Accommodation Feeding Guide Seasons Companionship Cuddles Health Care
Suitable indoor or outdoor hutch, approx 4’ x 2' (120 x 60 cm) (or bigger) for 2 piggies. We specify single storey as not all guinea pigs are confident climbers, also there is a lot of space lost with the cut out for the ladder. Please see pictures at the bottom of the page for a visual example. Our preference is always an indoor cage as the piggies will be more a part of the family and will suffer less from temperature changes.
Bedding – line the cage or hutch with several sheets of newspaper and some kind of absorbent bedding (not sawdust/shavings).We have found Softacard a very useful bedding and it is highly absorbent, it is our bedding of choice. The maxi bale is the bale that we recommend.
Fitch bedding is also brilliant, white chopped soft paper, fantastic for indoor use. Top it off with loads of good quality hay. Piggies eat hay, sleep on hay and play in hay, and to add to the fun, cardboard boxes or tubes to run about in and climb on. Cardboard is best as it can be chewed safely and won’t overheat in hot weather like plastic can. Beware of piggies getting stuck in tubes that are too small. Please, no straw as this can be very dangerous for piggies’eyes, and it has no nutritional value. Your guinea pig’s home and his food will determine whether he/she is a happy and healthy pig. The hutch, whether in or out, should be clean, dry, warm and secure, away from draughts, heat and from ‘scary’disturbances i.e. dogs, cats or poking fingers! An adult should always take responsibility for the guinea pig and never allow small children to handle them unattended.
Plenty of fresh clean water every day. Bran, hard food, i.e. Supreme Science Selective, or Excel Guinea Pig Pellets or something similar. Avoid any feed with E permitted colourants. Hay, dried grass – especially in the winter time. Fresh veg every day, i.e. Cabbage/Spring Greens, Carrots, Curly Kale (sparingly), Baby Sweetcorn, Cucumber, Celery, Apples, Pears, Banana’s etc. See the full list on the back page. A handful of veg per pig per day is a good guide. Treats from pet shops are unnecessary; your guinea pig’s needs should be met in the items mentioned above. Vitamin c drops added to water are also unnecessary for the same reason. As a feeding guide, guinea pigs are grazers and should never be left without anything to eat, especially hay!!
Spring In springtime there is an abundance of fresh, sweet grass and there is a temptation to let piggy fill up on the goodness, however, he/she should be introduced to the grass slowly. Too much spring grass can cause serious life threatening illness. Start by putting your pet in a safe outdoor run, make sure it has a cover to prevent animals or birds getting into it, and a waterproof box for him/her to escape into if scared and shelter from the heat or rain. 20 -30 minutes should be enough for the 1st day and gradually build it up until they are out for a couple of hours. Beware, the ground could be wetter than you think! To test for safety, kneel on the grass, if your knees get wet then it’s too wet. A piggie’s main organs are very close to the ground and chills can occur very quickly. Look out for poisonous weeds. NEVER feed grass cuttings, as they may ferment in the piggie’s stomach and cause life threatening problems. Grass can be pulled by hand and placed in the hutch or cage.
Piggies can go out in the garden in a run on the grass for a couple of hours a day now, weather permitting. Make sure your piggie has plenty of water to drink whilst he is out and don’t forget the waterproof box. Beware, piggies can dehydrate and suffer from heatstroke, so shade is vital. NEVER go out and leave your pet piggies unattended whilst in the run. Our summers can (occasionally) get very, very hot, don’t leave them out in the run in excessive heat, a small frozen ice pack, wrapped in a tea towel and placed in their hutch will help to keep them from over heating. Also, a wet towel hanging in the area will cool the atmosphere.
Time to prepare for winter! If your guinea pig has to live outside all the year round you must take special care in the winter, so preparing now is a good idea. Make sure the hutches, sheds or any other outdoor housing is completely waterproof and draught proof. Garages are not appropriate as any fuel odours can kill the piggies, plus they tend to be very dark and damp. Consider bringing them inside for the winter.
Your piggies will be happier if you bring them in for the winter, it is better for you too as you are now able to monitor their behaviour and any problems are more easily noticed. It’s always going to be easier to feed and clean out if you are not having to go outside on cold, wet days when the temptation is do a quick job and rush back indoors. If indoors is not an option for you, then plenty of blankets and newspapers on top of the hutch or maybe a hutch snuggle! In addition, a waterproof covering. Make sure the bedding is dry, many a piggie has died when wet bedding has frozen and the piggie has frozen to death. Indoor cages are very easy to get hold from pet shops or over the internet, but please make sure they are still big enough. Here at the rescue our shed is insulated and heated in winter and air conditioned in the summer.
Guinea pigs are sociable creatures and in the wild they live in family groups. More than 1 boar in the company of sows will fight to gain dominance and this can be nasty! 2 boars can live happily together, either the same age or an older boar with a baby, (Introduce as young as possible) and do not house too close to girls. Old boars do also live happily together when they are over the age of dominance, usually 5 ish. I know of a few people who have been successful with keeping a number of boys together but it is not something I would be comfortable with unless the owners are very experienced, and you have a very large hutch or shed. Castrated boars are happy and successful living with sows as this is similar to nature, without the risk of offspring. Only 1 boar though! Sows usually get on well together and should also not be living alone. It is often easier to put sows together, although they can be quite ‘hormonal’ at times. I have come across one or two sows that do not appear to like other piggies, the best option for them is to try a castrated boar as company for them.
