Guinea Pigs

a Guinea Pig wearing purple glasses and lying on a book

Guinea Pigs are one of the most popular family pets around the world. They are small, cuddly, and full of personality, making them a great choice for those looking for an adorable companion.

Guinea Pigs are one of the smallest mammals, weighing between 2 and 2.5 pounds. They are native to South America, and are very popular as pets. First bred 3,000 years ago by the Incas, Guinea Pigs were brought by the Spanish from South America to Europe in the 16th century. Modern day Guinea Pigs are popular pets, loved by both adults and children. They rank high among the social animals and prefer to live in groups, yet also appreciate human affection.

If you’re considering getting a guinea pig as a pet, there are some important things to know before you make your decision. Guinea Pigs require daily care and attention. They need to be fed a healthy diet, given plenty of exercise, and groomed regularly. They need to be handled gently and with patience, because they can become stressed out.

Guinea Pigs are very curious creatures, and will enjoy trying out different things. They are also very intelligent, and will enjoy playing games with their family. They are very sensitive to noise, and will become stressed if they hear loud noises. They are very docile and gentle animals, and are very easy to care for and handle.

Guinea Pigs are very easy to care for, and will take care of themselves without needing much supervision. They are also very quiet, and very clean, and enjoy regular baths. They are very friendly, and enjoy interacting with other people.

Guinea Pigs make great companions for children, and enjoy having someone to play with. They are also very smart, and enjoy learning new skills.

Guinea pigs can be purchased from breeders, and will cost anywhere between $25-$40. Buying them from a pet store you can expect to pay between $50 and $75 per Guinea Pig.

When it comes to diet, Guinea Pigs need a balanced diet of hay, fresh vegetables, and a small amount of pellets. You should make sure that they have access to vitamin C supplements. Guinea Pigs can’t produce their own vitamin C and need it to keep from getting scurvy.

Overall, guinea pigs make great family pets. They are friendly, social animals that require daily care and attention. If you’re looking for a pet that will bring joy and companionship into your home, a guinea pig may be the perfect choice for you.

Information about Guinea Pigs

  • Average size: 8 to 11 inches
  • Average Weight: 1.65 to 2.65 lb
  • Fur Colors: Black and white, red and black, silver, red, and white, red and white
  • Grooming Needs: Low
  • Sensitive to Touch: No
  • Tolerance to Heat and Cold: Guinea Pigs are affected by extreme heat or cold
  • Good Pet: Yes
  • Safe with Children: Yes
  • Good with Other Guinea Pigs: Yes
  • Good with Other Pets: No
  • Good for Less Experienced Pet Owners: Yes
  • Training: They learn tricks with proper training
  • Exercise Needs: Moderate need
  • Weight Gain: Can become obese
  • Health Concerns: diarrhea, pneumonia, urinary infections, and vitamin C deficiency
  • Average Life Span: 5 to 7 years

Physical Appearance of Guinea Pigs

a Guinea Pig in the grass about to eat a small white flower

Guinea Pigs are stout with short legs and small heads and equally small ears. Guinea Pigs eyes are located on the sides of their head to allow them to see in front and behind without straining. 

The front legs of Guinea Pigs have four toes each while the hind legs have 3 toes each. The front legs are usually shorter than their hind ones. It’s also worth noting that unlike other rodents, Guinea Pigs have no tails.

Temperament of Guinea Pigs

Guinea Pigs are docile pets that will rarely bite or scratch. They are very timid and any frightening sounds or movements will have them quickly run into hiding. Guinea Pigs enjoy living in groups because they are very social animals. A Guinea Pig constantly growls, purrs, or even squeaks to communicate to other Guinea Pigs.

Training Guinea Pigs

Guinea Pigs are smart and can learn awesome tricks just like dogs or cats with proper training and patience. The best way to reinforce commands is by giving them rewards. 

When your Guinea Pig performs a trick correctly, give them a healthy treat and they’ll be more likely to repeat the trick again. Remember to keep training sessions short and fun so that your Guinea Pig doesn’t get bored.

A Guinea Pig can learn to stand on their hind legs, sit down, and spin on a wheel. Training sessions should be consistent and frequent for best results.

Their Compatibility with Children

2 Guinea Pigs up against the bars of their cage wanting to come out and play

Guinea Pigs are great pets for kids because they are funny and active which can entertain children. Before bringing home a Guinea Pig, teach your children how to handle them correctly. Show them how to hold them using both hands. 

Since Guinea Pigs can live for about 8 years, it’s important to consider that children can outgrow their interest in their pet. It is possible a parent may need to take care of the Guinea Pig if this happens.

Children can feed the Guinea Pig but they shouldn’t be allowed to clean the cage because it requires more attention to detail. If done incorrectly, you may end up having a cage full of sick Guinea Pigs due to poor hygiene.

