Guinea pigs generally live for about five to eight years.
Guinea pigs generally live for about five to eight years.
There are smooth, long or rough coated guinea pigs. These little creatuers are native to South America but have become a popular Aussie pet.
Guinea pigs are social creatures, preferring to spend their days with one companion, or more. Two or more females get along well; so do one desexed male and a group of females.
If you own guinea pigs already, ensure they’re housed with the same gender, or desexed. Guinea pigs of different genders should be separated from 3-4 weeks of age to avoid unexpected litters. Females can fall pregnant again straight after giving birth! Read more information with how to tell your guinea pig's gender here.
Daily handling and grooming is important in building your guinea pigs’ confidence and for developing friendly and social guinea pigs.
It is best to handle guinea pigs when they are young to help them feel comfortable. Make sure that you handle them carefully, securely, and gently. If they want to, you should allow guinea pigs to retreat and hide. Try never to remove them from a hiding area and force interaction or handling with them; they need to feel that their hiding areas are safe and secure.
Guinea pigs are susceptible to stress and shock, so it’s important to keep them in an environment that is safe and comfortable.
Guinea pigs are naturally active animals, and need a home which is clean, dry, and gives them room to run around to stay happy and healthy. The recommended hutch size is:
Like us, guinea pigs need daily exercise, so make sure you have space for them to run around and explore; a few guinea pig safe obstacles can keep things interesting and encourage activity.
Whilst the kind of bedding that’s best will depend on the variety of guinea pig and their environment, as a general rule — a hutch lined with newspaper followed by grass hay will work for most types. If you’re planning to keep your guinea pig outdoors, ensure there is adequate fencing and protection from predators and harsh weather. They will also need water and food bowls, as well as hidey-holes.
Guinea pigs are natural herbivores. A healthy guinea pig diet consists predominantly of hay, grain mix, and green leafy vegetables, supplemented with fruits and vegetables; particularly those high in vitamin C like red capsicum and parsley. For a treat, guinea pigs love corn husks and fresh herbs!
Vitamin C is an important part of a guinea pig's daily diet, as like us, their bodies cannot produce it on their own. The recommended daily minimum is 20mg. Food sources like grass, vegetables and fruit are preferable, vitamin C supplements aren’t recommended unless directed by a specialist veterinarian.
A guinea pig's back teeth never stop growing; chewing hay helps to wear them down and prevents dental problems. Suitable hays like wheat, oat, or barley can be found at produce and pet stores, or vet clinics specialising in guinea pig care. For grain mixes, look for one high in fibre and crude protein and remember fresh is best — they lose nutrients the longer they stay on the shelf. If you can’t find a specialised mix, produce stores will often sell horse grain mixes which will satisfy guinea pig nutritional needs.
TIP: Foods to avoid feeding your guinea pig: potatoes, iceberg lettuce, onions or anything that has spoiled. If you wouldn’t eat it, neither should your guinea pig
Guinea pigs love to explore their enclosure with great sense of space, smell and hearing.
They need exercise, mental stimulation, environmental enrichment (e.g. toys, tunnels etc), and the ability to express their normal behaviours (e.g. social interaction with other guinea pigs, walking, running, tunnelling, exploring, playing, stretching horizontally, retreating to a shelter and hiding, foraging, chewing, gnawing, and jumping).
For more guinea pig enrichment tips, read our blog here! We also have some handy DIY toy ideas for your guinea pig here.
In the hot summer months, it’s important that guinea pigs stay cool as their cage will limit their ability to get out of the sun and they are prone to quickly overheating.
If your guinea pigs live outdoors, move hutches out of direct sunlight. Whilst an adequate water supply is essential year-round, it’s especially important as the weather heats up. Placing a brick or tile in the hutch will provide a cool spot for your guinea pig to lie down and cool its tummy. Wetting or placing an ice pack on the surface will provide extra cooling on particularly hot days.
Ulcerative pododermatitis, otherwise known as swollen footpads, occurs when there is a lack of cushioning on your guinea pig’s hutch floor. This can be prevented by ensuring that their hay layer is adequately thick, or have a solid floor base.
Another common environmental condition is mites, with symptoms including hair loss and scratching. If your vet does inform you that your guinea pig has mites, treat it with a thorough cleaning of their cage. Seek out a small pet veterinary specialist for further advice.
The amount of grooming required will depend on whether your guinea pig is a short or long haired variety. Longer haired guinea pigs will require daily brushing. For short hair, a brush every couple of weeks is sufficient.
A guinea pig’s nails also need regular clipping, about once a month. As their nails grow, so too does the blood supply to the nail — so make sure to only trim the ends. Guinea pigs aren’t always the biggest fans of having their nails clipped, so this might be a two-person job, and watch out for wayward teeth or claws! If nail clipping proves too tricky for you or your furry friend, you can have them clipped by your vet.
Check out all of the guinea pigs looking for a new home at the RSPCA here and apply online to adopt!
Just watch how cute they are:
As the Communications & Media Manager for RSPCA Qld, Emma's passionate about making a real difference and believes every animal has a story to share. She has over nine years experience working in animal welfare and is the voice for the RSPCA on digital, print and broadcast channels.