This guide aims to provide some quick tips for beginners:
The Piggy Planet Guide to Keeping Happy, Healthy Guinea Pigs.
Piggies' diets should contain 80% hay (not straw).
This is crucial for their digestive systems, and it keeps their teeth down
(piggies' teeth grow continuously).
Give them lots of nice fresh hay each day - they love to eat it, play in it, and sleep in it!
They cannot produce their own vitamin C, and so must have fresh fruit and veg every day.
Grass does contain vitamin C, but not much in winter.
Top their diet up with good quality dried guinea pig food - this should contain Vitamin C too.
Put the food in a heavy ceramic bowl which won't tip up easily.
Fresh water should be provided every day, in a drinking bottle - not a bowl, as it will get soiled.
Don't be tempted to give human food as 'treats'.
Their digestive systems are not designed for such things, and it will just shorten their life spans.
A big pile of grass is a treat for piggies.
Guinea pigs need a strong, sturdy, weather proof hutch.
They must be safe from predators such as: dogs,cats, foxes, rats.etc
They need protecting from rain and draughts, with a hutch cover - an old piece of lino works well.
The hutch needs to be raised off the ground, if it doesn't have legs, so water does not get in when it
In hot weather, ensure the front of the hutch is shaded - piggies don't sweat, and can die from
It's essential to have a good sized, separate nesting area for them to hide away and sleep in.
They must have dry bedding - nice soft meadow hay over newspaper is best.
Newspaper is a natural deoderiser, and it soaks up the wee.
Piggies do wee a lot!
A handful of woodshavings will help too.
Wet bedding can encourage infections, and give them a chill in cold weather
so do change frequently,
Piggies also need fresh air and exercise in a heavy run which predators cannot get into.
The bigger, the better - as long as they have access to the hutch or other shelter.
Guinea pigs are happiest in pairs or groups.
They are sociable creatures, who need the company of other piggies.
Do keep an eye on relationships within the group though.
Some pigs can dominate other more timid ones.
Look out for same sex piggies mounting each other as this is them asserting their dominance.
Timid piggies can also get excluded from shared nesting areas.
One or two cardboard boxes (eg shoe boxes) or commercial plastic igloos can be added to give
an alternative hide away for piggies to escape from each other.
Guinea pigs should not be kept with rabbits: rabbits have very different diets.
They are also much bigger, stronger animals, which can hurt a piggy.
Yes - if you shut them in a hutch and neglect them!
Piggies love affection, cuddles and attention.
In time, they will recognise your voice and respond to it.
They make a range of noises to make their feelings known.
Teeth chattering and bottom waggling is anger.
Wheeking means give me food or attention or let me out for some exercise!
Piggies love being brushed.
Use a soft shoe brush or a baby's hair brush.
Brushing them each day will help you bond with them.
Piggies need space to play - and then they will be interesting.
A happy pig will 'popcorn' where they jump in the air and race around at top speed!
Piggies absolutely love tubes and tunnels, which they run through for sheer pleasure. They also love to climb in strong brown paper bags
- like the ones Primark give you your clothes in,
Simple cardboard boxes with entry holes cut in are great too.
If you keep varying, or rotating, the objects they have in with them, it will keep their interest
. Piggies are extremely nosey, curious creatures who love having a new item to explore.
They will all crowd round it at once, and squabble over it like young children!
Hiding bits of fruit/ veg/ grass/ dandelion leaves etc in the objects adds to the fun.
Don't buy exercise wheels or balls like you would for hamsters, or other rodents.
These are not at all suitable for piggies, and it's a mystery why some shops sell them.
To handle a piggy,
slide one hand under his tummy, plus another under his bottom,
and then hold him close to your body, before standing up.
Ensure he feels safe and secure. Dropping a guinea pig will injure or kill him.
Avoid standing over them, and suddenly swooping down to pick them up.
This is particularly alarming for them.
Watch his underside - it is delicate, and his internal organs can be damaged.
Young children should be carefully supervised when handling piggies.
If sitting him on your lap or holding him - let him go after about 15 minutes,
or at least be alert to signs of agitation.
He may have had enough or want a wee, and this is when he is more likely
Always sit him on an old towel, because if he does wee on you, it will be a lot!
There's lots more to know about keeping piggies
so do read a good guinea pig care book.
For further information, see the other Piggy Planet Guides:
Thinking about Buying A Guinea Pig?
Getting Ready to Bring Guinea Pigs Home