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What You Need to Know About Your New Guinea Pig

By Petco_Charlene on Jun. 15, 2017

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Guinea pigs are social animals that require daily interaction with their pet parent. If you’ve decided to add a pet guinea pig to your family, there are steps you can take before bringing her home to make her transition less stressful.

  • Set up her habitat and an indoor play area.
  • Stock up on the necessary supplies.
  • Pet-proof your home.
  • Establish routines right away.
  • Make an appointment with a veterinarian.

Before—and after—you bring your guinea pig home, do some homework and learn how to care for your new pet. Borrow books from the library, search online for reference materials, watch how-to videos and talk to other pet parents for tips. Caring for a guinea pig is fairly simple, but you will need to do your research in order to provide your pet the quality of life she deserves.

Habitat Setup

Since your guinea pig will spend most of her lifetime in her habitat, it’s important to choose the best one possible, complete with everything she needs to help her live a long, happy and healthy life. Guinea pigs can live up to eight years with proper care, so it’s a good idea to invest in a spacious habitat with all the necessary supplies, right from the start. When it comes to habitat size, bigger is better. You should buy the largest habitat you have space for and can afford.

Necessary Supplies

Besides a spacious habitat, you’ll need to buy some basic supplies before your bring your guinea pig home:

  • Food: In order to avoid upset stomach, you’ll want to initially feed your guinea pig the food she is used to eating. After a couple weeks, if necessary, you can slowly transition her to a new food over a period of 7–10 days. Not all food is the same quality, so always choose a high-quality guinea pig food that’s fortified with vitamin C.
  • Bedding: Choose high-quality paper bedding or crumbled paper bedding. Cedar-based products are not recommended.
  • Hay racks with hay: Your guinea pig needs constant access to fresh hay. A hay rack can help keep the hay clean.
  • Hideaway: This provides a place for your guinea pig to rest, to nest or just escape to for a sense of security.
  • Dishes/bottles: For easy access to food, choose a ceramic crock that won’t tip over. For constant access to fresh, clean water, choose water bottles that mount to the habitat.
  • Vitamin C: Since guinea pigs need Vitamin C daily to avoid a deficiency, you will need to provide pellets or treats fortified with vitamin C, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables that are approved for guinea pigs. Treats—including fruits and vegetables—should not make up more than 10 percent of your guinea pig’s total diet.
  • Chew sticks: Since your guinea pig’s teeth grow continuously, you should provide a variety of fun chews, including sticks, edible huts, mineral chews, toys, balls, blocks and treats made especially for small animals. Not only are they fun for your guinea pig to chew on, they also help to relieve boredom.
  • Nail clippers: Since you will need to trim your guinea pig’s nails on a regular basis, get a pair of small animal nail clippers, as well as styptic powder. When you take your guinea pig in for a checkup, ask your veterinarian to show you how to properly trim your pet’s nails.

You could also stock up on first aid supplies, more guinea pig toys (to have on-hand for replacing old, worn out or chewed up toys) and habitat add-ons, such as a ramp, tunnel or tube. Don’t stock up on hay or food though; buy both fresh.

 

Pet-proof Your House

While your guinea pig will spend most of her time in her habitat, out-of-habitat playtime indoors is important too, so you’ll need to pet-proof your house. Make sure you secure all cords and wires, pick up anything off the floor that could be a choking hazard and put hazardous items out of reach. Consider buying a small animal playpen, complete with a mat to protect your floor. Playpens allow your guinea pig to safely explore, exercise and play while keeping her securely contained. If you have other pets make sure your pig is secure at all times.

The First Few Days

When you first bring your new pet guinea pig home, she might feel stressed by the transition to an unfamiliar environment. She may be inundated with strange sounds and smells. Your little one will need quiet time during those first few days home. Follow these simple tips:

  • Don’t rush to handle your new guinea pig; give her a day or two to acclimate to her new home before you start petting her or picking her up.
  • Quietly and gently approach your guinea pig so she can slowly become accustomed to you and your voice. After a few days, you can try to handle her. Offer treats to her from your hands, but go slow and talk to her in a friendly voice.
  • Discourage friends and visitors from handling your new pet during this adjustment period and give her some peace and quiet.
  • Watch for signs of illness or stress. You’ll want to set up an initial appointment with a veterinarian that specializes in small animals, but if your guinea pig shows any signs of illness or distress, call your veterinarian right away.
  • Children under the age of five should never handle small animals alone, and if the guinea pig is your older child’s pet, you’ll want to supervise her when she’s handling the guinea pig. Remind her to be very gentle with her new pet.

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Establishing Routines
Once you have your new pet guinea pig home, make sure she stays active and alert with plenty of activities and room to play. Everyone in the home should be on the same page when it comes to caring for your guinea pig and bringing her home. Consider having a family meeting to review feeding, playing, cleaning, sleeping and nail trimming routines right away.

Piggy Checkup
If your guinea pig ever becomes sick, she must be taken to a veterinarian who specializes in small animals. Guinea pigs have a low tolerance for illness. Always contact your veterinarian right away if your pet seems sick. As soon as possible, set up an appointment with your veterinarian for a guinea pig checkup. You can ask about what to feed your guinea pig, signs of illness to be on the lookout for and how to trim your pet’s nails. An annual checkup will help keep your guinea pig happy and healthy.

If you’ve added a new pet to your family, go to your local Petco and ask a store partner for a free New Pet Companion Care Pack. Visit Petco.com to find the store nearest you.

Save a life. Consider adopting a guinea pig.

Check out these fun facts about guinea pigs.

Learn even more about how to care for your guinea pig.

Hay there! Guinea pigs love fresh hay, food and chews.

 

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About the Author
  • I am a lover of all animals, especially cats! We have two at home, a red tabby named Milo and a black cat named Luke, both rescued off the streets in San Diego. There are so many benefits to being a pet parent! I've worked at Petco since 2008, and as a content marketer, there's nothing more rewarding than learning as much as I can about animals of all types! My areas of specialty include social content, video production, editing and photography. I get to work with animals of all types at our HQ—including dogs, cats, snakes, tarantulas, guinea pigs and lizards and I work closely with our animal care team to ensure our content is accurate, informative and entertaining. Email me anytime with your article ideas!
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