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Guinea Pig Care - How To Prepare Before Taking It Home?

A guinea pig is a cute small rodent. Parents often decide to buy this animal as a pet for their child. But not everyone knows that it might not be the best idea to give this delicate creature to toddlers. Are you wondering why? Check the most important information about guinea pig care. Learn all about guinea pig diet, needs and how to take care of it. Prepare well before the guinea pig appears at your home.

Guinea Pig Care - How To Prepare Before Taking It Home?

Where are guinea pigs from?

Guinea pig is the most commonly used name of the rodent, but in fact it should be called domestic cavy, as this is the proper name of the species. Those small rodents came to Europe from South America in the 16th century. Initially, they were kept as pets among aristocracy - as small pet-ornaments sitting on the laps of their owners. In time, they became popular domestic animals. Princes Harry and William were famous guinea pigs owners during their childhood years.

Guinea pigs are also popular in South America – not as pets, but as food.

How do guinea pigs behave?

Domestic cavies are relatively delicate animals. Guinea pigs have weak spines, so they cannot run on a treadmill - it’s reserved for hamsters, rats and mice.

A guinea pig is not a climbing animal either – unlike e.g. rats, nor jumping – like a chinchilla. Although a guinea pig might be able to jump onto a sofa, you shouldn’t encourage, or worse, force it to do so.

How do guinea pig behave?

A proper guinea pig care requires providing as large cage as possible – the minimal size is 100x60 cm for one guinea pig, for two – 120x70 cm. Unfortunately, the most popular 80 cm-long cages from pet stores are nothing else than a torture for a guinea pig.

The pet also requires to be let out of the cage to run for at least 1 hour a day – in a safe and wide area, so that the pet can stretch and learn the environment. Guinea pigs, although shy and spooky, are also very curious animals.

How have guinea pigs accommodated to living inside our houses?

A guinea pig needs a lot of space both inside and outside the cage. It should be provided with a lot of roofed hideaways. Why? In nature, guinea pigs are almost at the bottom of the food chain. They are hunted mainly by birds. Guinea pigs have adapted to it as follows – in the wild, their coat is grey-brown or brown so if they remain still, they are almost invisible to predators which notice brighter colored animals.

So why do domestic guinea pigs have such interesting colorful coats? For a simple reason – in the wild they won’t pass the genetic material, as predators eliminate them – it’s a simple rule of a natural selection. The better features are passed on to the next generations. Domestic guinea pigs do not have such a problem – nothing hunts them, so their fur remains colorful.

What is the best guinea pig diet?

A guinea pig diet should include hay – even though it does not have any nutrients and is almost entirely excreted (a guinea pig won’t get fat from eating it), it serves an important function. It fills up the digestive tract of the pig, which should never be empty. That’s why providing a constant access to hay is one of the aspects of a guinea pig care.

What else should a guinea pig eat? A guinea pig diet should not consist only of dry food. Although the manufacturers advertise their food as fully nutritious, do not restrict your guinea pig’s diet only to it. For the best health of your domestic cavy, it should mainly eat vegetables. Dry food is just an addition.

What vegetables (and fruit in small quantities) does a guinea pig eat? It should be mostly:

  • cucumber,
  • carrot,
  • bell pepper,
  • kohlrabi,
  • parsnip,
  • celery,
  • fennel,
  • beetroot in small quantities (it’s hard to digest).

What is the best guinea pig diet?

Regarding fruit, a guinea pig can eat the following products:

  • bananas,
  • cherries,
  • strawberries,
  • raspberries,
  • apples,
  • grapes.

Keep in mind that you shouldn’t feed fruit to your guinea pig more than twice a week, in the amount of 5-10 g. Such a small animal can get diabetes very easily – similar to other rodents: chinchillas or miniature rabbits. A guinea pig’s diet should contain a lot of greens – dill, parsley, grape and raspberry leaves – we recommend giving it beyond the typical feeding time every 2-3 days.

Now the quantity - how much should a guinea pig eat? The recommended amount is two meals a day, mornings and evenings. Food for the day should be a 10% of the guinea pig’s body mass. For instance – a 1-kg guinea pig should eat 100 g of vegetables a day.

Do guinea pigs bite?

Guinea pigs are lovely, peaceful animals. You don’t have to worry that they will bite you without a reason, like some hamsters. The only time, when a domestic cavy might bite you, is when it thinks you want to steal its food – we advise against putting your hand inside the cage during the feeding time.

Is a guinea pig an animal for everyone?

Although they are cute and fluffy, guinea pigs are not the best companions of choice for small children. They are very delicate and require a lot of patience from the owner to tame them completely. An estimated time for taming a guinea pig is around 1/1.5 years. Only after this time the guinea pig will start trusting you completely.

Is guinea pig an animal for everyone?

Unfortunately, children are not that patient and they want to play with the animal immediately. Of course, it does not mean that the guinea pig cannot be taken out of the cage for the duration of a whole year. The fact that a guinea pig is not a pet for playing (although it can be taught certain tricks) is another issue.

For whom is a guinea pig the best companion, then? Mostly calm people who don’t expect too much from their pets. A guinea pig loves sitting on the lap and does not run away like other rodents. Those small animals also like soft cushions, beds and blankets.

📍 How long do guinea pigs live?

Unfortunately, guinea pigs don't have a long lifespan - it's approximately 4-7 years. Sometimes a domestic cavy dies earlier, which depends on its health and living conditions. A guinea pig's lifespan might also depend on a particular breed.

📍 Why does a guinea pig bite?

A guinea pig won't bite if it feels confident. If it starts biting, it might be nervous. The most common situation when a domestic cavy bites is when one interrupts its feeding. Make sure to warn the children about this.

📍 How much does a guinea pig weight?

A guinea pig is a small creature which weighs no more than from 0.7 kg to 1.5 kg. It all depends on the breed and feeding. In estimation, a fat guinea pig weighs more than 1.2 kg, and it might shorten its lifespan.

📍 How to check a guinea pig's sex?

You can recognize a guinea pig's sex by looking at its genitals. Spread them delicately – if you see an "Y" shape, it's a female. If you are not sure about this method, you can also pay attention to the size of the animal - males are typically larger.