Guinea pigs are active and friendly animals, but do not climb well and require more horizontal space in order to compensate for this. The minimum recommendation for a single pig, or for a closely bonded pair of guinea pigs is 7.5 square feet (more is always better!). The cage should be solid bottomed (as wire flooring can break legs and toes as well as contribute to medical problems like bumblefoot).
Most pet store cages are undersized and are not appropriate for a pair. The only commercial cage on the market which meets these basic guidelines currently is Midwest's Guinea Pig Habitat. Pet stores often assure new owners that their cages are fine for a pair. It is not uncommon for pairs of guinea pigs in undersized cages to fight and even unbond. This results in both injuries and veterinary bills as well as additional expenses by having to purchase additional caging.
Currently, the most appropriate cage for guinea pigs are C&C Cages. These are homemade cages constructed of Cubes and Coroplast. They can be built on your own (following the instructions at the website above), purchased online by retailers, or ACR&S can build a cage for you. You do not have to adopt from us to purchase a cage from us! We are happy to build homes for all piggies!
The diet of guinea pigs is comprised of three major components: hay, pellets, and fresh vegetables.
Guinea pigs should be allowed access to an unlimited amount of grass based hay (although guinea pigs under 6 months of age should be supplemented with alfalfa). Timothy and orchardgrass are the two most common grass hays seen marketed for small animals. Oxbow and Kleenmama's Hayloft are two brands that are greatly preferred by our foster animals. Hay should be the majority of the diet. Remember that many people are allergic to hay, so be sure that you can tolerate it in the house before committing to a pair of guinea pigs!
Pellets should be provided in limited amounts for adult pigs. Depending on metabolism and personality, 1/8 - 1/4 of a cup of pellet per guinea pig, per day is typically appropriate. Adult guinea pigs should have a timothy based pellet. Guinea pigs under six months of age may have an unlimited amount of pellets, and they may be alfalfa based. Pellets should be a plain pellet. Seeds, nuts, colored bits, and other additives are signs of a poor quality food and should be avoided at all costs. All of the foster homes at ACR&S feed Cavy Cuisine (or Cavy Performance for babies and pregnant mothers) by Oxbow.
Vegetables are the final part of the diet. Guinea pigs need approximately 1 cup of vegetables per guinea pig, per day. This vegetable mix should be primarily leafy greenery with a limit on fruits and other sugary vegetables. Vegetables are an important part of the diet because guinea pigs, unlike most other mammals (and like humans) cannot produce their own vitamin C.
Acceptable beddings: Carefresh, aspen shavings, Yesterday's News, fleece, Wood Pellets, recycled paper pulp bedding
Unacceptable beddings: Cedar and pine shavings (contain dangerous phenols), corn cob bedding (dangerously prone to molding and should not be ingested), straw (not absorbent), clay or clumping cat litter (dangerous if ingested), or newspaper (not absorbent).
Guinea pigs are social animals that are happier living in herds (even 'herds' as small as a pair). Though the urban myth that male guinea pigs will not get along persists even to this day, it is just that -- an urban myth. Male/male and female/female pairings are both equally likely to work out assuming that their housing provides plenty of space. Mixed sexed pairings should only be attempted when one or both guinea pigs has been altered.
Guinea pigs are fertile at 3 weeks of age. There is no safe way for male and female guinea pigs to interact which will not result in pregnancy. Even with owners watching, they can and will mate.
Kids and Guinea Pigs
In many ways, guinea pigs are an ideal pet for children. They are small and easy to hold, are docile, and they rarely bite. However, though they may be excellent for children, children aren't always excellent for them.
Guinea pigs have fragile skeletal systems, and if dropped even from short distances, they are likely to injure or break their legs or spines. In addition, guinea pigs are naturally shy and tend to run from hands approaching their cage overhead. This sometimes disappoints children who may not understand why their friends don't want to be with them. Children should always be supervised when holding guinea pigs, and should always be stationary to help avoid accidents.
Cavy Spirit's "Kids and Pigs" and our own "Children and Guinea Pigs" pages are an excellent resource for parents, with many great stories and information from parents as to how they help their children enjoy their new pets in a safe manner.
Although they seem much more common than some of the other, more exotic pets, guinea pigs are classed as an "exotic" animal. As such, most veterinarians are not qualified to see them, and you'll have to seek out an exotic specialist. ACR&S has compiled a list of veterinary references which may be helpful in finding your pet's new vet. Please be aware that not all vets that "see" guinea pigs actually have up to date knowledge or relevant experience with them. An uninformed vet can very easily kill your guinea pig through well-intentioned ignorance.
Our care guides cover only the basics of dealing with guinea pigs. For even more information, please visit the following websites: