Looking for a gentle, friendly, easy-to-take-of pet? Well, after 9 years of “piggy” experience at our house, I recommend a Guinea pig. Here’s why.
So, today’s post is a bit different from my normal household tips and hacks, but since my household not only includes 5 people, we have a menagerie of pets as well including a dog, 3 cats, a hamster, a goldfish, and of course, a Guinea pig. I already shared ideas for living with cats in this post, so today I thought I would share some of our best ideas about taking care of Guinea pigs. I will also have some posts soon on taking care of other pets’ needs, so stay tuned!
This is Larry.
He’s been a part of our family for 4 years now. He is our second guinea pig.
We had our first pig, named Penny, for 5 years (which is pretty old for a Guinea pig) until she contracted uterine cancer and passed away. She was a gentle, sweet pig, too. You may notice the tag in her ear. We bought her from a local man who raised show Guinea pigs. As Penny grew, her nails began to curl significantly, and so she did not meet show standards, but that was fine with us. We were happy to get her and she was a wonderful pet for my 3 kids.
Here is Penny.
This is my favorite picture of my daughter and Penny, sitting in our front yard, Emily knitting and Penny happily grazing under her chair. She was very mellow and never tried to wander away. (Just make sure that if you use fertilizers or other chemicals on your lawn, to not let your piggy graze on it.)
Guinea pigs are wonderful pets for younger children.
They are gentle, very social, squeak and talk a lot, purr when they are happy (!), love to cuddle, like to be where the family hangs out, and are easy to take care of. I found that my kids did better with our piggies than our hamsters or gerbil, mainly because they are not nocturnal, they are not as delicate and easier to hold in small, perhaps not too gentle, hands and love the attention.
Here are some tips on keeping your piggies happy and healthy.
Pet Guinea pigs main diet should be Timothy hay, but they are herbivores and there are lots of fruits and veggies that they can eat.
Here’s a great chart showing the variety.
Our Guinea pigs’ favorite foods were/are carrots, Romaine lettuce, parsley, a bit of banana, grapes, and cherry tomatoes. They need a lot of vitamin C in their diet, so most of these are great treats for them.
Here are some fun and inexpensive toys to keep your piggy busy.
One thing to remember: Guinea pigs don’t have very flexible backs, so do not get a wheel or ball for them. They may get injured.
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A wiffle ball stuffed with carrots.
A hay ball made out of a toilet paper tube.
Doesn’t get any easier than this!
A tunnel made out of an oatmeal box.
Since they love hay and need to do a lot of chewing to keep their teeth from getting too long, so make a fun chewable hay box for them.
Here’s how we do it: Make a Guinea pig hay box.
Our vet told us to use alfalfa or timothy hay. So this is what we get.
These are some creative ideas for Guinea pig cages.
Penny lived in a giant clear Rubbermaid storage container with big air holes drilled all across the sides and lid. Larry lives in a plain old small animal wire cage that has a plastic bottom, but there are plenty of really creative and nifty-looking cages, re-purposed from furniture.
I love how this one is re-purposed from an old entertainment center.
This one was once a dresser.
They love to have a “safe” hiding/lounging spot, so these are easy ideas to create a cozy bed.
Here is a clean microfiber duster. Perfect size for a pig.
Create a fleece forest hiding spot by simply tying strips of fleece to the top of the cage.
For Larry, we use a chewable log we bought at the pet store. He loves it.
This is the one we purchased.
Many people use “pigloos,” that can be bought at pet stores. We had one for Penny and then Larry, made of plastic, but they kept chewing around the door, so we took them out. I didn’t want them to get sick from eating the plastic. Silly pigs!
This is what ours looked like.
Here’s another idea using fleece, but I think I would switch out the plastic box for a cardboard one 😉
Guinea pig nails can be pretty sharp, so they do need regular trimming.
We put Larry on a towel on the kitchen counter, and 1 person gently holds him and bribes him with a carrot while the other quickly trims his nails with pet nail scissors. I don’t know if all piggies have this, but both of our piggies’ nails began to curl as they got too long, so if you let the nails get too long, it can be really difficult to trim them properly.
Here is a guide on how to trim their nails correctly.
Penny really didn’t shed at all. With all of the cowlicks all over her, she did have a bad case of bed-head, though. 😉 Larry does shed hair and dander. It’s not bad, but when he looks pretty dandruff-y, we give him a bath with gentle shampoo made for small animals. We put a towel in the bottom of the kitchen sink so he doesn’t slip and just about an inch of warm water for him to stand in. (Although Guinea pigs are good swimmers.)
Here he is right after his bath, still in the sink.
Final care tips.
My son’s job is cleaning out Larry’s cage each week. If someone is available we hold him, otherwise we put Larry in a large clear storage bin with lots of snacks (carrots or Romaine lettuce leaves are his favorite) while his cage is cleaned. For his cage,we put down a layer of newspaper on the bottom of his cage first and then add wood or fiber bedding over that. It’s very important to note that if your cage has a mesh bottom, that there is a thick enough layer of bedding because pigs can damage their feet and toes by standing on a wire mesh all the time. Our cage is a basic one with a plastic bottom and lower sides and metal mesh on the sides and top. Many people have pig houses that are open at the top, but even though Larry’s cage is in my son’s room (with the door closed most of the day) we do have 3 cats, so this is much safer for Larry.
How to stop unexpected surprises while holding Guinea pigs.
We all love to hold Larry, but we found that sometimes he will pee or poop then. And for extra entertainment, he will eat some of the poop, which is terribly gross for us, but perfectly natural for a Guinea pig to do. Many herbivores do it, so this is just a friendly warning about something you might not expect from your pig. We have a large pack of puppy training pads, so when one of us is holding Larry for a long time, we just spread one out on our lap and have Larry sit on that instead. He doesn’t mind and as long as he gets to sprawl out on a lap, he is perfectly content.
Piggies – awesome pets!
For those of you who already have (or had) Guinea pigs, you know what sweet, easy pets they are. If you are looking for a gentle, easy-to-care-for pet, I highly recommend a Guinea pig. They have such personality, are very social and are pretty awesome pets.
By the way, did you know August 27th is National Guinea Pig Day? Don’t forget to celebrate with an extra carrot or two.
Larry is tired out after all this advice, so he’s settling down to watch some Animal Planet on TV. 🙂
Post a picture of your Guinea pig. There are so many varieties, I’d love to see yours!
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