Guinea pig body info
-Body temperature is
99 - 103°F
-Heart rate is 240-350 beats per minute
-Respiratory rate is 40-150 breaths per minute
average adult male weights 900-1200 grams or roughly 2 - 2.5 pounds
-An average adult female weighs 700 - 900 grams
or roughly 1.5 - 2 pounds
-Life span is 4 - 8 years
Guinea pig's teeth are open-rooted, that is they continue
-Guinea pigs are strict herbivores.
Common Cavy Mistakes and Misconceptions
taken from www.cavymadness.com)
While this is not intended to be a care list, we would like to share some of the common
mistakes, misconceptions, and lack of information people have about cavy care and cavy management.
- Cage Size Too
This is the most common problem we see at our rescue. Please see Cavy Cages for lots of great cage info and
proper size requirements.
- Male Guinea Pigs will Fight
Wrong. It depends on the personalities of the guinea
pigs. Many, many males live together in pairs or trios and are quite happy with no fights. Some sows will not get along and
cannot be housed together. It all depends on the individual guinea pigs.
- No Hay or Hay as a Treat ONLY or Wrong
Not giving guinea pigs unlimited Timothy Hay around the clock is a big mistake. Many people don't seem to know
that guinea pigs NEED hay. Many people buy the hay they find at the pet store, the most commonly found packaged hay is Alfalfa
hay. Many people buy Alfalfa hay because that is what the pet store people told them to buy. Alfalfa hay should only be given
to pregnant mothers and growing babies. Alfalfa hay has too much calcium and other nutrients which can cause bladder stones
in guinea pigs. Timothy hay helps their digestive system and is the best way to help keep their molars ground down and healthy.
- Not Keeping Nails Trimmed
This is a common problem. Guinea pig nails need to be trimmed about once every
4-6 weeks. They can curl and grow back into the pad causing pain and infections. It's very easy to do on your own.
Vitamin Drops in the Water
DO NOT USE the vitamin drops in the water!
The only supplement a healthy cavy needs
is Vitamin C. The vitamin drops that you buy at the pet store contain additional vitamins and minerals which can potentially
be toxic to them. Vitamin C deteriorates rapidly in WATER and in LIGHT. Cavies drink varying amounts of water. There is no
way to know how much Vitamin C your cavy is actually getting. Adult cavies need 30-50 mg per day of C. The drops make the
water taste bad, thereby discouraging many cavies from drinking water---not good!
-Suggested Vitamin C supplementing:
Your healthy cavy shouldn't need additional Vitamin C supplements IF your cavy is getting proper fresh greens and
some fruits and high quality, fresh guinea pig pellets on a daily basis. You should not give your cavy a diet high in fruits
to ensure they get adequate vitamin C. To supplement, get the chewable 'Vitamin C only' tablets for adults or children. To
ensure proper dosage, divide up the tablet and then crush it, or crush it and then divide it up. If you have a 500 mg tablet,
then one cavy needs 1/10 of that daily. It's best to divide it up into two doses, one in the morning, one in the evening.
You can mix the powder or chunks in with their pellets or sprinkle it on their veggies. An easy way to crush a tablet is between
two tablespoons. You can also dose the C directly, especially if you have a sick or needy cavy. Purchase some liquid vitamin
C from a health food or drug store. We use a flavored GNC brand and the piggies like it. It says one teaspoon equals 5 ml
and that is 500 mg of C. So we divide 500/5 and we get 100 mg in 1 ml. So, for a 50 mg dose (divided in 2--am and pm), we
give .25 ml in the morning and .25 ml in the evening. Of course you need a little syringe to do this--also available at a
drug store or vet. (1 ml = 1 cc) If you have a very sick or pregnant cavy, you can double the dose.
- Giant Exercise
Balls and Wheels
Wrong. These are big health hazards to your guinea pig. They can cause spinal injuries and foot and
ankle injuries leading to very difficult, life threatening problems. DO NOT USE these products.
- Same old food, day
in day out
Guinea pigs like and need a variety of fresh vegetables and some fruits, just like we do. Make sure you
focus on high-quality greens and veggies which are high in vitamin C and low in calcium.
- If I get two guinea pigs,
they won't bond with me!
