For a guinea pig to thrive, it needs to have a comfortable and clean big guinea pig cage that is perfectly suited to its needs, to be fed and handled with care, and have a loving owner that plays and interacts with it.
Prepare your home
Guinea pigs crave company so they should be kept with other small mammals but in a room that is far away from cats and dogs. If you don’t have a separate space to keep your guinea pigs, you should set up their cage so that it does not have to face cats, dogs or other predators that can make them feel stressed.
No matter the room that you choose, you need to remember to maintain the temperature at 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit so that you can minimize the risk of your critter getting a respiratory disease.
While guinea pigs are very small creatures, they do require ample space to move about and exercise. When choosing a living quarter for them, you will need to make sure the habitat is at least 18 inches wide, 25 inches deep and 14 inches high. Guinea pigs that are housed in big cages are more likely to be active and thus remain healthier and live longer.
The type of cage does not matter as much, any traditional stainless-steel cage should work. However, you should avoid aquariums since they provide poor ventilation and mesh or wire-floor cages since they can hurt the tender feet of your guinea pig. If you do end up with a wire-floor cage, you can put a tray to cover the entire bottom section.
You will also need to buy cage supplies such as bedding, a food dish, a water bottle and toys to keep your new pet entertained. For the bedding, you should not get pine or cedar shavings since they are toxic to these critters. Timothy hay is one of the best types of bedding since it is also part of the guinea pig diet.
Remember to provide your critter with a gnawing log such as an untreated fruit tree branch, platforms to climb on and tunnels to crawl through. This way you can simulate the natural habitat of the guinea pig so that it does not get bored while being left in the cage alone for hours.
You will also need to have at least one room that is safe for your pet to explore and run about. The room should not have any exposed wires or cables since the critter might chew them and get electrocuted, the doors should be closed, and no other pets should be inside.
Feeding your guinea pig
Guinea pigs don’t require a lot of food and in this sense, they are very cheap to take care of since you only need to feed one pet about 1/8 cup of guinea pig food per day and remove any unfinished food so that it does not go bad. The main diet of your critter should consist of commercial guinea pig food but you can supplement it with fresh vegetables.
The best vegetables that you can offer your guinea pig are dark leafy greens such as kale, spinach, and dark green lettuce. You can offer up to a cup of these greens each day. You may also offer it a few carrots or some sweet potato a couple of times per week. Just as in the case with commercial food, remove any leftovers from the cage so that they don’t spoil.
Guinea pigs are rodents which means that their front teeth will never stop growing, and thus they need something to gnaw at to keep the teeth at a manageable size. Make sure they always have something to chew since otherwise, they may start chewing at the cage bars which can be very damaging to their health.
Furthermore, you will also need to remember to supply your pet with fresh water which will need to be changed on a daily basis.
How to handle your guinea pig
Because guinea pigs are easily startled, it can be scary handling your new pet for the first time, but patience is key. You will need to choose a time when both you and the pet are calm and during your first interactions it is best to proceed slowly.
To handle this critter correctly you will need to place one of your hands under its chest and wrap your fingers around its body gently. You can now place the other hand under its bottom and lift the guinea pig up. Make sure you hold it close to your body since that will make it feel safe and protect it from harm if it tries to get away.
Guinea pigs are social creatures that like to play and toys are a good way to engage and to bond with your new furry companion. You may also use tennis or ping pong balls since they can be very fun for your pet to chase around.
Keeping your guinea pig clean
There is not much that you need to do to keep your guinea pig clean since they generally do a very good job of keeping themselves clean. For short-haired critters you can use a dry cloth to wipe off any dirt off its hair and brush it gently a couple of times each week. Long-haired guinea pigs need to be brushed gently on a daily basis.
The only time when your guinea pig will need a bath is if it has a fungal skin condition and if your vet recommends you this as a remedy you will need to make sure that the room is warm before attempting a bath. It is very important that your critter does not get cold.
The water should be warm but not hot, and the shampoo should be specifically recommended by your vet. After washing your critter with shampoo thoroughly you should immediately rinse it off and wrap the pet in a towel that has been warmed and rub gently until it is mostly dry.
Your guinea pig’s nails will also need to be trimmed so that they don’t get too uncomfortably long. You can use a nail clipper and make sure you only remove the tip of the nail so that you don’t accidentally cut into the blood vessel inside.
Don’t forget to clean the cage
No matter how much you take care of your guinea pig, if you don’t keep its cage clean it can easily get dirty and catch diseases. You need to make a habit out of this task so that you don’t forget to do it. Setting your phone to remind you during the first weeks is a good start since with time it will become part of your daily and weekly routine.
Try and scoop out the cage every day to remove any soiled hay. Focus on the corners since guinea pigs tend to do their business there, and replace the soiled hay with a clean one. The water bottle and the food dish should also be emptied and cleaned daily.
A thorough cleaning of the cage should happen every week and it consists of taking your pet and all the hay and accessories out of the cage. You should then clean the cage using a cloth that’s been moistened with diluted white vinegar.
Once you are done you can rinse the cage with water and leave it to dry completely before adding new hay, the pet and its accessories and toys back inside.
Be on the lookout for signs of an unhealthy or unhappy pet
Guinea pigs are tough little creatures and even when they are sick, they show signs very late. You can start by checking your pet’s eyes and nose – both should be clean and while a bit of milky discharge from the eyes is normal, any other liquid coming from either the eyes or nose should be evaluated by the vet.
When brushing the coat you can also check its skin and any flaking or redness should be reported to the vet. It is not uncommon for guinea pigs to get a type of mite called mange. They are uncomfortable and itchy but they can be treated with medication.
You may also be able to see if something is wrong with your fluffy pal if you check on its behavior frequently. Guinea pigs are active and fun creatures that like to jump and run out of their cages and are friendly with people if they are well-socialized.
If your pet is uncharacteristically quiet or starts to isolate itself in a corner and it is not interested in playing, you should take it to a vet to have it examined.