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Guinea Pigs/Guinea Pigs Care


QUESTION: Hi. My name is Nikki and my birthday is coming up (I'm turning 13). For the last 5 years I've been asking my dad for a guinea pig and he said I'm mature enough to actually get one! There's just one problem: I have no idea what to do with them! I mean I've heard they're shy and that they eat hay and need something to chew on because of there teeth. But i just wanted to know what type of guinea pig should i get? Which one is better: Female or male? How often do I need to feed them and get them something to drink? Is there anything certain i need to give them, like special care? How do I bond with my guinea pig? And how long do they live for both genders? I am currently doing research but I'm kinda getting mixed answers and they're kinda confusing me. My birthday is on November 11th so please answer ASAYPC ( As Soon As You Possibly Can)! I just want a nice, easy to take care of, long living guniea pig. Your answer will be greatly appreciated. Please answer ASAP!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thank you!

ANSWER: Well happy birthday and congratulations on finally getting your birthday wish. You will have lots of fun and enjoyment out of your pig.

Guinea pigs are easy to take care of. Their basic requirements are very few. They need a constant supply of clean water and a bowl full of food. Don't buy the kind of guinea pig pellets that have the colored things in them, just get plain green pellets. The colored goodies put in the packaging is just there to tempt the owner and have no nutritional value for the pig.

Get a water bottle with a spout on it that you can hang on the cage. Buy the largest bottle you can, one that holds 32 oz. That way if for some reason you're unable to change it every day or it is especially hot and gets drank quickly there is still a plentiful supply. Don't use a bowl for a water dish. They will quickly soil the water and get bedding in, making it unfit for drinking.

Buy a crock or stone type dish. Plastic bowls tip over easily and the food gets spilled out. A stone crock is easy to clean and the pig can't tip it over. The best place to buy the crocks is at a Dollar Tree store. That's where I buy mine and I pay $1 ea. At the pet store you will pay nearly $5 for the same bowl.

Use pine shavings for bedding. If you're lucky enough to have a feed store near you they sell them by the large bale and one bale will last you over a year. If you buy shavings at the pet store you will pay about $8 for a very small bag. The bale will be around $10 and is huge compared to the small bag at the pet shop. That bag will last you no more than 2 weeks. So do some shopping and get the best buy for your money.

They do enjoy hay. If you have a feed store available you can sometimes buy just part of a bale for very little money. Keep it in a dry place and it will last you for a few weeks. When you put the shaving in the cage, just add a pile of hay and your pig will hide in it, chew on it and enjoy sleeping on it.

I wouldn't buy an igloo for him to hide in, at least not yet. They will tend to stay in there and not overcome their desire to hide. You want your pig to get used to the sounds, sights and smells of the household. If he has a place to hide he will use that as an excuse not to want to be picked up.

When you first bring him home leave him alone for a few days. Let him adjust to his new surroundings before you try to handle him too much. After that you can hold him as long as you want. But be careful and listen to his "body language".  If you're holding him and he suddenly starts to wiggle around and make little noises he's trying to tell you he needs to go pee pee.  Put him in his cage for a few minutes and he will go, then pick him up again. Otherwise you might feel a warm and wet sensation on your lap or chest because he needed to relieve himself.

They like vegetables and fruits. Don't offer too many. A small piece of carrot or a lettuce leaf is enough to give him everyday. Some pigs like melon rinds, you eat the inside and they like the parts you don't eat. Parsley is an excellent source of Vit C and you can give him a small bunch daily as well. His food is fortified with Vit C but it can degrade or lose it's strength if you don't use the bag up fast enough. So parsley helps to give him the daily need for Vit C.  Don't add vitamins to his water or it will smell funny and he won't drink. It's extremely important that he drinks fresh water daily.

It doesn't matter whether you choose a male or female. They will both make excellent pets. If you are able, get one with short hair. The longhaired pigs are difficult to keep clean and the hair can become tangled just like a longhaired cat. You can brush your pig with a small baby brush. It's good for their coats and keeps them nice and shiny. You will need a small pair of clippers to clip the toenails now and then. The small clippers made for cats are perfect. Again, you may find some at the dollar stores. You can even use a toothbrush to groom them with.

