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tricolor guinea pig

“What pet should I get?” It’s not just the title of a Dr. Suess book, it’s a question often heard from a first-time visitor to the Connecticut Humane Society. You’ve already thought about the pros and cons and whether or not you’re ready to get a pet, but you still might be on the fence about what type of pet you want. Or maybe you just adopted a pet, and you want to make sure you’ve covered all your bases. Check out these tips to start.

Easy to care for, docile and are responsive to gentle handling, Guinea pigs are not as likely to investigate the world with their mouths as some of their rodent family friends. They are curious critters and enjoy exploring, especially when on familiar territory. Guinea pigs are social animals who prefer to live in small groups, but you’ll want to keep males and females separate as they can multiply quickly.

Basic Information

  • Average adult size: 8-11 inches long
  • Average life span: up to 8 years with proper care
  • Guinea pigs should be kept in same sex pairs if raised together or individually. If unaltered males and females are kept together, breeding or fighting may occur.
  • Guinea pigs are social creatures that communicate through sounds and enjoy daily handling.
  • Always wash your hands after handling your pets or cleaning their dishes, cage, toys, etc.

Diet and Feeding

  • Fresh food and water should always be available. Most Guinea pigs are accustomed to drinking from a water bottle.
  • Timothy hay should make up the majority of their diet, along with specialized Guinea pigs pellets and a small amount of leafy green vegetables daily. Guinea pigs are unable to produce their own vitamin C. A Guinea pig should never be fed rabbit pellets.
  • Vegetables and fruits not eaten within a few hours should be discarded.
  • Clean, fresh, filtered, chlorine-free water, changed daily.
  • Do not feed chocolate, caffeine or alcohol as these can cause serious medical conditions. Avoid sugar and high fat treats.

Housing

  • Guinea pigs acclimate well to average household temperatures, not above 80°F. Avoid extreme temperature changes. The habitat should be placed in an area that is away from drafts and direct sunlight.
  • The minimum habitat size for one Guinea pig should be at least 36″L x 30″W x 18″H with a solid bottom. It is best to provide the largest habitat possible.
  • 1-2” of paper bedding, such as Carefresh, is recommended. Wood shavings should not be used as bedding.
  • Clean and disinfect the habitat and non-porous toys regularly; remove wet spots daily. Bedding should be changed at least once a week or more often if necessary.
  • Provide a variety of chewable toys to promote proper teeth wear as their teeth grow continuously.

Health & Grooming

  • Guinea pigs should be brushed to remove shedding hair and prevent matting in long-haired breeds.
  • Guinea pigs also need regular nail trims to prevent overgrowth and curling.

Training and Enrichment
As you build and strengthen your relationship with your Guinea pig, they’ll learn to respond to their name and you may even be able to train them to do tricks!

Health and Veterinary Care
A healthy Guinea pig should be active, alert, and sociable, eating and drinking often, with healthy fur and clear eyes. A Guinea pig who is inactive, losing weight, has eye or nasal discharge, diarrhea, hair loss or distressed breathing may be sick. If you notice these any of these signs, see your veterinarian right away.

Check out the video below for kid-friendly Guinea pig care tips.

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