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A Guinea Pig QUICK-BRIEF

This is a family-friendly page on the domestic guinea pig.
This page is just an introduction to why guinea pigs make the ideal family pet.
It is not exhaustive information, but a useful quick introduction!

enjoy!

why Guinea Pigs? the pig files diet
our guinea pigs maintenance vital statistics!
rabbits summer living accommodation
ailments gender links
 

Why Guinea Pigs?

Guinea pigs, or cavia porcellus to give them their proper name, are in many ways ideal family pets!

Yes, the domesticated guinea pig can make a great pet -
low cost to buy, low cost of upkeep, not noisy, does not demand constant attention -
.....yet are affectionate, cuddly, and can be bred easily.

 

the pig files

Lifespan5 to 8 years, sometimes longer
Sizefrom about 8 inches to 14 inches long (20-36cm)
Breedingup to 5 times a year with litter of 2 to 4 or even more!
One of our readers Jessica points out that you can kill the sow if she is breed before 2 months of age and will cause serious damage to the sow if she becomes pregnant for the first time after 6 months of age.
MenuGuinea pigs are veggie!
prepared guinea pig food from pet store supplemented with carrot, peas, most green leafs, though not lettuce as this is associated with colic in guinea pigs.
Handlinghandle often for best reaction with children, but with great care!
Typesdutch, coronet, texel, sheltie, agouti, rex, abyssinian, american crested, self black
 

diet

A guinea pig can be a fussy little creature, expect likes and dislikes, and a bit like some of us, they don't like change!
Staple guinea pig mix from your pet store is the basic diet, but even here beware!
 - best choose a guinea pig mix that prevents selective feeding, i.e. they choose those bits they like and leave the bits they don't.
The consequences of this is that they may lack a balanced diet and can be prone to illnesses as a result.
With experience it is possible to provide them with a balanced diet without resorting to pet store products at all!

Next we come to fruit and veg - and here little often is better than too much which can cause diarrhoea.
Guinea pigs need fresh fruit and veg, and are partial to green leafs.
A Vitamin C supplement in their drinking water is recommended, but read the instructions so not to over-dose!

Try beetroot (not pickled), carrot, broccoli, celery, cauliflower leafs, cabbage (in moderation), but lettuce only very occasionally if at all, as it can cause colic.
Offer orange, apple, grapes but not the whole fruit, cut or slice and make this a treat rather than constantly available.

Be somewhat wary of these special hang-up treats from pet stores as they may have excess sugar.
One correspondent suggested a twig from and apple or pear tree, expecially in the spring when the tree is in bud is great for teeth.
Another essential is a daily fresh supply of clean water.

Remember guinea pigs are veggie, so no meat or dairy products, and definately no sweets or anything with sugar.

Hay is essential and there should always be a supply of fresh grass hay in their home which should be replenished every time their cage is cleaned!

NOW SOME DONT'S
iceburg lettuce, uncooked beans, geminating potatoes, pears, dairy products, and unshelled nuts.

our guinea pigs!

 
Bobby Fruitcake
Joey molly
these are some of the g-pigs that we have had over the years!
below - two visitors we looked after late 2010-Feb.2011
Penny Peppa
.....and our current 4 below.
Lily Rosiebear
LilyRosiebear
Kookie Muffin
KookieMuffin
 

Maintenance/Cleaning

Maintenance is very important, but not difficult.
Your guinea pig hutch will SMELL if not cleaned on a regular basis!
The floor of the living quarters will need the following procedure carried out every two to three days for a single pig in residence, or almost daily if there are two or more!

  1. Take g-pig out of home and place where it cannot get back in until you are finished.
  2. remove all existing floor covering and discard hygenically, also old fruit and veg.
  3. spray the floor with a suitable antiseptic cleanser (your local pet store will sell these)
  4. wipe the floor with kitchen paper or a paper towel.
  5. place new bedding on the hutch or cage floor to a depth such that all the wood or plastic is covered, and possibly up to a depth of quarter to half inch.
  6. allow pet to return home, and reward with treat!

Shampooing and grooming is as much an exercise in preventive medicine as cosmetic procedure and should not be carried out more than necessary and certainly not more frequently than twice a year.
A bathing regime is not difficult, and here are the key points.

