Top Tips for Cavy Care
This is a copy of the information booklet I've put together as part of my guinea pig adoption package. If you're thinking of adopting a guinea pig it is definitely worth while having a read through BEFORE you bring your new piggy home!
What to feed your new guinea pig:
• Most importantly your guinea pigs need grass and/or hay to make up the bulk of their diet every day. Lucerne is great for young, pregnant or nursing guinea pigs (high calcium levels), but not so good for long term adult use. Grassy/barley hay is best. Beware of tiny shards in barley hay that can cause eye-poke injuries/embed into the guinea pigs eye )
• They also need access to clean water at all times.
• A quality, mostly chaff guinea pig-specific grain mix adds the proteins/fats for good growth.
• And they cannot produce their own Vitamin C, so will need a variety of fresh vegetables.
Every guinea pig has different preferences for fruit and veg. Experiment to see what your little one likes. If you can try and feed some red capsicum, parsley, green capsicum and/or broccoli along with the regular mix of veg (cos lettuce, celery, carrots, etc) a few times a week, your guinea pig’s vitamin needs should be met.
They can also eat:
• Pumpkin (skins and flesh - not so much the seeds/gooey stuff surrounding the seeds)
• Corn (skins, silk and cob)
• Clover (just make sure it is actually clover, not another weed. A few look similar but are toxic)
• Sweet potato (NOT regular potato)
• Beetroot (not the leaves)
• Leafy greens like cos lettuce, spinach, rocket etc. Only a little each day though as too much will cause sloppy poo. Unpleasant for everyone!
• Broccoli (in moderation, can cause bloat, but does have good Vit C levels)
• Green beans, snow peas, sugarsnap peas (NOT chickpea, borlotti beans etc. No pulses/legumes at all)
• Bananas (skins and fruit)
• Dandelion Greens (also really good Vit C levels, and free!)
• Strawberries, blue berries, mulberries etc (in moderation, and if your pigs will eat them. Mine don't actually like berries.)
• Fresh herbs (parsley is best for Vit C, but they can also eat basil, oregano, mint etc)
• Apples, remove seeds.
• Carrots, both roots and tops.
• Celery (mine especially love the leaves!)
(If you ever have any doubts about something you want to feed your guinea pig, it’s best to research it first.)
Top Piggy Facts, Frequently Asked Questions and Common Myths Busted:
1. Guinea pigs live for about 5 years. But have been known to reach 8-9yrs and beyond.
2. Guinea pigs need company. Other guinea pig company is best.
3. Guinea pigs need protection from the elements: extreme heat and cold.
4. Guinea pigs need protection from predators, including other family pets.
5. Boy guinea pigs CAN be housed together successfully if introduced young, and make lovely, charismatic pets.
6. You cannot usually house multiple male guinea pigs together with females or within sight/smell of females – they will fight causing serious injury to each other (and you, if you try to break up a fight).
7. It is best not to use male guinea pigs that live together for breeding purposes, then try and get them to be friends again. The time apart, smell of the females and behaviour changes from breeding will make re-introduction difficult and dangerous.
8. Girl guinea pigs can also fight if you have two big personalities together.
9. Guinea pigs are born with different personalities/temperaments, but even the most timid guinea pig can be calmed/tamed with frequent gentle handling.
10.Guinea pigs are prey animals, which mean they are excellent at hiding an illness until it’s very serious. A weekly weight check, skin and coat check, and teeth check will help keep on top of any health problems.
Keeping your piggy healthy:
• Betadine can be used to help heal any skin injuries/fungal infections (found in handy spray bottles at your local chemist).
• Malaseb medicated wash can be used to help clear up larger fungal infections (can be purchased from some pet stores and on eBay).
• Revolution for Kittens and Puppies is most effective at treating mange mites quickly (can be found at vets, some pet stores and eBay).
• Ivermectin can be administered 3-monthly for worms/mites/lice (can be purchased from some vets, the Australian Cavy Sanctuary, or http://misspiggysguineapiglair.com)
Caring for your long-haired guinea pig:
Long haired piggies are by far my favourite of the many varieties available. But with the beauty of their long locks, comes the extra responsibility of keeping them healthy:
• For your average non-show pet longhair (shelties / texels / Peruvians / alpacas / coronets / merinos / sheba mini yaks etc), the hair will need to be kept trimmed around their bottoms to avoid too much dirt and debris.
• I don’t tend to brush my long haired guinea pigs because it can hurt them and make cuddle time an unpleasant experience. But if you feel they need a comb, then by all means do so gently. If you find your piggie has some matts, it is best to just carefully cut them off.
• Bath them only as often as you feel they need it, and try to get them as dry as you possibly can afterwards to avoid skin issues. If your guinea pig is still shivering it is best to keep them wrapped up in a warm towel in your arms until they stop – a drop in core body temperature can be dangerous for such little animals.
• You will need to regularly part the hair at various locations along your pig’s body to inspect the skin as longer haired guinea pigs can be a little more prone to skin conditions, and it can be harder to notice. Treat any problems promptly.
• Excitable males can get hair caught around their penis. You will need to check this daily as a penis that can’t retract can get very sore. If you find it is tangled and stuck – gently release the hair and let the penis retract on its own. If it has been stuck for a while and is dry/swollen you may want to moisten it with a little bit of clean water first.
*** Please note that this information has been written completely from my own experience and research over many years of cavy ownership. If you have any further questions they are most welcome – just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.