Guinea pigs are a social, herd animal and normally do much better and are healthier and happier
in pairs or trios. They will still bond with you. By having two, you give them a happier life when you are not around. The
cost and care of two is not much more than one.
- Buying a Pig in Pet Store
Do you have any idea how many
people come to me with stories of unknowingly buying sick guinea pigs from pet stores only to have them die a week later?
Quite a few!!!!! You should ALWAYS check the shelters and rescues first.
- Safe, non-combative,
(they are leaving their scent)
-Nose face-offs (higher in the air wins, one must lower their nose to be subservient
to the other)
-Teeth chattering: a little (signal of dominance)
-Raised hackles (hair on the back of the neck
and along the spine)
-Posturing for possible attack, battle for dominance is escalating
sustained (signal of anger, aggression, warning)
-Nips, light bites, may result in little tufts of fur in their teeth
-Wide yawn, but this is no yawn, they are showing their teeth
-Snorting (like a strong puff or hiss)
behaviors may sound serious and they should be monitored VERY CLOSELY, BUT do NOT separate the pigs exhibiting this behavior,
yet. This is when the average pet owner loses it and pulls the pig out. Most of the time, this behavior will continue for
a while until one backs down.
- Fighting with intent to harm
-Bite attacks are no longer warning nips, they
are lunges with intent to harm.
-Combination of raised hackles, loud and angry teeth chattering, rumblestrutting in
place with the head staying in one position while facing the other guinea pig doing the same thing. Usually a signal of a
biting attack. But they may back down before they engage.
-Both pigs rear up on their haunches, face to face. This
is a clear, brief signal of their intent to launch full attacks at each other. Separate if possible before the attack.
battle. The pigs are locked together in a vicious ball of fur. This is very serious. Separate immediately, but be careful.
Throw a towel over them and use a dustpan or something other than your hand to separate them. Unintended bites from their
very sharp incisors can cause serious damage
-Guinea pigs are a social, herd animal. They do better in groups. A pair of guinea pigs is a better option than just one.
There are a number of issues to weigh on both sides of the one or two cavy question. Bottom line, the decision for just one
is usually the result of what is best for you. The decision for two is usually the result of what is best for the guinea pig.
We usually go with what is best for the guinea pigs. If you cannot provide the best possible life for the animals, then perhaps
you should consider an animal that would be happier living within your constraints. That may sound tough, but it's worth thinking
about. Any responsible rescue will try to guide you to an animal that works well for your situation
-Many people will tell you they have one guinea pig and he or she is just fine, happy as a clam, living out a great life.
And that may be, but most of these situations don't have a point of reference for a comparison of that same guinea pig living
with or next door to a friend.On the other hand, if you are adopting a guinea pig from a shelter or some other situation that
may have resulted in the death or sub-standard life of that animal, and that animal must live as a single guinea pig due to
your circumstances, then should we debate the finer points of how happy that animal is versus how happy it could be? It seems
silly at that point. Regardless, we are presenting information to help you make a decision using a combination of the best
interests of you and your animal. You need to decide the priorities.
There is a lot of anecdotal and experiential evidence of guinea pigs being happier living with another guinea pig.Basically,
even if you have a guinea pig, be it male or female, that cannot get along with another guinea pig, that guinea pig is almost
always happier being near another of it's kind, even if separated by a cage wall. There is the rare guinea pig who is happier
being a loner, but it is very unusual and definitely not the normal cavy.
-Here are some of the issues to think about when deciding whether to get one or two guinea pigs.
-The guinea pig pair itself
Is the pair a mature, bonded pair with a known personality? Are you 100% certain of the sex? Remember, pet stores frequently
missex animals and knowingly or unknowingly sell a pregnant female or a breeding pair. The more you know about the pair you
are considering adopting or buying, the less risk you have of some of the other issues in this list. If you are considering
getting two independent guinea pigs who aren't currently living together, then it's just about the same as the next section
Adding a 2nd Cavy.
-If the pair is young (under 6 months) and same-sex (siblings or otherwise), then you will be risking the fact that they
MAY not get along in the future, especially as they progress through adolescence. If you get a male/female pair and the male
is neutered or the female is spayed and they are currently living together, it is very rare that they will cease to get along
at any point in the future. Any tiffs are usually temporary and they will settle right down again.
