10 TIPS FOR BEGINNERS

Have you just got your first ever guinea pig?

Or maybe you are thinking about getting one?

This page covers the basics of caring for guinea pigs,

and what you should know about them

COMPANIONSHIP

Tip 1: Keep them in pairs/groups

Guinea pigs that are kept on their own are more likely to become bored or even depressed. They are very sociable animals, and thrive with company of their own kind! 

 

Some reasons why a companion is essential:

  • For security and to feel safe

  • They groom one another

  • Interaction

  • Playing together

  • Cuddling each other

  • Better quality of life

  • Happiness & well being

guinea pigs

ACCOMMODATION

Tip 2: Give them lots of space

There are so many options when it comes to housing your guinea pigs. Deciding wether they will be housed indoors or outdoors has an important role in accommodation type. There are some suitable homes you can buy online, you can construct your own, ask someone else if they can build one for you, convert old furniture, purchase a garden building (such as a shed or playhouse). There are endless options, but here are some questions you should ask yourself.

  • Will it meet the minimum size requirements?

  • Is it safe from other animals (e.g. dogs, foxes)?

  • Is there sufficient ventilation?

  • Can I clean it with ease?

  • Is it free from drafts?

  • Will the enclosure be out of direct sunlight?

  • Can they keep warm enough if housed outdoors?

guinea pig cage

ENRICHMENT

Tip 3: Provide lots of enrichment

Having a large accommodation is great, but to make that even better, you can provide enrichment for them to stimulate their brains. Giving them activities to do will prevent boredom and it is great fun to watch them display natural behaviours; you should take into consideration some their natural instincts to encourage this.

 

guinea pig cage

NUTRITION

Tip 4: Feed them a natural diet 

Their digestive systems work the same way as the wild form of our domestic guinea pigs. They have a thin stomach and a long intestine. 

 

They consume countless small meals each day (including hay, grass, vegetables, forage, herbs..) as their digestive systems are designed for this. 

 

A good variety of grasses and meadow plants contain almost all the vitamins and minerals required.

guinea pigs

HEALTH CARE

Tip 5: Make sure they are healthy

The best way to monitor your guinea pigs health is to get to know them very well by spending lots of time with them. This way it will be easier to detect illness if they are acting out of character and not being themselves.

 

Some health care tips:

  • Weigh them regularly

  • Trim their nails as needed

  • Do regular health checks

  • Brush & trim fur (long haired breeds)

ringworm

TAMING

Tip 6: Be patient with taming

 

It is important that we remember that guinea pigs are not cuddly toys. Despite their cuddly and cute appearance, we have to respect that they are not teddy bears and don't enjoy being picked up and cuddled. Approaching guinea pigs from above is a bad idea as they associate this with a predator, therefore their instinct is to run away or hide, so you should always keep that in mind. It is definitely possible to bond with your guinea pigs, and for them to gain your trust, but this takes time and patience.

guinea pig

CLEANING

Tip 7: Clean their home regularly

Guinea pigs can be challenging to litter train. The best way to get them to use their trays more is to fill them with hay or put their hay rack directly above it. They tend to pee/poop in dark places so this also encourages them. It is best to spot clean their home once a day. This involves spot cleaning the urine and faeces from their litter tray and replacing with fresh bedding. Also sweep up any faeces from the floor. If they pee outside of the litter tray, simply spray with water & vinegar solution. Once in a while you should use the same solution to disinfect their litter trays/floor base. For outdoor setups such as sheds/playhouses, remove soiled areas as needed.

 

bedding

Tip 8: Choose a suitable bedding

Opt for bedding with a low dust content.

Horse supplier stockists generally offer the best savings.

  • Megazorb

  • Fleece

  • Wood pellets 

  • Aubiose

  • Hemp

  • Lay-soft

  • Raviera

GUINEA PIGS & RABBITS?

Tip 9: Don't get a rabbit as a companion

It is important that we remember that the best companion for a rabbit is another rabbit, and the best companion for a guinea pig is another guinea pig. I know some people who house a guinea pig and rabbit together - so what is my opinion on this? I know there are some cases where just one rabbit and guinea pig living together cannot be separated as they develop a strong bond - this is not unheard of, and separating the two animals can potentially cause welfare issues if they are very close to one another. But in most cases, rabbits and guinea pigs can't communicate or understand each other as well as they would with a companion of their own kind.

medical kit

Tip 10: Be prepared for emergencies

 

Having a reliable vet nearby (preferably exotics) that has lots of experience with guinea pigs is great! Unfortunately not everyone has this in their local area, therefore you should be prepared in case they suddenly become unwell and you can't get to the vets for whatever reason. I highly recommend setting up a medical kit with the basics (e.g. recovery feed, pain relief).