Guinea-pig owners might seem, on the surface, to have a straightforward job. But despite the Guinea pig’s reputation as an easy animal to care for, they actually have particular requirements when it comes to diet and exercise.
If you’ve got a Guinea pig to look after, then it’s worth following a few basic rules when it comes to welfare. That way, you’ll give them the best possible chance of enjoying a happy, healthy life in your care.
The basic needs of a Guinea pig
The vast majority (around 90%) of your guinea pig’s diet should be hay. This should be kept in an area that’s separate from the hay that your guinea pig sleeps in. Feeding hay for rabbits and small animals is different from the stuff you might use for bedding. Guinea pigs also need fluids, which should come in the form of fresh water. Keep it in a bottle that your guinea pig can drink from whenever the need arises.
The remainder of your Guinea pig’s food should come from fruits and vegetables. Look for foods that supply vitamin C, as this is something that guinea pigs can’t synthesise themselves.
Guinea pigs with long hair will need to be periodically groomed and bathed. This means every few months. You might also trim hair, particularly around the rear end, as if you let it grow wild and free, you might end up with a disease-carrying mess. Nails will need to be regularly trimmed, too.
Your guinea pig’s hutch should protect them against predators, and against the weather. Make sure that the hutch is leak-proof and free from draughts, and that predators can’t get in. As an example, two guinea pigs should have access to around one and a half square metres of space.
This should come on top of a larger space where they can exercise. Ideally, they should have free reign to move between the two areas. It’s easy to build a run: either use pressure-treated construction lumber and chicken-wire or get something prebuilt.
This habitat should contain a variety of stimulating features and toys. After all, guinea pigs will get bored if the habitat is bare. Include plenty of tunnels and hiding places. Guinea pigs are naturally prey, and their main survival strategy is to hide from predators. Make sure that they have the opportunity to retreat from the outside world when they’re feeling overwhelmed. The habitat should be cleaned every few days.
What do the noises mean?
Guinea pigs can communicate their desires and needs to their owners – but knowing what the different noises mean can be difficult. Familiarise yourself with the noises they make when they’re hungry, excited, or tired. Once you understand the common ones, you can more easily work out when there’s something wrong.