Best Habitat for Guinea Pigs

The minimum size cage should be 36”L x 30”W x 18”T. The cage can either be plastic, wire, or metal. The best temperature to keep the cage is 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

The floor of their cage should be a smooth tray to protect your Guinea Pigs feet from getting injured. Having a tray also makes cleaning easy because you can quickly remove the tray to clean it and place it back into the cage.

Your Guinea Pigs will need some kind of bedding. The bedding should be made of shredded paper or hardwood shavings. Avoid cedar bedding because they have a strong scent that could cause respiratory irritations with your pet.

You can also use towels to line the floor of the bedding and then place some fleece on top. Make sure that there aren’t any hanging strings that can tangle your pet and injure their legs.

A hay rack is also a good idea to have in their cage because it protects the hay from contamination with water, urine, and poop. 

Toys are also a must have in your Guinea Pigs cage to help them play and exercise.

Habitat Maintenance

a Guinea Pig sitting in the grass against a wall like a person sits

If you use hay as bedding for your pet, check to see if any needs to be replaced every day because your Guinea Pig might eat the hay. Depending on what type of bedding you use, clean and reuse or replace when necessary. 

Clean the feeding bowls every day and wipe dry any urine on the floor of their cage. As you clean the bowls, discard any leftover food and replenish with fresh supplies to avoid contamination.

Check their water bottle to make sure it has enough water to get them through the day and that it’s not leaking water.

Each week the entire cage should be completely cleaned. First remove your pet(s), bowls, bedding, and tray. Thoroughly clean the cage using Guinea Pig safe disinfectants and some warm water. Tackle the corners where the pets tend to drop their waste. Clean the flooring tray and wipe it dry. 

Any toys and other accessories should also be cleaned or replaced. Once you’re done cleaning, spray a disinfectant before placing your pet back in their cage.

The Attention Requirements of Guinea Pigs

Guinea Pigs are generally cuddly pets that enjoy human contact. Guinea Pigs should be handled for at least a few minutes every day. As you handle your Guinea Pig, you can check them for any signs of illness.

The best way to handle a Guinea Pig is by placing one hand near its back end while the other hand holds it from the mid-section of its upper body. Never hold your Guinea Pig using one hand because you risk dropping them and hurting them. It’s normal for your pet to jump or even run if it’s not used to handling but with time, they will enjoy being petted.

If you have the space, it would be great for their health to place your pet in an open room with toys they can use to exercise. Obesity is a common problem among Guinea Pigs and plenty of exercise time is necessary for their wellbeing.

Health Issues

an illustration of a sick guinea pig

A healthy Guinea Pig has clear eyes, shiny fur, eats well, walks normally, and is active. As a precaution, it is a good idea to take your Guinea Pig for a full body and fecal examination every 6 months.  

Exercise is also a great way to keep your pet healthy because they tend to become obese especially if overfed. Here are some of the health problems to watch out for if you have a Guinea Pig.

Diarrhea/Gastrointestinal Stasis

Guinea Pigs have a very sensitive digestive system that gets irritated by drastic changes in diet. The pet may end up having loose stool. Another cause of diarrhea in Guinea Pigs is the presence of parasites such as coccidia in the digestive system. 

The imbalance of good bacteria in the intestinal tract slows down the digestion process and fills the tummy with gas which is painful for your pet.

A Guinea Pig with gastrointestinal stasis may also lack appetite, appears unhappy, and may lose weight. It’s possible to know when your pet has diarrhea because the poop tends to stick on the pet’s bottom and has a terrible smell.

If you notice signs of diarrhea on your Guinea Pig, seek medical attention from your vet because your pet could die. Avoid treating diarrhea with over the counter treatment because antibiotics are known to worsen diarrhea in Guinea Pigs.

Pneumonia

Pneumonia is the most common respiratory infection that afflicts Guinea Pigs. The illness is often caused by the Bordetella and Streptococcus bacteria. Most Guinea Pigs have these bacteria but only get sick if stressed by conditions such as overcrowding. Young Guinea Pigs are also susceptible to pneumonia.

Sick pets show signs of labored breathing, discharge from the eyes and the nose, wheezing, and sneezing. As soon as you realize your pet may have contracted pneumonia, visit your veterinarian for proper diagnosis because treatment is given depending on the causative bacteria.

Urinary Tract Infections

The most common urinary system related infections are stones in the urethra, bladder, or ureter. The stones may lead to a life threatening situation due to obstruction of internal organs. Here are some of the signs to look out for if your Guinea Pig has a urinary infection.

  • Hunched posture
  • Blood in urine
  • The pet urinates small amounts taking pauses as though in pain
  • Inability to urinate if obstruction of the bladder occurs
  • Lack of appetite

Urinary tract stones in Guinea Pigs are dangerous and should be treated immediately. Usually a veterinarian may have to perform a surgery on the pet to remove the stones.

