We got our little guinea pigs last week, Jessie and Leia, and they’re settling in well. I like to make sure that we’re doing our best by them, so I’ve read a huge amount about guinea pig care over the last couple of weeks. That being the case, I thought I’d share a few of my learns and tips for getting guinea pigs and then what to expect in the first few days…
We thought a lot about the pets we wanted to get for the children. I was brought up with pets and I think it’s good for kids to have them, so it was a case of then deciding which animals would suit us best. We opted for guinea pigs as they’re easier for the children to handle than smaller rodents, and are awake in the day, whilst not being so big that they’d hurt them or be too much of a task to take on. Once we’d settled on guinea pigs, I embarked on my research project and the key things that I think you need to consider are:
1. Choosing guinea pigs. Guinea pigs are sociable animals and need to live with at least one other guinea pig (not a rabbit). Ideally, go for a pair already bonded, so that they’re already accustomed to one another and hopefully less likely to fight. I read that females tend to be a little neater and less smelly, which is why we went for them, but time will tell on that one. There are different breeds, and I’d point out that whilst I love the look of the long haired ones, they would require more grooming and care than a short smooth haired piggie. You then need to think about where you’re going to get them from. We bought ours from a local children’s farm, as that way I knew that they would have been used to being regularly handled and around young children. I’d also recommend checking out whether any rescues are local to you. I was wary of pet shops as I wondered how much they would be used to being handled there, and I’d heard stories of inaccurate sexing, too, due to inexperience.
2. Equipment. They need a fair bit of space. We initially bought ours a double tier outdoor hutch which gave them plenty of room, as well as a pen for them to go out in each day, too. We’ve since bought them an indoor cage and they live inside, in this case you just need to find a big space suitable for them. In addition to their home and play area, we have bought a food bowl, water bottle, hay rack, a tube, a nest, some balls and then they have shampoo, nail clippers and cage cleaner. You’ll want to have somewhere to store their food and bedding, and consider that they need cleaning out at least once a week, as well as daily mini clean ups, so think about where we will be easiest to house them to do that.
3. Bedding. Sounds straightforward, but there are many choices. A common misconception is that you can use sawdust, but this should never be used as it can harm your pets. Wood shavings are a little better, but still not generally recommended. I bought Carefresh originally, which is like soft paper fibres with the dust extracted as it’s the dust from these products that can harm the guinea pigs and cause respiratory problems. But it’s not that cheap and it seems that for two little babies, they can poo and wee a lot! I then bought a huge bag of Megazorb which is also made from wood pulp. It’s soft and very absorbent and a better option. I then opted for fleeces, as they’re inside, so they’d have a layer of newspaper down, the fleece and in addition to these they have plenty of hay to play and snuggle down in. For a better look, here I shared our Guinea Pig Cage Set Up. And finally, we are now on Fitch bedding in their latest big cage set up and so far, so good. Bedding is always something I am experimenting with!
4. Diet. This one is an ongoing voyage of discovery! They primarily need fresh drinking water and good quality hay, as these are crucial to their digestive systems. The hay is to be given daily to be eaten and they should have an unlimited supply of this. In addition to that, they have guinea pig food in a shallow ceramic bowl, so that it can’t be easily overturned, and then fruit and vegetables. Guinea pigs, like us, cannot produce their own vitamin C, so need to get it from other sources. We give fruit in very small doses as it has too much sugar for them, and then we give veggies daily. So far, we’ve found that ours love broccoli, kale, savoy cabbage, peppers, green beans and dandelion leaves, they’ll eat carrots, but turn their noses up at any most fruits. Boo and I have drawn up a list of safe fruit and vegetables that they can eat, and we’re working our way through it and then noting down whether they ‘love it’, ‘like it’ or ‘dislike it’ – we like to look after them!
5. Responsibility. It will rest with you. As much as we’re calling Jessie and Leia the kids’ pets, and to be fair, Boo is being brilliant getting involved in their feeding and playing with them, the buck is going to rest with me for the next however many years (around 5-8 years on average). I was shocked when looking round at rescues by the amount of guinea pigs needing re-homing as the adults had handed them in because they’d bought them for their children and the children had lost interest in them. Well yes, that is always likely to happen, I think, and I’m expecting that my kids will leave more and more for me to do. When buying these, I considered how much time I would have to give to them and how I could best meet their needs around my life and routine.
What To Expect In The First Week
If you’ve decided to go for it, hooray! I hope you love them as much as I already love ours. Having now had them for just over a week, I’d just want to point out that initially they will be very timid and unsure of you and their new surroundings when you take them home. It’s all different for them and they’re away from their mother and litter for the first time, along with the strange experience of travelling to get home. We left ours to it for the first couple of days allowing them to adjust. They barely moved for the first 24 hours, and it seems that they are becoming more confident now with each passing day. We just went out talking softly to them, feeding and keeping their hutch clean initially. Then after three days we took them out into their pen where the kids sat in with them and talked quietly to them and stroked them. We’ve done this each day since and whilst they’re still shy, they are more comfortable with us now and we are getting lots of wheeking noises – so sweet! Just take it slowly giving them time to adjust but then do start handling them so that they get used to you and being stroked and cuddled. Let them have a good old sniff of you, too, and I chat to ours whenever I’m outside so that they get used to my voice. The Husband thinks I’m mad, but I don’t care!
I’ve found these websites to be really helpful:
I’ve also started a Guinea Pigs Pinterest board (naturally) where I’ll be pinning useful information, tutorials, tips, games and cute pics!
I hope you’ve found this helpful. I’d love to hear from you if you have guinea pigs, too, or are considering getting some. They are the most loving and adorable of pets, and I’m looking forward to getting to know ours better.
A Guinea Pig Update!!! Sharing Life with Guinea Pigs, a few months on…
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