Guinea pigs are herbivores. The most important part of their diet, like rabbits, is GRASS HAY. Grasses are particularly great for guinea pigs because they’re teeth grow continuously throughout their life and grass hays are abrasive to the teeth. Grasses also provide a number of nutrients for the guinea pig, as well as both indigestible and digestible fiber. Indigestible fiber keeps the intestinal tract moving at a normal speed and digestible fiber is used the GI bacteria to produce vitamin B and amino acids. Any grass hay is good to feed, such as timothy and orchard brome. You should avoid legume hays, like alfalfa, because they are too high in calories, calcium and protein for your guinea pig. Provide hay in a hay feeder or simply put it in the corner of the cage.
Guinea pigs are unable to produce their own vitamin C, much like humans, and therefore need an outside source to avoid developing a disease called scurvy. To prevent this from happening, you should feed your guinea pig FRESH FRUITS AND VEGETABLES daily. Dark leafy greens such as kale, collard greens, mustard greens and dandelion greens are particularly good sources of vitamin C, but you can also try offering sweet peppers, apples, pears, berries, broccoli, cucumbers, parsley and basil. You should feed your pig around ¼ to ½ packed cup of fresh foods daily.
Guinea pigs can also be given PELLETS in limited quantities but make sure they are guinea pig-specific and not rabbit pellets. Guinea pig pellets contain additional vitamin C while other pellets do not. You should also read the label and pick a grass hay based pellet instead of an alfalfa based one. Pellets have a tendency to cause guinea pigs to gain weight, so watch your pet’s weight carefully and adjust the amount you are feeding if they are getting overweight. Generally, an adult guinea pig should eat no more than ¼ cup of pellets a day, with unlimited grass hay and a small amount of fresh foods.
AVOID FEEDING foods high in starch, like peas, beans, corn, nuts, cakes, cookies, cereal, grains and bread. These can cause a serious, potentially fatal imbalance in the normal bacteria found in the guinea pig’s GI tract.
Of course, it is important for your guinea pig to always have fresh, clean WATER available to them at all times, either in a sipper bottle or a heavy bowl to prevent spilling.
The sight, smell, taste, texture of your guinea pig’s food can be mentally stimulating for them, as well as the sound of the food preparation, which can provide a joyful anticipation for what is to come. To increase mental stimulation, you can put hay or fresh foods in empty toilet paper or paper towel rolls, non-toxic baskets or in little pieces of crumpled paper. You can also put pellets in a small hollow plastic ball with holes in the side.
Guinea pigs can be housed in enclosures made of wire, stainless steel, durable plastic or glass. Wood should not be used because it is difficult to clean and easy for guinea pigs to chew on and destroy the enclosure. There should be one side of the enclosure open to promote air ventilation. It should obviously be escape proof and have no sharp edges or potential hazards for your guinea pig.
The FLOORING in the enclosure can be wire or solid. While wire flooring will help keep the area clean and is easier to maintain, it often causes injuries to the feet and hocks, most commonly broken legs when the guinea pig falls through the wire mesh and panics to escape. Solid flooring may require more effort to keep clean, but it is a lot safer for your pet.
BEDDING must be clean, non-toxic, absorbent and dust-free. Examples of acceptable bedding include wood shavings, shredded paper, processed ground corn cob, and commercial pellets. It is not recommended to use cedar shavings because they are associated with causing respiratory difficulty and liver disease in guinea pigs. Saw dust should also be avoided as it can cause an impaction in males.
The SIZE of your guinea pig enclosure should be approximately 100 square inches of floor area per adult guinea pig. The enclosure can be open on the top, but be sure that the sides are at least 10 inches high so that your pet can’t jump out of the cage and cause injury. It is also important to consider any other family pets that may be a threat if the enclosure is open.
The ENVIRONMENT in which you house your guinea pig should be in a quiet spot away from noise, excitement and stress. You should avoid direct sunlight, as well as cold damp areas. They are nocturnal, so they need quiet periods of light to rest. Guinea pigs do best in dry, cool environments with adequate ventilation.
Guinea pigs are SOCIAL animals, so more than one can safely be housed together, including males with females. New males may occasionally fight in the presence of a female, but they usually are fine to be together. Older, more dominant guinea pigs may also chew on the ears or hair of their cage mates, so take this into consideration.
Guinea pigs are fairly easy to handle. Placing a hand into the cage will often cause the guinea pig to approach. They can then be easily scooped up. One hand should cup the hind end while the other hand cradles the midsection. Two hands are always recommended when picking up and handling a guinea pig so that there is less risk of dropping them. They rarely turn aggressive, however they may jump or try to run if they aren’t used to being handled.
By: Stephanie, RVT