A BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO GUINEA PIGS (Part 2)
TWELVE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE BECOMING A PIGGY PARENT
Hi guys, it’s Helen and Rik here, from award-winning small animal accessories brand, HayPigs!® We’re here today to give you our beginner’s guide to guinea pigs. Here are twelve things we think you should know before becoming a piggy parent!
Note: If you missed Part 1, click here!
NUMBER 5: GUINEA PIGS NEED EXERCISE AND ENRICHMENT TOO!
It’s so important that guinea pigs, just like us humans, have space to exercise and activities to keep their minds busy. Just think how you would feel if you were in a square room with just a chair and a table; you probably wouldn’t like it very much.
Guinea pigs love tunnels, archways and hidey houses. This is no surprise, as in the wild they are a prey animal. For them, the biggest threat is from above, so they always like to know they’ve got cover nearby should they need to rush and hide.
When guinea pigs feel safe in their enclosure they will love exploring, foraging for food and treats (which you can discreetly hide around their den), running and following each other around and finding safe places to take a nap.
Even with a good-sized cage for your guinea pigs, they will still need an opportunity to run around in a bigger space, either outside on the grass in a secure run (weather permitting) or in your house if they live indoors. During this ‘floor time’ also make their space interesting with multiple tunnels and crevices to explore. If they have two or three options at every turn, it will be all the more stimulating. And don’t forget, you can change the way you arrange things each day - they will love you for it!
As a top tip - try and avoid bottle necks, in other words, areas where a guinea pig may feel trapped or threatened. When laying out a cage or run, make sure your guinea pigs have enough space to get out of each other’s way! Don’t over fill their home and try and provide multiple safe areas for them to settle down in – guinea pigs are not generally great at sharing!
For added stimulation and wellbeing, you can also purchase enrichment toys for your guinea pigs. Here at HayPigs!® we have a tried and tested range of original toys and feeders for your piggies to enjoy. These are designed to faithfully re-create some of that natural foraging behaviour that guinea pigs thrive on. They’re also a lot of fun for the humans too, encouraging piggy parents to spend more time with their pet.
The HayPigs!® Guinea Pig Circus™ range
NUMBER 6: GUINEA PIG GROOMING.
Guinea pigs are generally very clean animals and will groom themselves. They will rarely need a ‘bath’ and most guinea pigs hate being washed, so avoid it unless there is a real necessity or health issue that requires them to be bathed. You can brush them and long-haired guinea pigs will need regular brushing. Some breeds will also need their fur trimming to keep it clean and stop it growing too long. Their nails constantly grow so they will need trimming. You can do this yourself at home if you educate yourself how to do it and get a specialist pair of nail trimmers, or, a vet can do this for you.
The HayPigs!® Piggy Crash Mat™ makes a great grooming cushion!
NUMBER 7: HEALTH CHECK YOUR GUINEA PIGS AT HOME.
It’s important to get to know your guinea pigs so you can try and spot if something is wrong. As they are prey animals they are very good at hiding any illness. This would serve them well in the wild, but makes it difficult for us to see when our pet guinea pigs have a problem. If you handle your guinea pigs daily and do regular checks on the basics, then hopefully you would spot if something is not right. Here are some ways to check the health of your guinea pigs:
Weigh them regularly. Weight loss is a common sign of illness, so weigh them regularly and make a note of the weight. If you notice weight loss, please visit your vet as soon as you can.
Look at their eyes, nose and mouth. Weeping eyes, runny nose, dribbling from the mouth are all bad signs and need a vet’s attention. Eyes should be bright and clear, nose should be dry, mouth should be clean and teeth evenly worn and not too long. Guinea pigs have constantly growing teeth, so this is another reason they should eat lots of hay, to keep their teeth worn down.
If your guinea pig is hiding away more than usual, not coming out for food or sitting with a hunched posture these could also be signs they are unwell and needs a vet. Get to know the personalities of your piggies so you can tell if their behaviour has changed in any way.
If your guinea pig stops eating all together, this is a really bad sign and they can go downhill very quickly. In this case, don’t delay in seeking professional advice from a vet, hours can count and you must act straight away!
NUMBER 8: THINK ABOUT YOUR FINANCES!
Guinea pigs can be expensive pets to keep. Yes, they are wonderful little creatures with great personalities and having them as part of your family is so rewarding. But, you must be prepared for the costs involved too! As well as the caging, accessories and food they require, trips to the vet can be costly. They might be small animals but that doesn’t mean they are cheap or easy to treat. In fact, it can often be quite the opposite. So, you must prepare for how you will cover the cost of trips to the vet, should they arise. Also, guinea pigs can live for approximately 5 to 8 years. That’s a lot of hay and vegetables to buy! Another thing to consider, is that even with just a pair of guinea pigs, they are unlikely to live for exactly the same number of years…and they shouldn’t be kept alone…so the cycle can become rather endless as you pair them with another guinea pig, etc etc. If you do reach a point where you can no longer accommodate guinea pigs in your life, then do give consideration to what your plans will be for a remaining piggy. For example, find a rescue centre or animal shelter that could help, or a friend who has other guinea pigs to bond yours with.