How Much Do Guinea Pigs Cost?
Find Out How Much It Really Costs to be a Guinea Pig Owner
Guinea pigs are charming, delightful beings who make great little companions. Before you run out and buy one, though, you need to understand what you're in for and how much you'll need to invest. Let's delve in and discover what the start-up costs are for obtaining a guinea pig, as well as the recurring monthly upkeep costs.
If you don't have a guinea pig but are thinking about getting one for the first time, you will need to come up with some money to prepare for his or her arrival. Here is a list of the items you'll absolutely need, the items you might want to have (but don't absolutely need), why you need them, and how much they'll cost you.
Essential Items for Your New Guinea Pig
These are the products you definitely need. I've provided an estimate of how much each one will cost you. This list assumes you are getting one guinea pig. Of course, since guinea pigs are social animals and need plenty of attention, it is highly recommended that you get at least two (make sure they're the same sex!) So if you plan on getting two (or more), be sure take that into account when you assess this list.
The price of the actual guinea pig can range from $10 to $40. Some people prefer to get their guinea pigs from breeders. You can get your guinea pig from a rescue shelter or a humane society, or simply purchase him (or her) from a pet store. You can also check Craigslist or your local classified ads to see if there is someone who can no longer take care of their pet and wants to give it away to a good home.
Your actual cost will depend on what breed of guinea pig you intend to buy and where you intend to get it from, but for our list, we'll use an average cost of $20.
A Spacious Cage or House
When you go to the pet store, you often see several guinea pig cages sitting on the shelves, but you need to really think about those. Size really does matter! For one guinea pig, your cage should never be less than 7.5 square feet (e.g., at least 36" x 30"). If you plan on housing two guinea pigs (which is highly advised!), your cage should not be less than 10.5 square feet in area (e.g., 30" x 50").
If you choose to buy a cage from a store (rather than making one yourself), the price can vary, starting from $25 and going up to around $300. You can order a relatively inexpensive 7.5-sq.-ft cage from amazon.com for around $50.00. For this example, however, let's use $80 as an average starter cage price.
To prevent your guinea pig's water from getting food, hay, or droppings in it, you really should use a water bottle that clips to the side of his cage. Having the water in a water bottle also aids in letting you keep tabs on the amount of water your guinea pig is consuming. If you just set a water dish inside the cage, it can easily get tipped over, creating a mess. The bigger water bottles cost a bit more than the small ones, but you don't have to refill them as often, so I would suggest using an 8 oz. bottle for the minimum.
I walked in to PetsMart the other day and looked at their water bottles. Their cheapest water bottle sold for $10, and they had larger bottles that sold for $25. It's possible to find cheaper bottles online, starting at around $5.00. For our calculation, let's use $8.00 for the cost.
You have different options when it comes to providing pellet food for your guinea pig. You can use ceramic or metal bowls, or you could opt to purchase a feeder that clips onto the side of the cage. If you use a bowl, make sure it has a broad base or is heavy enough that it won't get tipped over easily. Hanging feeders are a better choice because they take up less space, they make it harder to spill the food (so you're not wasting food), they make it impossible for your guinea pig to use his food bowl as a bed, and they prevent the pellets from getting ruined by cage debris. Feeders that hang on the side of the cage tend to cost a bit more, however.
You can purchase a new ceramic or metal bowl for about $6 - $15. The hanging type costs between $8 - $20. Let's use $10 as our average.
Because guinea pigs are hunted by just about everything in the wild, they've developed honed fight-or-flight response - and it usually swings to the "flight" side. To feel safe, they need something to be able to snuggle inside or hide in. There are a lot of choices. You can buy commercial plastic hideaways, you can easily make your own homemade hideaway, or you can buy or make a specialty hideaway out of fabric, wood, wicker, or even metal.
The price of a no-frills, plastic, commercially-bought hideaway ranges from $6 - $25. Let's use $10 for our average cost.
You have many options when it comes to providing bedding for your guinea pig. Some people like to use fleece bedding, but others prefer to use some type of wood pellets, wood shavings, or some kind of shredded recycled product. Be sure to avoid cedar shavings, because they are toxic to guinea pigs. When deciding what you want to use, consider the material's absorbency and ability to control odors. Good options include aspen wood shavings, Carefresh bedding, pine shavings (some owners disagree with using these), or fleece. If you are getting a guinea pig for the very first time, we'll assume you will begin by using some inexpensive wood shavings. The price, of course, depends on the type of shavings, the brand, and what size package you intend to buy.
