Guinea pigs Guide

Buying & equipment

Guinea pigs are highly sociable household pets that must always be kept at least in pairs. With a little preparation before buying your guinea pigs and by allowing them time to settle in, these small rodents will soon start to feel at home. Once settled, they are easily tamed and will start to greet you with squeaks of excitement. 

Checklist for initial equipment:

  • A sufficiently large pet cage
  • A sturdy, washable feeding dish, e.g. a dish made from glazed ceramic, or an automatic feeder that allows your guinea pigs to feed themselves
  • Hayrack for daily hay requirements
  • Hay, e.g. Vita Verde® 
  • Water bottle with fresh water or VITA Fit® Aqua drink
  • Sleeping box for sleeping and resting 
  • Soft, absorbent litter e.g. Comfort classic made from woodchips or Farmer´s straw litter made from pelleted straw 
  • Saltlicks to provide important minerals and trace elements
  • Main food, e.g. Vitakraft Menu Vital
  • Vitakraft Kräcker® sticks to keep your pet busy and wear down its teeth

Tips for buying guinea pigs

Guinea pigs can be bought from almost any pet shop or directly from a breeder. You can find the addresses of breeders from breeding associations, which have branches in most towns and cities. Animal rescue centres also often have guinea pigs looking for a new home.
When buying a guinea pig, make sure that it is at least 7–8 weeks old. 

Signs of a healthy guinea pig:

  • Lively, alert behaviour
  • A thick coat
  • Clear, bright eyes
  • A dry nose
  • A clean behind

The right spot for your guinea pig cage 

Your guinea pig cage is best placed in a quiet, well lit area. Since guinea pigs cannot tolerate heat or draughts, do not place the cage in direct sunlight or next to a window.

In summer, you can also set up an outdoor enclosure in the garden or on your balcony. This must be covered with chicken wire to protect the guinea pigs from dogs, cats and birds or prey. It is also important to provide somewhere for the animals to shelter from wind, rain and direct sunlight.

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Caring for your pet

Creating a natural environment

Guinea pigs are sociable animals and need the company of their own species, as well as a large cage with plenty of room to move around. After all, running around and playing with friends is important, but it's also nice to have space to chill out by yourself now and then.

Having a daily run around in the house or garden helps keep guinea pigs healthy and content. For their own safety, however, guinea pigs should be supervised at all times when out of their cage.

Grooming and health

Guinea pigs need little help with grooming. These small rodents are clean animals that regularly groom their own fur. If you have long-haired guinea pigs, however, you should help them to care for their fur by brushing it on a regular basis. And many short-haired guinea pigs also enjoy being pampered on occasion using a soft brush. You should not, however, bath a guinea pig unless instructed to do so by the vet. Dirty fur is best cut away using scissors rather than using water.

Claws 

Most guinea pigs need to have their claws clipped from time to time. You must do this carefully to avoid injuring your pet. Your local pet shop, breeder or vet will be happy to show you how to do this.

Cleaning the guinea pig cage 

Depending on the size of the cage and number of animals, the litter in your guinea pigs' home will need changing around twice each week. While doing this, you should also clean out the toilet corner. You must also clean the cage itself, together with accessories such as the food bowl, hay rack etc. on a regular basis. This is best done using warm water.

The cage also needs a thorough clean once every month: rinse the entire cage and grille in the bath using warm water. Avoid using strong household detergents. If necessary, you can clean areas of heavy soiling using a hard brush and a little washing-up liquid or vinegar. Afterwards, rinse everything down well with fresh water and leave it to dry. You can then scatter around clean small animal litter and put your pet's accessories back inside. Following this cleaning regime ensures that your guinea pigs' cage remains clean and hygienic.

Diet

The perfect diet

Guinea pigs originate from the grassy uplands of South America, but they have been kept as pets for thousands of years. 

