Guinea pigs as pets

Rabbits & guinea pigs should NEVER mix. Guinea pigs are social animals so they need the company of another guinea pig.

How many guinea pigs?

Guinea pigs are social animals take this into account when you are planning to keep them. The only number not to consider is one. However do make sure the cage/hutch you choose if big enough for the amount of piggies you choose. Make sure you know the piggies you choose are the same sex. I have lost count of the number of times people take two piggies home believing them to be the same sex and to find out months later when the pups arrive that this wasn't the case. A good breeder will never make this mistake and here at Grosvenor Guineas is no exception.

Older guinea pig consideration

Older pigs can sometimes get over-looked in favour of young guineas when a potential owner is choosing a new pet. Older guinea pigs are calmer and better to handle than youngsters especially for young children. They will not wriggle as much and they will also sit still on a child lap enjoying the attention and will never usually nip like a youngster might.

Consider boars (males)

Some people think sows are better pets than boars but in truth both make excellent pets. Some people also think boars will fight but I have several pairs and even a couple of trio's of boars that live very happily in the same cage and even get upset if they are seperated for any length of time. Some people think boars smell more than sows but this is also not true. If they are kept clean they have little or no smell at all so they make great pets for keeping indoors. Boars can be very cuddly, calm and tame. Given a little time and encouragement they can eat from your hand come when you call and even lick you or give lots of piggy kisses which is very rewarding.

Where to purchase your new guinea pig

There are loads of places other than pet shops to buy your piggies. Breeders, shows and of course sanctuaries/rescues are much better places. A good place will never let just anyone walk away with a guinea pig without telling them how to look after their new pet and making sure it has everything it needs to be healthy and happy e.g. proper housing, food etc.

What to look for in your new piggy

Clean bright eyes, glossy coat, lively and alert, eating well

It is important to choose a healthy animal, I know it is tempting to take home the runt of the litter or one who is huddled in the corner but unless you have plenty of funds to take them to the vets please don't choose them. I know it's hard but in the long run it's best even if this seems harsh and uncaring. If you see any animal in distress or suffering the best thing to do is contact the R.S.P.C.A.

5 Reasons why rabbbits & guinea pigs should never mix

Rabbits and guinea pigs should never share a cage for many reasons but these are the 5 most important ones.

1. Rabbits can be carriers of a bacteria called Bordetella which does not cause any illness in the rabbit but causes pneumonia in guinea pigs.
2. Rabbits can cause injuries to guinea pigs as they have very powerful hind legs that can kick a guinea pig causing broken bones and even death.
3. Rabbits and guinea pigs have very different dietry needs. guinea pigs need vitamins C and they need lots of vitamin rich veggies. They can eat lettuce or cole family vegetables such as cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, or broccoli. However rabbitscan get enteritis and possibly die if they eat to much of theses.
4. Some Rabbit mixes and pellets are bad for Guinea Pigs as they contain antibiotics that can make them very ill or even cause death.
5. Rabbits will burrow, and if placed on grass outdoors will soon escape by burrowing under the hutch. Guinea pigs do not have this burrowing instinct, but will be quite happy to use any tunnel provided by an obliging bunny.

Selecting a healthy guinea pig

When you buy your guinea pig you need to make sure that it's healthy. When you pick it up it should either try to run away or investigate you. There should be no bald patches and you should look in the hair for small white bugs that could be lice. The guinea pig shouldn't limp and the eyes should be clear. There should be no open wounds and the head should not be tilted. It's a good idea to check if the store or breeder has a return policy if the guinea pig doesn't get along with you.

Quarantine period

All new cavies need to be quarantined for at least 4 weeks before being introduced to other guinea pigs. You need to put them in a separate cage and room as far away from your other guinea pigs as possible. Wash your hands before and after handling the quarantined guinea pig to prevent any germs spreading between them.

