Basic Guinea Pig Care

There are some people that purchase a pet store guinea pig, get the small cages they have at the store, never get them a buddy, and pretty much ignore them after the first week or two. If you’re serious about getting a guinea pig of your own, there are a few key things to remember before purchasing one and some things to plan prior to starting your piggie search.

Cage

My Midwest guinea pig habitat.

It’s no surprise that you need to get a cage and set it up before welcoming a new guinea pig into your family. Stores like Petco and PetSmart sell cages such as the WARE Small Animal Habitat which claims to be “perfect” for animals such as guinea pigs. This could not be farther from the truth. Cages like that are about 6 square feet where a guinea pig needs at least 7, preferably 8. Cages that are too small can cause a lot of issues later on, mainly with their feet. My previous post talks about how to go about building your own cage but if you just want a prebuilt one, two great cages are the Midwest Habitat and the AmazonBasics Cage.

Another thing to consider is where your cage is going. I made the mistake of putting my cage on the floor. The reason that this is a mistake is because, like I mentioned in other posts, guinea pigs are prey animals. Every time I get up from my desk, they run scared into corners. The best thing for guinea pigs is to be higher up so you don’t look as big and terrifying to them. Keep this in mind as you’re shopping for a cage and a surface to put the cage on that is sturdy enough for them to run around in.

Bedding

My guinea pig, Linda, fast asleep on her fleece.

There are lots of different types of bedding out on the market. Some just depend on your preference and some are just plain terrible. There’s paper bedding, which is the personal bane of my existence. When I first got my Mocha, I used paper bedding while I waited for my actual bedding to come in the mail. Paper bedding is very soft and very absorbent but no matter how much the packaging promises that it’s dust free, it isn’t. This caused Mocha to sneeze very often and even had some discharge on her nose. Once I got rid of the paper bedding, everything cleared up.

There are multiple types of wood shaving options. Aspen is the most recommended wood bedding but it is also the most expensive. It’s extremely absorbent and does well at controlling the odor. There’s also pine, which is cheaper and very absorbent. The downside to pine is that is has natural oils which can cause respiratory problems. There’s also the possibility of mixing hay with another type of bedding, as guinea pigs eat hay.

Then there’s fleece. I, personally, swear by fleece. Guinea pigs like to burrow in it, keeps their feet dry, and is comfy for them. The downside is that you have to clean off the poop on the top of the fleece daily and you have to wash it fairly often. You can either choose to buy premade fleece or you can make your own fleece bedding. Of course, there are also a few types of bedding that actually need to be avoided but that’s okay considering that there are many options out there.

Food

Guinea pigs are herbivores, meaning they eat plants, so it’s no surprise that their diets consist mostly of hay. However, there are specifics to how much guinea pigs should get of what. For starters, you’ll need guinea pig pellets. My personal favorite are the ones from Oxbow. It’s high quality food that essentially gives your guinea pig everything it needs. Guinea pigs only need 1/8 cup of pellets per day. Pellets have 18 to 20 percent of crude protein, which guinea pigs need but only in moderation. Guinea pigs also require an unlimited supply of timothy hay. Guinea pigs, like humans, cannot create their own vitamin c so they need a source of vitamin c. Do not put the vitamin c drops in their water (this post goes more into why). Guinea pigs also need an unlimited supply of clean water and need vegetables regularly. All in all, their diets should be 80% hay, 15% pellets, and 5% vegetables. Remember that not all vegetables are safe for them!

List of Materials Needed

Before getting your guinea pig, it’s a good idea to make a list of what you’ll need and the cost of everything so you can plan. I’ve gone ahead and shared my own list when I was in the planning process. I also included in my personal list how much money I wanted to set aside for emergency vet visits in order to be prepared if something happened, so that may also be something to keep in mind in your own list.

  • Cage (at least 7 square feet for one guinea pig)
  • Bedding (if you go with fleece, add distilled white vinegar and small dustpan to your list)
  • Water bottle
  • Hay holder
  • Pellet holder
  • Place for guinea pig to hide (Igloo, hut, cardboard box , etc)
  • Nail clippers
  • Shampoo
  • Toy(s)
  • Pellets
  • Hay
  • Source of vitamin c
  • Emergency money to set aside

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