Here are a few basics about owning a guinea pig. First, a few golden rules:
- Guinea pigs are very sociable, so keep at least two of the same sex together. I have no idea whether rabbits and guinea pigs make good companions.
- Guinea pigs can be left on their own for a couple of days with a fair chunk of hay, but no longer; they need cleaning out quite regularly too.
- Guinea pigs can be let loose in an enclosed garden as they can be lured back in with food, but be warned that cats will consider them fair game.
- Handle with care! They cannot cope with drops of more than 5-10".
- They need a simple single-level hutch to sleep in, and this can be kept outside all year round.
- The hutch must be raised off the ground by at least a few inches, to reduce draughts.
- The hutch must stay dry inside, so make sure it has a proper roof.
- Make sure that all catches and hinges are secure. Guinea pigs aren't intent on escape, but they will do a runner if the opportunity arises.
- A good supply of fresh water is essential, either by bottle or bowl.
- Wood shavings make the best material for sleeping and toiletry.
- Sawdust is too dusty
- Straw can poke their eyes
- Guinea pigs like to hide; use a 3-sided shoebox or lengths of carpet tube in the hutch.
- When they're outside, make sure they have shelter.
- Males shouldn't fight if they meet at a young age, and there are no female odours to aggravate them.
- Purring is normal, and shows that they are happy with each other.
- High-pitched squeaking usually means that they are hungry. Expect to hear this a lot!
- Hay is essential. They should have hay at all times (or fresh grass, if unsprayed).
- Try not to over-feed on non-hay foods.
- They also need a fair supply of guinea pig mix (not rabbit mix). This is for Vitamin C.
- Vitamin C is essential. It is found in any guinea pig mix, as well as fresh veg, goodlus tomatoes and bananas.
- Guinea pigs much prefer to nibble slivers of vegetable, rather than gnawing at large chunks.
- They are entirely vegetarian.
- Do not feed them rhubarb.
- Save spinach, carrot tops and lettuce as occasional treats.
- Carrots in excess may also promote kidney stones, but no if they get plenty of exercise.
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