  1. Fill a bath or basin to a level where he can paddle but not drown.
  2. Temperature should be lukewarm.
  3. Use a small pet shampoo as sold by pet stores.
  4. Avoid contact with the eyes (both you and the pet!)
  5. Keep him supported as he may try to jump out, and could injure himself if allowed to escape from the confines of the bath/sink.
  6. Wash gently, using your fingers, pressure is neither necessary nor comfortable.
  7. After a final rinse wrap your gp in a clean towel, and hand dry, avoiding drafts especially whilst wet.
  8. A hair drier can be used, but carefully, make sure not too hot, and shield the eyes.
  9. About twice a year should be about right.
 

vital statistics

body weight-adult male900-1000 gram
about 2 lb
body weight-adult sow700-900gram
25-32 oz
birth weight60-115gram
2-4 oz
breeding life18-20 months   4-5 litters
sow fertility4-5 weeks
boar fertility8-10 weeks
sow cycle length15-17 days
gestation period59-72 days
litter interval96 days
 

Rabbits

Often guinea pigs are housed with rabbits, especially at pet stores.
It is a common practice, but the advice from most expert sources is - DON'T DO IT!
If kept outdoors, they are often considered as company for each other, as the guinea pig can get warmth from the larger rabbit
BUT
- a rabbit has very powerful back legs which often does great harm to the more fragile guinea pig!
Also, they are different species, and in general terms should not be kept together, their dietary requirements differ.
 
Jalene Minkevics wrote to say that it is a little known fact about Rabbits and Guinea Pigs and why you should never, ever house them together.
This is a lesson she learned the hard way with a $300.00 vet bill for her $35 guinea pig.
Rabbits can be carriers of a bacteria called Bordetella which does not cause any illness in the rabbit but causes pneumonia in guinea pigs.
Although not all rabbits carry this bacteria, most do and therefore should you wish to keep your guinea pig and save yourself money do not house them together.

Rabbits will burrow, and if placed on grass outdoors will soon escape by burrowing under the hutch.
Guinea pigs do not have this burrowing instinct, but will be quite happy to use any tunnel provided by an obliging bunny!

 

Summer living

Hot weather poses special problems for guinea pigs. As a general rule if we humans feel hot, then chances are so will our guinea pigs!
Here are some quick-brief tips to help keep your pet happy in the summer.

  1. Always keep out of direct sunlight.
  2. Make sure they have a regular and fresh supply of water.
  3. If kept out of doors make sure cats or other animals cannot get in at them.
  4. Guinea pigs do not like drafts, so make sure they have shelter.

And for those cold winter months, a quick tip is to provide plenty hay for your g-pig to keep warm in! (see also section on diet above)

 

Living quarters

Some ideas on guinea pig accommodation.
There are some who say that guinea pigs should NOT be kept outdoors?
- but I recommend a sensible approach of doing this only in temperate climates making sure there is shelter and adequate security.

An alternative is the C&C (Cube and Correx) system.
The frame and wire lattice portion of the cage is built from wire grids normally used in the assembly of wire grid storage cubes.
These square wire grids are usually 14-inches long on each edge.
This sort of shelving is often seen in stores or boutiques where clothing or other items are displayed in arrays of wire grid cubes or cubbies - hence, the first C in C&C comes from the word cube.
The second C in C&C comes from the other material used in C&C cage construction -- Correx (also known as Coroplast)
Correx is basically corrugated PVC (polyvinylchloride) plastic sheeting and is used to form the litter pan or bin in the bottom of the cage.
This material is commonly used by sign-makers in the fabrication of economical weatherproof signage and used almost everywhere from estate agent boards to traffic signage.

cube Example of a C&C cage sold on eBay some time back
 
You make up the frame in a modular fashion based on the square wire or plastic coated mesh units then cut Correx sheets for the base and sides.
 
Best then use fleece or wood shavings to cover the correx base which forms the absorbent layer and which is changed as required for hygiene purposes and is the surface for the guinea pigs.
 
