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Getting started with guinea pigs

Guinea pigs originate from Peru where they would roam in family groups, usually a male, a group of females and their young. For this reason, they should be kept in pairs or small groups, they have an average life span of 4-8 years.

There are three basic types of guinea pig; smooth- haired, Abyssinian and Peruvian. Whichever type you choose your guinea pig should be 4-5 weeks old when you purchase it, healthy characteristics of a young guinea pig includes:  

  • Brightness and alertness
  • No signs of discharge from eye, ears, mouth, and nose
  • A clean anal area
  • A glossy coat
  • Moving around easily
  • Well covered and not bony

Guinea pigs should have a large a cage as possible, an outdoor hutch should be sturdy and waterproof. It should be raised off the floor and placed in a sheltered position. They must be protected from inclement weather and strong sunlight. If they are being kept indoors then a cage similar to but larger than a hamster cage, in a cool room out of direct sunlight. Hygiene is extremely important especially in the summer. If it is not kept clean then it will attract flies, they should be thoroughly be cleaned at least once a week, a pet friendly disinfectant should be used and all bedding replaced with fresh bedding.

Guinea pigs are herbivores. Fresh foods can be given in small quantities, cabbage, sprouts, dandelions, carrots, apples and some other soft fruits are available. A supply of good quality hay is also essential for the health of the digestive system and for wearing teeth down. Guinea pigs require vitamin D daily; they can get this from prepared guinea pig foods and from fresh fruit and veg, or alternatively a liquid vitamin supplement in their water. Fresh water should be available at all times.

When handling your guinea pig use smooth gentle movements, grip firmly but not tightly, place one hand across the shoulders with the thumb over the neck and the other over the back.