Guinea pigs are not difficult to care for, but they do require daily attention. Provide them with fresh food and water every day and clean their cage once a week. Grooming places for guinea pigs are few and far between, so you’ll need to have the nails trimmed monthly.
It’s a common misconception that because Guinea pigs are kept in cages, it makes them easier to take care of.
Guinea pigs are highly sensitive animals and need a lot of care. Since there is less support for Guinea pigs than for animals like cats and dogs, you will find you can’t outsource things like grooming in the way you would for another type of animal.
This article will guide you through the basics of Guinea pig care so that you can be a self-sufficient owner.
What You'll Learn
How Hard is it To Take Care of a Guinea Pig?
Although it’s easy to take care of a guinea pig, they require daily work. You can’t simply fill their cage with food and leave them alone for the week.
We can break guinea pig care into four categories.
- Veterinary Care
The sections below will help you determine if owning a guinea pig will be too much work.
As with any living creature, a balanced diet is necessary to keep your pig happy and healthy. A diet of high-fiber and low-calcium grass is preferred.
Since your Guinea pig will not be living in the wild, it’s up to you to provide unlimited amounts of Timothy hay. When choosing hay, you’re going to want to select the softest you can get; if the hay is too hard, it can damage your pig’s mouth.
You can supplement hay with pellets, but think of this as a processed version of fresh hay.
You also want to make sure that your pig gets Vitamin C every day. Your local pet store will likely have tablets you can purchase as a supplement.
Like humans, Guinea pigs don’t produce their own vitamin C. This nutrient needs to be supplemented because Guinea pigs can get sick easily.
Fresh vegetables are a must for a balanced Guinea pig diet. You want to keep your pig eating greens such as green and red leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce, broccoli, kale, cilantro, endive, and carrot tops. Squash, carrot, and cauliflower may also be eaten.
Limiting carrot and fruit intake is imperative to keeping your pig healthy. The high sugar content of these foods can actually kill your pet. Stop giving these sugary foods if you notice any diarrhea and call your vet, as this can indicate a life-threatening illness.
Lastly, make sure that your Guinea pig has fresh water daily. You will need to make sure you have a sipper bottle and that you clean that bottle daily and check the sipper for any blockages. Water bowls are impractical for Guinea pigs because they will often get knocked over or become soiled with feces and/or urine.
Guinea pigs need a lot of room to run around. As with humans, a sedentary lifestyle can cause weight gain. Since their spines are sensitive, the more weight a Guinea pig has on its hips can cause back problems, which can be life-threatening and expensive to take care of.
It might seem like a great idea to just get a large ball, like a hamster would have, and just let your pig run around. Do not do this; you can really damage your Guinea pig’s spine!
If you are in a situation where you don’t have the space for a large Guinea pig setup, then it is absolutely necessary to give them plenty of floor time in a larger area such as your backyard.
You can set up grates, like those you would find in a cage, to create a large enclosure to make sure your pig is safe. Tunnels and toys would make this experience absolutely delightful for your animal.
You can choose to line your Guinea pig’s cage with paper bedding, Aspen bedding, a blend of the two, or you can choose to line the cage with fleece. You’ll need to be sure to wash the fleece once or twice a week with soap that won’t be too harsh on your pig’s skin; detergent with no dyes and fragrances is highly preferred in this case.
To keep the fleece from getting soiled too fast, make sure you’re spot cleaning at least once during the day.
As with any animal, you’ll want to get your Guinea pig in for a checkup once a year. Be sure to also take your pig in when you notice a change in appetite, in the consistency of its feces, or the color of urine, as these can indicate life-threatening underlying disease.
Excessive sneezing, coughing, or rumbling in the chest are also causes for concern. You may need to do some research in your area for a veterinarian that works with exotic animals. They are harder to find in some regions than your everyday dog/cat vet!
Unlike dogs, Guinea pig groomers are few and far between. You will probably have to do the grooming of your animal yourself.
Guinea pigs in the wild naturally keep their nails filed by walking on stones and rocks. Since they are likely in some kind of soft bedding, you will have to get a pair of small animal nail scissors. Do not use any other type of scissors on your Guinea pig’s nails!
If you have a long-haired Guinea pig, you will also need to obtain a pair of grooming scissors and a brush. If you want your Guinea pig to look highly fashionable, consider getting a pair of sculptor scissors and a comb.
When grooming, it’s a good idea to keep hair trimmed away from the eyes and posterior; if the hair is too long, the pig cannot see, and urine/feces can get stuck.
Guinea pigs tend to groom and clean themselves. They have sensitive skin, so you don’t want to bathe them too often.
Typically, short-haired breeds can be bathed twice a year. Longer-haired breeds will be more often, typically around once a month. When you bathe your cavy, make sure that you have shampoo intended specifically for the use on Guinea pigs.
Additionally, bath time can be stressful for pigs and if they’re not dried properly, they can catch a cold.
Having a Health and Happy Guinea Pig
Taking care of a guinea pig can be difficult, but it can also be very rewarding when done properly. When you are a responsible cavy owner, you’ll find that not only will your Guinea pig be happy and healthy, but they’ll also love you for how well you take care of them.