FAQs About Guniea Pigs

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Guinea pigs

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  • What dangers lurk outside?

    Guinea pigs like to be outside. When the opportunity arises to do so, you should allow them to run free in the garden. In the warmer seasons, it's even possible to keep the animals outside exclusively.

    Guinea pigs most like to run around on lush grass, which they also find delicious to eat. Above all, when the animals in winter have been given less succulent food, the first time they are released outdoors you should ensure that they do not eat too much, so as to avoid digestive problems. Once the animals are used to the new fresh food, you will not need to worry any more. You should beware however, of toxic plants such as cleavers, spurges or autumn crocus. Before placing the animal on a fresh piece of grass you should check what's growing there. If there are unfamiliar plants, it's best not to take a risk and to remove them.

    In addition, in the garden, the animals need a secure run or constant supervision to ensure they do not become too independent or get caught by stray cats or dogs. A small shelter will protect the animal against birds of prey, rain and heat.

     

  • How do I build an outdoor run?

    If a guinea pig has the opportunity to run around in the garden, it's very practical to own an enclosure. That way, you don't need to worry that your animal will go and hide in the bushes.

    You can quickly construct an outdoor enclosure yourself: all you need is a few wooden slats and a little chicken wire. Using the wooden slats, make a rectangular frame that can be covered using the chicken wire. It's also possible to make your enclosure just out of chicken wire. To do this, simply use the wire to form a circle. The advantage of this is that this enclosure can be easily folded down and stored. On the other hand, however, wire structures are also rather unstable.

    If the animals are to remain unsupervised in the enclosure, you will need to use particularly strong chicken wire. In addition, the enclosure will then need a roof to protect the animals against predators. In the interests of safety, the enclosure can also be anchored to the floor using tent pegs.

     

  • Can you cross a guinea pig with a rabbit?

    You may occasionally hear stories of a crossing between a rabbit and a guinea pig. This is, however, a scientific impossibility. While the animals may appear similar to each other in many ways, guinea pigs and rabbits are not very closely related to each other. Not only do they belong to different species, but also different families. Unlike guinea pigs, rabbits are not rodents but "lagomorphs" – animals that are so biologically different from one other cannot have offspring.

  • Do wild guinea pigs exist?

    Guinea pigs have been bred in South America as pets for thousands of years.

    Wild guinea pigs, however, still exist – with which our pets have a lot in common: the wild guinea pig is the  ancestor of our pet guinea pig and has a grey-brown, mixed colour. This colour is referred to as Agouti. This small, agile animal lives in underground burrows – that's why our guinea pigs, too, like to have a little house as a shelter.

    Wild guinea pigs are social animals and live in small family groups. Our pet guinea pigs don't like to be alone either, preferring to live in pairs or small groups.

    In addition to wild guinea pigs, in South America there are further types of guinea pig and relatives that live in the wild, for example the yellow-toothed cavy and the dwarf guinea pig.

     

  • Can two males get on?

    Guinea pigs are highly social animals. In most cases, they will get on together very well and even two males can become the best of friends. However, no female should be nearby, otherwise the friends will quickly turn into rivals. If you keep a pair, you have to keep the possibility of offspring in mind. To avoid this, you will need to have the male neutered by your vet.

    The easiest way for two guinea pigs to get used to each other is if one of them is still very young. As a young animal is physically subordinate, however, you should offer it a shelter that the larger animal cannot enter, for example a box with a small entrance. It can also often be a good idea not to place the sleeping box right against the wall of the cage, so that a small corridor remains open into which the young animal can emerge.

     

  • What does the mysterious chirping mean?

    Chirping – or also: "singing" – comes from wild guinea pigs and, in our animals, can be considered a legacy of their ancestors. The noise is often emitted by female guinea pigs. It's almost like a bird, and can sound particularly loud and piercing. The meaning, however, is still disputed: if you disturb the female guinea pig by touching it or even by making a loud noise, it will stop or pause for at least a moment. If the animal is undisturbed by it, on the other hand, the singing can last a few minutes.

    Not all guinea pigs sing. In comparison, you are much more likely to hear joyous excitement, for example when there is food present, or the crackling grunting of the male when it is courting the female.

     

  • Howling and grunting, what does it mean?

    Guinea pigs have something like their own language which is naturally difficult for humans to understand. With a little practice, however, many of the noises a guinea pig makes can be understood:

    loud whistling is a sign of joyous expectation. You will generally hear it when the animals are waiting for their food. In doing so, they will often orient themselves by noises, such as the shutting of a cupboard door or creaking of a step. The human carer is also recognised by voice and can sometimes trigger a cacophony of whistling.