You also need to have a veterinarian examine your new guinea pig. This not only verifies your guinea pig is healthy, the record of the visit helps the veterinarian later on if your guinea pig gets sick. Even after a vet says the guinea pig is healthy, you still need to quarantine it. Failure to quarantine a guinea pig can cause all your guinea pigs to come down with an infection when treating just the new, quarantined guinea pig would have been much cheaper.

Getting to know new guinea pigs

To create a quality relationship with your pet you need lots of patience. They need a house or covered area they can hide in when they're frightened. An old towel, PVC pipe, grocery bag, or wooden house will work.

You need to get your cavy comfortable with being petted in their cage. Before you pet your cavy, slowly put your hand in front of their nose so they can smell and recognize you. Be careful to take away your hand if they try to bite you. After having them smell you, gently pet the top of their back. Don't touch the sides or belly because these areas tend to be very sensitive. To get your cavy used to you, pet it every time you walk by the cage or have an extra minute. The more you pet your cavy, even for only a minute or two, will drastically help them get to know and trust you.

To hold your guinea pig in your lap, carefully lift them up, after they have smelled you, and place them on your chest with one hand supporting the rear and the other on their shoulders. Most guinea pigs hate to be picked up, but love to be petted. To prevent them from having to pee or poop on you, pick them up about a foot off the ground, and set them down for a minute so they know they will be held and can go to the bathroom. As they grow older they will stop peeing on you and even act edgy when they have to go. To prevent your clothes getting wet from an accident and to keep hair off them, place an old towel underneath your guinea pig.

Depending where you get your pet the age will vary. Usually from a pet shop they will be around 6-8 weeks old. Younger than that and they shouldn't be ready for sale. Guinea pigs stay with their mum until they are 3/4 weeks old.

Guinea pigs from rescues make excellent pets but will often be older. This doesn't mean they can't make good pets and you will also be giving an unwanted piggy a new home.

Should I get a Long haired or short haired piggy?

The answer is simple do you have the extra time to put in brushing a long haired cavy, wrapping if they are being showed or trimming the coat every 4 to 6 weeks if not being wrapped and shown? If not them don't get a long haired piggy.

Long haired piggies may need bathing or bum cleaning every couple of months where as short haired piggies shouldn't need bathing very often at all. I think short haired piggies are better for the first time owners until they get more experienced.

Interesting facts about guinea pigs - The domestic guinea pig

Scientific Name: Cavia porcellus
Size: 20 - 35 cm (8-13 inches)
Weight: Adult Boar 900-1180g (32-42 oz), Adult Sow 860-900g (30 -32 oz)
Average life span: 5 to 8 years
Life Style: Herd animal
Light Requirement: 10-12 hours per day
Heart beats: 280 per minute
Normal respiration rate: 80 per minute
Gestation period: 63-70 days (Approx)
Average litter size: First litter: 2-3, Subsequent litters: 3-6
Average birth weight: 85-90g (3 oz)
Eyes: Open at birth
Weaning age: 21-28 days
Weaning weight: About 250g (8.5 oz)
Best age to breed sow: Between 5 and 8 months
Oestrus (or season): Every 2 weeks (14-16 days)
Duration of oestrus: 12-15 hours
Retire from breeding: 2 years


Guinea pigs often eat their droppings this is absolutely normal behavior and is called coprophagy. They don't eat the hard larger darker droppings you see on the cage floor but small, moist droppings, which it takes directly from its anus. It is a bit like cows chewing the cud. The protein content of these droppings is important for the animals' health and you shouldn't stop them doing it. It can not transmit disease.

To be continued.....

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Sexing guinea pigs

Here are some pics to help you when trying to find out whether your new guinea pig is a Sow (Girl) or a Boar (Boy) The diagram shows the shapes to look for when trying to establish what sex your piggy is. A boar has an i shape. A line with a circle opening above it which sometimes looks like a cauliflower. You can gently apply pressure just above the i and if your piggy is male a penis should protrude as shown in the pics below. Below are pics of a young boar of 6 months old and a sow has a Y shape with no opening above.

