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The HayPigs!® blog. All the latest news from HayPigs!® along with lots of fun and informative information about guinea pigs.

Filtering by Category: Guinea Pig Tips

How To Bond Guinea Pigs - Top Tips

Helen Cridland

HayPigs_Pepper_Guinea_Pig_026.jpg

HOW TO BOND GUINEA PIGS – TOP TIPS

 Guinea pigs, cavies, piggies, fluffy potatoes, furry mini-hippos, wheek machines, grass guzzlers; whatever you want to call them, there is one thing that we can’t dispute … guinea pigs LOVE company! Not just of the human-kind either, they are social animals that need the company of their own cavy-kind.

So, as a guinea pig slave (or ‘pet parent’ if you prefer) there may inevitably be a time when you are left with a single guinea pig and you need to bond them with a friend/friends. Either that, or you are just addicted to your fluffy potatoes and keep acquiring more piggies to join your herd! Whatever the situation, it is of course important that a new guinea pig gets along with you existing piggy (or piggies!).

Sometimes this bonding process of introducing a new partner or member of the herd can be really easy. Excellent! But other times, well, not everyone sees eye to eye (or whisker to whisker) do they?! Most often, people will have two boys together, or two or more girls together. A neutered male can live with a herd of girls or you can have a boy-girl partnership, as long as one of them is neutered to avoid the obvious breeding implications! Neutering is not a decision to be taken lightly however and should really only be done if absolutely necessary.

It is really important that guinea pigs have companionship, so the pros of bonding far outweigh the potential problems of piggies not getting on with each other. Just be prepared to have another go and persevere if the first piggy-date doesn’t go to plan!

A good rescue centre can help with bonding guinea pigs, so if you have one near to you, that’s a great place to start. They can help and advise you and even arrange and supervise the ‘play dates’. We’ve had the support of our local rescue with any newcomers to the HayPigs!® herd and until recently, we had a really easy time adding to our herd of happy pigs! But with our more recent introductions it has not been so easy. This is perhaps due to the big change in the dynamic of our group in recent months, with three of the herd, including our neutered male, passing away in the space of four months (due to a variety of different issues). This upset and stress does of course have an impact on the piggies who are left and could be a factor in why the recent introductions have been more difficult.

Anyway, regardless of ‘why’, here are just a few tips we have picked up along the way from our (relatively modest!) experiences of bonding so far.

- Space. Lots of it. In this case, bigger really is better! Neutral territory is best (e.g. in a large enclosure on the grass if the weather is good, or on a big ‘floor time’ space) so that existing piggies don’t feel threatened by a newcomer invading ‘their’ space. We’d recommend you start with a separating wall (C&C cage is great for this or a similar cage mesh) so the piggies can see one another and interact without being able to ‘get at’ each other. We tend to keep this in place for the first few meetings and then when you do remove the dividing wall, it is less of a shock meeting!

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- Clean and fresh bedding to keep existing smells and scents to a minimum. Also, a small drop of lavender oil on the back of the guinea pigs’ necks can be calming and also help disguise their scent around other piggies for a period of time.

- Ensure there are plenty of tunnels/huts/hideys so there is not a fight over who gets to use them. Try to allow for the free flow of movement too, so a guinea pig doesn’t become cornered by an over-enthusiastic ‘newbie’! As well as plenty of accessories, we all know guinea pigs love their food, so provide lots of tasty treats to nibble on. There’s nothing quite like some fresh grass or tasty hay and forage to distract - and relax - a guinea pig.

Often, things will go well and you will see signs of friendly behaviour, or maybe some dominance from certain piggies, who want to be in charge. Most of the time this is fine and they will settle into who will be the boss and who isn’t quite so bothered!

