Everybody Loves A Piggy!
Guinea pigs are one of the most popular smaller animals that people choose for a pet. Guinea pigs are both ideal for younger children and even adults when one is searching for the perfect pet! Although they are very lovable and a joy to own, there are several key things you MUST know before purchasing a guinea pig. This guide will provide you tips, information, and knowledge on owning a guinea pig.
The Guinea Pig Diet
Guinea pigs can eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. However, you must keep in mind that not all fruits and vegetables are healthy for them. Some you are able to feed daily, while others should be given only 2-3 times per week as a treat. I will provide you with a list of different foods that guinea pigs CAN eat.
Daily vegetables include the following:
- Romaine lettuce (Do NOT feed your piggy iceberg lettuce! It is high in nitrates and low in nutrients, can cause diarrhea if given in excess).
- Spinach leaves
- Green peppers (Which are very rich in vitamin C!)
- Swiss Chard
- Red leaf lettuce
- Butterhead lettuce
Now I will provide you with a list of vegetables that you may feed your guinea pig only a few times a week.
- Red or Orange Bell Peppers
- Turnip greens
- Fresh grass (Clean, pesticide-free, not soiled by dogs/cats/etc, NOT cut by a lawn mower)
Not only do guinea pigs love vegetables, but they also love their fruits as well. Be sure to only give them a few pieces of fruit a week. Too much fruit can result in certain health issues due to the amounts of sugar that they contain. I will once again provide you with a list of fruits you may and may not give to your guinea pigs.
Fruits you can occasionally give to your guinea pig include:
Aside from the fruits and vegetables, two other food items are also a must for your piggy. Timothy hay and pellet food is also required to keep your guinea pig healthy and happy. Timothy hay is a great way to keep their teeth from constantly growing. If they are constantly grazing or grinding on hay, their teeth will not overgrow.
Pellet food is a daily food item for guinea pigs. Please make sure that which ever brand you choose, also includes Vitamin C within the pellets. Vitamin C is a necessary, DAILY, supplement guinea pigs need. Without it, they are prone to get scurvy and may possibly threaten the life of your piggy! Guinea pigs can not store Vitamin C so we must provide them with the proper foods each day so they are able to stay healthy!
Bringing Home Your New Friend
Who wouldn't want to play with their brand new pet the first day it was brought home? Although this part may be very tough for you future guinea pig owners, but this is a MUST!
When bringing home your new guinea pig you should already have a cage set up and waiting for him/her. Make sure you provide soft bedding (do not use cedar or pine shavings. They are known to cause sores on their feet as well as produce dust which will cause a URI; upper respiratory infection and could lead to their death) fresh food such as pellets and hay, fresh water, and even a little hidey home where they can hide when they are either nervous or afraid. Once you bring your new friend home immediately place them into the cage. At first they will be shy and timid. They will only want to explore for a certain amount of time before they choose to hide for a while. Guinea pigs need a few days to adjust to their new environment and may or may not warm up to you very quickly.
Once a few days have passed, you may notice that your guinea pig may seem a little bit happier. Once they feel comfortable in their new home you will notice clear signs of happiness and playfulness. Guinea Pigs often do something called "popcorning" which is a clear sign of content. They will arch their backs and leap into the air as if they are jumping! When you notice your piggy popcorning, you should feel accomplished because they are clearly enjoying their new home! Just be sure to give your new furry friend their space. Guinea pigs are usually very shy creatures until they are fully aware of their surroundings and their handlers. In some cases it may take a guinea pig a few weeks to be fully adjusted!
The Guinea Pig Language
Guinea Pigs are very vocal animals once they have adapted to their surroundings and to their owners/handlers. There are a variety of sounds that guinea pigs can and will produce that you should be aware of.
- Wheeking- This vocalization is usually aimed towards us humans as a sign of hunger or begging for food. You will soon notice that you cannot open your refrigerator door without hearing the sound of your piggy begging for food! They will also 'wheek' when you are close by their cage. It's almost as if they are begging for your attention too!
