Getting Ready to Bring Your Guinea Pig Home

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                                   This guide will help you prepare for the arrival of your new guinea pigs

                                                                                Housing

                Have an indoor home available to begin with, especially if your new piggies are very young. 
           This will be less frightening for them, and will enable you to give them plenty of time and attention,
                                              which is essential if you want them to get used to you.

           It's especially important not to put them straight outside if they've been used to the warmth of      
                                                                        being inside a pet shop.

 They will grow quickly, so choose a good sized one, if you intend them to stay in it for any length of    
                                                                                 time.
                             Ignore the ridiculously small ones which so many retailers sadly stock.
                                                       Guinea pigs are quite big animals!


                                                   You wll also need an outdoor hutch for later.
Choose carefully - this will be your main expense, and will be crucial for the good health of your piggies.
                                                You need a good sized, sturdy weatherproof one.

   Don't waste your money on the poor, shoddy ones which some of the bigger pet retailers have on sale.
                                 These are often made of thin wood, and are ridiculously flimsy for life outside.

                                        Shop around - there are some good internet suppliers such as
                                       The Happy Hutch Company which follows RSPCA guidlines on size.

                                                
                                            Find a sheltered spot in the garden for your hutch,
         and put an old piece of lino, or something similar over the top to protect from extremes of weather.

                            Piggies must be kept dry, and protected from draughts.

                                             They should also be protected from strong sunshine.
                Guinea pigs cannot sweat or pant to cool down, and will become seriously ill if they overheat.

              The hutch should be raised off the ground, either on legs or with a brick under each corner
                                                             to  prevent rainwater running in.

                     Put a few layers of newspaper in the bottom, cover with a handful of woodshavings,
                                  and fill the nesting box area with plenty of nice soft hay (not straw).

                                   A good sized run, which predators cannot get into, is also a must.

                                In extremely cold, windy weather, move the hutch into a shed or garage.
                                                        Or even better,  bring the piggies inside.
                                                                    They can die of cold!
                                                                           
                                                                            
                                                                                  Food

                                            Before you leave the shop where you buy the piggies,
                                 buy a supply of the dried food which they have been used to eating.

      Guinea pigs have quite a delicate digestive system, and are easily upset by a sudden change in food.
         Different food can be introduced gradually by mixing it in with the usual one over a period of time.

                               Buy a good food, specifically for guinea pigs, with added vitamin c.
                               This should be put in a heavy ceramic bowl which won't tip over.
                                                   
                                                   A guinea pig's diet should be 80% hay.
                         It keeps their digestive systems in good order, and keps their teeth down
                                                        (their teeth grow continuously)

                                               Also have some fresh fruit and veg ready.
                   Excellent foods include: cucumber, green beans, celery (cut up to avoid the strings)
                                      plums, nectarines etc with the pips / stones removed.                 
                                                           Avoid ice berg lettuce.

                          Another important requirement is fresh water in a drinking bottle (not a bowl).
                                

                                                       When you actually bring the piggies home:

                           Give them 24 hours peace and quiet to get used to their new surroundings.
                                                            Don't touch their nesting area.

                       Then, let them get used to the sound of your voice by just talking gently to them.
                               Next, try tempting them out with food.  Still don't touch them yet, just talk to them.
                                     Move on to holding long pieces of grass between your fingers
                                              (which they can't just snatch and run away)
                                              and let them eat while you talk gently to them.

                                      Eventually, try stroking their heads with the tip of a finger.

                                                                         Take it slowly.
                                                            Piggies are very timid by nature.
                      Their only way of dealing with predators, is to either bite them or run away and hide.
                                  This is how they will deal with you to begin with, until you win their trust.

                          Avoid standing over them, and suddenly swooping down to pick them up.
                                                       This is particularly alarming for them.


                                              To handle a piggy, once he is ready to be picked up:

                    Kneel down, and slide one hand flat under his tummy, and another one under his bottom. 
                                            Before standing up, hold him close to your body.
                 Picking him up in an old towel or blanket can be helpful, and more comfortable for the piggy.

                       Watch his underside - it is delicate, and his internal organs can be easily damaged.
                             Please take great care when letting young children handle guinea pigs!

                      A great way to bond with a piggy is to groom him each day with a nice soft brush. 
                     He will love this, and it will keep his coat nice and healthy, getting rid of loose hairs.
                        Give him a pile of grass to eat at the same time and he'll be in piggy heaven!
                 
                      If sitting her on your knee, have an old towel across your lap: piggies do wee a lot!
                Keep an eye out for signs of agitation.  Often 15 minutes can be enough for a guinea pig.
                       They do prefer to wee in private, and may want back to their house / hutch.
                                            This is when a piggy may be tempted to bite you.

                                              Finally, do invest in a good guinea pig care book
                                                     There's lots more to know about piggies.
                      My favourite is:  Guinea Piglopaedia  by Margaret Elward and Mette Ruelokke.

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