The average life span for most pigs is about four or five years. Some will live longer.  I hope this helps you to understand how easy it is. I'd love to see pictures of your new pet when you get him or her.  If I can be of any other help please just write to me. Best of luck to you and your new pet.

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QUESTION: Thank you so much for the information! It is most helpful. I just wanted to ask you another thing. Which kind of guinea pig is best? To be more clear i mean like, should I get a dwarf pig, a huge pig, an excited pig? Which one would be best? Thank you so much.

There are actually no dwarf guinea pigs. Like so many animals they're all different, although no matter what the breed is they're supposed to grow to roughly the same size. For showing purposes they are classified in three catagories: Junior 12 -23 oz  Intermediates 24 - 32 oz and Seniors above 32 oz.

Not all pigs will reach senior weight. Some stay smaller but those typically mature at about 30 oz.  Longhaired pigs may look larger but that's only because of their hair. As far as and "excited pig" that's difficult to tell which one will become that way.

Most pigs respond the same way when you're reaching into the cage for them. They will run from you. That's just an instinct built into them because they are prey aniamls. That means they're the ones the predators are after to eat. So their instinct is to run. Once you pick them up they calm down very quickly.

There's only one breed that has the reputation for being an overactive pig and that's an Abyssinian. They have rosettes all over their bodies. They're well known for being difficult to handle or settle down. All the other breeds are just fine. So shop around and look at different pigs. The best thing to do is to go to the American Cavy Breeders website. They have pictures of all 13 breeds, so you can get an idea of which you think you might like.

If you are unable to find a pet store with guinea pigs you may be able to find a breeder in your area. You will pay less at a breeder's than at a pet store. If you can tell me what general area you are in I may be able to help you find one. If you're trying to find a specific color or breed it may be more difficult to find.

You might also find out on the ACBA website where they might be having shows in your area. That's an excellent place to purchase pigs. Exhibitors always have animals there for sale, most often babies. So educate yourself first on the different breeds by checking out the pictures,then you'll have a better idea of what you're looking for.  

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Pat VanAllen


As is sometimes the case, people in urgent need of information have a higher degree of expectation than those of us as experts are able to give. The experts on this site do their best to give the most accurate and responsible answers possible. We ask that you remember that it is not our intention nor place to criticize the professional advice given by your veterinarian, nor is it appropriate for us to comment on the correctness of a diagnosis made by a licensed physician. Our knowledge is experience based. Although many years of breeding and showing cavies gives me a wealth of experience it cannot change the fact that we as experts are not veterinarians and therefore may occasionally have to reject questions that appear to be asking us to criticize advice given by the licensed professional. Having raised and exhibited cavies for many years I have extensive experience in cavy care and husbandry. I currently have an active breeding program for pedigreed show animals but do not encourage backyard breeding for inexperienced owners. Although I don't encourage breeding for fun I'm always happy to answer any questions from an owner who is in sincere need of help. Pet owners wanting to breed should understand that even experienced breeders have litter losses. The mortality rate is high in cavies. The chance for losing both sow and pups is always present, even with experience. Although this is a site for experts to assist owners, there is no expert in any field who has all the answers. The wisest thing a good expert can know is their limitations. Not having an answer does not diminish one's ability or knowledge. It simply shows that we recognize our limitations and operate within them.


Raised and shown cavies for many years, having aquired my first cavies in the early 1970's as pets. My caviary currently handles 65 + animals in two different breeds and several varieties. Having been in the health care industry as a licensed nurse for 35 years I have hands on experience with care and needs in both humans and cavies. Member of American Rabbit Breeders Association and American Cavy Breeders Association.

Awarded Lifetime Membership in of one of the oldest cavy clubs in the United States, on whose Board I served as Sec/Treas for six years and currently serving as President. Also editor/publisher of the club's quarterly newsletter. We are strong supporters of our youth exhibitors, most of whom are 4H members who are working on cavy projects. Through these projects they become good responsible citizens. We deal with all aspects of showing, breeding, caring for and sharing experiences in the fancy. The cavy fancy is not a new one but in some areas is still relatively unknown. Our goal is to inspire interest in high quality, responsible breeding to improve the species, not just the reproduction of guinea pigs. Our job is to educate owners to help them make the right decisions and choices in the care of their cavies.

Graduate in nursing. Certified in emergency medicine.

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