Are you looking for a pet that’s small, cuddly, affectionate and relatively easy to look after? If so, the gorgeous guinea pig might be the perfect pet for you.
Also known as cavies, guinea pigs are native to South America and make loving, gentle pets. Particularly suited to homes with young children, they make a great ‘starter’ pet for kids, giving them a chance to learn about the responsibility involved in nurturing and caring for another creature.
But do you know what it takes do own a guinea pig? What equipment do you need and what should you feed your new pet. Our guinea pig care guide runs through everything you need to know about owning a guinea pig.
What do I need for my guinea pig?
One of the many benefits of owning a guinea pig is that they don’t require a whole lot of specialised, expensive equipment, which means it’s pretty easy to get started with your new pet. You’ll need a hutch for your guinea pig to call home, as well as food and water dishes to provide the nutrition and hydration they need each day.
Bedding is next on the list and will vary depending on the breed of cavy you choose; while short-haired breeds do well with soft hay, kitty litter or fleecy bedding should do the trick for long-haired breeds. A safe chew toy and somewhere they can hide in their hutch when they feel a little overwhelmed or nervous are essential inclusions, as are a brush and nail clippers.
A small pet carrier can also prove very handy if you need to take your pet to the vet or transport him anywhere.
Diet and exercise
Your guinea pig is a herbivore and needs to be given plenty of fresh grass hay to eat. Combined with high-quality commercial guinea pig pellets, this should form the basis of your pet’s diet and can be backed up with leafy green vegetables (broccoli, celery, cabbage etc) and possibly vitamin C supplements.
An adequate supply of clean, fresh water is also a must, but you should be aware that guinea pigs can often make a mess of their food and water dishes. Fitting a water bottle to your pet’s hutch is therefore a very good idea.
In order to ensure that your guinea pig’s daily exercise needs are met, make sure to choose as large a hutch as possible. This will give her ample space to move around and stay as active as possible. You could also invest in a special play pen to give your pet more opportunity to get out and about.
Last of all, although you might have seen hamsters in action on exercise wheels, you should never put a guinea pig on one of these devices — back problems and a range of other health issues can arise if you do.
As we mentioned above, a brush and nail trimmers are essential to help you keep your guinea pig well groomed and healthy. The amount of brushing your pet needs will vary depending on their coat. While some long-haired breeds need a brush once or twice a day to prevent matts and tangles forming, shorter-haired breeds need a once-over on a much less regular basis.
Trimming the nails approximately once a month will keep them from getting too long and becoming a problem, so you may want to ask your small animal vet about the best way to do this.
There are a few other important tips to remember when it comes to looking after a guinea pig:
- No training required. Unlike the training required to ensure that dogs are well behaved, guinea pigs require little or no ongoing training.
- Guinea pigs don’t do well in hot weather, so ensure the hutch is well ventilated and that your pet has plenty of fresh water.
- The importance of cleaning. Guinea pigs can be slightly messy pets so it’s important to regularly clean their cage. This will ensure that they always have clean water and can also help prevent any skin problems.
- Daily handling. Daily handling and interaction with its owners will help your guinea pig feel comfortable around people and grow into a more confident pet.
With the right knowledge at your disposal, you can get started in the world of pet ownership with a guinea pig and enjoy many happy years with your furry friend.