My guinea pig.Guinea Pigs are very clever and sociable animals. A happy healthy guinea pig can live between 5-8 years. They don't need a high cage as they don't jump but floor space should be 1m2 / guinea pig with a soft bedding and in an environment between 18 - 26 °C. In wintertime they should be housed indoors. Guinea pigs are best fed twice a day with a high fibrous diet and vitamin C.
Most guinea pigs do not mind being handled when done so correctly. They will love having a companion if the hutch is big enough to comfortably accommodate them both; the best companions are littermates or single sex groups. They should not be housed with rabbits.
History: Guinea pigs (cavies) originate from South America where the Incas bred them for food. People in Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia still keep guinea pigs, like chickens, for food. The Spanish introduced guinea pigs to Europe in the 16th Century after they conquered the Incas. Wild populations of guinea pigs still exist in South America in a range of habitats including grassland, swamps, forest and rocky areas. Guinea pigs have the Latin name Cavia Porcellus, which means “pig-like cavy”.
Breeds: Controlled breeding of guinea pigs has led to a wide variety of colours and textures of coats. Cavy colours are classed in 3 sections – Agouti (the hair has several different bands of colour), Self-coloured (one solid colour) and cavies with markings (combinations of colours in marks on the coat).
Looking After Your Guinea Pig
Living in a hutch allows your guinea pig to live outside and receive plenty of sunshine and fresh air every day. The minimum size for a good hutch is 3ft wide x 2ft deep x 18in high (91cm x 61cm x 45cm). It should be around 4-5 times the length of the guinea pig when it is stretched out. In wintertime guinea pigs should be housed indoors as the best temperature to keep them is between 18-26°C.
The hutch should be placed in a position that is sheltered and out of direct sunlight. Extremes of temperature can cause stress to the animal, which may result in discomfort or illness. Place the hutch on bricks or legs to avoid becoming damp during wet weather. Ensure the roof is sloping, waterproofed and overhangs slightly to avoid poor drainage on the top surface. Always ensure hutch doors are locked to avoid accidental escape or access by predators, such as foxes.
It is important to have fresh safe bedding for your guinea pig to keep it clean and dry as well as warm and cosy at night. Hutches should be cleaned out on a regular basis. This is especially important in warmer weather in order to prevent flies being attracted to the hutch, as this may result in an infestation of maggots. In the wetter months, bedding can become damp and mouldy from extreme weather.
See the Supreme range of bedding and cleaning products in store at Scampers or speak to one of our Pet Care Advisors who are always happy to help.
Feeding Your Guinea Pig
In their natural habitat guinea pigs eat different types of vegetation. Domestic guinea pigs are also herbivorous (with the exception of placentophagy). They digest fibre more efficiently than rabbits do.
Guinea pigs need a balanced diet of specially formulated guinea pig food and hay daily. The guinea pig food must include Vitamin C as guinea pigs cannot generate their own and will fall ill without it. Hay in their diet provides fibre to aid digestion and helps to wear down their continuously growing teeth. Scampers recommends Supreme Science Selective super premium Guinea Pig food.
As natural foragers, guinea pigs need feeding twice a day, every day (in the morning and in the evening). To limit the likelihood of selective feeding, ensure the first portion is finished before feeding the second. A good quality, wide-based metal food bowl is essential to keep the food dry and clean, and prevent the guinea pig from tipping the food on to the floor of the hutch. A water bottle will keep the water clean and fresh from soiling.
Sometimes selective feeding can occur with your animal. This is when the Guinea Pig will only eat certain ingredients in a course mix diet, therefore missing out on vital nutrients. To solve this problem, feed a mono component diet, with all the ingredients in easy to eat biscuits. Always check the recommended daily allowances (on the front of the pack) are supplied by any food you buy.
Treating your Guinea Pig
Your guinea pig will love a treat, and as long as they are good for them, there is no reason why you shouldn't feed one or two occasionally. Try hiding some in the hutch to encourage them to forage, for example Forest Fruit treats which will also help to grind their teeth. Scampers have a great range of Supreme Guinea Pig Treats.