What you need to know about…guinea pig teeth By Hannah Salisbury (CAC Cavies)

Guinea pigs (cavies) have 20 teeth: 4 incisors at the front, then 8 molars on the top and 8 molars on the bottom at the back.
cavies’ teeth are rootless otherwise known as open-rooted which means they will continue to grow all through a guinea pig’s life.

Teeth problems

Below is a picture of healthy incisors. This shows how to check the teeth and also the picture indicates what healthy teeth should look like.

Problems in guinea pig teeth

Slobbers – This is also called malocclusion of premolar teeth. It is a common problem in guinea pig teeth, more common in cavies over 3 years of age. This problem comes when the premolar teeth don’t meet properly when the cavy is chewing. It can result in too much wearing of these teeth and can also cause injury to the tongue.
Affected guinea pigs find it hard to eat and can’t chew or swallow food properly, and their weight can drop very fast.
As soon as the illness is noticed, the cavy should be taken to the vet. The vet will examine the mouth and diagnose the cavy with the condition. Trimming or Filing under general anaesthetic is almost always needed but there is no permanent correction for this problem.

Trimming cavy teeth

Cavy owners will never have to get a guinea pig’s teeth trimmed at all if they have a proper diet of hay, dry food and veggies.
If your cavies’ teeth do get overgrown and really have to be trimmed or cut, take to a vet, *NEVER ATTEMPT TO CUT THE TEETH YOURSELF*
If the teeth are overgrown, touching the gums or skin in the mouth, you HAVE to take them to the vet immediately!
It is not often at all that a guinea pig gets overgrown teeth if he/she is on a proper healthy diet, but unfortunately some piggies have a poor diet and those are the piggies that develop overgrown teeth.
If the teeth are left in a bad condition, you have to remember that they are open-rooted so will still continue to grow, and this can make a guinea pig stressed or make him/her develop more problems which can result in death of the piggy.

Let our piggies have healthy teeth for life!

A diagram of a guinea pig’s molar teeth. This is the top layout of teeth and it is the same on the bottom layout.

Healthy Incisors on Chardonnay our Buff Self Sow.

Cleaning grease glands

Boars and some sows can get a greasy patch just above their anus where their tail would be if they had one. I clean this you can gently massage some swarfega, washing up liquid or dry shampoo into the spot with a soft toothbrush to loosen the grease then wash it off with warm water.


Some older boars can be prone impaction this means that the  muscles have weakened and they are no longer able to expel the soft caecal pellets that accumulate in the perineal sack. This can be very uncomfortable for him so a good way to clean this out is by using a baby cotton bud Q tip usually used for cleaning ears with a small amount of olive oil on and gently tease it out bit by bit. There is unfortunately no cure for impaction once your piggy develops it so it has to cleaned out regularly about every month or so (maybe sooner or longer) depending on the piggy. Regular checks will ensure that you piggy isn't in discomfort. It is a smelly job but someone has to do it

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Housing Your Guinea Pig

Make sure your pet has a clean dry comfy place to live. Make sure there are no drafts as this can be fatal and also make sure that their bedding is cleaned out regularly to prevent damp conditions as this can cause fungal infections.
Guinea pigs like to hide so provide them with somewhere that they feel safe and secure for instance a wooden hut, plastic hidey or bed area within their housing with plenty of fresh hay as bedding.
Hutch or cage sizes vary but the general rule is bigger is better. A 4ft by 2ft cage would be ideal for a pair anything smaller would be impractical as there wouldn't be enough space once you start to add food bowls, huts and other toys.

Some good examples of indoor housing

Some good examples of outdoor housing

Feeding your guinea pig

Guinea pigs need hay available at all times for bedding as well as for eating because it provides the biggest part of their diet as fibre. It also helps with wearing down their teeth as they grow constantly during their lives. Hay racks attached to the side or wire of the cage are a good idea as they prevent spoiling of the eating hay.