    Very often, you will also hear a rather quieter, rattling noise. That's the noise males use to court the females – and when doing so, they will skip around their mate with swaying steps. Occasionally, however, guinea pigs will "rattle"" as a reaction to unfamiliar noises.

    As gregarious animals, guinea pigs maintain constant contact between each other. To do this they use a soft squeaking, basically meaning: "I'm here. Where are you?"

     

  • Do long-haired guinea pigs need special care?

    Guinea pigs are tidy animals that clean themselves regularly and thoroughly. This also applies naturally to long-haired breeds such as Shelties and Texel guinea pigs. Nevertheless it may sometimes be the case that these are unable to cope with looking after their fur – and that's when a little human help is needed. 

    In most cases, they will simply require grooming every couple of days to carefully remove any dirt or tangling. With animals which are not shown at exhibitions, you can also cut the fur. But be careful in how you use the shears! A guinea pig that jumps up suddenly could injure itself.

    A particularly practical bedding for long-haired pets (including hamsters) is pelleted Farmer´s straw litter.

     

  • Can you take guinea pigs for a walk on a lead?

    A guinea pig is not a dog, therefore you can't really lead it around on a lead. It is, however, possible, to put a small harness on a guinea pig with a lead to prevent the animal from running off when outdoors. If you do so, however, you should under no circumstances expect that the guinea pig will walk "to heel".

    The first time you put on the lead, you will need to be very careful, as some guinea pigs will be fearful of it. The harness should naturally not be too tight, but also not fit too loosely. With timid animals, its best to go without the harness and lead.

    Under no circumstances should you tie up a guinea pig and leave it alone, as it would be defenceless to predators.

  • How can I design the run so that it is full of variety?

    When exercising, guinea pigs need plenty of variety and stimulation to keep their interest.

    Young guinea pigs, in particular, enjoy small obstacles to jump over with surprising skill. In doing so, they can sometimes take quite wild leaps, which look like great fun. If you leave your animal to run around in the room or garden for a little while, you'll soon see what it's favourite run is. Then you can purposely set up a number of small hurdles, for example a box of Kräcker® or another small box. Very soon, the animals will prove how skilful they are!

    Small hollows or tunnels are also interesting, in which the animals can hide themselves but, which at the same time, also serve as a lookout platform. They should therefore not be too high, to enable the animals to jump onto or climb on them. Wood, bark and even cardboard are all suitable materials for this.

     

  • Do guinea pigs need their teeth looking after?

    Guinea pigs have incisors that grow permanently. To shorten and sharpen the teeth, your pet always needs something to gnaw on. Because, if the teeth get too long, the animal may have difficulty eating. In such cases, only a vet can help you, who will be able to shorten the teeth.

    Plenty of hay for chewing on or delicious Kräcker® sticks that require plenty of chewing are ideal for the dental care of your pet. In addition to allowing the guinea pig to look after its teeth, it is also kept appropriately entertained.

    Guinea pigs will also happily nibble on wood. To prevent them from nibbling on their cage, from time to time you can give them fresh twigs, from fruit trees for example. But remember: do not use twigs from trees that may have been sprayed with pesticides or are located at the side of the road. The chemicals and pollutants would not be healthy.

     

  • Can guinea pigs be washed?

    Bathing guinea pigs is not advisable. It is not in any way necessary to care for their fur, as guinea pigs clean themselves very thoroughly. Regular brushing is therefore generally all that is required to help them clean their fur.

    There are, however, rare exceptions, for example when the animal has got itself very dirty, or on the advice of your vet. To wash your guinea pig, the best thing to do is use a plastic bowl, into which you put a small amount of lukewarm water. You can then put your pet into it and carefully scoop a little water over the body. Do not allow the head to go under the water.

    After bathing, you should dry your guinea pig well, possibly using a hair dryer at its lowest setting. Only then should you reintroduce it into its familiar environment. Ideally, you should also put down lots of warming hay in the guinea pig's cage, because chills and draughts are to be avoided at all costs.

     

  • Can you keep guinea pigs alone?

    Guinea pigs are social animals that live in groups in the wild. An animal kept on its own will therefore feel lonely. Attention from people will naturally help, but it is no substitute for a companion. What's more: two guinea pigs cause you hardly more work than one, but give you double the enjoyment!

    If you don't want any baby guinea pigs, the best thing to do is to keep two animals of the same sex or a female together with a neutered male. Two males can even get on, as long as no female is present. The animals will find it easier to get used to each other if at least one of them is still young. Occasional disputes between them should not worry you: it is far better than loneliness. 

