Guinea pigs are one of the most popular small animal pets, and for good reason. They have a ton of personality, they’re affectionate, and they have considerably long lifespans compared to other small household pets. Guinea pigs have been the pet of choice from Buckingham Palace, where Princess Diana and Princes William and Harry each owned one, all the way to the White House, where Teddy Roosevelt cared for five.
While guinea pigs are small in stature, they still require a great deal of care. Guinea pigs need to spend time out their cage every day. Whether it’s cuddling in your lap, or playing inside an exercise pen, they love an opportunity to stretch their tiny legs. Daily interaction and attention are essential to a healthy, happy guinea pig. They also need to be groomed regularly. Shorthair breeds only need brushed once a week, while those with longhair require a daily brushing. Regular dental care is also a must because guinea pigs’ teeth never stop growing. They require chew toys to wear down their ever-growing grill.
Small animals are often considered a great starter pet for children, and the guinea pig is no exception. While they are sturdier than a rabbit and less skittish than a hamster, they still need to be handled with care. Guinea pigs are best with elementary-aged children or older. A younger child may accidentally drop the guinea pig, or love on it just a little too hard which can result in a painful bite.
Guinea pigs are highly social and communicative. Just like cats, guinea pigs make a quiet purring sound when they’re happy. They’re also known to squeak in delight when they see one of their favorite humans. But guinea pigs are truly happiest when they have another guinea pig friend to live with. If you’re thinking of adding a pig to your family, consider bringing home a pair. Guinea pigs who live alone are at risk to become lonely, bored, and listless.
Diet & Nutrition
The biggest staple of your guinea pig’s diet is high quality grass hay, like timothy hay. The timothy hay keeps their digestive system moving and helps with those long teeth. Because they do not naturally produce vitamin C, guinea pigs need plenty of it supplemented in their diet to stay healthy. Leafy greens, spinach, strawberries, and grapes are all great sources of vitamin C for your pig. They can also have a small number of pellets per day, as long as the pellets are specially labeled for guinea pigs, as they are fortified with added vitamin C.
A spacious home is an important factor in your guinea pig’s overall happiness and well-being. A single guinea pig should have at least 7 square feet of living space, while a pair of pigs need at least 8-10 square feet. Their home should have a solid floor, such as canvas, because wire bottoms are very uncomfortable on their tiny toes. Proper bedding, such a straw or shredded newspaper, is a must. Even though guinea pigs can be smelly little guys, avoid any scented or “odor-control” bedding, because they could eat it and cause major internal damage. They also need a box, tunnel, or hut where they can feel safe and hide as needed.
A guinea pig’s calm and easy nature doesn’t mean they require less care of attention. Research thoroughly before bringing one (or two!) into your home. With the right set up and care, you and your guinea pig can enjoy years of companionship together.