Thinking of buying a Guinea Pig?
The humble Cavy, or Guinea Pig as it’s more commonly known, is often a child’s first introduction to keeping an animal as a pet. Whilst, generally, being a robust and easy to care for pet there are a few things the beginner needs to know, in order to keep their guinea pig healthy, and happy in their new home. In the following few paragraphs we’ll go over a few do’s and don’ts that if put in to practice will go a long way to ensuring you and your new pet have a long a happy existence together.
Guinea pigs are very social animals. If you intend on keeping one as a pet consider getting two. Unless you are prepared to put a lot of time in playing and socialising with you new friend a pair is the best option. Two females are a good combination. Sow’s (girl guinea pigs) get along fine with each other.
If you choose to get two boy’s it is a good idea to get them when they are young. If you already have a male and you choose to get another boy make sure the new addition is less than six months old. Boar’s (boy guinea pigs) will fight with each other to establish who the boss of the hutch is. If you get your boys young they will sort it out with minimal fuss and likely not hurt each other. If you acquire a male companion for your existing male guinea pig remember to make sure he is under six months old. A young male will easily submit to the older male and take up position as number two. However if you add an adult male in with your pet male they will get quite aggressive towards each other and can seriously injure themselves, even fighting to the death if neither one is prepared to make allowances for the other.
On the other hand if you decide to purchase a male and a female guinea pig very soon you will find your guinea pigs have multiplied. Unless you are prepared to take responsibility for the babies this combination is probably not the best for the novice guinea pig owner. Although not quite as prolific a breeder as the rabbit your guinea pig is quite capable of having three or four litters a year. With an average of four babies a litter you will soon find you have more piggies than you can handle.
With guinea pigs 1 +1 can soon equal 7
Grass Hay is essential to the well being of your new pet. It is the perfect bedding material for them and a great food source. It keeps their teeth in check and is vital to their digestive system. The teeth of a guinea pig continually grow, that means they need to gnaw to wear them down. Hay is perfect for this and will slow them down from gnawing on their cages. If you choose to provide your guinea pig with an alternate bedding material it is still advisable to provide them with hay for the other reasons provided. Straw is not a suitable substitute and can actually injure your pet’s eyes if used as bedding.
Your Pet's Favourite Substance - Hay!
Vitamin C is an important dietary requirement for your guinea pig as, like humans, they cannot produce their own therefore it must be consumed as part of their diet to provide them with this important nutrient. Food items that are high in Vitamin C your guinea pig will enjoy eating are Red Capsicums (pimento’s), Broccoli, Strawberries and Oranges to name a few. They may not appear to like oranges or capsicums at first, but if offered to them regularly your pet will develop a liking for these fruits and vegetables and look forward to getting them again. Other treats include cauliflower and broccoli leaves, which you can often get for free from your local greengrocer. Carrots, Apples, Watermelon and many other fruits and vegetables will also be gratefully accepted by your pet Guinea Pig.
High Vitamin C For Your Piggy!
There are three things you should not feed your guinea pig. Onions, your guinea pig will likely not go anywhere near an onion anyway, but don’t give them the opportunity as they are harmful to them. Potatoes are in the same basket as onions and are of no use to your guinea pig as food. Lettuce is the last thing you should not give to your guinea pig. The odd lettuce leaf on a hot summer day will not harm your guinea pig. Excessive consumption of lettuce leaves will end up giving your pet a good dose of diarrhoea. Treat lettuce leaves as a hot weather treat for your pet.
While on the subject of food I will make mention of the two best food sources for your pet, guaranteed to keep them happy and healthy. Fresh grass is by far a Guinea Pigs food of choice. If your backyard does not provide enough try to get out to a paddock or meadow and pick your pet a bag full of grass, just be careful that the areas you pick from don’t get sprayed with chemical fertilisers or poisons.
A good quality grain mix will keep your cavy happy when grass supplies are low. A 20kg bag of basic Horse Grain Feed with a little molasses is the cheapest option and will last quite a long time. The smaller packages of food, found in your supermarket isle, specifically marketed at guinea pigs are also quite good, and well suited to the pet owner who only has a few little mouths to feed.
Last, but certainly not least is water. Cool, fresh water must always be made available to your guinea pig. Guinea Pigs love a drink of water, especially if fed a lot of dry foods. The best way to provide them with this is through a special sipper bottle, available at any good pet supply store. Your pet will soon get the hang of how to use it. Sipper bottles are far superior to a dish or bowl of water. Your piggy will eventually, knock over, urinate and poo in a bowl of water.
In extremes of heat always keep an eye on your Guinea Pig and their water supply. The small sipper bottles will soon heat up and become unpalatable in direct heat. The bottles should be refilled as required. Extreme heat is not your guinea pigs friend and can quickly tax their health so try and keep them in a cool, shady position when it’s hot out.
And To Wrap Things Up
These tips are not the be all and end all of guinea pig care. But they will get you off to good start in providing the correct things your new pet needs. Guinea Pigs make great pets and can provide hours of amusement to their owners. Their quirky little faces, grunts and squeals all add to their appeal as a pet. Research you pets requirements well before you purchase and you will be in a much better position to provide for and enjoy the company of your new friend.