A guinea pig can be an ideal first pet. Small and sociable, they require less commitment than a cat or a dog, but are a really rewarding addition to the family. While guinea pigs don’t need to be walked or entertained in the same way as a larger animal, they do still have some basic needs that must be met by their owners, so you’ll have to be prepared to spend time each day looking after them. Here, we introduce you to this wonderful rodent and explain how to care for guinea pigs.
Guinea pigs are herbivores who graze throughout the day and will enjoy a daily diet of hay or grass, Vitamin C-enriched guinea pig nuggets and green vegetables. If you are caring for guinea pigs you will need to ensure that they have lots of fiber in their diet and that they get plenty of Vitamin C from a variety of fresh veg. Always ensure that your pet has access to fresh, clean drinking water.
Guinea pigs will enjoy the occasional piece of fruit, but these should only be an occasional treat as they are too high in sugar to be a regular part of their diet. Always avoid feeding your guinea pig potato, rhubarb or tomato leaves, however, as these can be harmful.
Did you know? Guinea pigs have special droppings called caecotrophs, which they eat! This helps them to extract as much fibre as possible from their food. So, don’t worry if you see your guinea pig doing this – it’s perfectly normal.
Where should guinea pigs live?
If you’re wondering how to care for guinea pigs both indoors and out, you should be aware that they’ll prefer to live outside. They will need a large hutch that is safe and secure to protect them from predators and help them feel safe. Guinea pigs are active creatures who spend most of their time awake, so it’s vital to provide them with a run so that they can get lots of exercise. Tunnels and tubes will give them the opportunity to use their excellent spatial memory.
Give your guinea pig a comfortable bed with lots of hay to sleep on, and clean out their hutch regularly. Make sure that the temperature in their living quarters doesn’t rise above around 26C or fall below 15C, and ensure that the hutch is not draughty.
Who should they live with?
In their natural environment, guinea pigs live in family groups of up to 10 animals, sometimes forming groups or colonies with other families nearby. They’re very social creatures and require company, so it’s important for your pet to have at least one fellow guinea pig to live with in your home. The RSPCA recommends always neutering male guinea pigs and caring for a combination of:
- Two or more females
- Two or more neutered male siblings, if they’ve always been together
- A neutered male with one or more females
As prey animals, guinea pigs are easily frightened, and may be scared of larger pets, so care for your guinea pigs by making sure they have a quiet area where they are not threatened by the presence of other animals.
In particular, the RSPCA recommends that guinea pigs are not kept together with rabbits, which could bully them or cause harm.