They also need fresh water, dry food and fresh vegetables and fruit. Water can be provided in a water bottle, I tend to use a bunny sized bottle. This can be attached to the cage or hutch of your choice using a wire spring. Soluble vitamins can also be added to ensure they are getting enough vitamin C.

A good rabbit sized bowl for dry food and a seperate one for their veggies should be provided to stop food being spoilt by urine and other piggy mess. I wash mine at least once a week to keep them clean. I use the brown mason pottery bowls as they are heavy and cant be tipped over easily.

Below bowl and bottles ideal for guinea pigs

Good hay rack examples although there are many more good ones if you search about for them.

Feeding your guinea pig


Apples feed in moderation or could cause sores on the mouth
Pears again feed in moderation or could cause sores on the mouth
Oranges again feed in moderation or could cause sores on the mouth
Strawberries in moderation as they are full of sugar
Melon a good source or water in hot weather
Watermelon a good source or water in hot weather
Grapes feed in moderation as they are full of sugar which can cause a piggy to become overweight


Cucumber a good source or water in hot weather
Romaine Lettuce
Oakleaf Lettuce
Spinach feed in moderation can cause loose droppings
Looseleaf Lettuce
Lambs Lettuce


Carrots a good source of vitamin C
Spring Greens in moderation as it can cause diarrhoea if fed in large amounts
Peppers - Red, Yellow, Orange and Green are all good to feed as they are rich in Vitamin C
Cauliflower the stalks and Flower can be fed
Parsnip although some don't like it much
Turnip although some don't like it much
Swede although some don't like it much
Beetroot the root and leaves can be fed
Chinese cabbage
Pak Choy


Parsley feed in small amounts, it is high in calcium and too much can cause bladderstones.

Extra treats: Grapevines are a special treat as are rose petals and nasturtiums leaves and flowers can be eaten.

Fruit tree leaves i.e. pear, plum and apple are safe to feed you guinea pig too as long as they haven't been sprayed with pesticides.

Wild Forage:

Grass forms an essential part of the Guinea Pigs diet
Dandelion feed in moderation can cause diarrohea if too much is fed
Clover white, yellow and pink flowers are safe
Vetches there are many types, yellow and purple flowered varieties
Plantain round and long leaved
Sow thistle

Unsafe wild Forage:

Dock when flowering
Anything growing from a bulb

Other foods things to avoid:

White cabbage causes diarrohea.
Iceburg lettuce has little food value being mostly water.
Tomato leaves and stalk
Rhubarb leaves and stalk
Onions root and shoot
Potatoes when green and sprouting
Milk or Milk products e.g. cheese
Cooked or Fried foods
Meats or meat products

There are loads more things guinea pigs can eat but the key is always if in doubt leave it out.

Below are some pics to help you identify lettuces they can eat and also wild weeds suitable

Chickweed, Clover, Dandelion & Nastutium

To find out more about dry foods suitable for your Guinea Pig click on the link

Bathing your guinea pig

It is a good idea to bath your guinea pig about once a month as it will help prevent mites/llice, fungal infection and keeps your guinea pig looking healthy and clean. I like to use Gorgeous Guineas or Anigene shampoo.
I usually clean out my guinea pigs ears first with a damp face towel. Then fill a bowl with a couple of inches of warm water. Lower your piggy into the water slowly supporting him/her so they don't get scared and start to wriggle. Then slowly and gently wet their coat.

Next lift out your piggy gently and place them on a towel. Massage a small amount of shampoo into their coat until it lathers up nicely, taking care to avoid the eyes, nose and mouth areas.

