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Everything You Need to Care for a Guinea Pig: A New Owner's Guide

I am a guinea pig owner, and I'm happy to share tips and advice with anyone interested in these wonderful pets.

Are you an aspiring guinea pig owner? Find out what you need to know before bringing your new pets home.

Are you an aspiring guinea pig owner? Find out what you need to know before bringing your new pets home.

Have you decided to bring a guinea pig into your home? As pets go, they are quite easy to care for, but there are still a few essential items you’ll need in order to ensure their health and happiness:

  1. Cage
  2. Water Bottle or Bowl
  3. Food Dish
  4. Hutch
  5. Bedding
  6. Food
  7. Hay
  8. Vitamin C

If you’re planning to buy your guinea pig in a pet store, you’ll most likely be able to buy most of the following items when you pick up your new pet. If you’re adopting your guinea pig from a shelter (something I highly recommend), it’s best to have all these things on hand before bringing your new furry companion home with you.

Cage

There are guinea pig owners who allow their pets to roam freely in their homes, but that simply isn’t a practical option for most people. Therefore, finding a high-quality cage is the first step in preparing for the arrival of your new pet.

Size Guidelines

Cages come in quite a few different varieties, but the most important consideration in selecting a cage is size. Guinea pigs need a lot of space. Even if you are able to let your piggies play on the floor, their cage needs to be large enough to allow them to run and play. You should try to have at least 7.5 sq. ft. of space for one guinea pig and 10.5 sq. ft. for two, but bigger is generally better when it comes to cages. It’s best to give your new pets the largest home you can accommodate.

For this reason, it’s important to be cautious when considering “Guinea Pig Starter Kits” that include a cage and a variety of other accessories. They might seem convenient, but the cages included in these kits are often far too small, even if you only intend to house a single guinea pig. The same can also be said for stand-alone cages labeled as suitable for guinea pigs. Don’t just take the manufacturer’s word when they say that a cage is appropriate; always check a cage’s measurements before buying.

Construction: Open Top, Solid Bottom

In terms of actual construction, there are two things to look for in a cage. The tops must be open, as in there is space between the bars to permit easy air flow, and the bottom needs to be solid. It doesn’t matter that much whether the base of your cage is made of metal or plastic, but it absolutely must not be wire. Wire can hurt guinea pig feet and lead to injuries.

Guinea Pig Water Bottle

Guinea Pig Water Bottle

Water Bottle or Bowl

Pros and Cons of a Bowl

When it comes to providing water for your pet, you have two basic options. The simplest method is to fill a heavy, yet shallow, bowl or ramekin with water and place it in an easy-to-access spot in your guinea pig’s cage. This is typically the cheapest alternative, particularly since you might be able to use a bowl you already own, and cleaning is extremely easy either by hand or in the dishwasher.

Using a water bowl does, however, have some drawbacks. Because they are completely uncovered, water bowls tend to collect the shavings, hay, and waste kicked up by normal guinea pig play. They can also be easily tipped over by mischievous guinea pigs, making it hard to track water consumption and potentially leaving your pets without water should the bowl be tipped over while no one is home.

Pros and Cons of a Bottle

Consequently, many guinea pig owners, including myself, prefer to use water bottles. Available in both glass and plastic, these are designed to hang on the side of your cage and provide water access via a metal spout. The spout contains ball bearings that prevent water from flowing unless they are actively moved out of the way by your pet. This mechanism allows you to easily monitor your pet’s drinking habits and eliminates the problem of spilling. Water bottles also maximize play area since they are up off the floor.

Water bottles are more expensive than water bowls, though usually not by more than a few dollars, and require slightly more work to clean. Most are not dishwasher-safe and, depending on the model, washing the spout can be a little tricky.

Ensure There's Enough Fresh Water for All

Regardless of what kind of water holder you choose, just make sure to consider the number of guinea pigs you plan to house when making a purchase.

Guinea Pig Food Trough/Feeder

Guinea Pig Food Trough/Feeder

Food Dish

The options for storing your guinea pig's food are similar to those available for water. You can use a free-standing bowl, either specifically designed for small animals or from your existing collection of dishes. Because guinea pig food is dry and won’t be absorbed by cage debris, contamination is less of an issue, though, of course, it still does happen. Tipping can still be a problem, however, especially if you have a larger guinea pig enjoys a good game of topple the cage accessory.

