When buying a guinea pig it is important to consider the care you are going to give them. This article will give you basic does and don’ts when looking after a guinea pig.
In many cases, rabbits and guinea pigs can live alongside one another happily however there are many reasons why keeping them together can cause consequences.
Guinea pigs can become very stressed when kept around rabbits and this sometimes causes shock. If a rabbit tries to mate with a guinea pig because they are housed together, the guinea pig could suffer severely, this incredibly rare but has been known to be fatal. Bacterium such as Bordetella bronchiseptica can be carried in rabbits and is hazardous to guinea pigs. Rabbits and guinea pigs also have extremely different diets, keeping them together wouldn’t allow for both animals to get the right nutrients out of their food, which can cause health problems. Please see the Food section for further information.
Guinea pigs are very companionable creatures so it is often better to have more than one but be careful when purchasing as choosing a male and a female to live together will ultimately end up in guinea pig babies!
When choosing the perfect home for your guinea pig you need to carefully consider its size. The hutch or cage should be at least 4 times the length of your guinea pig when it is fully grown and at full stretch. If you have more than one guinea pig the hutch or cage needs to be bigger as more animals will be using it.
Your guinea pig will take a few days to get used to it’s new home as the sights and smells will be very different. For this reason it is usually a good idea to wait 3 or 4 days before you handle your new pet. Before picking your guinea pig up for the first time, it is advisable to hand feed them treats so that they can familiarise themselves with your hand. When you and your guinea pig are comfortable around each other, handling your guinea pig is easy. Face your guinea pig head on making sure you don’t make sudden movements that may make them uncomfortable. Take care to place one hand under your guinea pig’s abdomen and scoop the other under their rear. Sit somewhere comfortable like on a sofa so that they wouldn’t have far to fall if they were to slip out of your hands. Place their front feet flat on your chest and cuddle them. Chatter away to your guinea pig while stroking them and before you know it you’ll hear them chattering back!
Most people choose plastic cages for their guinea pigs but make sure you are buying the biggest one possible to maximise exercise. Placing your cage on a table will make your guinea pig feel more secure and will stop you being such a tall threat.
When keeping guinea pigs indoors it is important you play with and handle them more as they will be living in a smaller space than outside guinea pigs. Your furry friend will love roaming around your house but you must ensure there are no electrical cables within reach and that there are no unsuitable plants that could cause harm to their health.
Guinea pig’s hearing is much better than ours so they won’t like excessive noise that might not seem too loud to us. Cigarette smoke and direct sunlight make guinea pigs uncomfortable and therefore it is better to keep your guinea pig in an area where they won’t be affected.
When picking the best spot for your guinea pig’s cage or hutch you need to think carefully about the wind and sun. Bright sunlight will make your guinea pig uncomfortable, especially as they are prone to heatstroke and draughty areas will give your guinea pig an unnecessary chill which could possibly lead to a cold.
A sloping roof to your cage or hutch is preferable as it stops water logging and rot developing. A separate nest box is essential as it gives your guinea pig somewhere to sleep and hide – their little area of comfort and safety. Having a run is recommended, as guinea pigs love to roam around and play together. It is important to ensure your run is secure from cats and foxes with a cover over the top. As guinea pigs like hiding away, a box or pipe is perfect.
The winter months become very cold especially early in the morning and it is often advised to either bring your pets indoors or move their hutch into a shed or garage as long as there are no car fumes. If you can’t move your guinea pigs indoors or into another shelter don’t worry, there are many ways to keep your guinea pigs warm. Any sort of waterproof cover will immediately protect them from the elements. A blanket or snuggle cover underneath that will also help to conserve heat while foam, bubble wrap or any other insulating material is even better. For instant heat within the cage or hutch Snuggle Heat Pads are a safe way of keeping your guinea pig cosy and warm. Provide fresh hay daily, as this is important for a guinea pigs diet while also helping to keep them warm.
Fresh water must also be provided daily, something that can become harder in winter as bottles often freeze. Wrap your guinea pig’s water bottle in a bottle insulator to stop it freezing; many often have a window in them so that you can easily check water levels as well.