Hood Petz

Cavy / Guinea Pig Care

HOUSING: The most suitable environment for a guinea pig is a cage or Sterilite/Rubbermaid bin with a solid bottom and plenty of ventilation.
Guinea pigs are social and do well in same gender bonded pairs.  Males who have been previously bred may squabble and inflict injury so it is strongly advised to supervise them until you're sure that they will get along well.

FLOOR SPACE:  It is typically best to keep guinea pigs in pairs, though some are not very social and will require individual housing.
For a SINGLE guinea pig, a minimum of 2-3 square feet of floor space is required.
For PAIRS, a minimum of 4 square feet of floor space is required.
If keeping more than 2 guinea pigs, add at least 0.5 square foot of floor space for each additional guinea pig.
Example 3 guinea pigs will require a minimum of 4.5 sq ft.  4 will require a minimum of 5 sq ft.

LOCATION:  Avoid drafty areas such as windows, doors, and directly under AC vents.  Avoid areas any closer than 10 feet to a fireplace or furnace.  Avoid isolated areas where they will not get interaction.  Guinea pigs are social and need to be near their humans.

SUBSTRATE: Wood shavings are suitable but if litter training is achieved, a fabric or disposable liner is ideal.  If using wood shavings, AVOID CEDAR as it contains oils that are toxic and can be lethal.  Kiln dried pine is suitable.

CLEANING: Spot cleaning daily will help prevent odors.  Thorough cleaning is needed at least once a week, even if the guinea pig is litter trained, to prevent any bacterial growth and to remove shed hair and dust.  This is essential for respiratory health.  We clean with 1 part bleach and 40 parts water.  This kills (and deters) microbial growth.  Always be sure to rinse the cage and all accessories thoroughly as bleach fumes are toxic and if a guinea pig were to lick any parts that have bleach residue, it will cause extreme gastric upset.

FEEDING: Pelleted cavy/guinea pig ration is available at pet shops and feed stores.  Avoid over-purchasing pellets as storing food for extended periods of time results in the break-down of vitamins and nutrients and could also grow mold or bacteria.  Most guinea pigs eat about ¼ - ½ cup of pellets in a day.

CAVY/GUINEA PIG PELLETS vs. RABBIT PELLETS:  You may notice that rabbit pellets are often less expensive than cavy pellets but because of dietary requirements, rabbit pellets are not suitable for guinea pigs.  Rabbit pellets have less protein and often contain NO Vitamin C, which is essential as guinea pigs are susceptible to scurvy.

PRODUCE: Fresh produce is required daily.  Be sure to wash all produce as it likely contains chemicals (pesticides) and waxes.  Fresh greens provide much needed vitamins and minerals but avoid all iceberg and butter lettuces.  These have very little nutritional value and often cause diarrhea.  Stick with spinach, collards, romaine, kale, etc.  Carrots, sweet potato, squash and many other types of produce are acceptable.  We are currently working on a suggested produce list.

15 MINUTE RULE:  When offering produce, only offer an amount that can be consumed in 15 minutes.  At the end of the 15 minute window, remove any produce that has not been consumed.  This will prevent the consumption of any spoiled foods.

HAYS:  Hays can be purchased at pet shops and feed stores.  Hays should be free of pesticides and chemicals.  Timothy hay needs to be given daily.  Alfalfa can be given once a week as a treat.  Hays are essential for good digestion and keeping teeth worn.  Always ensure that hays are free of mold and do not contain any thistles or burrs.
DO NOT pull grass or weeds from your yard to feed to your guinea pigs.  In addition to the possibility of introducing parasites to your guinea pig, the grasses could also contain fertilizers, insecticides and other chemicals which are very hazardous to guinea pigs.

WATER:  A water bottle is recommended for guinea pigs.  If you offer a water bowl, they will tip it over, play in it, fill it with bedding, etc. and will then have no water available to them.  NOTE:  If you have purchased a guinea pig that has always been offered a bowl, please give them a bowl in addition to the water bottle.  It typically doesn’t take long to make the transition to a bottle and you do not want to risk dehydration during the transition.

GROOMING:  It is best not to brush a guinea pig’s coat.  Slow and smooth strokes with clean hands can remove any loose hair/debris and distribute the natural oils from their coat.

NO BATHS:  Do not bathe guinea pigs unless medically necessary.  Bathing removes the natural oils from their skin and will result in dry skin, excessive shedding and their coat will never be the same again.  Unless under the instruction of a licensed vet, just don’t do it.  A damp paper towel can nearly always get the job done.

NAIL TRIMMING:  We use regular “human” nail clippers.  Like other animals, guinea pigs have veins in their nails and clipping too far can cause bleeding.  Many times, their nails are translucent and you can see where the vein starts.  If you cannot clearly see the vein, just take off the tip of the nail.  It’s a good idea to have Styptic Powder on hand just in case.  If you are unable to clip the nails, have your vet’s office do it.  Most will do it for $25-$40.  If you just have questions about nail trimming, ask us.

EAR CLEANING:  Guinea pigs do need their ears cleaned from time to time.  If you see a dark waxy or oily substance in the creases of the ears, it’s time!  Cleaning may be done with a little mineral oil on a cotton swab, cotton ball, or even a paper towel.  Choose a time and setting where your guinea pig is relaxed because if he/she is nervous and jumping around, it can lead to injury.  Do not dig too deeply and do not spend too much time on the cleaning.  Remember, you’ll have other days/opportunities to finish if needed.  Better to get a little now and finish some other time than to stress the guinea pig and possibly cause injury.

CHEWING:  As with other rodents, guinea pigs have a NEED to chew.  Chewing keeps their teeth at a healthy length.  There are many items available online and in pet stores that are specifically designed for rodent chewing.  Please use items that are safe for guinea pigs rather than a branch from your yard or other household items.  Debris from your yard can contain parasites or harmful bacteria/fungus.  Most plastics are either a choking hazard or contain harmful BPAs.  Providing proper chewing options will help ensure that your guinea pig doesn’t chew on their cage, cage accessories, etc.

ILLNESS:  Guinea pigs are susceptible to respiratory illness.  If you notice coughing, wheezing, sneezing, mucus, bubbles, crustiness, etc. please take your guinea pig to the vet.  Some can recover on their own with a heat lamp but many require antibiotics to recover.  Please do not attempt to medicate your guinea pig yourself.  They have extreme allergies and/or intolerance to many medications.  Penicillin and its derivatives are often lethal for guinea pigs.

NOTE:  These are just the basics.  For more detailed information, I recommend that you ask your veterinarian.  Internet searches may be a good source of information but keep in mind that some of the information out there may be offered by unknowledgeable publishers.  Exercise caution when seeking advice from the internet.