However, sometimes there will be a clash of personalities and two piggies will show dominant behaviour … neither will want to give in! Things to look out for: rumble-strutting (waggling their bottom and making a rumbling noise); the ‘who can lift their chin the highest’ game; chattering their teeth; showing their teeth; chasing, nipping or biting. None of these are ideal! Some dominance behaviours will only be mild and if the other guinea pig doesn’t rise to it, things will settle. But if neither want to back down, a full-on fight could ensue. Watch your piggies during introduction sessions and be prepared to break them up if they do start fighting - but ensure your safety too, as guinea pig teeth are very SHARP! Have a towel handy to throw over the top of the guinea pig before you pick them up or remove them from the environment, to hopefully avoid getting bitten in the heat of the moment. You might even want to put some thick gardening gloves on, or use oven gloves.

If things go well in a neutral space, do then ensure to keep an eye on the pair or group that are bonding as they are returned to their usual enclosure, as this may then provoke a territory battle. Try all you can to minimise this (fresh and clean bedding, enough beds/hideys/food to avoid arguments etc.) and of course, the more space your piggies have, the better it will be! The occasional display of mild dominance behaviour or a look that says ‘get off my carrot’ is normal (let’s face it - we all have THOSE days!). If moods do change as you return your piggies to their usual enclosure, keep an eye on them and again, worst case scenario, be prepared to step in and separate them if things turn nasty.

Sometimes bonding can be a gradual thing and you may need to just take it slowly with introductions and then give the piggies some ‘time out’ in-between. Other times, piggies just will not get on with each other and if this is the case, you must of course prioritise their safety and separate them to avoid fighting and injury. But when you get the dynamics right and have a happy herd of piggies all munching away happily together, it really does warm the heart!

Tips for keeping guinea pigs outdoors in Winter

Helen Cridland

Outdoor Piggies.jpg

TIPS FOR KEEPING GUINEA PIGS OUTDOORS IN WINTER

Firstly, it’s worth noting that HayPigs! HQ is based in the UK. So, we are obsessed about the weather! Too cold, too hot, too wet, too windy – you name it, we talk about it! But as we do experience a varied climate in the UK, then it is certainly something to consider when thinking about housing your guinea pigs ‘outside’.

In Winter, your piggies shouldn’t just be left outside to deal with the cold weather, in particular, wind and damp. Their hutches or enclosures need to be protected and ideally brought into an out-house or a shed. For example, our lucky HayPigs! piggies have their own dedicated shed, which is insulated and has a heat lamp for those cold Winter nights. (So yes, then we had to buy a second shed for all of our garden bits and bobs!) An additional bonus to having their own dedicated space is that we can keep everything together that is piggie-related. We have also given them a floor enclosure too, so that they can have a ‘floor-time’ run around in a different set up, keeping their brains and bodies fit through the Winter.

Now, not everyone will have the means or the space to have an outbuilding just for their animals, but even if you can find an area within a shed, garage or under a sheltered space to keep them out of the elements, it will help to keep your guinea pigs happy and healthy!

Here are some of our tips that we have learnt along the way…

Thermal Insulation Foil

Thermal Insulation Foil

Keeping guinea pigs out of draughts is important, so a good tip would be to ensure the shed or outbuilding doesn’t have too many holes that the wind could whistle through! While some ventilation is important, the idea is that they do have extra shelter, so if you need to, see if you can fill any big gaps with something. A shed, for example, doesn’t tend to be ‘insulated’ but this is a DIY project that even novices can attempt! Insulating is easy enough to do; with some rolls of what looks like silver coated bubble wrap and a staple gun, you’ll be good to go. It may well make your shed look like the inside of the Starship Enterprise, but hey, it’s worth it!

Digital Greenhouse Thermometer

Digital Greenhouse Thermometer

Our second tip would be to lift the hutch up off the floor so it’s up and away from draughts and the damp. Another easy win, is to put some old fleece or thick blankets over the top of the hutch for additional warmth. Heat rises and escapes upwards, so in a similar way to insulating the loft in your house, a heavy blanket on top can help keep warmth within a hutch. It can also be useful to have a thermometer. We use a digital max/min thermometer so we can also check how cold it’s getting during the night.

