Guinea pigs are sweet little animals that are large enough to offer companionship, but small enough to be manageable for most households. This rodent is native to South America, where it lives in groups called herds. The pig terminology applies to the sexes, too – male guinea pigs are called boars, and females are called sows.
Guinea pigs eat often, and have certain nutritional and space requirements. Here are some tips on how the care for your guinea pig, and what you’ll need to set up a nice home for your pet.
There are many variations on the kind of housing for your guinea pig. Some guinea pig owners house their pets in round, plastic wading pools filled with timothy hay and straw. Others use open cages, and still others use cages with open bottoms that can be set outdoors. Probably the best kind of guinea pig cage is a combination of these.
The Humane Society of the United States notes that most commercial guinea pig cages are far too small for these active little creatures. They suggest a minimum of 30″ x 36″ for cage size. For bedding, cedar or pine chips and a quantity of timothy hay should make your guinea pig comfortable.
Runs and Exercise
Guinea pigs needs frequent exercise. A large living area does not eliminate the need for stimulation and movement. Each day, it’s important to give your guinea pig exercise time. Some ideas include:
* Letting your guinea pig explore the outdoors in an open-bottomed cage or within moveable fencing. (It’s not a good idea to let them run loose even in a fenced yard – not only because they can squeeze through small holes in the fence, but because predators such as dogs, cats, owls, and hawks are always ready for a rodent meal.)
* Use the aforementioned wading pool to provide a fun playground. Cover the bottom with wood chips and/or timothy hay, and put in some wooden blocks, cardboard boxes, or commercial plastic tunnels for your pet to play with.
* Your guinea pig can also take some exercise in a dry bathtub with some toys and tunnels.
In the wild, guinea pigs eat an exclusively vegetarian diet. Grass, clover, hay, and leaves are a large part of their diet. In addition to commercial guinea pig pellets, it is a good idea to supplement with fresh vegetables, such as carrots and lettuce, or wild plants (such as clover) harvested from safe areas. Guinea pigs should be fed twice a day or so.
Guinea pigs do like to be in groups. Try to get at least two of these little animals. If you only have one, it is more important than ever that you spend some time every day (or several times a day) interacting with your single guinea pig.