A wide range of cages are available for housing pet guinea
pigs. Cages or enclosures should be approximately 50 cm long, 25cm wide
and 25 cm high. This height is to prevent them from escaping. If the
cages are placed outdoors, ensure they are covered with a wire mesh to
protect your guinea pig against stray animals. Ideally, this
escape-proof habitat should have a solid surface area and plenty of
room for exercise and play. It may also be a good idea to provide a
place for your guinea pig to hide and feel secure.
Keeping the cages at household temperatures should be fine.
Be very cautious of extreme temperature changes, thus never place their
habitat in direct sunlight or in a drafty, windly area.
Fighting is rarely a problem, but it is still preferable to
keep single-sex groups apart to avoid mating and the production of
large numbers of unwanted offspring.
2 to 5 cm of bedding material should be provided for your
guinea pig. Be careful of cedar and pine shavings as these may contain
phenols that can be toxic. It is also best to avoid shredded newspaper
as the newsprint may also be toxic as well. Aspen shavings, Kay Kob,
pelleted or recycled paper can be good alternatives. Hay is also a good
choice as this will also act as a dietary supplement, but ensure it is
fresh, dry and of good quality. Be sure to discard wet or soiled
bedding on a regular basis.
Be careful with the use of toys. If a guinea pig chews on the
toys, remove them immediately to prevent internal harm.
High quality, commercial pelleted guinea pig feed should form
the basis of the diet. This may be supplemented with Timothy hay,
fruits, or vegetables, given daily. Fruits and vegetables not eaten
within 24 hours should be discarded. Also, be sure that fesh clean
water is always made available.
Guinea pigs require 30-50 mg of vitamin C daily from vitamin
supplements, parsley or washed citrus fruits. This is because they are
unable to produce their own vitamin C. As vitamin C in commercial foods
is stable for only up to 3 months only, do consider supplementing your
guinea pig if the date of manufacture of these products is not known.
Guinea pigs can be fairly fastidious in their choice of food
and changing the diet too suddenly may cause them to stop eating. This
can lead to digestive disturbances. Thus it may be wise to be slow and
gradual if making such changes.
Like rabbits, guinea pigs’ teeth grow continuously
throughout their lives. A piece of chalk (calcium carbonate), or
cuttlefish bone should be provided for them to chew on so that their
incisors do not overgrow. Overgrown incisors result in your guinea pig
starving because it cannot eat properly.
Guinea pigs are fairly non-aggressive, but a frightened
animal can be skittish and will run around its cage at very high speed.
This makes safe handling difficult. A guinea pig can be picked up by
placing one hand around the shoulders while the hindquarters are
supported by the other hand.
You should monitor your guinea pig health closely, as they
can deteriorate very rapidly. If you think that your pet is unwell,
don’t wait before consulting your veterinarian.
Signs of a Healthy Animal
Healthy animals are active, bright, alert, and sociable. They
eat and drink normally, and communicate by squeaking. Their eyes should
be clear and their gait normal.
Common Health Issues
Health issues encountered in guinea pigs include diarrhea,
malocclusion, mites, ringworm and scurvy, just to name a few.
If weight loss, skin lesions, abnormal hair loss, irregular
breathing, lethargy, overgrown teeth, diarrhea (or a dirty bottom), or
just a lethargic or distressed animal is observed, be sure to contact
your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Life span: 4-8 years
Reproductive age: from 1 month
Gestation: 59-72 days
Average litter size: 1 to 10, usually 2–4
Weaning age: 3-4 weeks
Heart rate: 240-400 beats per min
Respiration Rate: 50-130 breaths per min
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