Lower your piggy back into the water and rinse off the shampoo until the water runs clear. Lift out your piggy and wrap them in a warm towel and gently rub them dry. You can use a hair drier if you wish on a low setting. After drying, give your piggy a brush and maybe you could feed him/her a cucumber slice or parsley sprig as a treat and of course a big "well done" cuddle.

Please Note: If your guinea pig usually lives outside keep him/her inside until they are completely dry to avoid them getting cold and becoming ill.

Nail clipping

When clipping guinea pig Nails always be careful not to cut too low. I use nail clippers designed for humans. Just take of the tips until you become more confident this way you will not cut too low. If you do accidentally cut too low you will hit the quick and this will make the nails bleed and could cause infection. If you do accidentally do this dip the nail in styptic powder but if you don't have this to hand don't worry you can use ground coffee, flour or cornflour to stop the bleeding and seal out dirt. This is how I hold my piggies when I clip their claws this way they can't move so much.

A healthy, happy guinea pig

A guinea pig can get ill and die very quickly if they are not looked after properly.
Note: If your guinea pig looks sick is acting strangely or you are worried about him/her in any way get them to the vet as soon as possible. Check their weight regular as weight loss can be the first sign of illness.

Check list:

Make sure your guinea pig has: bright, shiny eyes, a shiny, glossy coat, strong, healthy teeth, a healthy appetite, clean and dry underneath, clean ears.
Make sure you guinea pig doesn't have: loose droppings, runny nose, bald patches, lumps, scabs

Signs of illness and possible causes:

Refusal to eat or drink (anorexia) - URI, malocclusion, other
Weight Loss - malocclusion, other
Labored breathing, wheezing - URI, circulatory problems, other
Crusty eyes, sneezing - URI
Rough or puffed-up coat - URI
Swollen abdomen - BLOAT
Dull and/or receding eyes - URI
Lethargy, hunched posture - URI
Drooling - malocclusion
Watery stool - diarrhea
No faeces -- anorexia (not eating), bloat
Unable to urinate - bladder stones
Blood in urine - UTI, bladder stones, pyometra
Bleeding from rectal area - UTI, bladder stones, pyometra, retained placenta
Limping, hopping - injury, vitamin or mineral deficiency, arthritis
Hair loss, excessive scratching - mange mites, fungal infection (ringworm)
Loss of balance - ear infection, injury, poisoning
Delivery problems - dystocia, retained placenta

This list shows items that piggy owners can use in case of emergency

Charcoal tablets - poisoning.
Liquid paraffin - poisoning, constipation and bloat.
Gripe water - bloat
Aloe Vera gel - skin problems.
Gentian violet - mouth sores
Lavender essential oil - antiseptic. calms behaviour.
Aspirin - stroke.
Brolene eye drops and ointment - eye problems.
Dioralyte - diarrhea
Cystoprin or any sodium citrate based human cystitis powders - cystitis.
Hydrogen peroxide, (up to 9 %) - flushing out abscesses.
Arnica tablets - shock
Diocalm or Immodium - anti diarrhea medicine.
Tea tree oil ear drops - ear mites.
Eurax - anti itch cream
Sudacreme - small skin lesions
Metatone - builds up appetite after illness
Critical care/Recovery formula - used for pigs who cannot eat normal food, after illness etc.
Sudafed decongestant - congested breathing
Daktarin oral gel - sooths sore mouths/throats
Daktarin spray or cream - fungal infections (ringworm)
Vital eyes - sore eyes
Vicks vapour rub - congested nose and snuffles
Rescue remedy - calms piggies down if they get stressed

Good things to keep to hand in your first aid box

1. Cotton buds (Good for cleaning ears and anal glands)

2. Olive oil as above

3. Ivermectin for mites 1% 0.1ml for babies, 0.2ml for adults or spot on you can buy at the pet shop or vets

4. Panacur for worming (2.5% strength 0.1ml for babies, 0.2ml for adults

5. Brolene or golden eye ointment

6. Daktarin spray or cream for fungal infections

7. 1ml syringes for meds and feeding

8. Critical care for syringe feeding

9. Sudocrem for cuts

10. Dry shampoo or swarfega for cleaning grease glands

11. Anti-mite spray to treat static lice

12. Anigene for bathing useful to deter lice and prevent fungal infections

Common ailments:

