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The Complete Beginner's Guide to Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs have a well-deserved reputation for being inquisitive, empathetic and playful companions for you and your family. However, just like with any other exotic pet, these small, furry creatures come with special care requirements and needs that you should know before making the decision to introduce one to your home. Here, our South Wilton vets explain the different breeds of guinea pigs, their care requirement, their nutritional needs and their housing and socialization.

Guinea pigs, also called the domestic cavy, are rodents that are common choices for first pets in families with young children. Since they are playful. loving, curious and cute, this is a no-brainer! But there is more to consider than may first meet the eye when making the decision to bring a guinea pig into your home or not than may first meet the eye.

Read on for some of the considerations and accommodations you should plan to make if you are going to be getting a guinea pig, either for yourself or for your family! 

Breeds of Guinea Pig

You may not realize it, but there are actually a number of breeds of domestic guinea pigs that you may be able to choose from when considering bringing one home as a pet. Each has their own unique appearance and needs that you should take into account when making your selection. Some popular breeds include:

  • American Guinea Pig - One of the most popular breeds, the American Guinea Pig has a short, smooth coat and an even temperament. Short hair means minimal maintenance and this breed is quite social.
  • Peruvian Guinea Pig - This breed has long, gorgeous, hair which will require regular brushing to maintain. Peruvian Guinea Pigs are very social, fun-loving and alert.
  • Teddy Guinea Pig - While this breed has short hair, they require regular brushing to make sure nothing is caught in their dense and wiry coat. These guinea pigs are curious and playful.
  • Silkie Guinea Pig - These guinea pigs require even more brushing than Peruvian Guinea Pigs. Because of this, they aren't a great choice if you're planning on your child providing care for them, despite their wonderful, gentle personalities. 
  • Skinny Guinea Pig - This guinea pig is hairless! And while that may look a bit odd to some people, they are quite social and don't require any grooming.
  • Abyssinian Guinea Pig - This long-haired guinea pig has a well-deserved reputation for being friendly, charming and feisty. Unlike other breeds with long hair, Abyssinian Guinea Pigs don't require much grooming, although they can be troublemakers, so they may keep you busy in other ways!

Socialization

Since guinea pigs are social creatures, it is quite easy to maintain either one or a pair of these rodents as pets in your home. Any combination of sexes can be housed together, although if males and females are paired off they will need to be fixed unless you'd like a littler of babies!

If one of your guinea pigs is a bit older or more dominant than the other, there may be some issues with chewing on the ears or hair of the newer, less dominant one. 

Guinea pigs that are paired off will be a little less social with you than lone ones since they have their socialization needs met.

Housing

Guinea pigs spend most of their time in their cage, so there are a number of important factors to consider when acquiring and arranging their housing. 

The cage should have a footprint of at least 7.5 square feet for a single guinea pig, and at least 10 square feet for two. Guinea pigs will also commonly develop sores on their feet if the floor of their home is too rough, so make sure you have a solid-bottomed cage and cover it with soft bedding like shredded newspaper or fleece blankets. 

Do not use cedar shavings for their bedding. It is toxic to their bodies.

And finally, guinea pigs may be trained to drink water from a bowl, but have an easier time drinking from a bottle.

Nutrition

Just like people, guinea pigs don't create their own Vitamin C, so owners need to make sure they get enough in their diet. One of the best ways to do this is to make sure any commercial food your purchase for your guinea pig is specially formulated for them. Your guinea pig will also need a lot of grass hay as a staple of their diet.

On top of these, you should provide your pet with a ready supply of leafy green vegetables like romaine, red and green lettuce. Avoid darker leafy greens like kale or spinach if you can. They contain more calcium than your guinea pig needs and can often cause painful bladder stones that may require a trip to your vet.

Although you may be tempted to include fruit into your guinea pig's diet, they don't need the extra sugar and may become overweight if fruit is part of their weekly diet.

To learn more about the care requirements of guinea pigs, including their diet, grooming needs, housing and common health issues, contact the team at South Wilton Veterinary Group today. Our vets are here to help.

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