Guinea Pigs

Last updated: February 26, 2013

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Guinea pig sitting on green grass

Feeding

Hay and Grass

  • Guinea pigs should have plenty of fresh grass hay, pasture hay or timothy hay every day.
  • About 70% of their diet should be made up of this hay.
  • For two guinea pigs, you will need to provide enough hay to fill a litter tray.
  • Make sure you change the hay daily as the guinea pigs will also use it as a toilet.
  • Fresh grass is very important too.
  • Remember, hay is different to straw. Straw makes a good bedding material, but has no nutritional value.

Vegetables

Two guinea pigs eat leafy green vegetables
  • Fresh, green, leafy vegetables are important for guinea pigs and should make up about 30% of their diet.
  • About 1-2 cups of veggies per day per guinea pig.
  • Some healthy vegetables for guinea pigs include:
    • Asian greens such as bok choy
    • Carrot tops (the green part)
    • Celery (especially the leaves)
    • Silver beet
    • Spinach
    • Chicory
    • Endive
    • Kale
    • Leaves from broccoli and cauliflower
    • Dark coloured lettuces and purple lettuces
    • Herbs such as mint, coriander and parsley.
A head of iceberg lettuce with a red cross over itWarning: Avoid feeding iceberg lettuce (light green and white lettuce) it will give your guinea pig diarrhoea.


Pellets and Treats

  • Fruits and some sweeter vegetables can be given in very small amounts as a treat.
  • No more than ¼ cup of treat foods per day.
  • These include:
    • Apple
    • Banana and peel
    • Capsicum
    • Orange
    • Mandarin
    • Strawberry
    • Watermelon
    • Carrot
    • Sultanas
    • Tomato
  • Most pellets are also a treat food. Rabbit and Guinea Pig mix/pellets are very sweet as they are made of chopped lucerne hay with other yummy things like sultanas and sunflower seeds.
  • If you are providing plenty of hay, grass and veggies, 1-2 tablespoons of a good quality pellet mix (such as Oxbow) is all that your guinea pig will need.

Water

A guinea pig rests next to a clean water bowlJust as with any pet, fresh, clean water is necessary at all times. You can purchase small animal drip bottles which clip to the side of the cage and can help to keep the water clean. It is always a good idea to provide more than one water container, just in case one gets tipped over. Try a bottle and a heavy ceramic bowl. This will ensure your pet always has water to drink. Check and change your pet’s water every day. Dirty water can make animals sick, so make sure you clean the water containers too.

Handy Hint: On hot days freeze a plastic water bottle then place it inside a sock or tea towel. Now when your guinea pig feels too warm he can lie against the cool bottle.


Housing

An indoor guina pig play area with lots of toys, clean water and foodA guinea pig rests in a bed of hayIn most cases – a hutch is not enough. Often, guinea pig hutches do not provide enough room to run and play. If your guinea pig must live in a cage, consider the following:

  • The hutch should be at least 3 square metres (3m x 3m).
  • Guinea pigs don’t jump and are unable to climb, so the sides of the enclosure don’t need to be higher than 30cm.
  • Avoid metal enclosures as they heat up very quickly.
  • Any enclosure needs to have shelter from the weather.
  • The hutch should have a hiding area with lots of nice bedding straw to keep guinea nice and comfortable.
  • The floor should be made of something non slip such as hay, straw, towels or saw dust.
  • Try giving him ramps and tunnels to make life more fun.
  • When the weather is hot, bring your pet’s home inside where it’s cooler and out of the sun.
  • If your guinea pig lives outside, you would need to protect him from other animals like cats, dogs and foxes.
  • If you would like your guinea pig to be friendly and unafraid of humans, you must spend lots of time with him each day.
  • Unlike rabbits, guinea pigs cannot be litter trained. They will go to the toilet everywhere.
  • It is very important to clean your pet’s home every day.

Exercise

We all need to run and play to keep our bodies and brains healthy.

To ensure that your guinea pig is happy and healthy, make sure you provide him with:

  • Wooden toys to chew – these keep teeth healthy and stop them growing too long.
  • Hiding boxes (even a cardboard box can be great!)
  • Tunnels are fun too. You can get PVC pipe (4 inch or larger) from the hardware store, it’s easy to clean and your guinea will love it.
  • Treat toys like a grass/hay ball can be good fun.
  • You can make a hay/grass tube, using a cardboard roll.
  • A big play area to explore. He needs to be able to stand up in this area too.
  • You might wish to train your guinea pig to walk on a harness and lead – remember you need to follow him, don’t pull him around.

A guinea pig chews grass from a roller ball toy

Two guinea pigs playing in a wooden house

Friends

Two guinea pigs nibbling celeryPets can feel lonely too. Consider providing your guinea pig with a friendly desexed play mate.

  • If you bring your guinea to the RSPCA, adoption officers can assist you in finding the right friend for him.
  • If the guinea pigs are not desexed, you could have a problem.
  • Guinea pigs can give birth to many litters of babies each year.
  • Some guinea pigs and rabbits can also be friends.
  • There are many desexed, vaccinated and microchipped rabbits and guinea pigs at the RSPCA waiting for a new home. http://www.adoptapet.com.au/

Note: not all guinea pigs will get along! Big fights can occur, if you are not very careful, particularly with males.


Vet Care

A vet listens to a guinea pig using a stethoscope Make sure your guinea pig visits the vet at least once a year for a check up. The vet will also check that:

  • The guinea pig is desexed and microchipped and can arrange for these procedures to be done.
  • The teeth are growing normally and are not too long.
  • The guinea pig’s skin, nails and body condition is healthy.

You can also ask the vet for advice on the care of your rabbit.


Lifespan

Guinea Pigs live for up to 7 years.


This information provided by RSPCA Victoria. www.rspcavic.org

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