  • Do guinea pigs need help looking after their fur?

    Guinea pigs take care of the most important part of looking after their fur themselves. They are very tidy animals that clean themselves often and thoroughly. However, you can help your pet to look after its fur by regularly brushing it. This is particularly important for long-haired guinea pigs. This will remove loose hair while, at the same time, massaging the skin. Removing loose hair prevents the animal from swallowing too much fur when cleaning itself, which can lead to digestive problems. Plus: most guinea pigs enjoy such a brush massage very much!

    One precondition for healthy skin and beautiful fur, however, is a balanced diet. Skin and fur problems can often be manifestations of deficiency. By combining Vitakraft's varied range of products with fresh greenery that is packed with vitamins, it is easy to give your guinea pig a healthy, balanced diet.

     

  • Does the mother guinea pig need help?

    Unlike many other pets, which come into the world blind and naked, guinea pigs are born as miniature versions of their parents. From the very first day, they have a fluffy, thick fur and open eyes and even start running around straight away. Guinea pigs are therefore called "precocial" animals.

    A few days after being born, the young animals start to eat solid food. With older animals, they look around to see what's edible. Naturally, they are also suckled by their mother – for around three weeks. During this period, the young should under all circumstances stay with the mother. After around four weeks, they can be sorted by sex, as they will soon already be capable of reproducing themselves.

    During the entire growth phase – which lasts about 6 months – the young animals should ideally be fed special food such as VITA® Special for Kids which, thanks to its composition, guarantees guinea pigs a great start to what will hopefully be a long and healthy life.

     

  • Do guinea pigs smell bad?

    In the past, it used to be the case that guinea pigs often smelt unpleasant. However, this was due to the fact that the animals were fed with kitchen scraps and kept in wooden cages. The way guinea pigs are kept and fed today means they do not smell.

    Keeping your pet clean and in hygienic surroundings is easy with the many Vitakraft products available. Your guinea pig's cage needs a plastic floor tray, as wood absorbs urine and can then become a feeding ground for bacteria. Depending on the size of the cage and the number of animals, you should clean between once and twice weekly. Soapy water can then be used for the actual cleaning, followed for example by VITA® Clean Deo Fresh to counter unpleasant smells. Inside the clean guinea pig cage, you can then apply a thick layer of Comfort classic bedding. A natural product made from untreated soft wood, it absorbs odours and moisture. VitaVerde® Alpine hay can also be added to the guinea pig's cage – for eating, however, it is best placed in a hay rack.

     

  • What can I do about mites?

    Guinea pigs will occasionally get mites. If the affected animal is treated promptly by the vet, however, this problem can quickly be resolved.

    Mites are only transferred from animal to animal. The affected guinea pig must therefore have been in contact with an infested animal. This contact, however, may have been way back in the past. Often, affected animals will show no symptoms for a long time – in some circumstances, months or years. Then, quite suddenly, the mites will multiply and cause itching. For safety's sake, all guinea pigs that are kept together should be treated against mites at the same time. Even animals that show no acute symptoms may already have a slight case of mites.

    Healthy animals with a strong immune system tend to be affected less often. That's why a healthy diet is also important.

     

  • Do guinea pigs need toys?

    Hamsters and mice use their paws like little hands. They are skilful climbers and love toys such as running wheels and seesaws. Guinea pigs, on the other hand, are too clumsy for toys like these. What guinea pigs like doing most is gnawing and running.

    For gnawing, there should therefore always be a Kräcker® available in the guinea pig's cage. Fresh twigs from fruit trees that have not been sprayed with pesticides can also be given from time to time. Socialising is also important. A guinea pig kept alone will generally get bored and lonely. Ideally, therefore, you should always keep at least two guinea pigs together.

    If given the chance to run around the home or garden on a daily basis, the animals can stay active, run around and jump. And that way, they get plenty of variety.

     

  • Do guinea pigs need to run?

    Even though guinea pigs look a little plump, they are very agile animals that require a daily run-around. They'll happily dash through the room or the garden, making big leaps as they do so. Even smaller obstacles are effortlessly overcome. That's the way the animal keeps fit and feels good.

    Dangers lurk in the home and in the garden, however, from which your guinea pig needs to be protected. For example, in the home you should be sure to secure the electricity cabling. A curious guinea pig might otherwise nibble on it and get an electric shock. In the garden, the animals need a secure run or constant supervision to ensure they do not become too independent or are caught by stray cats or dogs. In addition, a small shelter will protect the animal against rain and heat.

  • Which fresh foods and greenery are suitable for my guinea pig?

