Dos and Don’ts of Owning Guinea Pigs
Welcome to guinea pig parenthood! Whilst your new furr baby will be relatively low-maintenance, as with any type of pet ownership, it’s your responsibility to keep your cavy safe and to ensure they live a happy and fulfilled life. But what exactly do you need to do to make sure that your guinea pig is a grinny pig, and is there anything you definitely should not do?
Guinea pigs bedding dos and don’ts
Do use a guinea pig bedding with good absorbency. This will reduce odors, and create a more hygienic and comfortable environment for your guinea pigs.
Don’t use dusty or sandy bedding. As guinea pigs have delicate lungs, breathing in wood or sand dust can be harmful. In their natural habitat, guinea pigs create their homes from larger pieces of wood and debris. Your pets will enjoy constructing complicated nests using larger bedding materials.
Do choose kiln-dried wood shavings – the drying process removes any toxins and oils from the wood.
Don’t choose color over comfort! If you want to use a multi-colored paper-based bedding, consider mixing it in with a more natural tone that replicates the wood-and-grass colors of the guinea pig’s natural habitat.
Do use an aubiose-based bedding if possible, as this is naturally less dusty, more absorbent and made from a natural, sustainable material.
Guinea pigs food dos and don’ts
Do give your guinea pigs natural treats such as spinach or broccoli, as this is an essential source of vitamin C in their diets! If your cavies refuse to eat leafy greens, it may be necessary to purchase a vitamin C solution that can be added to your pet’s water.
Don’t overfeed your guinea pigs. If they are leaving bits of food in their bowl each day, feed them a little less.
Do regularly clean out your guinea pigs’ food bowl, as their bedding, fur and general mess will quickly soil the bowl. It’s a good idea to clean your pets’ bowls after each feeding with a wipe or spray.
Don’t give your guinea pig any type of meat or fish. This could lead to illness, and if your guinea pig has accidentally eaten meat, take them to the vet immediately.
Do change your guinea pigs’ water every few days, not only once the bowl is empty. This ensures a clean water supply.
Don’t give your guinea pigs too many treats when attempting to train them. The treats will go further in training if your pet sees them as something really special!
Guinea pig toys dos and don’ts
Do regularly change the toys in your guinea pigs’ run. Your guinea pig’s play will remain stimulating if you often swap the toys around. Your guinea pig may let you know if it’s bored of a toy by chewing or even eating it!
Don’t give your guinea pigs your leftover loo roll cards as a treat, as the chemicals used to treat them could be bad for your pets’ health. Instead, invest in a small tunnel system such as Zippi tunnels, which not only last longer but are safer too.
Do provide plenty of chew toys for your guinea pigs. Your pets will naturally nibble and bite any objects in their cage to maintain the length of their teeth. This can be dangerous if all they have to bite on is the metal cage, so having plenty of different things to chew on is essential.
Don’t put your guinea pig into a wheel or ball toy. Although these are great for our smaller furry friends, the guinea pig’s body is not designed to fit into such a small space. Your guinea pigs will be much happier getting their exercise in a large guinea pig run or enclosure.
Do change the layout of any tunnels or playground you have for your guinea pigs. Many of the play sets available are modular and can be changed to keep the experience fresh for your pets.
Guinea pig cohabitation dos and don’ts
Do make sure that your guinea pigs have plenty of space in their enclosure. If you are keeping a small family of guinea pigs, then it’s important that they have enough room to play and establish their own space within the cage or hutch.
Don’t punish your guinea pigs by putting them into isolation. Separating them from the others will only create further problems and is widely thought to be unhealthy and distressing for them.
Do keep your guinea pigs in pairs of sisters or neutered brothers. This will reduce aggression between the animals, as it lessens their mating urges. It is also possible to keep a neutered male with females, but you will need to wait six weeks after the neutering before introducing them, as males can still successfully mate in those early weeks.
Don’t keep just one guinea pig. Your guinea pig will get lonely when left alone for long periods, and such loneliness can actually shorten their lifespan. Your guinea pig will live a longer and happier life with a friend, so it’s a great idea to get a pair if you are considering becoming a guinea pig owner. Did you know that it’s actually illegal to own just one guinea pig in Switzerland?
Following these tips will make keeping guinea pigs simple and incredibly rewarding. By providing them with a stimulating environment and healthy diet and observing these few dos and don’ts, your pets will have long and happy lives.
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