Guinea pigs can be inquisitive, empathetic and playful pets for you and your family. However, these adorable creatures come with unique care requirements that you should understand before committing to caring for one. Here, our Jacksonville vets describe different breeds of guinea pigs and help you understand their housing, socialization and nutritional needs.
Guinea Pigs as Family Pets
Guinea pigs are delightful rodents that are beloved first pets for many families with young children. They are playful, loving, curious and cute, so their appeal is certainly understandable. However, there is more to consider than may first meet the eye when making the decision to bring a guinea pig into your home. Read on for some of the considerations and accommodations you should plan to make if a guinea pig is going to be your next family pet.
Common Breeds of Guinea Pig
You may not realize it, but there are actually a number of breeds of domestic guinea pigs that you may be able to choose from when considering bringing one home as a pet. Each has their own unique appearance and needs that you should take into account when making your selection.
Some popular guinea pig breeds include:
- American Guinea Pig - One of the most popular breeds, the American Guinea Pig has a short, smooth coat and an even temperament. Short hair means minimal maintenance and this breed is quite social.
- Peruvian Guinea Pig - This breed has long, gorgeous, hair which will require regular brushing to maintain. Peruvian Guinea Pigs are very social, fun-loving and alert.
- Teddy Guinea Pig - While this breed has short hair, they require regular brushing to make sure nothing is caught in their dense and wiry coat. These guinea pigs are curious and playful.
- Silkie Guinea Pig - These guinea pigs require even more brushing than Peruvian Guinea Pigs. Because of this, they aren't a great choice if you're planning on your child providing care for them, despite their wonderful, gentle personalities.
- Skinny Guinea Pig - This guinea pig is hairless! And while that may look a bit odd to some people, they are quite social and don't require any grooming.
- Abyssinian Guinea Pig - This long-haired guinea pig has a well-deserved reputation for being friendly, charming and feisty. Unlike other breeds with long hair, Abyssinian Guinea Pigs don't require much grooming, although they can be troublemakers, so they may keep you busy in other ways!
Guinea Pig Socialization Needs
Guinea pigs are social creatures, making it is quite easy to maintain either one or a pair of these rodents as pets in your home. Any combination of sexes can be housed together, although if males and females are paired off they will need to be fixed unless you'd like a littler of babies!
If one of your guinea pigs is a bit older or more dominant than the other, there may be some issues with chewing on the ears or hair of the newer, less dominant one.
It's important to note that Guinea pigs housed in pairs will be a little less social with you than lone ones since they have their socialization needs met.
Guinea pigs spend most of their time in their cage, so there are a number of important factors to consider when acquiring and arranging their housing.
The cage should have a footprint of at least 7.5 square feet for a single guinea pig, and at least 10 square feet for two.
Guinea pigs will also commonly develop sores on their feet if the floor of their home is too rough, so make sure you have a solid-bottomed cage and cover it with soft bedding like shredded newspaper or fleece blankets. Do not use cedar shavings for their bedding. It is toxic to their bodies.
And finally, guinea pigs can be trained to drink water from a bowl, but have an easier time drinking from a bottle, so provide your pet with an easy-to-use water bottle filled with fresh water daily.
Guinea pigs, like us humans, are unable to create their own Vitamin C, so as a Guinea pig pet parent you will need to make sure that your pet gets enough in their diet.
One of the best ways to ensure that your guinea pig's nutritional needs are met is to provide your pet with a good quality commercial food specially formulated for guinea pigs (available from most well stocked pet supply stores). Your guinea pig will also need a lot of grass hay as a substancial part of their diet.
On top of these, you should provide your pet with a ready supply of leafy green vegetables like romaine, red and green lettuce. Avoid darker leafy greens like kale or spinach if you can. They contain more calcium than your guinea pig needs and can often cause painful bladder stones that may require a trip to your vet.
Although you may be tempted to include fruit into your guinea pig's diet, they don't need the extra sugar and may become overweight if fruit is part of their weekly diet.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.