If you are looking for some sweet four-legged furry friends that are a bit easier or more affordable than a cat or dog, rodents can be a great solution. Most think of rats, mice, or hamsters, but the king of the small house pets will always be the guinea pig (or cavy, as they are sometimes referred to). Adding a pair of these creatures to your family is fun, but not without effort, and knowing the proper guinea pig care is crucial. You’ve come to the right place, this page is all about guinea pigs and the responsibilities of owning one.
Unlike the other rodents we listed, Guinea Pigs require a bit more attention and maintenance, and therefore might not make the ideal pet for a small child, or someone with a very busy schedule. Learning how to care for a guinea pig is important before making the leap and bringing them home.
We will try to cover all the ways to take care of a guinea pig, in our guinea pig guide. Keep in mind that taking care of a pet guinea pig means having the proper equipment, and the proper environment for them to live in. Prepare your home, and your schedule!
Ahead you will find the benefits about pet guinea pigs, a guinea pig guide to caring for them, a checklist for supplies, and many interesting guinea pig facts along the way.
Multiple Guinea Pigs- Companionship
Our first recommendation for potential Guinea Pig owners is to always get two guinea pigs, instead of one at a time. When asking “what do guinea pigs need?” the first answer is always companionship. These animals are social, and should always be kept away from larger house pets such as cats and dogs.
While they will be affectionate towards you, and enjoy your company if you are around them enough, it cannot replace the friendship between that of the same species.
Guinea Pig Facts
Baby Guinea Pigs are called “Pups” and can squeal, chirp, growl, and even purr to express themselves.
Getting two infant guinea pigs is the best insurance that they will get along. There is a common myth that male guinea pigs will fight with each other, but this is due to personality more than any other factors. In fact, it is more likely that female guinea pigs (sows) will fight with each other.
Getting baby guinea pigs gives the animals a chance to acclimate to each other as they grow up. It will also be easier for them to establish their habitats in their new environment together. If you leave for work or school most of the day, we stress even more that you have two guinea pigs so that they stay active and happy all day long.
Guinea pigs living in pairs will usually have better temperaments, and live longer if properly cared for.
Guinea Pig Cages and Environments
Taking care of guinea pigs properly starts with their cage. Having a large enough cage is a mistake that many guinea pig owners will make. Your furry friend needs enough room to roam around and exercise throughout the day, not just when it’s out of the cage. If you have two guinea pigs this is even more crucial due to hygiene as well as if you are introducing new guinea pigs to each other (something that should be done with extra precautions).
If you don’t have small children or other pets that roam around, your guinea pig cage does not need to have a roof. If you do get a roofed cage, make sure it is a wired cage, so that fresh air can get to your guinea pigs easily.
As far as specific sizing, we recommend that a cage for two guinea pigs be around 8 to 10 sq ft. (see our quick guide above). There is also an option of having a slightly smaller cage lead into a larger play area if you are able to clean up possible messes. It might also be a good way to make sure your guinea pigs are able to play when no one is around, but can be kept in a safer place when cats or dogs are roaming.
The cage should always be kept indoors, and preferably in a part of your home where they will be easily visible to you. Try to make sure that they are never in direct sunlight, they can very easily overheat and which can cause illness and fatality.
We would also recommend that they aren’t housed anywhere with excessive noise. Loud TV sound systems or instruments can cause them stress and heart problems.
Other cage amenities can include salt licks, and separate sleeping areas to give your guinea pigs some much needed time apart from each other.
Guinea Pig Facts
In the wild, guinea pigs can be found in grassy plains- which means they might like to roam around the yard under close supervision from time to time.
Pet Guinea Pig Diets
Adding in vegetables to your Guinea Pigs diet is a must. They don’t want to eat the same things every day for every meal any more than we do. Plus, there are plenty of vitamins and nutrients in certain vegetables that your guinea pigs will need to stay healthy.
Fresh vegetables like broccoli leaves and carrots are great suggestions.
As far as feeding them hay, Timothy Hay should be the only thing you give them. Guinea pigs need the hay to stay healthy, and the wrong kind of grasses can lead to health problems due to nutritional issues. If you want to skip hay, guinea pig pellet food should be made from Timothy grass.
If you’re giving them pellets and not fresh hay you might want to consider vitamin supplements as well. The best way to know how to take care of a guinea pig is through it’s diet, and being consistent is important.
Click the button below to view a guinea pig guide to health, containing detailed pet guinea pig information about diet care. You can even download an excel document that works like a calculator to determine exactly what you should be feeding your small friend.
How To Care For a Guniea Pig- Grooming
A big reason why guinea pig care is more complicated than the care of other rodents is due to the grooming attention they need. Of course, grooming will look different for short hair and long hair guinea pigs. We’ve tried to pack a lot of detail into just a bit of reading for you, bookmark this page as a quick reference!
You might have to brush your pet guinea pig daily to keep it’s fur clean. Guinea pigs shed a considerable amount, and the brushing can help with that- especially if they are a long haired breed. A guinea pig brush is typically made with soft bristles and you can find them at most pet supply stores.
Hair Length and Hair Cuts
Sometimes you might find that your long haired pet guinea pig can get a little dirty. If you see any kind of knotting on the belly of your guinea pig it’s recommend that you trim the hair. In a caged dirty fur can cause bacteria to form and result in skin irritation or illness. Learning how to care for guinea pigs health can start with maintaining it’s fur health. It is not recommended that you trim your guinea pigs fur to keep it short intentionally, but more for health purposes.