Another alternative is to use a feeder or bowl that can be attached to the side of the cage. These are typically more expensive than free-standing bowls, but they prevent spillage and food loss which will most likely save you money in the long run. If you plan to house multiple guinea pigs, these can also be a good choice as they are available in larger sizes.

Plastic Guinea Pig Hutch

Plastic Guinea Pig Hutch

Hutch

Guinea pigs are prey animals. When frightened or startled—a frequent occurrence with most piggies—their natural instinct is to retreat into dark, enclosed spaces. It’s therefore important to provide your guinea pig with some sort of covered shelter. This shelter can take the form of anything from a cardboard box with the bottom and one or two sides removed to a hutch specifically designed for small animals.

Plastic or Edible?

If you intend to buy a hutch, you have two options: one made of plastic or one made of edible materials. Plastic models are inexpensive, durable, and easy to clean. Hutches designed to be consumed can be slightly more expensive and, for obvious reasons, need to be replaced more often. They also aren’t washable, as they are usually made from things like hay and twigs. However, they can offer peace of mind if you’re concerned about your pet eating bits of plastic.

I have used both varieties and, while I tend to prefer edible models because they provide another way for my guinea pigs to satisfy their chewing needs, have never experienced any problems with plastic hutches.

A Large, Bottomless Hutch Is Best

Regardless of what type of hutch you choose, make sure that it is big enough to comfortably fit all of your guinea pigs. Also, try to get one without a bottom; a bottom doesn’t really serve any purpose and just has a tendency to get soiled by waste.

Bedding

There are two kinds of bedding appropriate for use in guinea pig cages. The least expensive and probably most common is wood shavings. Shavings are fairly absorbent, easy to find, and safe for use in most circumstances as long as they are made of Aspen. They can, however, be uncomfortable for older guinea pigs or those suffering from foot problems.

For that reason, vets often recommend soft bedding made from cellulose fibers or recycled paper products. These can be gentler on your pet’s feet and are typically better at absorbing odors and waste. The trade off is the cost; regardless of brand, this kind of bedding is almost always going to be more expensive than shavings. If you’re looking for a blend of economy and efficiency, a good option is to use a mixture of both types.

Guinea Pigs: The Eco-Friendly Vegetable Removal System

Guinea Pigs: The Eco-Friendly Vegetable Removal System

Food

Dry pellets offer a convenient way to ensure your guinea pig is getting all of the appropriate nutrients. When selecting pellets, it’s important to consider three things:

1. Type: Guinea pigs should only be fed pellets specifically created for guinea pigs. Guinea pigs may share many similarities with rabbits and other small rodents, but their nutritional needs are not the same. Giving them food created for other animals, even if they are also rodents, could cause serious health problems.

2. Contents: Hay should be the primary ingredient in your guinea pig’s food and it should not contain nuts, seeds, or dried fruit and vegetable pieces. These extras can encourage selective eating, meaning that your pet may choose to eat what they find most appealing rather than what is good for them. This can lead to nutritional deficiencies as well as weight problems. Just think about what would happen if you were to choose what you ate based solely on what you liked best!

Please Note: Guinea pigs should not be given nuts or seeds even as an occasional treat. They’re not part of their natural diet and contain too much fat and protein. The shell fragments from seeds also pose a serious choking hazard.

3. Guinea Pig Age: Young guinea pigs have different nutritional needs than mature adults. Piggies under a year old need food with a higher protein and energy content and should be fed alfalfa-based pellets. Adults should be given pellets made with Timothy hay. If you’re not certain how old your guinea pig is—a definite possibility if you choose to adopt—you should ask your vet.

Hay

Hay is an essential part of a guinea pig’s diet and should be made available at all times. In general, Timothy hay is the best variety to give your guinea pig. Other types, such as orchard grass, can be offered occasionally as treats and alfalfa may be suitable for growing or pregnant guinea pigs, but Timothy should be the staple.

Vitamin C

Like humans, guinea pigs don’t produce vitamin C; therefore it has to come from dietary sources. If you feed your furry companions an appropriate amount of fresh produce and high-quality pellets (most are enhanced with vitamin C), it is possible that your guinea pig will get a sufficient amount, but it’s best to provide a supplement.

Supplements are available in the both liquid and tablet form. The liquid, designed to be added to your pet’s water might seem ideal, but vitamin C breaks down in less than a day when placed in water, making it unlikely that your guinea pig will receive the right amount. Using this method also makes it almost impossible to tell how much is actually being consumed.