    As guinea pigs are unable to generate their own vitamin C, fresh food that is rich in vitamin C, such as bell pepper, is an important daily food supplement. Fresh fruit and vegetables such as apples, cucumber, carrots and carrot tops are particularly popular. In summer, you can also gather grasses, dandelions and clover for the animals. But remember: don't pick any plants from the side of the road!

    Fruit and vegetables from the supermarket should be thoroughly washed and dried before feeding, as they will sometimes have been sprayed with pesticides. Some varieties are best avoided altogether or only fed them in small quantities: lettuce, for example, can often have a very high nitrate content, while some kinds of cabbage can cause flatulence.

     

  • Why do guinea pigs need a lot of vitamin C?

    Guinea pigs are unable to generate their own vitamin C and therefore need to absorb it through their food. Vitakraft's various main foods for guinea pigs in particular therefore have a high content of this important vitamin. In addition, however, you can also feed succulent foods such as bell pepper, parsley or kiwi fruit to provide it with additional vitamins, or for example Kräcker® Citrus or VITA Fit® C-forte.

    Animals that need their body's defences strengthened – for example, following an illness, or when they are kept outside – should be given particularly high quantities of vitamin C. Vitamin C activates enzymes and hormones in the body, increasing the animal's defences against infection and other stresses. If they become deficient in vitamin C, they may suffer from scurvy. Scurvy manifests itself in many symptoms, such as lethargy, loosening of the teeth or increased sensitivity to the cold.

     

  • How do guinea pigs learn to drink from the drinking bottle?

    Most guinea pigs learn how to use a drinking bottle quickly. If you keep several animals – which is also to be recommended for other reasons – younger animals will learn to use the drinking bottle by watching the adults. But you can also help your pet to make a start by placing it right in front of the drinking bottle and pressing on it a little, so that water sprays on its nose. Repeat this exercise for several days. Normally, the animal will understand very quickly where the water is coming from.

    Should none of this help, then you'll probably need to use a water dish. This should be quite heavy and stable, to ensure that it does not tip over when your pet puts its paws on the edge. To stop the water getting dirty too quickly, the dish should ideally be placed in a slightly raised position, for example on a brick.

     

  • Do guinea pigs need to drink?

    Guinea pigs that eat sufficient succulent foods containing water (e.g. cucumber, apple, bell pepper) can theoretically get by without drinking any extra water. Anyone who's ever been really thirsty, however, would not want to expect this of their pet. It's therefore better to always make water freely available to your guinea pig – even if it may only occasionally drink it.

    The amount a guinea pig really needs depends on the size of the animal, the type of food, the ambient temperature and amount of humidity in the air. When fed only with dry food, guinea pigs can drink up to 200ml of water per day. If you feed your pet a lot of succulent fresh food, then the amount of water it needs will become correspondingly lower. One drink for guinea pigs which we particularly recommend is Vitakraft Aqua drink.

     

  • Why do guinea pigs eat droppings?

    A guinea pig's digestive tract produces two different kinds of faeces: normal droppings, which are bean-shaped and dark, and caecotrophes, which are somewhat lighter. The latter are eaten by the animal immediately after being expelled, as they contain important nutrients – such as vitamin B – which the guinea pig can only really absorb once they have passed through the digestive tract a second time. Should you prevent a guinea pig from eating caecotrophes, it may start to exhibit signs of deficiency.

    In addition, they contain valuable gut bacteria, which are reintroduced to the body by eating. These gut bacteria are very important, as without them the guinea pig would not be able to digest its food properly.

     

  • What is the best food for my guinea pig?

    Healthy food created specifically for guinea pigs is the key to giving your guinea pig a long, healthy life.

    Like all pets, guinea pigs are descended from wild animals. Over time, wild guinea pigs have evolved a certain way of eating and living. Despite having been bred in captivity for many years, pet guinea pigs still share a great many similarities with their wild ancestors. Nature should therefore always be the model when choosing an appropriate food.  

    Vitakraft main foods cater specifically to the natural needs of the animals and contain all the essential nutrients they need. In addition, guinea pigs need succulent foods, such as apples, cucumber, carrots, or parsley. Free access to hay and fresh drinking water should always be self-evident.

    Because guinea pigs are, by nature, used to investing a lot of time, strength and energy into finding their food, when kept as pets they need something to substitute for this; otherwise, they may become bored and lethargic! Original Vitakraft Kräcker® sticks are ideal for this purpose, because chewing on this delicious sticks makes the animals work harder to get their food.

     

  • My guinea pig is overweight, what should I do?

    A mature guinea pig should weigh between around 800 and 1200g. Depending on the length of their body and their stature, the ideal weight lies somewhere in between. A clear fat neck and/or a dewlap (that is, a double chin) are signs that your pet is overweight.

