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Guinea pigs are fun pets that have a significantly longer lifespan than most household rodents. Their larger size also makes them much easier to pet and play with if you have children. If this is your first time getting a guinea pig, here’s everything you need to know about how to properly feed and care for them.
How big of a cage do guinea pigs need?
When you’re choosing a cage for your guinea pig, pick one that is at least 30” x 36” (7.5 square feet). That said, bigger is always better, so if you have enough room you should consider getting a larger cage.
How big should a cage be for 2 guinea pigs?
If you have two guinea pigs you’ll want to get a cage that is at least 30” x 50” (10.5 square feet). If you can’t accommodate a cage that size, you can get away with something as small as 30” x 36” (7.5 square feet), but 10.5 square feet is ideal.
What do guinea pigs need in their cage?
To provide a comfortable living space for your guinea pig, make sure they have the following in their cage:
- Bedding – the best bedding for guinea pigs is paper or straw since they retain heat and keep your pet warm. Don’t use cedar or pine shavings, as they contain phenol and can be harmful to guinea pigs. Be sure to provide 2 – 3 inches of bedding for sufficient absorption and change it out once a week when you clean the cage.
- Water dripper – provide your guinea pig with clean, fresh water every day. Water dishes are frequently contaminated, so using a 32-oz water dripper is preferable.
- Food bowl – choose a ceramic bowl that’s chew-resistant and harder to tip over. Guinea pigs like to eat with their front feet on the rim of the bowl, so it’s best to use a shallow bowl with a wide rim. Place the food and water far away from the bathroom area and change out the food when any droppings or bedding get kicked into the bowl.
- Chew toys – guinea pigs’ teeth never stop growing, so it’s important for them to have items in their cage that they can chew on. Wood blocks and cardboard boxes are always good choices as long as there isn’t any paint or coloring on them.
- Shelter – guinea pigs are shy animals that like their privacy, so you’ll want to provide a tube or hut that they can hide in. If you’re on a budget, a shoebox makes a great little hut for guinea pigs, and Quaker oatmeal canisters are good tubes for them to play in (just be sure to remove the plastic lid and metal lining from both ends).
Can you use cat litter for guinea pigs?
The only type of cat litter you should use for guinea pigs is recycled paper. Don’t use pellets or clumping litter, as guinea pigs may try to eat these.
How long do guinea pigs live as pets?
Most guinea pigs will live approximately 5 – 7 years in captivity. That’s more than double the expected lifespan of smaller household rodents like mice, rats, hamsters, and gerbils, that rarely live for more than three years.
What do guinea pigs like to play with?
You can find a number of toys for rodents at the pet store, but there are also a number of household items that you can easily recycle for use as toys. Here are a few ideas:
- Crumpled paper – it sounds cheap, but guinea pigs love the crumpling noise as they chew on the paper
- Cardboard tunnels – large cardboard cylinders like Quaker Oatmeal canisters make great tunnels for guinea pigs, and they’ll love chewing on the cardboard. Just be sure to remove any plastic and metal lining from the cardboard canister before you put it in the cage. Also, be careful not to use cylinders that are too small (i.e. toilet paper rolls).
- Homemade pillows – take a clean sock and stuff some of the guinea pig’s bedding inside. Tie off the open end and cut off the extra fabric.
- Balls – you can get pet balls from the store, but simple ping-pong balls and tennis balls work just fine.
- Chew toys – guinea pigs love to chew on things, so you’ll want to provide them with plenty of wooden blocks and cardboard items to chew on.
Can guinea pigs drink out of a bowl?
While water drippers are preferable, drinking from a bowl is fine as long as you add fresh water every day, replace the water when bedding or droppings get kicked into the bowl, and clean the bowl once a week to prevent buildup. Plastic bowls are easy to tip over and are unsafe to chew on, so ceramic bowls are better for guinea pigs.
How to take care of baby guinea pigs
Here are a few tips on how to take care of baby guinea pigs (known as pups):
- Watch the cage size – depending on their size, pups can be small enough to squeeze out of cages with widely-spaced bars.
- Lower the water dripper – adjust the height of the water dripper so that the pups can easily reach the spout. If you notice that it’s too low for the mother to comfortably drink, you may want to add a second water dripper at a higher height for her.
- Place the cage in a quiet area – while adult guinea pigs like to be in rooms with more activity for mental stimulation, guinea pig pups are sensitive to light and noise, so it’s best to keep the cage in a quiet room away from direct sunlight.
- Play with the pups every day – it’s important to handle the pups early and often so that they can become accustomed to human interaction.
- Prevent accidental pregnancies – determine the pups’ genders early, and separate the males from the females around 3 weeks after birth.
- Feed the pups nutritious food – timothy hay, oranges, and melons are high in vitamin C. Place fresh food in their bowl twice a day, and remove leftovers so that they don’t spoil.
- Feed the pups calcium-rich food – extra calcium during the first few weeks of a pup’s life will help their bones grow properly. Alfalfa hay and hay-based pellets are the best source of calcium for guinea pig pups.
- Monitor for sickness – guinea pig pups are susceptible to scurvy, heat stress, foot pad infections, and pneumonia.
- Change the bedding regularly – while you can get away with cleaning an adult guinea pig’s bedding once a week, you should change a pup’s cage at least twice a week.
- Provide the pups with chew toys – wooden blocks and cardboard boxes are usually best.
What is the best bedding for guinea pigs?
Paper and straw are the best bedding materials for guinea pigs. Cedar and pine shavings are often marketed for rodents, but you should never use these with guinea pigs. Cat litter that’s made of recycled paper is acceptable, but you shouldn’t use any other type of clumping or pellet litter.
Where do guinea pigs like to be pet?
Most guinea pigs prefer to be pet on the top of their head and behind their ears. If your guinea pig doesn’t like being pet, it may be the environment that they’re objecting to. Try playing with them in a dark, quiet area rather than loud, busy parts of the house. Avoid petting them on sensitive areas like their stomach.
What fruits and vegetables can guinea pigs eat?
You can feed adult guinea pigs up to one cup of vegetables a day, but fruits and vegetables should not be their main food source. The following fruits and vegetables are safe to feed to your guinea pig regularly:
- Raspberry leaves
The following fruits and vegetables are safe to feed your guinea pig periodically (3 – 4 days a week):
- Bell peppers
- Sweet cherries (pitted)
- Dandelion greens
- Green beans