Never underestimate the potential of a guinea pig to be a great pet!
When planning a child’s first pet, many people think of a rabbit or a hamster, bypassing guinea pigs. In fact, due to the endearing qualities of these small animals, they are excellent companions not only for children but also for adults.
If you do not know the great qualities of guinea pigs, do not fear. In this article, I will explain everything you need to know about this fascinating and friendly rodent.
6 Curious facts about guinea pigs
Let’s start with an overview about guinea pigs.
- Life expectancy of a guinea pig: They live between 5 and 7 years. This is the ideal timeframe for a child to learn to take care of a pet and take responsibility for it.
- Guinea pigs are very sociable pets: In the wild, they live in groups of five to ten guinea pigs, and several groups live together, forming colonies of dozens of members. When the guinea pigs are socialized from small, they adore human company and “call” to get their attention.
- Guinea pigs love being together: Because they love the company, it’s a good idea to have a pair of them or spend a lot of time with them when you’re at home. This does not mean that they can not live alone. They just live happier and enjoy more being in company.
- Guinea pigs like to “talk”: One of the most endearing things about guinea pigs is that they use their voices to communicate. They have a great variety of “shrieks”, “CHILLI DOGS” and purrs with which to express their feelings. This gives them an advantage over rabbits, there is nothing more tender than a guinea pig calling you from another room.
- Guinea pigs do not like other pets: As with rabbits and many other rodents, in the wild guinea pigs are near the end of the food chain and many animals are superior to them. This means that they are prone to stress and cannot tolerate a home where dogs, cats or ferrets also live.
- The pregnancy of guinea pigs can get complicated: In addition to the obvious characteristics of a population explosion (they reproduce very quickly and with many offspring at each time), it is better to avoid pregnancy in guinea pigs. There is a high rate of complications, in which there is a 25% chance that you will get a serious and life-threatening condition called toxemia of pregnancy. And if that were not enough, the guinea pigs give birth to “miniature adults”, so it is common to have complications during childbirth. For this reason, it is better you have several guinea pigs that are only males or only females.
Giving a home to your guinea pig
Now, let’s start with the important part. If you have already decided to have a guinea pig as a pet, you will need to know everything you need to be able to take care of her as she deserves. In order to keep your guinea pig healthy and happy, it is necessary that you bear in mind the following points:
- Guinea pigs DO need exercise: The home of your guinea pig in your house will be a cage. Up to here all the obvious. However, a cage does not have enough space for your guinea pig to run and exercise. A good idea is to let her loose at home for a while and always under surveillance. Other options are to put interactive toys or a wheel in your cage, with which you can move, exercise and even exercise mentally.
- The size of the cage is important: The cages of the guinea pigs must be large, measuring around 120 cm long, 60 cm wide and 45 cm high. All this space is necessary so that your guinea pig has a place to rest, enough space to exercise and a small playground.
- Use a good bed: The floor of some cages for guinea pigs consists of thin wires for the excrement to pass through them and facilitate cleaning, having only to remove the tray to clean the cage. When the guinea pigs step on these wires, with the passage of time, they damage their legs. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you put a hygienic bed for guinea pigs, filling the bottom of the cage with about 2 centimeters of the bed. In addition, the bed will absorb odors and excrement, so that the hygienic conditions are improved remarkably and you will prevent your guinea pig from contracting various infections and diseases.
- Provide as many houses for guinea pigs as the number of them lives in the cage: Although the guinea pigs can live in a group within a single house, the lack of space can cause a serious problem of stress. Therefore, it is recommended that you provide a house for each guinea pig. In this way, all will have a comfortable and warm place in which to snuggle. The best option is to use suitable houses the size of a guinea pig, filled with hay or material for rodent beds.
- Maintain adequate hygienic measures: It is very important to clean the cage of your guinea pig at least once a week, replacing the entire bed with a new one. In addition, it is also advisable to wash the trough and feeder every day and replace the non-ingested hay in at most 2 days.
Provide adequate nutrition for your guinea pig
Guinea pigs are strictly vegetarian animals and require high levels of vitamin C in their diets. In addition, guinea pigs spend most of their lives feeding. They eat in small quantities and many times a day, so you must always keep fresh food in their trough.
In order for your diet to be healthy and rich, the most advisable thing is that most of your food consists of fresh fruits and vegetables. For example, daily you can feed it with broccoli, red pepper, spinach, tomatoes … While the fruit is recommended not to give it more than once a week since it contains too much sugar to make it part of your daily diet.
On the other hand, guinea pig feed that you can find in many pet stores is highly recommended to fill a certain vitamin and mineral void in your pet’s diet, as well as to wear out their teeth. However, feeding exclusively based on a feed of this type is not recommended. Leave a couple of teaspoons in your trough so you can eat little by little, but keep in mind that your real diet is based on fresh fruits and vegetables.
It is also very important to leave your guinea pig fresh hay. Hay is especially rich in fibers, so it greatly favors the digestion of your guinea pig. In addition, you can find them with carrots or dandelions to provide vitamins C and A to your pet’s diet.
Health problems that guinea pigs usually have
A well-kept guinea pig rarely has to make a visit to the vet. The main problems that you can find are the following:
- Excess in the growth of the teeth: The teeth of the guinea pigs do not stop growing throughout their life. If you do not provide something that can gnaw and what can wear them, they will grow so much that you will need to go to the vet to cut them. A good idea is that your guinea pig always has a stone to chew in its cage.
- Skin itching due to parasites: lice and mites may attack your guinea pig, as it does with many other types of pets. Adequate hygiene and a pipette for guinea pigs at the right time can completely solve this type of problem.
- Lack of sleep: Especially if at home there are other pets, such as dogs or cats. Always try to keep your guinea pig away from these types of pets.
- Low levels of vitamin C: some symptoms of vitamin C deficiency in guinea pigs is lack of appetite and excessive hair loss. This has a very easy solution, provides your guinea pig with a diet rich in vitamin C, for example giving vegetables often and providing hay with carrot extract.
- A propensity to injuries: Especially in bones and joints. Guinea pigs are very fragile animals, if they fall out of your hands or you carelessly play with them it is very possible that you will end up hurting them. It is highly recommended that children be taught to treat them with care.
- Problems during pregnancy and childbirth: As I explained before, there is a 25% chance that your guinea pig will get a deadly disease called toxemia of pregnancy if she gets pregnant. In addition, there are usually many complications during deliveries. If you want to have them as a couple, it is best to be all males or all females.