    An overweight guinea pig should under no circumstances simply be placed on a starvation diet! This would cause severe digestive and other health-related problems. What's important is balanced nutrition which, alongside the main food, contains lots of roughage (hay) to support digestion, combined with healthy succulent food. For animals with a tendency to put on weight, we particularly recommend, for example, Emotion® Sensitive Selection main food. Due to the lower energy content of these food, you do not need to reduce the quantity of food and your pet can therefore eat their "normal" portion. 

    Energy consumption is also important, however. The more exercise a pet gets, the more calories it needs. You may be mistaken for thinking guinea pigs are relatively inactive creatures. However, in a large guinea pig cage or when running free inside a room or in the garden, you may be surprised at their jumping skills and by how quickly they move, and how long they can keep going! Because guinea pigs are highly social animals who only feel at ease in the company of their own kind, those kept alone may have a tendency to become lethargic and overweight. In a group, the animals motivate one other to move around.

     

  • Why does the information on the packaging sometimes differ to that given on the website?

    We may occasionally change the recipe of our products for example, to comply with legally prescribed changes, or to make the food even more tasty for the animals. Such changes in composition naturally mean that the packaging in question needs to be revised. It can also be the case that new provisions in the laws governing pet food apply only to the food declaration, while the recipe remains unchanged. The product packaging will be changed in this case too.

    While we are able to update online information very quickly, including changing pictures where necessary, it takes longer with retail stores, and for a time, you will often find both the old and new recipes, as well as the old and new packaging, available in stores.

  • Sugar in guinea pig food? Is that allowed?

    Did you know that most Vitakraft products for rodents are manufactured using sugar-free recipes? In fact, 95% of our main foods contain no added sugar!

    To be able to consider sugar and its importance objectively, however, it is first important to be aware that there are many different types of sugar. Those generally known include fructose, dextrose and lactose. In addition to having different origins, they also have different chemical structures. Sugar is naturally present in virtually all foods, as it is the natural product of the photosynthesis of plants and is required as a source of energy by all living creatures. The sugar is either consumed directly or released by other carbohydrates during metabolism.

    Even hay contains sugar (fructans), which are the principal energy storage polysaccharides in grasses. Some grasses found in the wild can have a fructan content of more than 10%. It is therefore not possible to feed guinea pigs a sugar-free diet – nor would it be suitable or healthy for them. What is important and key is always the overall composition of the food and the quantity of the individual nutrients.

    If, for reasons of principle, you would like to use only food with a sugar-free recipe, Vitakraft offers an enormous selection! No sugar is added to most Vitakraft products, particularly those fed in larger quantities; the main foods in other words.

    If sugar is used – which may sometimes be necessary, for example for technical reasons – we pay very close attention to ensuring that the sugar content/overall amount consumed is kept low and appropriate. In addition, our recipes and the raw materials and types of sugar we use guarantee easy digestibility.

     

  • Can guinea pigs eat cereals?

    Yes, cereal can be a very valuable source of nutrition for pet guinea pigs in particular. From a scientific point of view, there is also no real reason to leave cereal out of guinea pig food completely. Despite statements to the contrary, looked at from a physiological and nutritional perspective, cereal is demonstrably not harmful, provided it is given in the right quantities. And of course we pay a lot of attention to that! What's key is the overall composition of a product and the pet’s diet as a whole.

    In humans, it is widely accepted that various diet options are available. Some of us, for example, are vegetarians, others practice food combining and others eat quite conventionally. In the right combination, any food can be healthy and appropriate. And it's just the same with animals: depending on the nutritional and physiological needs of the species in question, various foods can be considered which have to suit both the animal and its owner.  

    With this in mind, Vitakraft manufactures an enormous range of products to be used as pet food. To enable every pet owner to find the right product, which suits the feeding regime that he or she has selected for their pet. For example, guinea pigs can also be fed an entirely no-grain diet with Vitakraft; that is, a diet containing no corn, cereal flour or brans. For this kind of feeding, we recommend Emotion® Pure NatureEmotion® Sensitive Selection or LIFE Wellness as well as diverse items from the Vita Verde® range.

     

  • How big should a guinea pig cage be?

    As big as possible! Guinea pigs like a lot of physical activity, a fact which has often been underestimated in the past. The bigger the space available to do this in, the better.

    Some guinea pig owners keep their pets in large enclosures in the garden, or even have a room set aside for them. Where this is not possible, however, a large and suitable cage can give the guinea pig and secure, fine home. But don't forget: plenty of exercise is essential!