Guinea Pigs 101
So, you're thinking about adding a guinea pig to your family. Or maybe you've brought one home and are having the common anxieties of a new owner. Either way, you're on the hunt for credible information about how to care for them. And you're having a hard time sorting out the reputable sites from the hobbyists.
We're a guinea pig rescue that has taken in more than 950 guinea pigs in 8 years. We have pet guinea pigs of our own. We know guinea pigs. We know all the myths about guinea pigs -- and why they're just that...myths. We've nursed guinea pigs through allergies and cancer and everything in between -- and have seen and treated health conditions that most guinea pig owners will never see. We hang out in the leading online guinea pig communities with other rescuers, caregivers, veterinarians, and vet technicians. We also "speak guinea pig"...with 700 guinea pigs coming through your doors, you're bound to become fluent!
We've done the footwork, creating a list of the essential resources that can help make you a well-informed owner. And the "Stuff You Need" sections can help you pull together your regular shopping list of needed supplies for your guinea pigs.
The Adoption Option - Give A Lovable Critter A Second Chance At A Happy Home
Most people don't realize just how many guinea pigs there are out there who need to find homes. If you know where to look, you're almost guaranteed to find the age and breed you want through the "adoption option."
Please make adoption your first choice when you're looking to add guinea pigs to your home.
Most rescues and shelters make a point of having a page on Petfinder. Search for "guinea pigs" in your state and you'll likely be surprised at what you find listed by area shelters. You may even find a specialty rescue in your area. Individual owners
- Guinea Pig Adoption Network
GPAN is a privately run site used by rescues and individuals alike. Search this site in addition to Petfinder; while there is occasionally some cross-posting between the two sites, you will find quite a few listings on one site that you didn't find o
- Guinea Pig Home
Formerly CavyRescue.com (a well-known, heavily visited site), this site features adoption listings from around the United States. Search this site in addition to GPAN and Petfinder.
A well-established, heavily visited site that provides a list of rescues in the United States and abroad.
- Guinea Lynx Rescue Organizations List
This section of Guinea Lynx provides links to rescues in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada. You also can find adoption postings on Guinea Lynx itself, and more links to other sites with a national or international audience.
- The Critter Connection, Inc.
If you're in Connecticut or one of its neighboring states, please check out our adoption postings. We have many lovable guinea pigs looking for a second chance at a wonderful home! You also can read more about us here on Squidoo.
Guinea Pig Myths That Unnecessarily Impede Adoptions - Myths & Misconceptions We Wish Would Go Away
There's a lot of myths and misconceptions floating around about guinea pigs, in pet stores, on hobbyist Web sites or blogs launched by people who recently acquired their first pair of pigs, on user-contributed content sites like Helium and eHow, in question-and-answer forums like Yahoo! Answers, and even in books on guinea pig care!
Unfortunately, some of these myths have prevented guinea pigs from getting adopted to good homes and ruins matches that might otherwise have been successful. And it infuriates rescues.
Below are the myths that really need to die.
- Male Guinea Pigs Can't Live Together
Actually, they can -- and quite harmoniously.
- Pairs Must Be From The Same Litter
Not -- it's all about personalities.
- No Introductions Needed
Yes they are -- no one wants a perfect stranger moving in.
- One Pig Bonds Better Than Two
Nope -- it's all about how much YOU interact with them.
- Piggies & Bunnies Can Be Roommates
Seems like a good idea -- but only in theory.
- Guinea Pigs Can't Be Spayed/Neutered
Oh yes they can (by a qualified veterinarian).
Essential Web Links For Guinea Pig Owners
While there's a lot of sites that we visit regularly, these links are essential resources for new or prospective guinea pig owners.
- Guinea Lynx
The Web's most extensive resource for medical and care information for guinea pigs. This site should absolutely be included on the Favorites or Bookmarks menu in every guinea pig owner's Web browser.
- Cavy Spirit
The Web site for this California-based guinea pig rescue offers a full range of information on caring for your guinea pigs.
- The Peter Gurney Guinea Pig Health Guide
Peter Gurney is a well-known, well-respected, prolific writer and expert on the topic of guinea pigs and their care, health, and social behavior. All his sites are "musts" for anyone's Web bookmarks list, and his books are "musts" for any guinea pig
- Peter Gurney's A-Z of Guinea Pigs
Another of Peter Gurney's large online resources for information about guinea pig care, health conditions, and so forth.
