their environment. Size is even more important when you have more than one guinea pig – which preferable, as guinea pigs thrive when living with friends.

Make sure the cage or hutch has good ventilation and is away from direct sunlight or heat sources during warmer months; guinea pigs are susceptible to heat stress. For guinea pigs, the best living temperature is between 17 to 24 Celsius. We recommend bringing your guinea pig indoors during extreme weather conditions to ensure their safety.

If your hutch has a wire floor, ensure it is well covered with newspaper, as exposed wire will cause bumblefoot (a nasty bacterial infection that greatly reduces their quality of life and is difficult to reverse). Bedding material can be soft straw or hay, though recycled paper pellets are best as they're more absorbent and softer. You must provide someone safe to rest - fleeces and hand towels that can be washed work well for this - and also provide material for your guinea pig to burrow under in the activities section.

Guinea Pigs Toys and Exercise

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You should allow your guinea pig to explore, investigate and play within their environment. They are curious creatures that love interacting with other guinea pigs and the opportunity to roam free for a couple of hours a day. Guinea pigs thrive amongst friends and should always be kept in pairs at a minimum.

Here are some tips to ensure your guinea pig receives the right level of exercise, activity, and stimulation:

  • Change up their enclosure by moving it to a new location or swapping out elements within their hutch or enclosure.
  • Get them a playmate! Guinea pigs are social creatures and love to have a friend.
  • Create games and give them toys to play with! Give them something to do by buying guinea pig toys and hiding their food in new places for the perfect foraging experience.
Hot Tip

Guinea pig’s teeth grow continuously, so they need to chew to wear them down so their mouth closes properly. Always provide gnawing toys!

Shop gnawing toys here.

Can Guinea Pigs be Harnessed Trained?

Guinea Pigs can be harness trained, but this is really for safe exploration rather than guided walking. A properly fitted harness allows your Guinea Pig to enjoy natural sunlight and fresh air, which is very good for them, while providing exercise without you losing your Guinea Pig if they make a dash. However, you should never pull on the lead or try to force the Guinea Pig to walk in a particular direction like a dog. This can hurt their spine and as well as chafe their skin. Also never use a collar. Guinea Pig spines are not made for it. If your guinea pig is stressed by the experience or feels too exposed when outside, stop using the harness.

Guinea Pigs Grooming

Just like other pets, guinea pigs will need regular grooming. However, your guinea pig’s grooming routine will look different from your canine or feline family members.

Nail Trimming

Guinea pigs require semi-regular nail trimming, with a frequency of about one to two months – depending on how quickly the nails grow and are worn down. Like dogs, if a guinea pig is active, their nails will be worn down faster than the nails of a more sedentary guinea pig.

To clip your guinea pig's nails, use a small animal nail clipper.

Hot Tip

When clipping your guinea pig's nails, be careful not to cut too far. Each nail has a blood vessel called a quick, which is pink or red. You should only trim just before the quick, otherwise, it will be painful and cause bleeding.

If your guinea pig has black nails, be extra careful when clipping. You can use a light like a torch, which will help identify the quick. If you can't see clear enough, revert to just a minimal trim at the tip of the nail.

When in doubt, always speak to your vet or even allow your vet to take care of the trimming.


Guinea pigs shed their coat, so regular brushing of your guinea pig is key in their grooming routine. Short-haired guinea pigs should be brushed at least once a week, while longer-haired breeds will need a comb through every couple of days.

Why is it important to brush your guinea pig? It manages the shedding of hair and removes loose or dead skin, allowing you to check for any lumps or parasites.

To brush your guinea pig, purchase a brush that will easily comb through thin hair. You can choose from a few different small animal brush options.


Do you need to bathe a guinea pig? Not unless they are particularly dirty or smelly. Guinea pigs should only have a couple of baths a year, as they are very clean creatures and overdoing bath time can cause a dry coat or skin.

If your guinea pig is very smelly and it has become a frequent issue, it’s best to speak to your local vet to ensure they are not ill. A pungent smell can often be a sign of illness.

Guinea Pig Healthcare

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A guinea pig’s health relies upon diet, enrichment, shelter, and grooming. However, even with all the care in the world, sometimes your guinea pig can fall ill or need extra help keeping their health in check.

  • Provide a daily balanced diet of fresh vegetables and fruit, including vitamin C.
  • Allow your guinea pig to roam three to four hours a day.
  • Clean your guinea pig’s shelter daily.
  • Brush their fur every week (or multiple times a week for long-haired breeds).
  • Bathe only when needed.
  • Trim your guinea pig’s nails every one to two months.

Parasites and Worming

Guinea pigs can be susceptible to parasites and worms during their lifetime, including mites and lice. To keep the nasty creatures at bay, make sure you do the following.

  • Worm every three months with a small animal wormer
  • Regularly check your guinea pig’s body (including ears) for any signs of parasites
Hot Tip

Flystrike is a condition where flies lay eggs on a guinea pig, (often near their bottom) and when hatched, begin to eat the flesh the guinea pig. Prevent it by keeping their cage clean, regularly cleaning their bedding and ensuring their bottom is clean.

Is My Guinea Pig Sick?

To help detect if your guinea pig’s health has deteriorated, here are some of the signs your guinea pig could be unwell.

  • Loss of appetite
  • Curled-up posture
  • An unusually large belly
  • Change of coat
  • Lethargy or lack of interest in exercise or play
    Guinea pigs that are sick can also look like slinkies. Adult guinea pigs should be an obvious bell shape due to their caecum. A guinea pig that is dehydrated or sick will not have a healthy caecum and so their rear end won't be as wide. This isn't a healthy weight or body shape. Some of the most common healthcare issues for guinea pigs include respiratory infections, diarrhea, scurvy, tumours, abscesses urinary problems and parasites.

Guinea Pigs Heat Stress

Guinea pigs don’t enjoy the heat. In fact, in the wild, guinea pigs will hide away in the coolest nooks possible, low in the ground. With no sweat glands, a guinea pig struggles to regulate their body temperature, so you must help keep your guinea pig keep cool during the summer months.

  • Make sure your guinea pig has access to shade (you may need to move their hutch to a new location or bring it inside as the safest option).

  • Provide them with lots of sources of cool water.

  • Add frozen treats to the enclosure and even ice bricks or a cooling mat to chill their environment.

  • Allow them to roam in a closed-off area on tiles.
    How do you know if your guinea pig has already become too hot and suffering heat stress? It can be fatal, so here are some of the signs of guinea pig heat stress or heat stroke:

  • Discoloured gums

  • Panting

  • Convulsions

  • Lethargy

  • Drooling
    If you notice any of these signs, you should immediately attempt a few things to cool them down (see below) and then seek the assistance of your vet. You shouldn’t wait for them to worsen.

Cool your guinea pig down with the following methods:

  • Wet your guinea pig with damp towels (do not fully immerse your guinea pig in water as this can cause shock).
  • Bring them inside onto tiles or the coolest area of your home.

Now you have all the basics on guinea pig care, you can rest easy with the right information to help your littlest friend live their fullest life. They can be the best friend you ever had!

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