The guinea pig – also known as a cavy – is one of the more popular pets in North America. This is largely because they are friendly, docile and amiable creatures. And with few special needs, they are also relatively easy to care for. There are many varieties of guinea pigs varying in color, size, markings and hair type.
When choosing a cage for your guinea pigs, be sure to select an enclosure with adequate ventilation and sufficient floor space. Never put your pig in an aquarium or a deep-walled box. The ammonia fumes produced by your pigs’ urine can cause respiratory problems for your pets if they are concentrated by glass or other solid walls and not allowed to dissipate into the surrounding air.
Also be sure to provide ample living space so that your pigs can live comfortably and enjoy the opportunity for sufficient exercise. A standard rule of thumb for living space requirements is to allow a minimum of 6 square feet for a single pig, 7.5 square feet for two pigs living together, 10.5 square feet for three cavies and 13 square feet for four pigs. Keep in mind that these are minimum requirements. When it comes to cage size – more is always better.
Your cage should be filled with bedding to absorb urine and keep your pigs clean and dry. Clay litter should never be used. Dust from this type of litter can also cause respiratory problems if inhaled by your pigs. Bedding produced from recycled newspaper is an effective and healthy choice.
Fleece is becoming a popular alternative to bedding. Fleece does not absorb the urine, but allows the liquid to wick through – thereby keeping your cavies dry and happy. A layer of absorbent material should be placed under the fleece in order to contain the urine after it passes through the layer of fleece.
Guinea pigs are fond of fresh fruits and vegetables. Be sure to choose fruits and vegetables that are dark in color. In general, lighter colored fruits and vegetables are lacking in nutrition. Never feed your cavy pale-colored vegetables (such as iceberg lettuce) which offer very little besides water and empty calories.
Like humans, guinea pigs lack a critical enzyme that allows its body to manufacture vitamin C. For this reason, it is critical that your cavy receives a vitamin C supplement every day.
It you want your guinea pig to like and trust you, you will need to treat it with respect. Never handle it roughly. When picking it up, always support your guinea pig’s bottom from underneath. Also, your cavy’s bones can be easily broken, so be careful not to squeeze your guinea pig too tightly nor drop it from excessive heights. The more you handle your guinea pig (providing you handle it gently), the more comfortable it will become with you.
The guinea pig is one of the most popular pets in North America for many reasons. It can be an affectionate and enjoyable little animal friend when treated with kindness and respect. And with appropriate parental guidance, its docile and friendly nature makes it an excellent pet for a young child.