Guinea pigs are great pets and are relatively easy to care for. They are social animals and are therefore best kept in pairs or small groups. They are suitable pets for younger children as long as they are handled regularly and correctly.
|Life span:||4 – 8 years|
|Sexual maturity:||male 9 – 10 weeks
Female 4 – 6 weeks
|Litter size:||1 – 6 (average 3 – 4)|
|Country of origin:||South America|
There are many different breeds of guinea pig, varying in coat texture and coat length. Smooth coated guinea pigs are available in any colour combination including: black, red, cream, white, chocolate and others! There are also pure bred guinea pigs such as Satins, Himalayans, Dutch, Rex, Abyssinian, Peruvian, Texas, Alpacas and many more. Some are smooth or short-coat, others are long-haired, and some have crested coats.
If you are thinking about guinea pigs as pets for the first time, it may be best to consider short haired breeds, as longer coated breeds require regular grooming and therefore require more time to keep clean.
If you wish to keep two guinea pigs together, 2 females will generally get on better with each other. 2 males will sometimes live together, but only if they are kept together from a young age. Obviously, if you wish to keep guineas of different sexes, neutering the males will prevent unwanted litters.
Contrary to popular belief, guinea pigs should not be housed with rabbits,
since the latter can harbour diseases which are fatal to guinea pigs.
Rabbits will frequently bully guinea pigs also.
Guinea pigs can be kept outdoors or indoors. If kept outside they should be in a large hutch which should be as weather-proof as possible and provide a solid covered area for shelter. The hutch should be lifted up off the floor and have strong wire netting to prevent cats, dogs or foxes from getting in. Suitable hutches can be found in most pet shops, or you can make your own.
Guinea pig bedding can be made up of a number of things: old newspaper can be laid down first to provide insulation, and then shredded newspaper, straw or hay, to provide bedding. Wood shavings should not be used as they easily get into eyes and nostrils, causing irritation or chest infections.
Hutches should be cleaned out on a weekly basis, removing and replacing
all of the bedding. If the guinea pigs use one area as a toilet, then
this may require cleaning on a daily basis.
As with every animal, it is vital for guinea pigs to have access to clean, fresh water at all times. This should be changed daily. Water should be provided in a water bottle, obtainable from any pet shop.
Guinea pigs are vegetarian, and so do not eat any meat or fish. They are unable to manufacture their own Vitamin C, and rely on it being present in their diet – for this reason they should not be fed rabbit food. The best way to ensure a supply of vitamin C is to feed a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables. Most fruit and vegetables can be fed, although guinea pigs tend not to like potatoes and onions. Hay should be available to guinea pigs at all time, to provide roughage and aid digestion. Commercial guinea pig mixes are readily available comprising flakes, pellets and grains, and are supplemented with vitamin C.
Guinea pigs also enjoy grazing on grass and dandelion leaves.