Infra-red Heat Lamp

Infra-red Heat Lamp

If you want to go the extra mile, and we certainly wouldn’t be without ours, then you can invest in an infra-red heat lamp. A good agricultural shop can usually help you out with this and whilst you won’t necessarily need it on all the time, there are always periods of winter when it gets cold and frosty or even snowy. Something else we have also added in more recently is a dehumidifier. This will help remove any excess moisture that might be in the air, again helping against any potential damp issues.

Finally, think about your bedding choices within the hutch and make sure your piggies have lots of places to snuggle and keep themselves warm. We bed our guineas on newspaper (find a friendly neighbour who will donate their used newspapers to you!!) with loads of hay on top. Not only is a hay the most important part of a guinea pig’s diet, it also keeps them warm in Winter months. Make sure you use plenty of it, so they can burrow underneath it to get cosy! Piles of hay also encourage guinea pigs’ natural foraging behaviours, keeping their minds active. A fun fact that’s worth noting, is the use of a ‘haybox’ as a cooker! Food items are heated up to boiling point and then the pot containing the food is placed in a box, which is packed out all around with hay. Hay is such a good insulator, that the food then continues to cook within the haybox. So, it just shows you, it really works to keep things warm!

HayPigs!® Circus Hidey Hut™ - Fleece Hidey Hut

HayPigs!® Circus Hidey Hut™ - Fleece Hidey Hut

For extra cosiness we use some fleece items in their hutches too. A fleece hidey or cosy tunnel (check out our HayPigs! Circus Hidey Hut!) works well as a safe and warm place to curl up. Just be sure to check fleece items don’t get damp with pee, so change them and/or the pee pads regularly to keep things clean and fresh. The Sungglesafe heat pads also fit inside our fleece circus hidey hut, so on frosty nights, your piggies will love to snuggle on their version of a hot water bottle!  

One thing to just be aware of, is that it’s better to make a decision on where you will house your piggies for Winter, and then stick to it! Don’t keep moving them from inside to outside, as this could be more detrimental to their health with the big changes in temperature.

So hopefully, there have been some useful tips here for Winter living for your small furries. To find out more, why not check out our YouTube video on the Winter Shed Tour (see below).

Now, roll on Spring…and then Summer, when we can start worrying about how to keep our piggies cool in the hot sunshine!!!

How do you cut guinea pigs nails?

Helen Cridland

HOW DO YOU CUT GUINEA PIGS NAILS?

Much like our own nails, Guinea pigs’ nails just keep on growing, so regular nail trimming is essential for their health and wellbeing. While they may all look similar, these nails can be very different depending on the age of the guinea pig; young piggies tend to have very sharp nails while older piggies tougher and more brittle ones. Regardless of the age though, we’d suggest to aim for a nail trim once-a-month.

Guinea pig nails typically fall into two categories; dark nails and light nails. When it comes to cutting, light nails are a lot easier, as the 'quick' (the blood supply that runs within the nail) is easier to see and therefore easy to avoid! Dark nails provide more of a challenge, as the quick is hidden and cutting too much nail off can result in bleeding. That said, if you keep up with a regular nail cutting routine, the quick will recede and your job will become easier. It's definitely a case of 'less is more' (i.e. cut less off and do it more regularly) than the other way around!

How do you cut your guinea pigs’ nails?

You can take your piggies to the vet, who will do nail trimming for you (for a fee, of course!), but it will save you a lot of time (and money) to learn how to do it yourself.

So if you are going to take this task, be prepared and make sure you are comfortable with the idea... here’s a few hints and tips that we’ve found helpful, so hopefully you will too!

What do you need?

  • A good pair of clippers. Make life easier for yourself with a decent pair that are sharp and will cut cleanly. Some people even find that ‘human’ nail clippers work well.

  • A torch, if you have guinea pigs with dark or black nails. This can help you to see the ‘quick’. Failing that, err on the side of caution and don’t take too much off the nail, but ensure you trim regularly to avoid nails getting too long.

  • It can be handy to have a styptic pencil (you can find these in chemists/beauty stores - they are used to help stop bleeding from shaving cuts). If you do catch the quick and the nail bleeds, use the styptic pencil to stop the bleeding. Or, use some general first aid knowledge - have some cotton wool/tissue to hand and apply pressure to the appropriate nail.

