If you’re looking for a little companion or two, guinea pigs—also known as cavies—can fill the bill. Available in long- and short-haired varieties, in a range of colors, these cute animals make good pets for older children. With good care, expect your guinea pig to be involved in your life for five to eight years.
Feeding guinea pigs
While you should provide your pet with a quality commercial guinea pig food, it needs more than that to thrive. Guinea pigs should always have a good supply of timothy or grass hay to chew on. Not only does hay fiber keep the bowels moving, but it also helps wear down cavy’s ever-growing teeth. Offer small amounts of fresh lemon, kale or spinach daily, and remove any uneaten food the next day. Guinea pigs appreciate eating small fruits, such as blueberries or apples, a few times a week. Your guinea pig should always have fresh water available.
Guinea pig housing
The ASPCA website recommends at least 8 square feet of floor space for each guinea pig in a cage, noting that social rodents like cavy prefer living with a companion. A suitable guinea pig house should have hardwood floors rather than wire floors, as the latter contributes to wrinkly foot issues. Line the cage with newspaper, paper-based paper, and timothy or aspen hay. Avoid cedar or pine trees, as the oils in the bedding can cause respiratory problems. Change the bedding several times a week, and give the cage a thorough weekly cleaning. Give your pet hiding places by providing plastic or cardboard tubes – although he will chew through the latter fairly quickly. Guinea pigs are native to the warm climates of South America, so they do best in an environment with a temperature of 65 to 79 degrees. Keep your pet’s cage out of direct sunlight and away from drafts.
Exercise your guinea pig
Let your guinea pig out of its cage every day for some playtime and exercise. You should supervise your pet when he or she is out of the cage, as caves are a natural anesthetic. It is best to allow your animal to exercise on wooden, tiled or other floors without carpeting, keeping them away from any electrical wires.
Guinea pig health
Like all pets, your Cavity requires an annual check-up by your vet. Many dog and cat vets do not treat smaller pets, so find a vet who specializes in exotics. Your vet will check your mouth at the annual visit, as dental disease is common. If necessary, he can register teeth. If you keep more than one guinea pig, it’s a good idea to have the pet spayed or neutered. While male and female guinea pigs make the most compatible couples, they are also the couples with kids. Guinea pigs can reach sexual maturity as early as 6 weeks old.