Abscesses - An abscess is a pocket of pus which is formed from dead tissue cells after an injury which becomes infected by germs.
Barbing - Sometimes guinea pigs nibble and eat their own coat or that of a cage mate. Bitter apple can discourage.
Cysts - There are various kind of cysts that guinea pigs suffer from but the most common is the sebaceous cyst.
Cystitis - is an infection of the bladder it can cause a piggy much distress and pain whilst urinating. Un-sweatened cranberry juice can be given.
Diarrhea - Too many veggies can cause this, but it can be caused by other things seek vets advice if you are concerned.
Ear infection - Usually caused by parasites in the ear. Can be treated with drops from your vet.
Fungal Infections - often starting on the face as areas of patchy, itchy hair loss. Daktarin spray or cream used for athletes foot in humans can clear this up.
Hair loss - Usually due to mange mites, fungal or other parasites. Ivermec is the prefered treatment, available as spot ons from any good pet shop or vets.
Impaction - This condition is most common in older boars. The muscles have weakened and they are no longer able to expel the soft caecal pellets that accumulate in the perineal sack. You can help you piggy be smearing a small amount of mineral oil inside the anus with a Q tip. Then gently squeezing the bottom side of the anus to ease the impacted mass out.  Regular checks will ensure your piggy isn't in discomfort.
Malocclusion - Maloccluded teeth are teeth that have not worn properly and over grow. Check out this link to find out more about cavy's teeth.
Scurvy - Can develop if a cavy doesn't get enough vitamin C. A guinea pig can't make their own so he must eat foods every day with it in. Add soluble vitamins to their daily water supply to avoid this.
Static - This is a mite that clings to the cavy's fur usually around the back end. It is harmless but unsightly. It can be easily removed by spraying with anti-mite Spray from any good pet shop.
Tumours - You may notice a lump on your piggy's body and there may be bleeding.

Antibiotics and their uses:

Baytril (Enrofloxacin) The most common antibiotic used to treat cavies. It kills: E. coli, K. pneumoniae, P. mirabilis, S. aureus. Baytril can affect the appetite it is most likely to be given orally but can be injected. Oral dosage depends on weight 0.2 to 1ml most commonly given at 0.4ml.

Bactrim (trimethoprim sulfa; SMZ-TMP; sulfamethoxazole trimethoprim; Tribrissen, Septra) Safe for young cavies. The drug of choice for urinary tract infections (UTI's). It is also used for urinary tract, ear and lung infections and kills the following: P. carnii, E. coli, Enterobacter, Klebsiella, Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, Pseudomonas cepacia, Pasturella, Clostridia, Proteus, Salmonella, Shigella, Brucella. Can be injected or given orally. 30 mg/kg per adult every 12 hours.

Doxycycline doxycycline hyclate, doxycycline monohydrate (Vibramycin, Vibravet) Doxycycline is of the tetracycline family of antibiotics with broad-spectrum activity against gram+ve and gram-ve bacteria including penicillinase-producers and anaerobes as well as rickettsia, chlamydia and mycoplasma. Dosage orally depending on weight 0.2-0.6ml

Chloramphenicol (Chloramphenicol sodium succinate) It kills H. influenzae, S. typhi, Rickettsia, Neisseria, Mycoplasma which cause lung infections. Dosage 50mg per Kg of body weight every 12 hours.

Here is a list of dangerous medications for Guinea pigs

If your vet prescribes any of these don't use them

Amoxicillin (Clavamox)
Cephalexin * (derivative: Cefadroxil)

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Cutiecavies is copyright of Dawn Harris 2004-Present