Helpful Tips!

  • Have everything you might need ready and close by. To avoid too much stress, remember, most guinea pigs are happiest when munching on something tasty. Get their favourite food and give it to them before/during/after nail trimming to distract them and then make them feel good afterwards!

  • Make the animal feel safe and secure. You can sit down and have the piggy on your lap (place a towel over your knees), held securely and close to your body. If you have someone to help you, even better – one person to hold and one person to clip! Or, place your guinea pig on a flat non-slip surface (you can use the towel again!), standing with your body close to the piggy to provide comfort and support.

  • If you have a pig that’s a bit of a diva (we do!) and/or is not a fan of a trip to the nail salon, try wrapping them securely (but not too tight!!) in a towel to minimise any wriggling, leaving the appropriate paw free for clipping.

  • Ensure you get the right angle when trimmingsee our diagram below for this.

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SUMMARY

Nail clipping can be a nail-biting experience for even experienced guinea pig owners(!), but with patience and practice it can be done by you (yes you!) at home. Don’t panic if you are worried about cutting the quick - if you are cautious and keep nail trims quite short, this will be enough as long as you ensure you do them regularly.


Grass Time for Guinea Pigs - Some Top Tips!

Rik Cridland

GRASS - GUINEA PARADISE!

Serious nom nom appeal!

Serious nom nom appeal!

Like many herbivores, guinea pigs love munching on grass! Our HayPigs!® will spend most of the Summer out on the lawn* keeping our grass trimmed. Like hay, grass is great for a guinea pigs digestive system and is also a source of vitamin C as well as many other useful vitamins and minerals. When planning to feed you piggies grass, please consider the following:

- Make sure the grass has not been contaminated by any chemicals or pesticides

- Make sure there is no mould present on the grass and that it looks healthy

- Avoid areas that may have been soiled by other pets or livestock

- Avoid feeding from lawn mower clippings

There are a couple of obvious ways to let your guinea pigs eat grass; bring it to them or find a secure spot to let them eat it straight off the ground. If you plan to collect it yourself (to pop in their run, hutch or cage), please always cut the grass with a pair of scissors and don't just rip it out of the ground. The roots on grass can actually  be harmful to piggies, so please avoid them.

If you are planning to let your guinea pigs forage for their own grass (which they will love by the way!) please bear in mind that they need introducing to grass gradually. To begin with, limit the amount of grass they consume a day or they will very quickly become bloated and may suffer from diarrhoea. Over time, their guts will become more used to the grass and they will be able to eat more. That said, please still provide them plenty of hay throughout the day, regardless of whether you think they've got enough grass to keep them busy munching!

A secure run or cage with a sealed or covered roof is great for outdoor grass time.

A secure run or cage with a sealed or covered roof is great for outdoor grass time.

 

FIVE TOP-TASTIC TIPS FOR GRASS TIME:

TOP TIP 1:

Make sure it is warm enough for your piggies to be outside. Feel the ground temperature with your hand, it shouldn't feel cold. Remember your piggies move around with their bodies very low to the ground, if the floor is cold, they will get cold too.

TOP TIP 2:

Introduce your piggies to Spring grass gradually so their tummies can get used to it. For example, on day 1 they might have 10 minutes out on the lawn, day 2, 30 minutes, day 3, an hour, day 4, 2 hours etc.

TOP TIP 3:

Avoid putting your piggies out on damp grass, this is dangerous for them. Wait until the morning dew has burned off in the sun or rain drops have dried up.

TOP TIP 4:

*Please ensure that your guinea pigs are properly secured when foraging outside. A secure run or cage with a sealed or covered roof is essential to protect them from predators and keep them from running off.

TOP TIP 5:

Provide your piggies with a cover over at least half of their outdoor run. This can be done with a towel or sheet pegged over the top of it. Not only will this provide them with shade from the sun, but it will also make them feel safer from predators and they will therefore be more active.