Prices for bedding can range from about $7 - $50, but for this example, we'll assume you'll buy a 1200-cubic-inch bag of aspen shavings from amazon.com, which will set you back about $8.
Grass hay is really important for your little guy. You should make grass hay always be available to your guinea pig. This hay will make up about 75% of his daily diet. Chewing on the hay helps keep their ever-growing teeth worn down, and the hay supplies fiber and nutrients that are essential for his health. The best grass-based hay to use is Timothy hay. Of course, the price varies based on what kind of hay you opt for, what name brand, and what quantity you get.
The cost of Timothy hay can range from $5 to $35 or more, depending on the brand and size. For this example, let's assume you'll purchase a 32-ounce bag to begin with, which will cost you around $7.
It's important that the pellet food you purchase is one that is designed especially for guinea pigs. Don't give them rabbit pellets, because guinea pigs need Vitamin C and rabbit pellets usually don't contain Vitamin C, whereas guinea pig pellets should. For an adult guinea pig, it's better to choose a timothy-based pellet instead of an alfalfa-based pellet, because it has a less calcium. High levels of calcium can contribute to the formation of bladder stones, which guinea pigs are prone to getting. Also make sure the food you choose does not contain nuts or seeds.
It's important to buy high-quality food, so we will not include the inexpensive, low-nutrient foods in our price calculation. On average, you can expect to spend anywhere from $8 - $25 for a bag of food. Let's assume you're choose to buy a 5-pound bag of Oxbow-brand pellets. That will cost you somewhere around $15.
Fresh Fruit and Vegetables
Guinea pigs are strict herbivores, and they need about 1 cup of fresh vegetables every day. These are a necessary part of his diet, and you shouldn't skip this part. Fresh fruits and vegetables help with the Vitamin C requirement, and they provide other nutrients needed to keep your guinea pig healthy. Don't forget to wash the produce before feeding it to your guinea pig, and try to make sure they aren't coated with pesticides.
Providing an estimate on this expense is kind of difficult, because the price depends on what kind pf produce you buy, which season you buy it in, where you live, and so on. If you live bear a farm in the Midwest, you're going to pay a lot less than someone who lives in the middle of New York City or in Alaska. But for this example, let's assume that you buy 6 different pieces of vegetables and fruits every week, e.g., 2 carrots, a bunch of red lettuce, 2 red peppers, a bunch of asparagus, and a couple apples. Let's use an average cost of $9 per week, for a total of $36 a month.
Vitamin C Supplement
Guinea pigs need Vitamin C but are unable to produce it themselves, so they have to ingest it in their diet. One adult guinea pig should ingest 30-50 mg each day. Because Vitamin C is water-soluble and does not get stored in the body, you can't overdose on it. It does degrade pretty rapidly, though, so you don't' want to put it in their water or let it sit around forever. If you feed your guinea pig a well-rounded diet, he will probably automatically fulfill his Vitamin C needs, but it's a good idea to give a supplement anyway. You can buy Vitamin C tablets or use liquid drops.
Various Vitamin C supplements range in price from $4 to $40. Let's assume you buy a small bottle of liquid Vitamin C, which will cost you about $5.
Necessary Items Total
Optional Items to Prepare for a New Guinea Pig
There are products that you might want to get for your new guinea pig, but they are not absolutely necessary.
Guinea pigs have open-tooted teeth, like rats. That simply means that their teeth always grow. To prevent them from overgrowing, they need to chew. You might choose to invest in some chew sticks to help with this.
Chew Sticks range in price from about $5 to $15. Let's use $6 as our average cost.
No one wants their guinea pig to be bored, so many guinea pig owners will choose to buy a toy or two. There really is no need to buy toys. There are plenty of guinea pig toys you can make yourself out of simple household items, but sometimes people see something cute and choose to get it anyway.
Toys vary in price, depending on which kind of toy you want or what name brand it is. Prices go from $2 to $20. For this example, let's use $8 as our price for one toy.
A hay rack allows you to supply hay for your guinea pig while keeping it up and off the ground. That way, it doesn't get soiled, stays fresher longer, and makes less mess. They can come in various sizes, and some of them are quite small. Be sure you choose one that's large enough to hold a decent amount of hay. Otherwise, make sure you provide some loose hay as well.