Nail Length and Nail Trimming
Nail trimming is perhaps one of the most tedious and important parts of taking care of guinea pigs. If the nails become too long and aren’t trimmed properly, they can break and cause injury and infection. Nail trimming for your guinea pigs care needs to happen at least once a month, if not every three weeks. Set a reminder in your calendar and keep a close eye on how fast their nails are growing.
Here is a quick video that explains how to clip guinea pigs nails properly. You want to stay clear of the quick, which is the flesh under the nail. Only trim the ends, and make sure you have good lighting. Stay calm and your pet guinea pig should stay calm, also.
Learning how to clean a guinea pig includes learning how to bathe guinea pigs. A proper guinea pig care guide will recommend baths quarterly every year, or if an accident occurs and their fur becomes dirty. So you might be asking, how do you bathe guinea pigs? In a bathroom sink is likely to be the easiest way. You do not need any soap. I REPEAT! Guinea Pig shampoo is not a thing that needs to exist. Warm water will be sufficient, and steer clear of the ears! Cleaning a guinea pigs ears is a whole other ball game and should be done carefully. Always dry your guinea pig with a towel to prevent it from getting too cold whist wet.
Guinea Pig Ears
Another thing to add to your regular grooming schedule is the cleaning of your pet guinea pig ears. Do not use q-tips, but instead a small piece of cloth that is soaked in warm water. Gently clean only the inside surface of the ear, do not try to clean closer to the ear canal. Guinea pig grooming is no joke, and this particular routine needs to take place every two weeks.
Guinea Pig Facts
The longest recorded jump by pet guinea pig is 12 inches- a record set by a pet named Truffles, in 2012.
Supply Checklist- What Do Guinea Pigs Need?
Now that you have read through the first part of our guinea pig care guide, take a look at some of the basic supplies you will need when taking care of guinea pigs. We’ve included some specific products if you are ready to shop for your new guinea pig as a pet. You can also easily print these pages off to take shopping with you as a quick reference guinea pig care sheet.
Cages can range in size and price. Two things to always look for are a plastic bottom, and how easy it will be for you to clean! One of our favorite companies for pet Guinea Pig housing is Living World. We recommend their Deluxe Habitat for comfortable dwelling.
Try to look for all natural bedding that is free of scent and dyes. Carefresh makes a great option, with this natural paper bedding.
A small guinea pig shelter like the one above is a great option for your pet to have somewhere to go and get away from the troubles of life. If you have two guinea pigs, you should make sure there is room in the cage for two shelters (one for each pet) so that they have somewhere to go to get away from each other as well.
4. Water and Food Dishes
For guinea pigs, a water dispenser is the best route to go to keep them hydrated. They also make some that dispense both water AND food. Gravity dispensers or bowls that are not chew-able are also great options. Bowls that lock to the side of the habitat are the best to keep things clean.
A good Timothy Based food is always a safe route to take. If you choose something else check Vitamin C levels and nutritional information before purchasing.
Farm to cage– you can order all your guinea pig needs online. Always have some Timothy Hay on hand to feed your companions!
It can be easy to over do it on treats, but these tropical fruit and nut treats are a great way to reward your pets and switch up their diets.
Guinea pig chews help keep your pet guinea pigs happy and their teeth healthy. This three pack of Perfect Chews can hang from the cage and keep them busy for hours.
Guinea Pigs don’t need much when it comes to entertainment. If they have places to go in their habitat then there’s not much else you need to get. a Pet Tunnel can be a fun addition as well, and be used in and out of the cage.
11. Nail Clippers
Pet’s nails are shaped differently than ours, so it’s important that you don’t use human nail clippers that are flat. The curved shape of guinea pig nails won’t cut easily with flat shaped clippers, and this could cause injury to your pet. Look for small animal clippers with a curved blade.
Regular brushings are in important and will be a breeze with this small double-sided brush that detangles on one side, and shines on the other.
FAQ About Guinea Pig Care
Here are a few commonly asked questions about guinea pigs. Some of them we answer in greater detail in the rest of our guinea pig care guide, but these snippets can be quite helpful.
Do guinea pigs make good pets?
Guinea pigs can make great pets as long as you fully understand how to properly take care of them. Guinea pig care can be more complicated than the care of other rodents, but they can make a great first pet as long as the proper research is done on them.
What is the average length of a guinea pig life span?
Guinea pig life expectancy can be anything from 4-8 years. Proper care and attention to your guinea pig is important to ensure a long and happy life. Getting your guinea pig from a reputable source can also increase the the length in lifespan of a guinea pig.
Do guinea pigs like to be pet?
Your guinea pig might not like being pet, but to help them become comfortable with petting make sure that the environment is calm, and so are you. Try to have treats handy as well. Start on the head, and be gentle.
Do guinea pigs like to be held?
Similar to petting, being handled by you will take some getting used to for your guinea pig. Be gentle, and try to be sitting down and have a solid surface to hold them over. If they squirm or bite, and you are standing, this could lead to serious injuries for your pet.
How do guinea pigs sleep?
Guinea pigs are often awake when you are because they will be alerted to the noise. They might even be found sleeping with their eyes open. If it seems like they are never sleeping, consider a quieter environment for them.
How much do guinea pigs weigh?
Guinea pigs weigh around 1.5-2.7 pounds once fully grown.
Can you tell me how to care for a guinea pig that is sick?
There is plenty of health information available online, but if your pet is sick we suggest you take it to a veterinarian.
What do I need to know most about guinea pigs?
Guinea pigs are animals, and don’t always behave as expected. Be observant and get to know your pet. We can advise you on general care information, but only you will truly know what your pet needs once you spend some time with it.