See picture below for our C&C cage which is a 6 x 2 and easily houses 4 guineapigs.
Rosiebear, Muffin, Kookie and Lily definitely seem happier since they moved in to this accommodation!
C&C

Outdoor Hutch
(above) from "The Proper Care of GUINEA PIGS" by the late Peter Gurney.
cage Available small g-pig homes.
Many people make their own pet accommodation, and there is also the possibility for outdoor covered runs for use in warmer weather!
The bigger the better, aim for at least 1 metre (3 feet) length with compartments.
 

What can go wrong!

Guinea pigs are generally fine if well looked after, however look out for the following symptoms.
Please note that this author is not qualified as a vet, therefore if you are worried about the health of your pet, seek medical advice from a qualified person without delay.

  1. Diarrhoea
    This might be a symptom of a serious ailment, and professional advice is advised.
  2. Constipation
    Might be caused by lack of greens.
    Treat with plenty wet veg, or in severe cases, medicinal liquid paraffin. (seek medical advice)
  3. Bumble foot
    Swelling in the foot and slight redness.
    It is not contagious but treatable with antibiotics.
    This is potentially a dangerous condition, so do not delay.
  4. Worms
    Seen as white streaks in their droppings usually comes from grazing on grass.
    This is a case for the vet however.
  5. Bladder Stones
    The symptoms are obvious pain on urination, probably accompanied by unusual squeaking, and arching of the back.
    One reason for stones developing could be lack of fluid, and not enough acid in the diet.
    Check if your guinea pig drinks regularly, and offer celery, beetroot, apple, but not lettuce.
  6. Lice
    White in colour, very small, and crawl about on his fur.
    Treat with a suitable shampoo available on prescription.
  7. Eye problems
    sore, runny eyes sometimes occur particularly if the pig is kept in a draught.
    Treatment is usually by eye drops or ointment on prescription.
  8. Dental problems
    We were worried when our Bobby broke his two front incisors, and seemed to be having difficulty in coping with lettuce etc.
    However a guinea pig actually has 20 teeth, and will be merely inconvenienced whilst the front ones grow in again (which seemed to happen quite rapidly)
    Sometimes the front teeth need to be cut, but do not attempt this unless you know what you are doing!
  9. Lameness
    Often caused by lack of vitamin C (see section on diet above)
Guinea pigs are not particularly hardy animals, falls must be avoided in particular, and they should never be left unattended if uncaged, for their own good!
Treating your guinea pig yourself is an option if you are experienced and know what you are about, but advice from here must be always seek professional help if in doubt.
 

He or a she?

The sexing of guinea pigs, particularly if young, may not be too straightforward.
It may be more reliable to ask someone who knows, but you can make your own mind up!

Pet store staff often do not offer advice on the sex of animals they sell, as they employ temporary and part-time staff who may not be trained in such matters.

It is easier in adult guinea pigs, an examination of the genitalia holds the clue.
The "triangular" area will reveal in the middle a "dot" or "button" in the male, which will not be present in the sow.
Note however that both sexes have nipples.

Male babies can impregnante their mothers as early as 24 days and must be separated therefore at 21 days!

boar sow
boar sow
  1. Ask an experienced person - someone who has knowledge of small mammals should be able to tell you, and should not charge much.
  2. Get a good book on guinea pigs (preferably by Peter Gurney) and follow the advice given there.

It is often quite difficult with very young guinea pigs but they reach maturity in just a few months.
General advice is that males (boars) should NOT be kept together as they are more than likely to fight.
Females (sows) can live together but generally only if introduced at about the same time, or as a mother and daughter combination.
A behavior trait to watch out for in boars is a "stalking" motion usually accompanied by a sort of "purring".
In this case he usually senses the presence of a sow, and will attempt to make contact.

Enjoy your Guinea Pig!

A guinea pig is for life, not just for Christmas!

Buy one g-pig on its own only if you intend to make it very much one of the family, keep it in the house, and handle it, look after it well.
If buying more than one, remember that they can be prolific breeders, so check the gender (many pet stores will not guarantee the sex of animals they sell!)
If you intend to breed them, do not expect to make a lot of money from this venture, as young guinea pigs are (in the nicest possible way) common!
They do make lovely pets and are ideal for families with children over the age of about five.

 

Recommended links!

a shopping suggestion!

shopping suggestions!

Peter Gurney
NetPetShopMesh Cubes