Guinea pigs, also known as cavies, are a popular choice for pets. However, many people do not realize the amount of TLC these little guys require. Learn more about the guinea pig's needs and why two is better than one!
Guinea pigs are social animals, and they thrive in environments where they have a companion. Consider getting a second guinea pig, so they can keep each other company when you are not there. Make a gradual introduction by setting cages side-by-side to ensure your guineas will get along and develop a friendship. Monitor the first few interactions to ensure there is no fighting.
KEEPING A GUINEA PIG ALONE
Having two guinea pigs is a bigger commitment, but it is important to know what will happen with a solitary guinea pig. It bonds with you more freely than one with a companion. You need to provide it with much more time and attention or it becomes lonely and despondent. And no one wants a gloomy guinea pig!
HANDLING A GUINEA PIG
Guinea pigs are skittish creatures with a prey instinct. When you reach into its cage, it sees your hand as a predator diving in to grab it. Begin to condition your guinea pig by sitting near the cage every day for a few minutes. Place your hand in the cage without moving it once the guinea pig is comfortable with your presence. When you do pick it up, hold it close to your body with both arms. This makes the cavy feel safe and secure, and helps to establish a bond of trust.
CALM AND QUIET ENVIRONMENT
Whenever the guinea pig is out for lap time, make sure the environment is calm and quiet. Guinea pigs are naturally sensitive to noise and sudden movement. If it is startled and frightened, it may bolt for cover, meaning you spend the next 30 minutes trying to coax a terrified guinea pig out from under a sofa or bed.
Whether your guinea pig has a companion or not, you are most likely its favorite form of entertainment once it has acclimated to you. Give it as much hands-on attention outside of the cage as possible. Brush it, feed it by hand, or even talk to it. Play with its cage toys in an open and contained area, hopefully some of which are chew toys. Guinea pigs love to chew, so have a variety on hand to entertain them — and to keep your fingers safe.
DIET AND NUTRITION
Guinea pigs love to eat. Timothy hay, orchard grass and guinea pig pellets are all favorite diet staples of the cavy. Offer it a baby carrot or fresh greens as treats every day. Feeding your guinea pig the treats by hand makes it happy and encourages it to bond with you. You can also give it treats while you have it in your lap to ease its discomfort and familiarize it with human contact.
CHEWING & GNAWING
Guinea pigs must gnaw to keep their teeth at a healthy length. The cavy's teeth begin to curl back and toward the roof of its mouth if left unchecked. This prevents a guinea pig from eating or drinking, and can cause it serious pain. Give your furry friend crunchy veggies in addition to the firm timothy hay and alfalfa hay to munch on every day. Chew toys are always a great idea as well!
Guinea pigs need regular baths to keep them clean and healthy. Short-haired guinea pigs need a bath every three months while long-haired guinea pigs need baths a bit more frequently — about every two months. Bathe your guinea pig in a bathroom sink or small washtub. Place a washcloth on the bottom so it won’t slip. Pour warm water over it to wet the fur, using caution around its eyes and ears. Work a tiny amount of shampoo into its fur, starting from the rear and working forward. Once it’s lathered up, pour warm water over it to rinse off the shampoo. When it’s clean, carefully towel it dry.
A guinea pig’s claws must be trimmed on a regular basis. When the nails grow too long, they curl in such a way that it impairs its ability to walk. Try using a soft towel to hold the guinea pig with its back against your stomach and legs pointed outward. Be careful to just clip off the tip of each nail. You'll cause your guinea pig pain if you cut too far down.
AVERAGE LIFE SPAN
Guinea pigs have a longer life span when compared to other pet rodents. They live an average of five to seven years. However, there are some reports of guinea pigs living up to 14 years. It can also depend on the type of guinea pig, as hairless guinea pigs live longer than long-haired guinea pigs.
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Health issues that may arise for your guinea pig include scurvy, bronchitis, incisor overgrowth and bumblefoot. Symptoms could be unusual drooling, appetite loss, diarrhea, sneezing, blood in the urine or dirt in the ears. If you see any of these symptoms or other unusual behavior from your guinea pig, do not hesitate to consult with your vet.