Guinea pigs are intelligent, charismatic and most importantly adorable little friends to introduce into your family. Learn everything you need to look after your new pets with our comprehensive guide to guinea pig care.
Guinea pig fact file
Life span – 5-9 years
Size – Up to 25cm
Diet – Hay, veggies and guinea pig pellets
Home – 7.5 square feet
Care and maintenance
Guinea pigs are also known as cavies, which is derived from the scientific name Cavia porcellus. According to the American Cavy Breeders Association, there are thirteen species of guinea pig. Most guinea pigs will live from five to nine years but, if kept in optimum conditions and in good health, some are known to live up to 10 years.
Guinea pigs are very sociable and group-oriented pets. If you’re bringing more than one guinea pig into your home, avoid choosing different sexes. Non-familiar males will generally fight, though males brought up together may not. If you’re keeping guinea pigs in groups, ensure they are single-sex or desexed individuals as this may help to eliminate aggression. Desexing your guinea pig may also reduce their risk of disease, increase their lifespan, make them calmer and stop them reproducing. Your local Greencross Vets will be able to do this for your new pet.
Your guinea pigs require a safe home, complete and balanced diet and plenty of love and attention. So be prepared to share lots of love and affection with your adorable new friends.
The more guinea pigs you have, the bigger the hutch you’ll need. If breeding, the absolute minimum floor space required for one female is 1200cm2 with a wall. A floor space of three to four times this is recommended if breeding guinea pigs. Ask your local Petbarn team member for advice on the perfect enclosure.
Line the hutch with newspaper covered with soft grass hay for bedding. Hang a drink bottle on the outside of the enclosure with the spout pointing inside. A heavy food bowl is necessary, as is a hidey hut and toys.
Place the enclosure out of reach of other animals and out of any areas exposed to draughts and direct sunlight. Provide adequate heat protection as guinea pigs are susceptible to heat stress. Avoid exposing guinea pigs to temperatures above 25°C for long periods of time. These pets will thrive in temperatures ranging from 18–25°C.
Spot clean your guinea pigs’ cage daily and do a thorough clean every two to three days. Replace the bedding, wipe down the cage with hot water and wash the elements, such as toys and drink bottles, with disinfectant. You’ll need a substitute home for your guinea pigs while you clean – a travel cage is perfect.
Your new pet will need a constant source of hay as food and bedding to stay healthy. Chewing will also stop their teeth from growing too long. Find hay for guinea pigs at your local Petbarn.
Your pet will also love to munch on veggies like broccoli, cabbage and celery, as well as herbs like mint, parsley, and coriander. If harvesting plants from your backyard ensure they are free of pesticides, as these chemicals can be harmful to your pet. Keep in mind that you should throw out any fruit and vegetables that have been in their hutch for more than 24 hours.
You can also give guinea pig pellets, which you can find at your local Petbarn. These should only supplement other items on the menu, and not be the main basis of their diet. Avoid feeding your guinea pig grains, cereals or nuts as this may cause digestive problems.
Guinea pigs are unable to make their own vitamin C. While some vegetables contain vitamin C, you will need to provide your pets with a suitable supplement to keep them healthy.
Do NOT feed your guinea pig:
- Lawn clippings
- Rhubarb leaves
- Pink clover
A guinea pig needs about 100ml of water per day, and it’s important to change their water daily. We suggest using a hanging water dispenser, as water bowls can be messy and are often tipped over. It’s best to refresh your guinea pig’s water every morning, but keep an eye on their water during hot days.
An essential part of parenting a guinea pig is grooming. Just like you, your guinea pig will need some hair maintenance every once in a while. Using a firm, soft brush – you can find suitable guinea pig grooming options at your local Petbarn – remove any excess hair, tangles, or anything else that may have been caught up in there, like twigs and leaves.
During your regular grooming routine, make sure to check your guinea pig’s skin and nails. You will need to take your guinea pig to your local Greencross Vets for a little manicure when their claws get too long.
Handling and grooming your guinea pig once a day will give you plenty of bonding time and will improve their confidence and comfort when being handled. Guinea pigs are best picked up when they’re in the crouch position. Placing your hand over their shoulders will encourage them to get into this position so you are then able to scoop them up from underneath with your other hand. Be sure to use both hands to hold them, as they startle easily and may scamper off. Hold them close to you and support them from underneath. Consistent daily interaction is the key to winning over your guinea pig. Use a gentle voice and steady movements to settle your pet and help them develop trust.
Guinea pigs are susceptible to contracting various ailments. If cared for properly and taken for biannual check-ups at your local Greencross Vets, your guinea pig will be less likely to fall ill. A few of the many guinea pig veterinary needs offered for you and your pet are: desexing for both male and female guinea pigs, parasite control, dental care, preventative medicine, nutritional and husbandry advice and supplies, and nail trimming.
Your guinea pig is vulnerable to skin ailments, fleas, vitamin C deficiency and dental problems. One of the key things to remember with your guinea pig is that their teeth grow constantly. They need to have plenty of chew sticks and abrasive foods such as celery, broccoli, corn and husks to gnaw on and keep their teeth trim and in check. If their teeth become overgrown, it can lead to serious health problems and will need to be looked at by your vet.
If your guinea pig shows signs of lethargy, irregular bowel movements, a dull coat, itchiness or are disinterested in eating, they will need medical attention. A healthy guinea pig will be alert, active and have a shiny coat.
If you notice your pet is showing any of these signs, don’t hesitate to visit your local Greencross Vets who can recommend the right health products or treatments your guinea pig may need.
Pet safety tips
Let your pet run inside or outside every so often. Get a playpen for outdoor runs. For indoor adventures, block any small holes and ensure no other animals have access to the room. Remove electrical wires, ingestible items and toxic plants and maintain supervision at all times. When they’re feeling energetic, a guinea pig is likely to start ‘popcorning’, where they jump around in excitement. This is a happy sing from your pet, though they may grow out of it when they get a little older.
Don’t house guinea pigs with other small animals such as rabbits. Mixing guinea pigs with rabbits is not recommended as it can spread disease. You want to create a stress-free environment for your new pets and housing them with animals double their size will have the opposite effect.
Guinea pig checklist
Find everything you need for your guinea pig in the small animals supplies section of Petbarn online and in-store.