As much as we wanted a dog, it just wasn’t time due to my daughter’s severe allergies. She seems to even be allergic to allergy free dogs. But, if it weren’t for her allergies, we never would have met our little guinea pig Jack, or “Jackie” as we like to call him.
I grew up taking care of 6 hamsters. Not all at once. Some we bought in a “pair” and the other hamsters were alone. One thing they all had in common was that they eventually passed away and were buried in our childhood backyard. Hamsters made a great first pet but they weren’t personal with you. They were small, nippy little things. I just knew that my girls wanted more out of a pet.
After looking for information online for a nice starter pet, I came across the guinea pig. I saw that guinea pigs could be trained and they liked vegetables. They even liked to be taken out of their cage daily! Seemed like a nice “in between” pet experience to try.
When I began my search to find the best guinea pig I realized it was not easy to find the little guy. An animal lover friend of mine said it’s always best to rescue a pet if you can. Therefore we did not attempt to purchase from a pet store. I searched local animal shelters and on websites such as Marilyn’s Voice. Almost every guinea pig that I came across had either just been adopted or was about to be picked up for adoption. Feeling somewhat defeated, I decided to try Craig’s List. As I looked on the site it wasn’t long before the cutest little guinea pig was staring back at me. I emailed the seller and she was available!
The day came to pick up our new animal friend. We ordered a large cage because guinea pigs love, love, love a large space. You can also look on Pinterest if you want to attempt to build your own.
As we pulled up to the house to pick up our guinea I realized we truly were doing a great thing by “rescuing” him. The poor little pig lived in a house with over 20 cats, ferrets, and dogs. The owner (a young teenager) said that she never had time to play with it let alone feed it properly. She gave us a bag of timothy hay (more on that later) and his favorite toy. While walking down the driveway she yells, “Don’t forget to cut his nails!” I look down and sure enough his long claws had darkened and curled over like a witch. Well, he was ours now. We headed to the pet store to begin our new adventure.
All guinea pigs are different, but here are some basics to get you started and help your guinea pig transition into your loving home.
Most guinea pigs love to hide all day, so it is important to have a cave or burrow for them to run away and hide in. It takes quite sometime for your guinea to get comfortable with you, so don’t be dismayed if they only come out of their cave to eat or drink when you are NOT around. As the weeks go by, they will soon feel comfortable enough to take food from your hand and not run away so quickly when you walk by. Although some experts recommend that your guinea pig have a partner for companionship, keeping the cage in a main social area of the home will do the trick. Do not keep your guinea in a bedroom or office tucked away with the door closed or less frequented areas of the home. This will leave the guinea sad and lonely if they do not have a partner in the cage with them. Once the jitters start to subside guinea’s love to be picked up and socialize with you on your lap or on the floor. Little Jackie now calls for me as soon as I walk in from work and in the morning when he knows it’s time to eat again.
Be sure to have a large enough cage for the guinea pig. Keep in mind that guinea pigs are larger and need breathable room than hamsters so an aquarium just will not do. You can find a cage similar to the one we purchased at Wal-Mart for about $39.99.
The safest bedding for a guinea is either using fleece or absorbable paper crumbles found at a pet store. Please avoid using pine chips for bedding. Although less expensive, they are extremely toxic to our guinea pig friends. In our cage we line the bottom of the cage with recycled brown bags from the grocery store. Next, we layer with my husband’s old t-shirts or buy $1 bedding from a thrift store. Finally, we pour a few paper crumble shreds from the pet store to help capture any waste. We change the cage every week in half by wrapping up the bags and bedding and placing in a trash bag. I have read that some people choose to wash their bedding. I personally don’t want to do that.
A guinea’s #1 food source should come from timothy hay. When buying timothy hay make sure that your are buying only timothy hay and not alfalfa timothy hay. We wondered why my guinea stopped eating his beloved hay one day only to find out I had purchased the wrong mixture.
Guinea’s love raw fruits and vegetables! This is where they get their daily dose of vitamin C. Be sure they receive at least 1 cup of vegetables per day. Usually we split up half a cup in the morning and half a cup in the evening. Here is a sample of what our guinea’s favorite fresh foods are: broccoli leaves, kale, cabbage, carrots, purple lettuce, arugula, apples, watermelon rinds, pears, blueberries. Another great time to feed veggies is during out of cage play time or nail cutting.
Finally, always have dried “kibble” food in the dish and keep that water bottle filled to the brim! You will need to experiment with what dried food your guinea likes best. Guinea pigs definitely have a preference. Just like any other pet would.
After having our guinea pig after a month I thought that it might be time to give him a bath. Upon looking further into the cleaning we decided against it. I read several places that guinea skin carries a natural oil and they clean their skin similar to cats. Bathing the guinea strips them of their natural oil and can lead to pneumonia or other skin ailments. Our guinea has never carried any odor on the fur. Again, very similar to caring for a cat.
For nail cutting things can get a little tricky. We have gone through experimenting with several cutters, all the way down to one that “glows” right at the line so you can see what is called the “quick.” What has worked best for us are baby nail clippers. Hold your guinea in your lap wrapped in a blanket so they feel “cavy.” Have a helper shine a small flash light on the area. Feed the guinea some fresh fruit or veggies so that they are distracted. We try to clip the nails every time we clean out the cage.
Guinea pigs are loveable little pets to have around your children! Enjoy!