|Guinea pig (cavy) care sheet
DO NOT FEED
Iceberg lettuce (will cause diarrhea)
Potato skins (can be poisonous)
Raw potato (can be poisonous)
Rabbit/hamster food (not appropriate vitamin distribution and may contain antibiotics toxic to G.P.s).
Dairy (incl. yogurt drops)
Tomato leaves (can be poisonous)
Hot peppers (can be poisonous)
Mushrooms (can be poisonous)
Rhubarb (can be poisonous)
Avocado (can be poisonous)
White bread (too fattening)
Nuts, some say (too rich)
Plants from the garden you are not sure of.
Wood you are not sure of.
Guinea pigs need access to clean water at any time. Use a water bottle attached to the side of the cage since they will
quickly tip or soil water in a crock. Change the water every day and clean the bottles frequently with a mix of water and
vinegar and, when they need something stronger, water with bleach.
Hay is for Horses...and also for Guinea Pigs
Hay is great for your guinea pig. Your pig can have grass hay (Timothy or orchard) daily unless it is too skinny, in which
case it needs something with more protein. A hayrack will keep the hay from getting soiled and a hay/treat ball hung so
the pig has to reach for it provides extra enrichment and exercise. Piggies also like to play and hide in hay. Experiment
to find out what works best for your pig or alternate for some extra enrichment. Grass hay will strengthen your pig’s
digestive system and keep its entire body running smoothly. Feed only grass hay, generally. Alfalfa has a high fat and
protein content and is only suitable for young, growing, sick, skinny and pregnant piggies and as an occasional treat for
adults. Some pet stores carry oat and barley hay mixes, prairie hay or other less rich dried grasses that are appropriate
and can provide some variety. You pig may also enjoy hay or alfalfa cubes.
|My favorite cages are Marchioro's Tommy
102 and 120. They are a little spendy but so
much better when it comes to quality, size,
and features than anything else I have seen
and tried: The bottom doesn't warp; the cage
is tall enough to comfortably hang bottles,
place structures for climbing/jumping on, and
hanging enrichment items; the mesh is
securely fastened to the bottom so you can lift
the cage by the handles/mesh; the sides are
tall enough to prevent most shavings from
Home Sweet Home
The proper home for your guinea pig is very important. The minimum cage size is 18x14 and 16
inches high, but since your guinea pig will get most of its exercise in its cage, it is recommended
that you provide a large, spacious cage for his home. The minimum cage size I recommend is 5
sq.feet for two or three animals. It should have a solid bottom, not a wire mesh one; guinea pigs
can hurt their feet on wire. A plastic bottom lasts longer than a metal one. A bottom with a high
edge helps keep the bedding from falling out but also lowers air circulation. Proper ventilation is
required but avoid drafts since they are susceptible to respiratory infections. A temperature range
of F 65 to 70 degrees is best. Cavies do not lose heat by sweating. As with most small animals they
should not be placed where the sun can shine straight on them through a window; indirect natural
light is best. If you have trouble keeping their area cool enough in the summer, place a bottle of
frozen water in the cage. Guinea pigs like to be able to watch the daily activities of the household
but be far enough off the floor to avoid being stressed by the traffic of people and other pets.
The cage should preferably have a few things for the guinea pig to climb on and hide in. Some fun
things are: Wooden boxes, shoe boxes, plain wicker baskets (not treated with dyes, chemicals, or
glues) and empty oatmeal containers, but remember that guinea pigs can rarely be potty trained
and will soil the area they rest in, thus requiring that frequently change the boxes/baskets. A
shelter without a bottom is often best so the pig sits straight on the bedding. A shelter with a fairly
flat roof offers extra space for the pig to sit and watch and to jump up and down (good exercise). A
large, bendable log shelter gives you many options.
Guinea pigs are social animals that live in large groups in the wild. They are rodents
and prey animals on the bottom of the food chain. Since they are genetically
“programmed” to live together with others of their own species they should generally
be kept at least two together in a cage. Guinea pig groups have a rank system that
they learn to fit into from they are babies, and crowded guinea pigs may fight with
each other, so it is important that they have enough room to each have some
personal space when the need arises. Once in a while you will meet a pig that doesn’t
like to share its cage with other animals and then we have to respect that, too. A boar
Do not use cedar shavings in your guinea pigs cage. Cedar shavings may cause liver disease and respiratory problems
in guinea pigs, and even though the issue is far from settled/proven, there is no reason to run the risk.
Pine shavings is one of the most effective beddings at a good price, and most pigs do well on it, though it can cause skin
problems in a minority of pigs because of the oils. Fir shavings are also good. There are several good kinds of oil-free,
nature-friendly commercial beddings available from pet stores if you want to go that extra step. Look for a material that is
fine enough to be absorbent but large enough not to block nasal or rectal passages (thus shavings vs. sawdust). Stay
away from using paper since it interacts negatively with guinea pig pee to produce a foul odor, though some of the new
recycled paper products may have been treated to avoid the problem. A good way to set up your cage is to line the
bottom with wood pellets or a cat litter that does not contain paper, clay, oils or chemicals that can harm a guinea pig,
then add the softer bedding, hay, fun toys, and houses. (Note: The wood pellets often contain cedar but since they are
at the bottom of the cage this doesn’t affect the pigs, and most breeders prefer these over other products.)
