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How To Look After Your Guinea Pig

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by Bryony Harrison (subscribe)
Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from goo.gl/Ta4oAX.
Published November 4th 2012
Diet, Housing, and Cleaning
How To Look After Your Guinea Pig

Parsley is my guinea pigs favourite treat


Although guinea pigs are easier to look after than dogs, which need a lot of attention, having guinea pigs still has its responsibilities. Here are some tips on how best to look after your squeaky members of the family.

Living Quarters

Guinea pigs are active creatures so need a lot of room to run about and get exercise. Do not put them in a small cage or hutch as they will become overweight, bored, and depressed.

Our rather weathered ark


If living indoors, make sure that they have the opportunity to go outside and graze on the lawn. You can buy or build runs that can be moved around the garden. As guinea pigs get through a lot of grass, it is best to move the run to a new patch everyday, otherwise they will eat down to the root and the grass will not grow again (or take a very long time to re-sprout).

Our home made hutch has served us well for over a decade.


If living in an outdoor hutch, make sure that it is well insulated, particularly in the winter. When it is wet and damp, it is better to keep them in their hutch or inside, rather than putting them in a run or muddy grass, and when it is cold it will be necessary to give them extra hay.

Diet

Guinea pigs have a sensitive digestive system, so new foods should be introduced slowly in small amounts with what they are already used to. The main staple of a guinea pig's diet should be:



Grass - In the winter, it is not always possible to provide them with fresh grass, but in the summer, let them graze on the lawn frequently. You can also give them grass cuttings, but make sure it is fresh and remove anything left over at the end of the day. Once grass is cut, it starts to go off and could make your guinea pig poorly.

Hay - Guinea pigs love sleeping in, and eating hay. You can give young guinea pigs Alpha Alpha, but do not give it to adults because the high calcium levels can cause them to get kidney stones. You can find Timothy Hay or Meadow Hay in most pet stores.

Dry Food - Food especially manufactured to suit your guinea pig's dietary requirements and give them the nutrients they need. They come in the form of brown pellets or an assortment of muesli like flakes. The pellets are the more nutritious, but they tend to enjoy the muesli more. If your guinea pig starts selective feeding, it is a good idea to stick purely to the pellets.

If you are keeping guinea pigs with rabbits, feed them both on guinea pig dry food. Rabbits can eat guinea pig pellets, but rabbit food is not good for guinea pigs. Also be aware that if given too much fresh food, rabbits will get the runs, so be careful when providing it.

apples fallen from a tree equal free guinea pig food


Fruit and Vegetables - With so much fruit and vegetables to choose from, it can sometimes be difficult to know what you can and cannot give your guinea pig. There are lots of healthy selections, but there also things that can make them ill. The best thing to remember if you are unsure is that guinea pigs need lots of vitamin C, so tomatoes, oranges, and red peppers are a good choice.

Parsley is my guinea pigs favourite treat


They love leafy greens such as spinach, parsley, dandelion stalks, cabbage, broccoli, and lettuce. When selecting lettuce, Hearts of Romaine is the best, while you should avoid Iceberg Lettuce as it can give them diarrhoea. Although nutritious, leafy greens are gassy, so only give it to them in moderation. Other food to give in moderation are acidic fruits such as apples and citrus fruits.



Guinea pigs like carrots, green beans, strawberries, pears, corn-on-the-cob with the leaves, and cumber. While all are perfectly safe, cumber has little nutritional value, so it is more of a treat than anything else.

Vegetables that you should not give them include the pre-mentioned Iceberg Lettuce, bananas, because of their high sugar content, and potato skins and rhubarb, which is poisonous to them. Although tomatoes are good for them, tomato tops are poisonous and should be removed. Other vegetables that are poisonous to guinea pigs are bulb vegetables, such as onions.

Water - should always be available and fresh.

Entertainment

Frith plays by the plastic and wooden tunnels


While guinea pigs will not use exercise wheels, climbing equipment, or exercise balls like rats and hamsters, there are other things to keep them happy and occupied. These include things they can chew like the bark on sticks, which allows them to keep their teeth gnawed down. If they are unable to do this, their teeth will get too long and it will become painful. They also like to nibble chew sticks with various tasty treats on them, and these are provided by pet shops.

As guinea pigs are prey animals, they are naturally nervous and find the most comfort in finding places to hide. You can cut out doors in cardboard boxes to create little houses for them, and tubes which they can run through. Make sure the tubes are made of natural material rather than plastic, so they are safe to chew.

Cleaning Out

wood shavings
Wood Shavings


You should clean out their hutch at least once a week with new fresh bedding so germs and diseases do not spread. Their feeding and sleeping areas should be separate. Lay down cardboard and/or newspapers to line their feeding area, and a combination of wood shavings, shredded paper, and hay for their sleeping area.

Enjoy looking after your guinea pigs!
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Why? Because guinea pigs need caring for
Where: At home
Cost: Looking after any pet can be pricy, but they're cheaper than looking after a dog
Your Comment
My daughters enjoyed your article Bryony. They are breeding GPs at the moment and the babies are sooo cute : )
by Susan Jackson (score: 2|750) 2069 days ago
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