Hay racks range in price from $6 to $20. Let's assume you'll buy a $10 rack.
Long-haired guinea pigs require a bit of grooming, so you might want to purchase a soft brush. Some guinea pig owners also buy a set of nail clippers or special guinea-pig-safe shampoo.
These products are relatively inexpensive, and you might choose not to buy them at all, especially if you already have something similar at home that would serve the same purpose. Let's assume you opt to get one of these items for around $5.
Especially in the warmer months, it's a good idea to take your guinea pig outside to get some fresh air and allow him to nibble on some fresh grass. If you take him out, however, you'll have to contain and protect him. You might choose to buy an outdoor run. There are quite a few ways you could make one yourself, though.
Prices for outdoor runs vary quite a lot, and they can range anywhere from $50 to $300 or more, depending on the design, the size, the material it's made out of, and the brand. Let's use $70 as our average.
Optional Items Total
Monthly Up-Keep Cost
You will need to set aside money in your monthly budget to replace the items your guinea pig uses regularly. Again, this list assumes you have a single guinea pig, so if you have more than one, adjust your calculations accordingly.
If you choose to use wood shavings as your bedding material, you will probably be cleaning your guinea pig's cage once or twice a week. If your cage isn't huge, let's assume you'll go through most of the 1200-cubic-inch bag of aspen shavings we talked about earlier. Of course, if you choose to use fleece, you can just throw that in the washer. You'll need to clean his cage more frequently, however, if you choose to go with fleece.
The 1200-cubic-inch bag of aspen shavings from amazon is our example, and that will require about $8.
Let's assume you will be using a large bag of Timothy hay for his hay requirements.
For our price estimate, let's assume you'll purchase a 56-ounce bag, which will set you back around $8.
A single guinea pig should be eating between 1/8 - 1/4 cup of pellet food per day, so in one month, you will need about 8 cups of pellet food.
Let's assume you're going to purchase a 5-pound bag of Oxbow pellets. Your cost will be somewhere around $15.
Your guinea pig will need to eat about 1 cup of fresh vegetables per day. Fruit can be given once a day, once every couple days, or even just once or twice a week. Each owner has different opinions on how often fruit should be given.
For our example, let's assume that you purchase 6 different pieces of vegetables each week and some fruit. Let's use 2 carrots, a bunch of red lettuce, 2 red peppers, a bunch of asparagus, and a couple pieces of fruit. We'll use an average cost of $9 per week, for a monthly total of $36.
Vitamin C Supplement
We already talked about Vitamin C in the previous "Setup" section. You can choose to supplement Vitamin C using powder, tablets, or liquid drops.
You can spend anywhere from $4 to $40 on the various Vitamin C supplements. Let's assume you get a small bottle of liquid Vitamin C, which will cost you about $5.
Monthly Maintenance Cost
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Calculate Your Actual Costs
The prices listed in these examples are averages to give you an idea of what you're likely to spend on your new guinea pig. However, prices vary from area to area. People in Alaska, New York City, or California are more likely to pay more for their items than someone who lives in the rural Midwest. And if you live in a different country altogether, this list won't do you much good at all.
There are some handy calculators at Abyssinian Guinea Pig Tips. There's a cage-size calculator where you enter the dimensions of the cage you're thinking of buying (in inches), and it tells you how many square feet of space you'll be providing for your furry little buddy. Of course, you can tell if your cage is big enough by looking at it, but for those who want to buy the starter cages from their local pet store, it's important to make sure you have at least the minimum requirements met.
There's also a start-up cost calculator and a maintenance-cost calculator where you can input your actual prices and figure out what your monthly and yearly costs will be. As an added bonus, there's a list of useful tips on how to to find great deals and discounts on guinea pig supplies so you can save money.
What Do Other People Say About the Cost of Caring For a Guinea Pig?
Here are some ideas of what other people think about the cost of guinea pig ownership:
- Guinea Pigs are Cheap - NOT!
- CostHelper has an interesting list of what they calculate the cost of guinea pig ownership to be.
- The British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty for Animals provides what it thinks the cost is. This is in Canadian dollars, though, so it's slightly different in US Dollars. (As of November 2014, $1.00 USD = $1.12 Canadian Dollars)