As a result, many vets recommend using vitamin C tablets. Manufacturers of these products suggest that your pets can eat them as treats (though my guinea pigs have all begged to differ), but they can be just as easily crushed and sprinkled over food. Just make sure that you purchase tablets specifically intended for guinea pigs.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Comments

Guneia Pig lover on April 27, 2020:

Guneia Pigs don't like water and you need warm water, mild shampoo and a fluffy towel to bathe them. They don't like to swim so put them in shallow water!

Rachel Mullins on January 22, 2020:

Wood chips/shavings can cause respiratory infections in guinea pigs do not use wood chips

Hello hello on August 31, 2019:

Thank you. I am thinking of getting a Guinea-Pig. Actually two. My birthday is coming up, and so is Christmas!! so I am going to persuade my parents to get me one. I really hope they do

Faith on July 29, 2019:

This was a lot of help to find what im going to need for a guinea pig. My sister is doing soccer and the coaches sister does it too and told my sister shes getting rid of her guinea pig for free!!!

bella on June 07, 2019:

I have guinea pigs and they are in the same cage together some time they will chase each other but I think it's because they need to get energy out ( mainly at night)

louise on May 26, 2019:

Is it a good idea to have 2 guinea pigs together

kayla on April 19, 2019:

ineed a free guinea pig please hahahaha

jazmine on March 24, 2019:

are they allowed to swim

Brianna on November 03, 2018:

I give my guinea pig nuts and the veterinarian said that as long as you cut the nuts up it good to give to then and puls it is healthy.

AND THEY LOVE THEM.

Loverguinea pig on November 01, 2018:

I think you should of added prices it made no scream because I had to go on a different app to find the prices

Anonymous on October 11, 2018:

I dont understand why they put pictures instead of a list! From norie j

Guineapiglover101 on August 14, 2018:

How expensive is all this?

amelia miller on July 30, 2018:

good things

Susan on April 12, 2018:

When you first buy your guinea pig how long does it take to get comfortable in its new cage and start eating and drinking ?

lol on February 10, 2018:

hi good stuff

bookpaw on February 03, 2018:

they are so cute

Lexi on January 09, 2018:

I heard that fleece isn’t ok for bedding too. Is it?

rowan on December 31, 2017:

do you now how much do you think is the least total for all of the stuff

Alic on December 17, 2017:

Do guinea pigs need to bath?

Elizabeth on December 16, 2017:

Do guinea pigs need a "hutch"? or is this just optional and would be better for the critter?

channing on December 09, 2017:

i have three very happy guinea pigs but one seems left out, what can i do??

Hi on December 06, 2017:

Thank you!!! This really helped!!!

Noob on November 16, 2017:

thx u helped alot

Elyselliott on November 05, 2017:

This actually helped me a lot I was on another website and it was how to convince your parents to get a small pat and I was writing a letter to my parents and how much it’ll cost and now I wait

brook on October 31, 2017:

what do I need to own guinea pigs ?

I had 2 when I was little now I don't know what I need I already have a cage and a massive run with bedding and hay. what else do I need?

Poppy on August 30, 2017:

Thank you for the good advice

Ella on August 19, 2017:

So many people are getting just one piggy. They should get two! Imagine if you lives your whole life alone! It's the same for guinea pigs!

Faheezah on August 09, 2017:

Faheezah! ! This is amazing

Lolgirl4 on August 07, 2017:

Thx u

Hi on August 07, 2017:

I really want a guinea pig they are so cute this is like my fifth website

Anonymous on July 18, 2017:

I will be getting a piggy soon and this is the most helpful information I've gotten about these guys

Guinea pigs on June 13, 2017:

How can I get a guinea pigs for myself because now I want one of those.

alexandra on June 10, 2017:

what if one of my guinea pigs die what do i do with the left one

Kay on May 13, 2017:

That helped so much!

Njalo 2 on April 24, 2017:

Want a guinea pig but dont know where to get one

unknown on April 18, 2017:

so excited and that was the most helpful website I have used by far

Hi on April 14, 2017:

I want a gueina pig but yet trying to convince my family.