-While it is a risk that a same-sex pair may stop getting along in the future and it does happen, it is not a common occurrence.
However, you should be prepared to deal with it, if it happens.
-Adequate cage space
While we publish minimum cage size requirements for 2 guinea pigs as 7.5 square feet (or a 2x3 grid cage), kitchen_cage.jpg
(179283 bytes)the Cavy Spirit minimum is 10.5 square feet (or a 2x4 grid cage). Even ONE guinea pig needs 7.5 square feet.
So, adding a few more square feet for two should be possible in most cases. Two boars should not be housed in less than 10.5
square feet, in our opinion.
-What if you need to separate your guinea pigs at any time because they stop getting along? You'll need to make sure that
you can provide them both adequate cage space with a common grid wall so that they can be next to each other for company and
safe interaction. Ideally, that means a pretty large cage -- a 2x6 grid cage which requires a 7.5 or 8 foot long table). That
cage allows a common grid wall divider down the middle to provide the minimum cage space of 2x3 grids (or 7.5 square feet)
per guinea pig. That can be a tall order for many people (15 square feet of cage space). In those circumstances, many people
will compromise on cage space and some will try to compensate with additional floor time. A split 2x4 grid cage will provide
each guinea pig with 5 1/4 square feet of space. That does not meet our minimum but is still almost 2 sq feet larger than
the typical "large" SuperPet cage.
Many people think that if you have two guinea pigs, you will spend twice as much in time, cleaning, and maintenance. Not
so. It just doesn't work that way. One might experience a cost increase of maybe 25% by adding one guinea pig.
-Another cost that might occur, which is very hit and miss, is vet care. You do increase the chances that you may have
a medical problem down the line. And while some vet expenses can be significant, most are not. However, if you travel down
the ill-advised path of breeding, count on more vet bills. And if you happen to buy or adopt a pregnant guinea pig, be aware
that you also have an increased likelihood of required vet care.
-In general, a non-breeding pair of guinea pigs does not cost much more, in time or money, than a single guinea pig.
-Behavior and Health
We've been talking about the "happiness" of the guinea pig. We use the term loosely. We are not intentionally
applying human emotions to the animal. We are using the term as a general way to describe a better state of health and behavior
of the animal.
-Many guinea pig forums abound with woeful stories of people whose guinea pig seems bored, listless, won't wheek or talk,
pop, run around, etc. Guinea pigs interact with each other with their acute sense of smell and hearing as well as speech and
touch. To remove the ability for a social animal to interact with another can dramatically impact the health and overall emotional
state of the animal. Not only that, you as the caretaker miss out on all kinds of fun and interesting behavior.
-Also, if you happen to get a very young guinea pig from a pet store, as is so typical of pet store guinea pigs (they
are usually barely weaned), that guinea pig hasn't been taught much yet from any other guinea pigs. Some guinea pigs will
not eat fresh food you may offer because they don't recognize it as food and aren't used to it.
-An amusing, but standard, guinea pig behavior is their friendly but serious competition for food. Some people have had
a single guinea pig who is very fussy and finicky about what kinds of food it will eat. When a friend is added, that fussy
guinea pig usually can't stand to see the other guinea pig eating something that they are not, and will eat it too. In this
way they help each other keep their diet varied, balanced and healthy. They play together. They chase each other. They usually
snuggle together. They keep each other healthy and happy.
-Imagine being abandoned on another planet with no other human to see or talk to. Just some giant space creature who tries
to kindly interact with you every so often. Well, for some us, that would be cool and fun. But for most of us, wouldn't it
be nicer to have someone to share your life with? That's what it means to be a social animal.
-Bonding with You versus the The Other Guinea Pig
A common concern we hear about getting two rather than one guinea pig is that the guinea pig won't "bond with me"
if he or she has a friend.
-Generally speaking, this is not a concern. Guinea pigs are not dog-like in their behavior and bonding with humans. Please
don't have those expectations or you are likely to be disappointed. Guinea pigs all have their own personalities. Some are
more friendly than others. Over time (and it can take quite a bit of time with guinea pigs) they will learn to trust you and
recognize your scent and sounds. In this process, it doesn't make much difference if they have a friend or not. Just remember,a
friend does make a difference to them when you are not around.