Guinea Pig Care

The correct name for Guinea Pigs is Cavies, or singular Cavy.

If researching husbandry, breeders or clubs remember most will be found under Cavy/Cavies not Guinea Pigs.

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Housing.

Guinea Pigs can be kept in indoor or outdoor cages. Indoor cages should have high sides to ensure all mess remains in the cage. Guinea Pigs do not require a lot of height in their cage, but need a nice secure house filled with straw within their cage. Straw is preferable to Hay as a bedding material, as the guinea pigs will love to bury in it and hay contains grass seeds that can work their way into eyes and ears etc. Whilst the straw will cover all their burrowing desires, it is not highly absorbant, so newspaper and/or sawdust shavings under the straw are most beneficial. For indoor or solid based cages sawdust is also a great way to keep the cage clean and dry. Bedding should be changed each week and makes a good compost additive. Outdoor cages will often have a wire floor, which can be most useful when placed directly on grass. The cage can be moved each day allowing access to fresh greens. Look for larger wire spacing, as this will allow them to reach the most grass and minimise wear to the feet. Wire floors should never be used on raised cages as it will cause damage to the guinea pigs feet. It should also not be the base in their house area, which should have a solid floor to prevent draughts and dampness. Guinea Pigs love to have a roof overhead as it makes them feel less exposed. They also really appreciate tunnels and other hidey holes in their enclosure. Wooden cages are the most heat tolerant but also the most difficult to clean. Ensure wood is non toxic as guinea pigs love to chew and may cause damage to wooden cages even if given better options to knaw on.

Guinea Pigs are a herd animal, and require company to be happy. Pets best housed in groups of the same sex and introduced while young. Guinea pigs of the opposite sex should never be brought unless you are wanting to get into breeding in which case joining a cavy club is highly recommended. Before considering breeding, also consider that Cavies have a much higher rate of complications, many fatal, than most other mammals. Pure breds will often have only one or 2 babies per litter, so they do not bred like rabbits and it impossible to make any profit. Whilst I have seen rabbits and guinea pigs make inseperable cage mates, it can also go very wrong with animals getting mauled and even killed. It should only be attempted with young and placid and animals, under continual supervision.

Water.

Fresh clean water should be available at all times. Water bottles are most handy as they tend to remain cleaner and run out less often; however the water in them will heat up on a warm day. They only require cleaning once a week but need a bottle brush to really be done effectively. Metal and plastic bowls are easy to clean but also warm up easy. Ceramic bowls keep water cooler, are easy to clean and are more stable. Water bowls should be cleaned daily. The ultimate set up would be a ceramic bowl and a water bottle for back up.

Feeding.

Guinea Pigs have a much higher vitamin C requirement than most mammals, meaning that fresh greens are an essential part of their daily deit. Greens can be fresh fruit and vegetable scraps or hand picked grass. Mowed grass clippers should never be given to any animals as the are exposed to toxic oils as they run through the mower, as well as decay at an increased rate. Capsicum, carrot, cucumber, spinach, bok choy, silverbeet, cauliflower, corn, pineapple, watermelon, plums, and apples are favourites.

Hay is also a major part of a cavies pigs diet. Grass Hay should be always available but other Hays maybe offered more occasionally. Oaten Hay is suitable for more regular consumption, whilst lucerene and clover hay should be reserved more for treats, only being offered in small amounts a couple of times per week. Placing hay in a hay rack, reduces wastage, keeps the hay cleaner and prevents the hay from blocking access to grass through wire floored cages.

Hardfeed is the final component of a good guinea pig diet. Most rabbit pellets are not designed for guinea pigs who require specialised pellets with additional vitamin C. Even these pellets though should not be used straight as a major feed source. Rather the main ingredients should be Oaten Chaff & Lucerene Chaff. It is suggested that mixes should not contain corn, sunflower seeds, molasses or any sweetners and crunchy treats that look like dog food. Unfortunately the bulk of feeds of the shelf are actually not suitable, so we mix are own and have now made it available to buy.

As a member of the rodent family guinea pigs have continously growing teeth that require regular use to prevent over growth. There are store brought chews, but lengths of branches from fruit or nut bearing trees are preferred by and better for the guinea pigs.

Handling.

Guinea pigs can be easily and even fatally harmed by rough and incorrect handling. Never pick up a guinea pig with one hand or squeeze tightly around their middle or adobmin as this can cause damage to internal organs. Restrain the cavy around the shoulders with one hand and use your other hand to to scoop under neath the rear end. This hand should be slid right under the guinea pig and provide as much support to the butt and stomach as possible. Children should always remain seated whilst holding cavies.

Parasite Prevention.

Most preventatives sold at petshops can have a limited spectrum of what they cover. Ivermectin has a broader, effective species coverage but is generally just a dilute of cattle/sheep drenches, which can be difficult to get correct and can leave to overdose. Revolution for kittens and puppies is highly effective but can become expensive for those that keep a few guinea pigs. Dipping in Malawash can be effective and affordable option, that will also provide internal ptrotection via them licking it of their fur. Pestene powder is great for purely external protection. Cavies do not require vaccinations.

 

 

 

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