We all know and love the cute and fluffy guinea pig, however, if you consider a pet guinea pig, learn the basic facts to allow it to thrive. There is more to selecting a guinea pig based on appearance as you want a healthy animal.
Guinea Pig Breeds
The different color patterns and coat types indicate different breeds:
- The American is the most common with its smooth short-haired coat.
- The Peruvian is a long-haired breed.
- The Abyssinian has a short swirly coat.
Among these breeds are a wide variety of colors while you also get a skinny pig which is a hairless guinea pig. Babies are pups, males are boars and females are sows. These furry pets have no visible tail and have a stout, rounded body. The live expectancy is between five to seven-year and in a rare case for up to ten years. A healthy adult weights between two and three pounds and approximately ten inches in length.
Buying a Guinea Pig
Most people buy pet guinea pigs from pet stores but take care to ask questions from the pet store owner, like:
- Are they familiar with Guinea Pigs and knowledgeable
- If the guinea pets were handled frequently
- What diet were they fed
- Were they kept in an adequate sized and clean housing
- Check if males and females are housed separately
You might be surprised at the number of guinea pigs often found at shelters. While it might not be ideal as you don’t know where it comes from or how it was handled before, you can give it a second chance at life.
Breeders are the recommended option when you are looking for a pet-quality, specific breed, and show-quality breed. When you buy from reputable breeders, they make sure babies are handled from an early age and socialized well.
Guidelines to a Healthy Guinea Pig
Regardless of where you buy your guinea pig from, follow these guidelines:
- Be on the lookout for lice and other parasites especially behind the ears.
- Check for redness or flakes on the skin.
- The fur should be soft and full.
- No discharge around the ears, eyes, and nose with a clean rear end.
- The body should be rounded and firm. Avoid a grossly overweight or overly skinny guinea pig.
- Avoid a guinea pig that is too calm and quiet as it could indicate illness.
- Avoid a panicky guinea pig.
- Choose a guinea pig that is active and alert.
Guinea Pig Housing
It is easy to meet guinea pig needs either with a large homemade or purchased cage. A cage should be a minimum of three feet in length and two feet wide. They require adequate floor space as they tend to remain on the ground instead of using vertical space and climbing about. Guinea pigs require an enclosure or small home to hide and sleep inside the cage. The cage must be kept clean daily. You can have supervised time with the guinea pig outside of the cage once it is used to you.
Don’t use a cage with a wire bottom as it is harmful to their feet. You also want to avoid drafts or overheating, therefore, don’t place the cage next to a window.
Guinea Pig Temperament and Behavior
Consider keeping a pair for them to socialize as they are social animals. Keep a same-sex pair, preferably females as two males are prone to fighting. At first, they could appear nervous but with frequent handling, become very tame. They are quiet little pets but can be active day and night and also call out quite loudly. While they are excellent family pets, kids should handle them gently.
Food and Water
Focus on a fresh diet as these are herbivores creatures. The bulk of their food should consist of fresh, leafy veggies and fresh hay. Their diet should be focused on vitamin C supplementation and tooth wear. They have constantly growing teeth that require wearing down, therefore, make sure they have an adequate supply of fibrous foods and leafy greens. They cannot produce vitamin C, ask your veterinarian how to supply the best levels of vitamin C. High-quality pellets can also be given in smaller amounts. Ensure that they always have access to freshwater.
Common Health Problems
When treated well and fed properly they are hardy animals but a few health problems are common. The most common include:
- Infestations by fungus, mites or lice
- Urinary problems
- Abscesses due to infections
- Vitamin C deficiency causing scurvy
- Respiratory infections
When you notice any of these or notice that your Guinea Pig is different than its usual self, take it to the vet.
While a guinea pig can live both indoors and outdoors, keep in mind that they do not like excessive heat or excessive cold and harsh winter conditions. When you keep it indoors check your home for hazards and also when outdoors. This includes poisonous plants, pesticides, and herbicides, electric cables and predators. Since they do not live a very long life, make sure that you give these little creatures all the love they deserve.