Animal lover125 on March 26, 2017:

My birthday is in like 5 months I know it seems like a long time but for my birthday I might get 2

guinea pigs and my dad said he might build me a cage can't wait it feels like Ive been waiting a year and it been 2 days wonder what it will be like to wait 5 months wish my birthday was tomorrow

Lover1234567890 on March 22, 2017:

Loveable

Claryssa Klentz on February 16, 2017:

I love guinapigs. They are amazing and very very cute

Piggy_doggie123 on January 16, 2017:

I am getting two piggys in a couple of days so I was just checking I had everything and I was up to date❤Thank u very much this helped m

Madicat on December 26, 2016:

Why should I get tow pigs over one

Paige Whited on December 11, 2016:

Does one always have to have a companion to accompany the first Guinea pig?

(: on November 03, 2016:

I am doing a report about guinea pigs, I'll get an A plus thanks to this!

winnie on October 23, 2016:

i am getting one tomorrow :D

Lilly on September 17, 2016:

Thanks for helping I might get one

Taszzer on August 27, 2016:

thank you, I just got a Guinea pig so this was hulpful

Cassidy on August 21, 2016:

I get a Guinea pig in about 2 weeks I've been doing so much research . All I've been thinking about is the little piggie waiting for me at the pets store.

Brisa on July 31, 2016:

I got a guinea pig 2 days ago. And the lady from the pet store said his past life was very sad, it got abused... Any advice on how to care for it better ?

Guinea pig lover on July 09, 2016:

I am getting a guinea pig soon so my mom asked me to make a list on what we need and this really helped!!!

darcy on July 08, 2016:

me and my boy frind are going to get the guinea pigs for my birth day he said there is 1 more present we are going to have sex we are going to be nude we are going to be

kissing so much

cutecatlover on July 04, 2016:

thx soooo much, I might be getting one soon and this will certainly have me prepared... thx so much!!!!!! :)

Jackie on May 09, 2016:

I'm trying to get one

I on April 11, 2016:

I am getting a Guinea pig next year .this helped a lot now I might get one sooner !thanks

C on March 29, 2016:

I am getting one today

Me on March 26, 2016:

Can pigs have spinch

donna on February 29, 2016:

cute

Ava on February 28, 2016:

I may be getting a Guinea pig and so exited i have been doing so much research this helps thx❤️

Kitty Sylvester on October 29, 2015:

My mom changed the date of when I'm getting my guinea Pig

I'm getting it on Sunday!

So excited

Kitty Sylvester on October 28, 2015:

I'm getting a guinea pig on Friday and I'm Super Excited cause its my first ever guinea pig that I got. The sad part is I can only fit one guinea pig in my cage but in January - feburary my brothers going to get a guinea pig but in a seprerate cage. Will My Guinea pig be happy to just play with my brothers guinea pig.

Pls Reply to me I need Help

Bay on July 23, 2015:

Yea well my birthday is December 3 so I got money from both my grandpa and aunt 20$ both then from my moms boyfriend I get 60$ So that's 100$ oh and some time around Christmas a week or two before I get 200$ so I will have plunty and then some left I am getting a Midwest cage and 2 guinea pigs so that's about 80$ for two but around that time it's buy one get one free and the cage is like 40$ and I stil have 200$ left so I will be buying chews,foodbowl,water bottle,hay,aspen bedding,and a couple hutches and nail clippers and baby shampoo and a grooming brush for him or her.i have a Syrian hamster that I rescued now so I know plunty on rodents and other small animals oh and one of my aunts works at a produce shop and she can easily buy me some vegetables!Plus she won't mind there fairly cheap.

Guinea pig girl on June 15, 2015:

Always get two guinea pigs they get lonely without a friend and even though you love then they can't help being a bit scared. Your piggy will be much happier with a friend

i love guinea pigs on June 05, 2015:

I hope i get a guinea pig and this really helped me thanks

guinea pigs on March 15, 2015:

im only getting one but i hope it wont be depressed...

Guinea Pigs!!!! on September 30, 2014:

I really really really want two guinea pigs i just need to get my mom and dad to take me to petsmart or petco i wsnt them so bad!!!!!!!

ahstio on May 02, 2014:

thankyou very much it was very useful and interesting and very good for reading im getiing a guinea pig soon for birthday maybe

lornacoulter@aol.com on March 24, 2013:

It helps as my daughter wants one or two guinea pigs. Its very understanding and straight forward for a FIRST TIME guinea pig owner.

I thoroughly rec a mend this website to 1st time of to 8th time guinea pig owners.

animalz10 on February 16, 2013:

Thanks,I'll be gettin' a Piggy (or two) soon,this was very helpful!