- CavyInfo International
Another popular Web resource for guinea pig information, this site also features a list of emergency symptoms that, when observed, means your guinea pig has to go to the vet immediately. CavyInfo International also includes Guinea Pigs Online and Sav
Information for first-time and current guinea pig owners, including care recommendations and merchandise for guinea pigs and the humans who love them. This site is a personal favorite, partly because I love Tammy's notecards and partly because she ha
- Seagull's Guinea Pig Compendium
This is a well-known guinea pig site, which most notably features a Vet Finder tab so that you can find someone in your area who specializes in veterinary medicine for guinea pigs.
- American Cavy Breeders Association
Non-profit organization dedicated to furthering interest in the cavy (that's "guinea pig" to the rest of us) through breeding and exhibition.
- Guinea Pig Info
Includes forums and a directory of Web sites.
Do They Come With An Instruction Manual? - The Penultimate Primer On Piggies
No...actually, they don't come with a manual. But if ever there was a guide that came close to the task, it would be this one. This is the book that we at the rescue wish we could buy in bulk so that we could send a free copy home with every new adopter.
Critter Comforts: A Shopping List - Essential Items For A Good Guinea Pig Habitat
When you bring your new guinea pig(s) home -- or before you do -- these are the must-have items that you need to build a suitable habitat.
There's lots of options to choose from in every categories. If you want to make fast work of your shopping list, see our "Best of the Best" list below.
- The cage. A single guinea pig needs a cage that provides at least 7.5 square feet of living space. A pair of guinea pigs needs at least 10.5 square feet. The cage must have a solid (not wire) bottom, and be constructed to allow ventilation from all sides. Aquariums and large plastic storage bins are not acceptable habitats. The best cages are C&C cages.
- Bedding. Should be absorbent and good at helping to control odors. Wood pulp products, recycled paper bedding, and pine are all suitable. Never, ever use cedar bedding.
- A shelter house. Guinea pigs need a shelter in their cage to accommodate their instincts to tunnel and hide. You can find grass huts, wooden lodges, plastic igloos, and plastic "waffle" houses. Plastic is easy to clean with hot water. Grass and wooden houses accommodate gnawing. Check out How To Spoil Your Guinea Pig for some options.
- A water bottle. For one guinea pig, have at least an 8-oz. bottle; for two guinea pigs, have at least a 16-oz. bottle.
- A food dish. Choose from plastic and ceramic dishes that sit on the bedding and bin feeders that hang from the side of the cage. Wide-bottomed, shallow, ceramic or plastic dishes provide easy access to the food, are difficult to tip over, and are easy to wash and dry.
- A hay rack or basket. You want to keep hay off the bedding so that it doesn't get soiled. You can find racks, baskets, and balls. We avoid the hay racks with short spindles for holding salt licks -- when guinea pigs get to running in their cage, there's a good chance they could bump into these spindles and hurt themselves.
Finding The Right Vet - Specialty Is Everything When It Comes To Exotic Animals
Do your guinea pigs have a vet? One who understands them, their unique needs, and their delicate physiologies?
When you're caring for guinea pigs (or other exotics like rabbits, ferrets, chinchillas, birds, and so forth), you need a vet who specializes in exotics. Vets who only treat cats and dogs are among the first to agree with this assertion.
Take time to find a specialty vet BEFORE you're in a health crisis with your guinea pigs. Guinea pigs benefit from routine physical exams where a vet can check weight, teeth, heart rate, and so forth -- so these exams can be an excellent, low-stress way to find a vet and establish a relationship with him/her. Owners benefit from these exams because it gives them a baseline for things like weight, which will be useful to have in the event that their guinea pig does become ill.
- Guinea Lynx's Advice For Finding A Vet
This page provides several excellent questions that you can ask when you're screening vets to find one that can treat your guinea pigs -- one who truly does specialize in small/exotic animals.
- Why Specialty Vets Are Needed
An anecdote about the importance of finding a veterinarian who specializes in certain species, whether it be guinea pigs, birds, reptiles, or something else.
- Guinea Lynx's Veterinarian Finder List
This Vet Finder list is populated by recommendations from guinea pig owners in the U.S., as well as the U.K., Canada, Australia, Brazil, and Finland.
- Guinea Lynx Forums -- More Vet Recommendations
Located in Guinea Lynx's member forums (you must be member to post or reply, but don't need to be one to read what others have posted), this is another list of recommendations for vets and veterinary dentists who specialize in guinea pigs. Some infor
- Seagull's Guinea Pig Vet Finder
This tool provides listings of veterinarians in the U.S. and Canada who specialize in guinea pigs. There may or may not be some duplication (for your area) between this list and the Guinea Lynx list.