Scurvy/Vitamin C Deficiency

Guinea Pigs cannot naturally produce their own Vitamin C. If they don’t eat foods rich in vitamin C, they may become sick. Vitamin C plays a very vital role in the body of Guinea Pigs without which they may contract scurvy.
A Guinea Pig with a vitamin C deficiency shows the following signs.

a bottle of vitamin c
  • Weak joints
  • Skin and gum infections
  • Lack of appetite
  • Swollen feet
  • Diarrhea

A sick Guinea Pig should be taken to a vet immediately because the illness can quickly lead to death. As a preventative measure, give them about 10 – 30 milligrams of Vitamin C each day. Most Guinea Pig pellets are enhanced with Vitamin C. 

If you aren’t feeding your pet on the commercial pellets, give them Vitamin C supplement either as a liquid or tablet. Avoid mixing the supplement with water because it loses its potency when mixed with water and left out for a long time.

Skin diseases

Most skin diseases are caused by external parasites such as lice, mites, fleas, and ticks. Ringworms also cause skin infections in Guinea Pigs and affected skin areas may develop itchiness and the fur may fall from the skin.

Overcrowding is also a major cause of external parasites in Guinea Pigs. Once you overcrowd the cage, the pets become stressed which exposes them to the risk of attack by parasites. The external parasites may cause so much discomfort to your pet that it could even have seizures. An infested pet should be taken to the vet for diagnosis and treatment.

General Grooming for Guinea Pigs

a Guinea Pig having their hair brushed

Bathing and Brushing

Guinea Pigs are clean and rarely need baths. Baths should be limited to about three times in a year because regular baths can disrupt the natural bacteria and oils on their skin. 

Brushing their fur is necessary to help distribute the natural oils on their skin evenly throughout their body. Short-furred Guinea Pigs should have their fur brushed three times a week. The long-furred Guinea Pigs need daily brushing because their fur has a tendency to tangle and become uncomfortable.

When cleaning your Guinea Pig, avoid shampoos meant for people because they have harsh chemicals that will irritate your pet’s skin. Look for shampoos meant for Guinea Pigs and which are available at the pet stores.

Nail Trimming

If your pet’s nails get too long you can clip your pet’s nails every 3 weeks. Make sure not to trim too close to the blood vessels or they may bleed. If you accidentally cut a blood vessel while clipping their nails, make sure to apply some cornstarch to stop the bleeding.

If you aren’t sure about how to trim your Guinea Pig’s nails, you can ask your vet to show you how to do it safely.

Feeding Guinea Pigs

Feed your Guinea Pig with commercial pellets meant for Guinea Pigs. The pellets should contain vitamin C because unlike other rodents, Guinea Pigs aren’t able to produce Vitamin C on their own.

Hay should make up the largest part of your Guinea Pig’s diet because it helps trim their teeth and at the same time gives your pet dietary fiber. The front teeth of a Guinea Pig grow throughout their lives and the only way to trim them is through chewing on things. Fiber is necessary for your pet because it aids in digestion.

Timothy grass makes the best hay for adult Guinea Pigs and can also be used as bedding. Other types of natural hay you can feed your pet are Botanical hay, Oat hay, and Orchard grass. 

Alfalfa grass is also a great supplement to the diet of your pet but should only be given occasionally as a treat to reduce picky eating. If you have a pregnant Guinea Pig or small babies, then Alfalfa is the best for them because it’s highly nutritious and helps promote faster growth.

Feed your Guinea Pigs fruits such as melons, strawberries, and oranges. Citrus fruits are a great source of Vitamin C for your Guinea Pig, and help prevent scurvy. Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, kale, and cabbages should also be part of your pets’ diet for proper nutrition. 

Clean water should always be available for your Guinea Pig in a sipper bottle. A sipper bottle is great because they won’t tip it over. The bottle is one less thing to clutter their cage with because it is attached to the side of their cage.

Feed your Guinea Pigs food in ceramic bowls because they’re heavy and not likely to topple over on to your Guinea Pig. Another option is to use stainless steel dishes that can be clipped on the cage preventing spilling.

Related Questions:

Can I Keep Guinea Pigs with Rabbits?

Guinea Pigs and rabbits should never be kept together because rabbits can have germs that can make your Guinea Pigs sick. Rabbits are also bigger than Guinea Pigs and by accident may step on or kick your Guinea Pig and kill it.

Can Guinea Pigs Live Together?

Guinea Pigs are social and can live together peacefully. In some cases, the males in one cage may fight over females. The best way to keep more than one Guinea Pig in one cage is having same sexes or having a male and a female as long as the male is neutered.
If you keep a male and a female without neutering the male, you may end up with many baby Guinea Pigs within a short time. Having so many baby Guinea Pigs in one cage is another problem entirely to deal with!