Two key factors are important for ensuring guinea pigs receive a good diet: they need food with a high fibre content and sufficient levels of vitamin C. This is because, unlike other animals, they are not able to synthesise this vitamin within their own bodies.

To ensure that your guinea pigs are content and remain fit and healthy, they need food that has been designed to meet their specific dietary needs. 

The Vitakraft approach to nutrition ensures that our products are optimally tailored to meet the physiological dietary requirements of guinea pigs: they contain precisely the right amounts of nutrients and other beneficial ingredients to ensure that your pets have a long and healthy life. In the case of guinea pigs, our products provide a high fibre content, vitamins, green fodder and minerals. And, of course, they also taste great! The wide range of different Vitakraft products also ensures that you can provide your pets with an interesting and varied diet.

Food types:

Main food:
A main food such as Menu Vital covers your guinea pig's basic nutritional requirements

Roughage:
Roughage has a high fibre content, which is essential for healthy digestion in guinea pigs. Since fibre requires a great deal of chewing, it also cares for teeth and keeps your pet occupied. Roughage foods include for example Vita Verde® Alpine meadow hay or Vita Verde® Nature plus hay mixes with dandelion or wild roses.

Kräcker®:
These tasty nibble sticks have a number of different functions. Guinea pigs have to work to get food just like in the wild, which keeps them busy and is good for preventing boredom. Nibbling on the hard Kräcker® sticks also wears down the constantly growing teeth and helps keep them healthy.

Treats:
Snacks such as Drops are primarily a form of reward, although they also help to tame your pet and create a bond

Nutritional supplements:
Pet food supplements, such as VITA Fit® Vitamin C drops or VITA Fit® C-forte help to keep your pet strong and healthy. They meet the specific nutritional needs that can arise during certain stages of life, e.g. during periods of growth, after illness or during pregnancy. They may also be beneficial for particularly active animals.

Feeding tips:

  • Provide small portions of food several times a day
  • Provide a varied diet 
  • Place fresh hay in the hayrack each day
  • Make sure that the animal has access to fresh water or VITA Fit® Aqua drink at all times 
  • Provide succulent food such as fruit or vegetables each day. Guinea pigs love carrots, carrot tops, apple and bell pepper in particular
  • Ensure that your guinea pig receives a diet rich in vitamin C
  • Remove succulent food that has started to wilt 
  • Provide something to gnaw on at all times, e.g. Kräcker®, sticks to keep your pet's teeth healthy, as well as lots of hay

Behaviour & familiarisation

Behaviour

In the wild, guinea pigs live together in groups. They are used to this way of life, which makes them feel happy and secure. Domesticated guinea pigs also need the company of others and should therefore not be kept by themselves.

Female guinea pigs get on particularly well with each other. However, keeping two or more males or neutered males is not a problem: as long as they have been given time to get to know each other and there are no females nearby, they will not usually view each other as rivals. The arrangement preferred by guinea pig aficionados is a small group of animals comprising a neutered male and two or more females. Anyone keeping a group or pair of animals that includes an unneutered male needs to be prepared for a flood of new arrivals. It is therefore advisable to have males neutered by a vet.

Guinea pig language

The complex social interactions between guinea pigs can be heard in the various different noises they make. These range from cooing and loud squeaks to chirping or purring like a cat. Every sound has its own distinct meaning within the guinea pig community. A loud, happy squeak is often used as a form of greeting, for example.

The first days in your guinea pigs' new home

During the first few days after arriving in their new home, guinea pigs need peace and quiet while they get to know their new surroundings. Depending on how brave your new pets are feeling, sooner or later they will come out to take a good look around.

Once the guinea pigs have settled in, you can start to get them used to being around people. The easiest way to do this is by luring them out with a tasty treat such as Vitakraft Drops or a fragrant dandelion. While doing this, speak in a soft voice and avoid sudden movements. It is also important not to try picking up the guinea pig too soon. After a short while, your pet will enjoy having the top of its head scratched and will let you pick it up without fear.

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