You should clean your guinea pig’s cage 1-2 times a week. Guinea pigs do not require any shots from the veterinarian
(since none are available), so the only way to keep them healthy is to keep their cage clean. Any build up of feces or
urine can cause infections inside your guinea pig. Cleaning the cage only takes a few minutes, but it is extremely
important for your pig’s health. Remove any uneaten fresh food as soon as you see the pig is not interested. Molded
food can be harmful, even deadly, to a guinea pig. Occasionally clean your cage with bleach to disinfect it but be sure to
Dinner is served
Nutrition is very important for your guinea pig. Guinea pigs cannot produce their own vitamin C, so it is vital that vitamin C
is supplemented in their pellets/diet. Prepared pellets should be available at all times. Mixed grains are a good addition in
One way to incorporate the proper levels of vitamin C in their diet is to offer fresh fruits and vegetables every day or add
the vitamin to fresh produce that you know your guinea pig will eat. Contrary to popular belief, guinea pig food will not
necessarily provide all the vitamin C that your pig requires because the vitamin C in the pellets evaporates. Check for a
"Best If Used By" date to ensure quality. Young, ill, nursing and pregnant animals require extra vitamin C. You can also
add vitamin C to the water unless it causes your guinea pig to drink less.
The feed dish should be heavy or attached to the side of the cage so that it cannot be tipped over. The edge needs to
Vegetables and fruits that are good sources of vitamin C are (in descending order): Red
pepper, turnip greens, mustard greens, dandelion greens, green pepper, kale, Brussels
sprouts, parsley, collard greens, guavas, broccoli leaves, cauliflower (incl. leaves), broccoli
florets, tomato, asparagus, raspberries, rutabaga, cabbage, and oranges with the peel.
Also peas, spring greens, spinach, asparagus, cantaloupe, beet greens, and young clover
are good, and of course fresh, clean, pesticide-free, roadside pollution-free grass. (You
can find more on the Internet.)
|KALE is rich in vitamin A,
B-Complex and C, iron and
calcium and a member of the
cruciferous family of
vegetables having anti-cancer
Some other good treats to offer your guinea pig are (not necessarily high in
vitamin C): Coarse cut oatmeal (from health food store), bananas, apples and
pears (no seeds because they contain arsenic), carrots (with or without tops),
corn silks and husks, runner beans, pumpkin, turnip, parsnip, celery, sweet
corn, cucumber, tomato, chickweed, dried apricots, peach, grapes, raisins,
strawberries, watermelon, papaya, mango, kiwi fruit, pineapple, and
You can also purchase special treats with added C vitamin but most
commercial guinea pig snacks are too high in fat and should be given very
You can make your own treats by making ice cubes of natural fruit juice, and
you can add little pieces of fruit and vegetable, or simply freeze berries or bits
of fruit high in water content. You can also soak chunks of whole-grain bread
in water or juice and freeze them. Serve frozen treats a little at a time in a
small crock and remove the left-overs after about an hour to avoid a mess.
Frozen treats are especially useful in the summer.
Twigs and branches from fruit trees are great for your pig to wear its teeth on
as long as they are pesticide-free and free from fungus, mildew or other
disease. Dry crusts of bread (especially whole-grain bread) can provide a
good workout, too.
Orchard grass hay
that is “hormonal” will of course not appreciate being housed with rival males, either, but will often be okay after a week
or two when his hormone levels have gone down, and if the other male is compatible in age and personality. Two males
can be best buddies just as easily as two females once they have gotten to know each other. You can justify having just
one guinea pig if you spend several hours with it every day but it is a big responsibility. A single guinea pig may get more
tame but it is also a matter of personality and how much you handle it - it really doesn't matter as much as in some other
Keep pigs of the same gender together if you have them as pets. Guinea pig babies are cute but being pregnant is quite
a health hazard and is best done by a knowledgeable breeder. It will also cut down on your pig’s life expectancy. Just as
important is the question of how to get rid of the babies. Placing them with irresponsible or random people is not the
answer. Few pet owners are aware that baby guinea pigs may be able to breed when they are 3-5 weeks old thus breed
with their own mother, father or siblings.
Check at PetsMart and the Internet for prices.
Guinea pigs cannot pass any diseases to humans, but we can give them our colds, so if you have a cold, don’t breathe
on your pet, and make sure to wash your hands before handling it.
A healthy guinea pig has a good appetite, a firm body, a clean shiny coat, clean ears, and small, firm pellet shaped
droppings. It is alert, inquisitive and responsive and it moves around in its cage. If you see discharge from its nose, its
mouth is dry or slobbering, its front teeth overlap and/or it looks listless, contact your vet.
Guinea pigs cannot keep their nails trimmed either, and if they grow too long the nails
will curl and your pig will have a hard time walking or even develop sores. Nails should
be clipped every two to three week. This can be done with regular people nail clippers or
cat clippers. Make sure you don’t cut into the quick. Placing a brick in the cage for the
guinea pigs to walk on provides some filing of the nails.
Pedicures and Dentistry
Guinea pig’s teeth grow continuously throughout their life. They cannot grind down their teeth
naturally in captivity, so a hardwood branch or block of wood should be placed in the cage for them
to chew on. The best kind of woods are: Oak, cherry wood, or apple wood. Branches seem to be
more interesting than blocks of wood, however.
guinea pig farm