Guinea pigs make fantastic, inexpensive pets which are great for young children.

They also develop wonderful personalities and can become very affectionate.

Shelter and housing requirements

These pets generally need a very hardy structure called a hutch, with two sections:

  • A fully enclosed area for protection from the elements and for sleeping.
  • An activities section.

Ensure your pet's hutch has good ventilation and allows them to avoid direct sunlight, as they are much more sensitive to heat than cold and are susceptible to heat stroke. It is best to position the hutch off the ground, with adequate shelter.

The guinea pig's hutch should be a minimum of 70sq cm per guinea pig. If your hutch has a wire floor, ensure it is well covered with hay, so as not to risk your guinea pig catching and breaking its leg. Bedding material should be soft straw or hay, also provide material for your guinea pig to burrow under in the activities section.

TIP: Care must be taken if mixing rabbits and guinea pigs together. Bullying can occur and each species has different dietary requirements.

We like to chew

Guinea pigs will chew anything including carpet, furniture, shoes and more. Serious hazards include electrical wires and poisonous plants. Their teeth grow continuously and they need to chew to wear them down so the mouth closes properly. Always provide gnawing toys, available at PETstock.

Handling

Let guinea pigs get used to your hands without picking them up for a few days. Use two hands, one holding around the neck like a pistol with front legs either side of your index and middle finger, the other supporting the back end.

Feeding Requirements

Your guinea pig must have a constant supply of fresh water, good quality hay as well as a daily supply of high quality guinea pig pellets. Fresh vegetables should also be fed daily. It is recommended you offer three types from the following list: broccoli, carrots, cucumber, brussel sprouts, capsicum, dandelion greens and parsley. You can also feed your guinea pig fresh grass.

NOTE: Guinea pigs should not be fed celery, spinach, raw beans, rhubarb and beetroot. Do not feed your pet lettuce. It is non-toxic but often causes diarrhoea.

Fruit such as bananas, apples, oranges, strawberries and raspberries make good treats.

Vitamin C is very important for guinea pigs, as they cannot produce their own (like us, they are susceptible to scurvy). It is vital they get daily fruit and vegetables as mentioned above. Vitamin drops for small animals should also be administered in their water on a daily basis.

TIP: Ensure fresh water is available in special, non-drip bottles with stainless steel nozzles, as wet bedding may cause moist dermatitis and coccidiosis.

Bedding

The flooring should consist of hay or soft straw (please be mindful that hay bedding may be eaten away and will need replenishing). Sawdust should be avoided as it is too fine and can irritate the eyes, nose and ears. Create a sleeping area with something like a bird nesting box, filled with hay or soft straw.

Excercise

Play pens and exercise pens are available from PETstock, which are ideal for guinea pigs to run around on grass on a daily basis.

NOTE: Ensure you keep your guinea pig under constant supervision if bringing them inside to run around.

Treatments

Worming: Guinea pigs should be wormed every three months with a small animal wormer.

Mites: Regular examination for fur and ear mites is required. Lice and mites are quite common in guinea pigs, which can be easily picked up from new bedding (e.g. hay and straw).

Mite and lice sprays can be used in minor outbreaks; however veterinary treatment must be sought if the condition worsens.

Nail trimming: Guinea pigs nails can grow very long and sharp, they needto be checked on a regular basis and trimmed as necessary.

Heat stroke: Guinea pigs do not tolerate heat well and can die from overheating. On very hot days provide relief through frozen plastic bottles of water, a fan and frozen fruit and vegetables.

Guinea Pig Checklist

  • Hutch
  • Hay (bedding and food)
  • Shredded newspaper
  • Treats
  • Food pellets or mixes
  • Mineral stones
  • Water bottle
  • Food bowl
  • Vitamin supplement
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