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Issue #2 September 3, 2004

Guinea Pig Care

Did you know that guinea pigs are also called Cavies? That is another name they are known by by people who raise and show these wonderful creatures. In this article I am going to supply you with some information to help you care for your guinea pig. Whether you are just purchasing one, have had yours for a long time or maybe you are just researching for an upcoming purchase, I want to provide you with some helpful tips to get you started.


Never place your guinea pig in a cage that has wire bottoms. Their legs can become trapped in the wires and they can suffer severe damage. Guinea pigs should have a cage with a solid bottom and lined with newspaper and filled with a bedding substrate. Cedar chips are very harmful to your cavy because the dust from the chips can cause lung infections. There are other safe alternatives available such as pine, aspen, and manufactured bedding. Tip: put kitty litter under the bedding to help absorb odors. Make sure your cavy has soft material that it can line its bed with for sleeping and provide him with a private sleeping quarter such as an “igloo”. You should change the bedding at least once per week although more often is recommended. This will help to cut down on diseases and infections. If you are not regular on changing the bedding this can become very harmful to your pet even deadly because of the high concentration of ammonia. It is also never recommended to keep your small pet in an aquarium type set-up. There is just not enough air circulation for your pet to survive. In addition, the ammonia that builds up in an aquarium becomes more deadly.


The market is full of foods and supplements to feed your cavy. Most are designed to provide your cavy with the all important vitamin C. Guinea pigs do not naturally produce vitamin C so it has to be supplemented. I purchase the pellet diet for my piggies. I have found that feeding them the “mixes” do not supplement enough of their nutritional needs. The pellets should be their main course and the mixed feeds should only be fed as a treat. I have also compiled a list of veggies that our pigs enjoy and have been recommended as “safe veggies”.

- Parsley - curly or plain (high in calcium)

- Cilantro / Chinese Parsley / Coriander greens

 - Celery leaves

 - Collard greens

- Mustard greens / Leaf Mustard

 - Water Cress

 - Garden Cress

 - Swiss Chard, Red Chard

 - Beet greens

 - Spinach (feed in moderation, linked to formation of kidney & bladder stones)

- Carrot tops / leaves

- Peas in pods, Pea Shoots (not dried)

- Dandelion greens

- Grass

- wheat, winter rye (grown in pots from seed)

- Kale

- curly or plain

- Broccoli, Broccolini (stems are liked better than flowers)

- Broccoli Rabe / Rabe / Rapini

- Cauliflower / Broccoflower

- Brussels Sprouts

- Cabbage

- Red Cabbage

- Tuscan Cabbage / Cavolo Nero

 - Savoy Cabbage

- Kohlrabi leaves

- Bell / Sweet Peppers - red, green, yellow (not hot or chile)

- Tomato (sores around mouth can develop; leaves poisonous; artificially grown can be low in vit C)

- Tamarillo (leaves poisonous)

- Orange (caution - sores around lips can develop)

- Tangerine / Mandarin (caution - sores around lips can develop)

- Grapefruit (caution - sores around lips can develop)

- Lemon, Lime (home-grown best, otherwise feed cautiously)

- Cantaloupe Melon

- Honeydew Melon

- Currants - yellow, red or black (leaves also edible)

- Gooseberries

 - Strawberries

- Kiwi Fruit

- Mango

- Guava

- Feijoa / Pineapple Guava

- Papaya / Paw Paw / Tree Melon

- Persimmon

These foods should be fed in moderation so the cavies will be sure to eat the pellet diets. Also note that some of the foods listed will cause some health problems if a moderated diet is not followed. You will find a more comprehensive list on the forum board and on the PET ARTICLES page of the main page. Hay and timothy grass should be made available to your cavy at all times and can be placed in a hopper to keep in sanitary and off the floor of the cage. Ceramic, hard plastic, and earthenware can be used for a food bowl and hang on the cage water containers can be purchased at a relatively low price at your local pet store. Whatever you decide to purchase keep in mind that cavies, just like other small animals, love to chew and will chew on anything that will fit in their mouths. You want to be careful of small parts and use only supplies that are labeled for cavies. There are no vaccines that are given to guinea pigs but that doesn’t mean your cavy shouldn’t be seen by a vet. They need regular visits so the vet may check for parasites, diseases, and malnutrition and to give you helpful tips on how to keep your pet healthy. You should also consider having them spayed/neutered because of the health risks involved.


Yes! You can bathe your guinea pig. Be careful to use only a small amount of water to prevent drowning and use only very small amounts of mild kitten or puppy shampoo. Make sure it has no medications or insecticides and avoid getting the shampoo in your pets eyes. Be sure to rinse the shampoo all out of the hair as most small pets, including guinea pigs, will lick to dry themselves off. You can even brush your pig after his bath. Be sure to use a gentle toothed brush to avoid injury to the skin. Guinea pigs can get fleas and other parasites. If this becomes a problem, veterinary exams are highly recommended for treatment. Do no use over the counter products to kill fleas on your pig.


Guinea pigs need toys. The love to chew and need to chew to grind the teeth down. If toys are not provided for them to chew on their teeth will become very long and make it impossible for them to eat. I have found that the hanging toys that have wooden cubes and balls on them (actually sold as a bird toy) makes a great toy for our pig. She loves trying to chase it around the cage to get a nip at it. Chew sticks are great! Make sure to keep an eye on the size. Too small and it could become lodged in your pets throat. The best toy for your guinea pig is another guinea pig. They are very social creatures and enjoy the company of another. Before purchasing a playmate for your pig, please keep in mind that you should always spay/neuter your pigs to avoid unwanted pregnancies. Other helpful information if your guinea pig is pregnant and you have a boar in the cage with it, REMOVE THE BOAR BEFORE BIRTH! Remove it permenantely unless the pig is neutered because immediately after giving birth their is an opening of when the sow is fertile again and can be impregnanted by the boar. Back to back pregnancies is very stressful. You should never breed your pigs! There are thousands upon thousands of poor guinea pigs in shelters all across the land because of over breeding, neglect, abandonment. Don't breed, give an old pig a new life. Some pigs at rescues are even babies, and would be cute enough. Also, your sow, your pet, if bred has a LARGE risk of dying. There are so many complications, and the babies have a big risk of dying, and it's all just sad if you do it when you can stop it. That said if the pig is bought pregnant, try to ride it out and prepare yourself.


When buying a pig at the pet store, you are basically playing a game of chance. You have a fifty-fifty chance of getting a boy or a girl, since most store's don't know a pig's how to properly sex a guinea pig. Most pigs in the pet store are kept together, so it's very possible to get a pregnant female who had gotten that way by a family member. Be wary buyers. Ask if the sows and boars were seperated after three weeks. If not, you are taking a chance and may want to try another place. To sex your own pigs, I recommend going to

where there are pictures of the different genders, clear instructions on how to sex your animal, and they are just a great site all together. From experience do NOT rely on the guarantee that the store you bought your pig from is an all female store or an all male store. From experience I have found this not to be reliable. One last Note You should have play time with your piggie. This is the time everyday when you and your piggie spend time together playing on the floor. You should never buy an exercise ball or wheel for your pig. Always keep an eye on them especially if you have other animals in the house. Safety is a number one concern when your pet is having his play time. If you should have any additional questions, please feel free to visit our forum board. There are moderators there that will be happy to answer any questions you may have. I hope this article has been helpful for you!

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