How to Care for Your Guinea Pig


Guinea pigs, also known as cavies, are friendly and inquisitive pets. However, they need commitment and regular attention to ensure they stay healthy and happy. Read on to find out how to care for your pocketful of sunshine.

Guinea pigs are sociable pocket pets, are easily tamed, and can live for up to ten years. Their friendly nature makes them fantastic pets. They’re also very intelligent.


1. Companionship

Guinea pigs are happiest when kept with other guinea pigs. However, if you do keep males and females together, make sure both animals are the same sex or at least one gender has been desexed.

RSPCA NSW does not recommend keeping guinea pigs and rabbits together. Rabbits can pass on diseases to guinea pigs, and they may bully each other.

2. Food


Guinea pigs are herbivores. To keep them healthy and happy, they need:

  • a constant source of good quality fresh grass or grass hay, such as Meadow, Oaten, Pasture, Ryegrass, Timothy or Wheaten hays. This is important for wearing down their continuously growing teeth.
  • fresh, leafy green vegetables and herbs every day, such as broccoli, cabbage (in small amounts), celery, endives, Brussel sprouts, bok choy and other Asian greens, and dark-leafed lettuce varieties; and herbs such as basil, coriander, dandelion, dill, mint and parsley. Remember that carrot tops should only be given as an occasional treat.
  • small quantities of high-quality guinea pig pellets. These should have a minimum fibre content of 16 per cent.
  • a daily source of vitamin C, such as small amounts of citrus and kiwi fruits
  • a constant source of clean, fresh water

Do not feed your guinea pig:

  • beans
  • beetroot
  • biscuits
  • bread
  • breakfast cereals
  • buttercups
  • cereals
  • chocolate
  • Clover or Lucerne (Alfalfa) hays
  • corn
  • garden shrubs
  • grains
  • lily of the valley
  • nuts
  • onion grass
  • onions
  • peas
  • potato tops
  • raw beans
  • rhubarb leaves
  • seeds
  • spinich leaves
  • sugar
  • sweets

3. Enrichment


Guinea pigs need lots of space to exercise – the more the better. She should exercise every day in a large, grassy area, free and safe from predators.

You could also provide your guinea pig with a chewing log made of untreated wood to wear down her teeth, and overturned boxes to hide in.

4. Grooming

Daily grooming is essential for long-haired guinea pigs, and ensures their coats remain in good condition. Regular handling will also help build her confidence, and encourage her to become friendly and sociable.

You should also check the length of your guinea pig’s teeth and toenails. If they are too long, get your veterinarian to trim them.

5. Health


Good cleaning and feeding practices will help prevent many common health problems, including respiratory infections and skin problems.

It is essential to cover your guinea pig’s hutch with a flyscreen. Doing this, as well as keeping her hutch clean, will help prevent flystrike. Long-haired guinea pigs are particularly at risk of this condition, which can be fatal.

Guinea pigs, like most pets, are also susceptible to fleas. Speak to your veterinarian about an appropriate flea treatment if needed. They may also suffer from mite infestations, which can cause discomfort, hair loss and itchiness.

If your guinea pig develops bald batches, this could be a sign of the fungal disease ringworm, so seek help from a veterinarian immediately.

For more information on common health problems, click here.

6. Housing


Your guinea pig’s enclosure should be at least one metre by 0.7 metres, and 0.7 metres high. If you have two guinea pigs, they will need double this space. They will also need their own, separate sleeping areas, which must be covered. You must fly-proof the enclosure using flyscreen wire or mosquito netting, as this will help reduce the risk of flystrike.

Line the hutch with newspaper and soft grass hay to provide cushioning and prevent foot injuries. Do not use sawdust, straw or wood shavings. Remember that your guinea pig needs a soft, clean, dry surface at all times, or she can quickly develop foot problems. Clean her entire enclosure regularly, and her bedding when needed – usually once a day.

Keep the hutch in a sheltered area which is well ventilated, between 18-26°C, and kept out of direct sunlight and strong winds. She must always have access to adequate shade.

Click here for more information on preventing heatstroke.

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