They may be considered “exotic pets” but guinea pigs are actually very popular in the US and in California specifically! Their popularity likely stems from the fact that guinea pigs are considered easy “beginner” pets. They also make great pets for people in smaller spaces, which is appealing to people in apartments and condos. Guinea pigs also pack a whole lot of personality into a little package; they’re vocal, interactive, and can bond with their humans.
Despite their reputation as starter pets, guinea pigs do have some unique needs. That’s why we’re here! We’ll help you navigate caring for your guinea pig. We have tips and tricks for basic care… along with some helpful resources you’ll want to check out!
all about guinea pig care
The name might suggest otherwise, but guinea pigs are rodents. They have a much longer lifespan than mice and rats, averaging about 4-5 years. Something they do have in common with mice and rats is the need for socialization. Guinea pigs do best in small groups and are much more inclined to be human-friendly the more that they’re handled.
Guinea pigs require gentle handling. Although they don’t have the fragile spines that are a concern with rabbits, they still need gentle support while held. Guinea pigs should be gently held against your chest with one hand supporting the rib cage and the other hand supporting their rear. Don’t forget, these are prey animals with a high stress response. Your approach should be slow; you should never chase them around their enclosure, and be prepared for them to possibly urinate or defecate until they get used to being handled (and sometimes after).
When it comes to housing your guinea pig, tiny cages are a thing of the past. These critters need room to move, and since they do best as a herd, they need room for multiple guinea pigs to cohabitate comfortably. To keep their home gentle on their feet, and sanitary, it’s best to avoid wood shavings and opt for gentle fleece liners or soft paper shavings.
Since they startle easily, make sure your cage is equipped with hideaways for each guinea pig. This is extremely important for their comfort and well-being. They need to feel safe in their cage, and not having a hideaway is detrimental to their mental well-being.
Guinea pigs can easily contract bacterial infections, so keeping their cages clean is extremely important. Daily spot cleaning, with a full bedding change every 3-4 days, should keep your guinea pig clean and comfortable.
You can find great ideas for guinea pig cages and enclosures on the Guinea Dad blog. They also specialize in products just for guinea pigs, so you can find hammocks, cage liners, and more.
Guinea pigs need to do more than sit around their enclosures looking cute. It’s enriching for them to be able to get out of their cage and into a supervised area where they can wander. You can set up a guinea pig obstacle course with tunnels, paper bags, and boxes to hide in.
While your guinea pig is out of its cage, make sure you take time to socialize with it. Some guinea pigs are cuddlers that will enjoy hanging on the couch with you. Free-roam floor time in a safe environment is important for guinea pigs. Whether this is indoors or out, take some safety precautions first! Get down to their level and take in the surroundings. Are there any nooks or crannies they could escape to? What about any hanging wires they might chew on? Set the area up so it is free from any danger. But remember, once they're enjoying their floor time, you still want to keep an eye on them at all times!
These little critters eat like crazy! Guinea pigs have super high metabolisms, so they need to have food, like Timothy hay or Orchard hay, available constantly so they can eat throughout the day. Avoid alfalfa and clover since their high calcium levels can be too much for adult guinea pigs, and these grasses can also lead to obesity.
Vegetables are a healthy part of the guinea pig diet; carrots, parsley, and romaine are a few that are considered favorites. Their diet should also contain adequate levels of Vitamin C. If you are not certain they are getting it from their food, you can use vitamin C drops or tablets. Inadequate Vitamin C can lead to conditions like Scurvy.
It’s important for owners to know that guinea pigs are coprophagic or cecotrophic. This means they eat their feces. This is a necessary part of their diet. Guinea pigs produce droppings called cecotropes at different times of the day. These droppings are nutrient-dense and aid in proper digestion. Guinea pigs will usually grab them right from their rears so you won’t necessarily notice them. If you do start noticing cecotropes, it means your guinea pig may not be ingesting them. If this is the case, it’s time for a vet visit.
Guinea pigs are sturdy little critters, but as prey animals, they are incredibly good at hiding when they aren’t feeling well. Unfortunately, this means any medical problems may be advanced before you notice them. Regularly handling your guinea pigs will help you notice when something is wrong. These are some of the most common guinea pig health problems.
Skin and mammary tumors
Lice, fungus, and mite infestation
Urinary tract infections
guinea pig resources in oakland
If you live in Oakland, California, and you need help for your guinea pig, or you’re hoping to add to your guinea pig family, here are a few handy resources.
Ohana Animal Hospital- This vet caters specifically to small mammals and exotic pets.
Veterinary Emergency Group- In case of a medical emergency, this emergency vet service is prepared to care for exotic pets.
Ratical Rodent Rescue- If you’re looking for your first guinea pig, or ready to expand your family, you can save a life and adopt from this rodent-specific rescue.
guinea pig pet sitting in oakland
If you’re heading out of town, and you want the best care for your guinea pig, you’ve come to the right place. Fur and Feather Pet Care specializes in caring for exotics. We do in-home visits, but we’ve found that many guinea pig owners prefer the convenience of boarding at our facility.
Whichever way works best for you, your guinea pig will be under the care of an expert with hands-on, professional experience with exotic pets.
P.S. We’re now offering guinea pig nail trims with boarding or pet sitting visits. Contact us to book your trim.