Petcare: Guinea Pigs
Guinea pig facts:
- Guinea pigs belong to the Rodentia family and are herbivorous.
- Guinea pigs are a rodent and known as cavies and not pigs as the name implies.
- Guinea pigs originated from South America.
- Guinea pigs are natural grazers.
- Guinea pigs incisor teeth top and bottom grow continuously throughout their life and need to be worn down and kept at the correct length by eating grass, hay and leafy greens.
- Guinea pigs like humans cannot produce vitamin C so need a daily source of it in their diet.
- Guinea pig babies are called piglets; they are born with fur and open eyes and can run from 3 weeks old.
- Guinea pigs are social and inquisitive animals who like company.
- Guinea pigs are very vocal and communicate amongst themselves using a variety of sounds.
Feeding your guinea pig:
Feeding the correct food to your guinea pig is essential for maintaining good health. Fibrous feed is required for normal digestive function and for dental wear. Guinea pigs cannot store or produce Vitamin C so require a daily source in their diet.
Guinea pigs, if overfed, can sometimes selectively feed and may leave their less favourite ingredient in the bowl until last. To help overcome selective feeding your guinea pig should be fed twice a day, dividing their daily requirements into two meals and feeding morning and evening and only refilling the bowl once empty.
What to feed your guinea pig?
Guinea pig food should contain essential Vitamin C. There are various types of guinea pig food on the market the two main types are:-
Coarse mixes are a blend of cereals, extrusions, vegetables &/or fruit that supply your guinea pig with a mix that's balanced & nutritious and also encourages their natural foraging instinct with a variety of different textures in the mix. Mr Johnson's Supreme guinea pig mix is the perfect coarse mix for guinea pigs, a blend of tasty ingredients enhanced with Verm - X herbs.
Extruded food - a single tasty nugget that's easy to digest, contains all the goodness in every mouthful thus preventing the potential to selectively feed. Mr Johnson's Advance guinea pig food is a premium single component nugget food.
Mr Johnson's Advance guinea pig is an ideal extruded guinea pig food - it contains glucosamine for joint mobility, deodrase a yucca extract to reduce the ammonia in urine which in turn reduces hutch and litter odour.
Introducing your guinea pig to new foods:
Your guinea pig's diet should never be changed suddenly. Abrupt changes in your guinea pig's diet could trigger digestive upsets, especially in baby guinea pigs or guinea pigs that are stressed (for example if they have moved to a new home). If you want to change your guinea pigs diet, it is recommended that this change takes place gradually over a 10 day period. This can be done by mixing small quantities of the new food in with their existing food, while reducing their existing food proportionally until the food is fully changed over.
Hay, fresh greens & water:Unlimited access to good quality hay is essential as part of a healthy diet for guinea pig's. Hay not only meets a guinea pig's basic nutritional requirements, but it helps to keep guinea pig occupied, reducing boredom and hence helping to prevent some behavorial problems. Eating lots of grass and hay, which is abrasive, helps to wear down your guinea pig's front teeth. If a guinea pig's teeth become too long they can have difficulties with eating. It also provides the correct type of fibre needed to maintain healthy gut movements.
Fresh greens like broccoli, beetroot, carrots, cabbage, celeriac, celery, chicory, corn on the cob, celery leaves, cucumber, dandelion greens, kale, lettuce, parsley, peppers, pea pods, runner beans, spinach, dandelion, clover are all loved by guinea pigs and a small quality of different fresh greens should be fed daily.
All green foods should be washed before feeding.
Fresh fruit can be fed in moderation, the fruit should not contain any seeds, stones or pips –guineas can eat melon, apples, grapes, oranges, pear, bananas, cucumber, and strawberries.
Your guinea pig should have a supply of fresh clean water constantly available and this is best dispensed from a water bottle secured to their hutch. The water should be changed daily and bottles cleaned regularly so that they are free from green algae.
Housing, bedding & exercise:
The size of the hutch is important remember your guinea pig is going to grow very quickly so a hutch suitable for your guinea pig when it’s fully grown will save you having to change it in a few months’ time. Also if you are going to keep more than one guinea pig its needs to be considerably larger. It’s important to remember a hutch cannot be too large, the larger the better as it will allow your guinea pigs room to play and exercise.
There should be a separate enclosed dark area for them to go to sleep or hide away and feel secure, along with a large area for them to eat and play.
Bedding should be clean, dry, and absorbent and dust free – straw, hay & wood shavings make good bedding. This needs changing regularly to ensure your guinea pig has a dry, clean environment to live and sleep in.
Handling/grooming:Your guinea pig will need time to settle into its new home so try to resist the temptation to pick it up for a few days, just talk to it and gently stroke it so it can get used to you and its environment. Once it is settled in, regular gentle handling and contact can prevent timid or aggressive behaviour. Don’t forget to support your guinea pigs bottom when picking it up so it doesn’t hurt its back or struggle because it feels insecure. Holding them close to your body will help your guinea pig feel secure.
Some guinea pigs require regular grooming especially the longhaired varieties. This removes any loose or matted fur, keeps their fur in good condition and helps builds the bond between you and your pet.