Do you know the five key things guinea pigs need to be happy and healthy?
Guinea pigs’ well-being can be observed though their expression of normal behaviour; including being active and inquisitive, having a good appetite, toileting lots and lots daily, being a good companion to their guinea pig mate and being sociable with their human friend (once you have bonded with your cute guinea pig pets). Guinea pigs mostly express their emotions through vocalisations, such as ‘wheeking’ for treats or ‘purring’ when pleased to be held. Guinea pigs will also ‘popcorn’ (excited bounce) when happy. Guinea pigs can also exhibit behaviours like eating its own poo – this is an entirely normal and healthy behaviour! Any changes to feeding and routines should be introduced slowly as guinea pigs are creatures of habit.
Guinea pigs are social animals and need to live with companions. They can get lonely and anxious on their own, which is detrimental to their life span. If you are looking to have guinea pigs as pets, it is best that you get at least a pair (if not more). Companions help guinea pigs feel safe. Young guinea pigs generally adapt more readily to a companion compared to adult guinea pigs, however adult guinea pigs are generally more accepting of younger guinea pigs. Females are generally more docile and males tend to be more territorial and may still fight (even if desexed) in the presence of female guinea pig(s). The best pairing of guinea pigs still depends on the individual temperament and ages of the individual animals involved. Guinea pigs are creatures of habit, so any introductions to new companions should be done slowly. Ideally, established guinea pigs get to meet and greet any new potential companions before you decide to add to the group.
Their habitat, cage or enclosure needs to be suitably large to roam and explore, safe from predators and also allows for escape from potential environmental stressors. Please read ‘Guinea pig cages, toys and accessories‘, ‘Guinea Pig Cage – C&C Cage Design & Set-Up‘ and ‘Guinea Pig Bedding Materials‘ for further information.
These cute pets need a balanced healthy diet that is designed for guinea pigs. The guinea pigs’ diet consists of five essential elements: 1) Hay – This is their staple and forms the majority of your guinea pigs’ daily diet. Your guinea pigs should have unlimited all day access to a good supply of hay. 2) Greens – Leafy greens form a vital part of a guinea pig’s daily food needs. Greens help with hydration, as well as providing vitamins and minerals. 3) Fortified food – Guinea pig pellets provide high-fiber content and stabilised vitamin C to ensure that guinea pigs receive essential vitamins and minerals not present in hay. 4) Treats – Guinea pigs love treats, though should be offered sparingly after their main foods have been consumed. Treats include fruits and veggies, as well as commercially produced guinea pig treats. 5) Fresh water daily – Guinea pigs need access to water at all times for optimal health and hydration. Please read ‘Best Guinea Pig Diet‘ and ‘What foods can’t guinea pigs eat?‘ for more information about recommended diets and foods to avoid.
Guinea pigs need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury, maltreatment and disease. Guinea pigs do not require vaccinations, however they should have annual check-ups with a qualified vet to assess their diet, behaviour and health status. You should also consult your vet regarding desexing (spay or neuter) your guinea pigs when age appropriate, as this increased their chances of living a longer and healthier life. Many guinea pig health issues can be avoided with proper care and diet. Guinea pigs should also be kept safe from other (predator) animals, as they are extremely timid prey animals and can be frightened to death. Guinea pigs also need to be kept safe from flies.
Signs of a healthy guinea pig include:
- clear bright eyes
- shiny coat (daily grooming and occasional trims are required with long coat guinea pigs like our Abyssinian Popcorn)
- healthy parasite free skin (check for mite infestation, which are triggered by stressors)
- appropriate weight (our adult guinea pigs weigh 1kg each)
- good healthy feet
- well aligned teeth
- no overgrown teeth (seek assistance from the vet if they require filing down)
- no overgrown toenails (check regularly and cut as required)
- solid pellet like stools
- no discharge from orifices
- normal behaviour
- normal movement
- normal appetite