Guinea pigs do like to be stroked and cuddled, grooming is good for them too. The more you handle them, the better pets they will become. Be sure to approach them slowly and let them know you are there, be patient and gain their trust. Pick them up under their tummies and support their bottom. If you hold them close to your body there is less chance of dropping them and they will feel secure. Get your children to sit on the floor before holding the piggie. During cuddle time, check nails and feel all over the body for any lumps or bumps, you will then get used to what feels normal and notice any changes.
********************************************************************************************************* We at Palace Piggie Rescue do not home guinea pigs to live with rabbits. We appreciate that pet owners have kept them together for many years but we believe that the guinea pig should live with his own kind and a rabbit with his own kind. After all, they don’t have the same nutritional needs, they can’t communicate with each other and an over exuberant bunny can severely damage the guinea pig, albeit, unintentionally.
It is a good idea to give your piggie a bath, maybe 4 times a year, boys could do with some help with their grease gland which can become very sticky, and in the summer this can attract unwanted attention from flies! A blob of swarfega rubbed in before bathing will soften and melt the grease which can then be washed off in the warm bath water. Water temperature:- nice for you, nice for them. Shampoo:- providing your piggie does not have any skin or infestation problems, a human shampoo and conditioner will be fine. Special shampoos can be purchased for treating other problems. Please contact us if you think you need this. Vetsect is a really good all round shampoo and can be bought on the internet, made by Millpledge – often available from Amazon. Nails – these need to be trimmed on a regular basis, taking care not to cut them too short as they will bleed. If, however, you do have an accident and cut them too short, dip the toe into some cornflour and this will stop the bleeding. Do not panic, it is not fatal. Guinea pigs are, on the whole, healthy animals and easy to keep. They are great pets who make little or no demand on you except for the obvious. Illness is not impossible but good care will reduce the risks. Any changes in the way your guinea pig behaves should be investigated. Before you need to take your guinea pig to a vet, find one in your area who has a good understanding of guinea pigs, some clinics have vets who specialise in rodents and other small furries, and some clinics do not. Weighing your piggy regularly can also indicate health issues, weight loss is never a good sign and should be investigated, and weight gain can also put a stress on piggy and he/she may need to go on a diet.
We are always happy to help and advise on any issues, so please feel free to contact us, you will find more information about us on our website www.palacepiggierescue.org
Thank you for taking the time to read this, we hope you find it useful.
All opinions expressed in this document are those of Palace Piggie Rescue.
Vegetables: We give them a handful per guinea pig per day, usually a mixture of 2-4 different veg/fruit from the list below. We try to limit the amount of vegetables which have a high sugar content and also those which are higher in calcium. You can give the chopped veg in a bowl but we tend to scatter it around the hutch/cage so they have to search around a bit to find it and don’t need to compete with each other. All guinea pigs love their veg but please try not to overfeed it, especially the varieties that are high in calcium or high in sugar. If you want to you can split the total amount fed into 2 feeds. If you have school aged children, giving veg soon after they come home from school is a good time for everyone. You must ensure the vegetables are at room temperature, or out of the fridge for at least and hour before the piggies eat them, cold vegetables could cause a condition called bloat, this can be fatal for guinea pigs.
Here is a list of things they like grouped according to ‘neutral’, ‘high sugar’ and ‘high calcium’ so you can pick from each group. Try not to feed more than one from each of the high sugar and higher calcium groups each day:
Neutral: Celery Coriander Cucumber French beans Fresh grass – either direct via grazing on the lawn or picked from pollution free areas and washed before feeding. Don’t feed mower cuttings though). Peppers – red, yellow or green but with stalk and seeds removed Lettuce – romaine or gem is fine but avoid iceberg apart from very small quantities. Dill
Higher Sugar Carrots Tomatoes Apple Grape Melon including the peel (sounds odd but they love the outside of honeydew melon and water melon) Baby sweetcorn
Higher Calcium Dandelion leaves Cabbage (sliced) – especially spring greens and pointy/sweetheart cabbage Curly Kale Parsley – curly and flat leaf Broccoli stalks and or florets Spinach Cauliflower leaves
Avoid bulbs ie onions & the onion family ie leek and chives as they are poisonous to guinea pigs. Raw potatoes, potato peelings/skin are also poisonous and should be avoided. Take care when grazing animals on the lawn in spring time and avoid anywhere where daffodils, crocuses or other bulbs may have been growing as the leaves from all flowering bulbs are poisonous. Also remove/avoid buttercups and their leaves in the grass and any toadstools/mushrooms/fungi. Please also do not feed grass cuttings as these can contain poisonous oils/chemicals from the mower blades and they also ferment quickly leading to all sorts of gastric problems. It is far better to cut grass using scissors or pull it by hand.
Please remember to wash all vegetables before feeding them and cut off any ‘bad’ bits.
This is a 4ft hutch with a 4ft (120x60cm) indoor cage base on the top for comparison. At first glance it looks as though the pigs will get double the amount of space. Next pic is the actual living area of the hutch placed inside the indoor base. As you can see it's really about half the area that you'd be expecting. The hole for the ramp removes a huge amount of floor space, and the internal measurement of the hutch is way below 120x60cm. Your piggies need to be able to share the same level and still have the required space, this is why double decker hutches rarely pass cagecheck. Pictures courtesy of Glyneath Guinea Pig Rescue.