- Rumbling- A rumble, which sounds like a purring sound, happens usually when a male piggy is romancing another guinea pig. A female can also make this sound if she is in season. A rumble sounds deeper than a purr with a vibrating effect. While making this sound a guinea pig will sway their hips and walk around another guinea pig. This is known as the mating dance, other terms used are motorboating or rumble strutting. If you have multiple guinea pigs of the same sex in a single cage you will notice this action often. It is also a sign of dominance. When one piggy wants to the be the boss, he or she has no problem in letting their cage mates know who the head honcho is!
- Purring- Purring is a sign of sheer content that your guinea pig will produce if you are petting them. You will notice this if you have them placed on your lap or chest, gently stroking them. There are also different signs and meanings of purring. If it is a low sounding vocalization, often sounding like a "durr" noise, that is a sign of nervousness. You may hear this if a telephone is ringing, or if there is a knock at the door. They are unaware of what this new, strange noise is, so they will often make the "durr" sound to alert any other guinea pigs that danger could be close by.
- Shrieking- Shrieking sounds like a very sharp, high pitched wheek and it means your guinea pig has suffered pain or they may be very afraid. You may hear this if you have multiple piggies and one may have nipped or bit another. Guinea Pigs will also make this noise to warn other pigs to 'keep away' or to 'stay away' if they feel threatened.
- Chutting- If a guinea pig is highly annoyed with either you or a cage mate, they will make this noise called chutting. They continuously clack and chatter their teeth together and may even hiss a little bit if something is bothering them. For instance, if you are petting your guinea pig too roughly, or in a manner they consider a nuisance they will chutt.
- Chirping- This is one of the most rare noises a guinea pig can produce. Some guinea pig owners and handlers have never heard their guinea pigs make this noise and they have owned piggies for years! Chirping has two different meanings. A guinea pig may chirp if they are very content. You may be in another room and witness a noise that sounds like an actual canary. That is actually your guinea pig singing because of how content and happy they are! However, if you notice that your guinea pig is breathing heavily, dashing around their cage of the floor at high speeds while they are producing this noise, than what means something must have startled it. They will also make this noise to alert other pigs that danger is near or close by.
Cleaning and Bathing Your Guinea Pig
Proper bathing and grooming also applies for smaller animals such as guinea pigs. Although you will soon realize that not all guinea pigs are excited for bath time. When it is time to bathe your piggy do NOT place them into a bathtub. It is entirely way too open and they get very skittish when being placed into a new, different environment such as a bathtub and when they are undergoing conditions they are not use to. Get a smaller tub of warm water and make sure it is not boiling hot! Place your guinea pig into the water and slowly scoop the water onto them while you are speaking to them. Talking to your guinea pig during bath time assures them that no harm is going to happen to them. Please avoid getting water into your guinea pig's eyes or ears. If water happens to seep into their ears, medical issues may become a problem for you. So when it comes time to bathe their facial area, get a smaller washcloth or a clean rag and gently wipe their faces down. You may scrub the rest of their body with your hands and with a guinea pig shampoo that you can find at your local pet store. Once the bath has finished it is now time to dry them. Wrap them up with a towel and gently let the excess water collect into the towel. You may need a second towel to keep your piggy warm and to also fully dry them. You may also try to use a hairdryer to fully dry them but please make sure the settings are on low, as well as the heat. Gently place them into your lap and continue to blow-dry their fur until they are no longer damp. Once you are finished you may place your piggyback into their cage!
Guinea Pig Companionship
If you intend on owning only one guinea pig, take a minute and ask yourself these few questions.
- Am I able to handle my guinea pig multiple times a day?
- Am I able to give it floor time so it is able to play and get exercise?
- Am I going to be able to give my piggy enough attention?
If you happened to answer "No" to any of the above questions, you may want to consider getting a pair of guinea pigs instead of a single one. Guinea pigs are social creatures and without the proper attention they tend to get depressed easily.Once a guinea pig gets depressed it is very difficult for the piggy to gain back it's usual personality. In some cases, guinea pigs can get so depressed that they may not eat or even drink anymore. This is a serious health issue some exotic vets see daily. It is proven that guinea pigs do much better when they have a cage mate with them. Perhaps you work often, or you're unable to provide the right amount of attention to a guinea pig. Getting a second one will make your piggy's life a lot easier and happier! When they have a cage mate, they interact more often, they play more often, and in some cases they seem even friendlier! So if you happen to be on the go most of the day, please consider buying a pair of guinea pigs.