Guinea pigs are naturally frightened of large, open spaces but love playing in a run that contains playthings, such as boxes, flowerpots, drainpipes and logs as they make great hiding places and excellent tunnels. It only takes a few items to create an exciting environment for them. Security and position are extremely important to avoid any harm or stress to your guinea pig during its playtime.
A guinea pig’s natural instinct is to forage, explore and socialise. Mealtime is always over too quickly and this could mean that your guinea pig might get bored. Hide food in different places and your guinea pig will be forced to find its food – and this helps to prevent it from becoming bored. Piles of logs (natural wood – willow, beech, hazel or apple) make platforms for them to explore or rest under. Guinea pigs will chew the wood and this will help keep their teeth in trim. Pop in and see the ‘Furry Fun’ accessories range from Supreme at Scampers.
Handling Your Guinea Pig
The best way to pick up your guinea pig is to talk to it as you approach on the same level. Crouch in front of your pet and let it come to you, presenting the back of your hand for it to sniff. Gently place your hand across its shoulders with the thumb behind the front legs on one side. Slowly lift the guinea pig and place your other hand under its rump and then place it on your lap or hold it to your chest and very slowly stand up.
Your guinea pig will love having a companion, but you must have a hutch which is large enough to accommodate more than one guinea pig. It is best to acquire littermates in order to avoid fighting. Female pairs or groups will be fine. Males will live happily together but may become agitated if in the vicinity of females. Females and males will be happy together but will result in litters unless one of the pair is neutered. Guinea pigs should never be paired with rabbits, as rabbits are naturally dominant and may try to bully the guinea pig.
Guinea pigs are generally hardy animals, but there are some ailments that can befall them:
Dental Problems – as with all rodents, guinea pigs’ teeth continue to grow throughout their life. Guinea pigs require a high fibre diet to ensure the teeth are evenly worn and to prevent overgrowth. If the teeth are not worn, they grow incorrectly, leading to discomfort, abscesses, anorexia etc. Indication of dental problems may be saliva around the mouth, chest or front paws, and an inability to eat or teeth grinding. Ensure the diet contains sufficient fibre and hay is always available. Seek veterinary advice if you are at all concerned.
Abscesses – can be caused during knocks or fights, or even by food that is sharp and has injured the mouth. You will be able to feel a hard lump. It is best to move the guinea pig into an area of its own and take him to the vet as soon as possible, so the abscess can be treated.
Skin Complaints – Guinea pigs are prone to skin conditions. Perhaps the most common is mange. Mange is caused by a little mite that burrows into the skin surface. You will notice little raised spots on the skin that can become “scurfy”. Your guinea pig will scratch these itchy areas which will develop scabs and cause its hair to fall out. It is important that you take your guinea pig to the vet for treatment.
Hypovitaminosis C or 'scurvy' - Vitamin C is essential for building and repairing collagen. Collagen fibres form the basis of bones, cartilage, tendons, muscles and blood vessels. Vitamin C is also essential for many other processes in the body. Guinea pigs are not able to produce vitamin C themselves and therefore need vitamin C in their diet. A lack of vitamin C can lead to lameness, loss of teeth, rough coat, alopecia and anorexia. It is important to take your guinea pig to the vet for treatment as soon as any of these symptoms occur. Keeping the hutch clean, dry and regularly treated with Keep It Clean should give your pet guinea pig the best chance of a long and healthy life.
Supreme Petfoods, Promoting the Well-Being of Small Animals.
Extra Bits about your Guinea Pig:
Latin name: Cavia Porcellus
Life span: 5-8 years
Litter size: 1-6 piglets
Birth weight: 70-100gms
Eyes open: at birth
Gestation period: 59-72 days
Average weight: Male & Female 750-1000gms
Sexual maturity: 45-70 days
Weaning age: 3 weeks
Diet Herbivorous: (Average 30-40 grams per day)