In this section whee answer basic questions on guinea pigs and help you see if guinea pigs are the pet for you!
How long do guinea pigs live for?
Piggies live for between 4 – 8 years though most commonly 6 or 7. They are not a small commitment to be taken on lightly. As with all animals they can have health issues when they get older. You need to think about whether or not you can afford that.
My piggy looks fat, how much does the average guinea pig weigh?
An Adult Male Guinea Pig will weigh between 900g – 1200g (Yes, Nutty, suck that gut in porky!)
An Adult Female Guinea Pig will weigh between 700g – 900g (Though whee see many larger ladies and prefer them that way!)
It really does vary though from pig to pig. Some larger boned piggies can get away with a little extra on the hips where as other cannot. Speaking from experience, our Mummy says piggies should be sort of a rectangular shape (or even a little like a teardrop) from above. As long as their stomachs don’t drag along the ground and it doesn’t affect the movement there usually isn’t a problem. However if you are concerned you can speak to your vet about diet.
What should my piggy eat, how much should I give and what should I avoid?
80% of a guinea pigs diet is hay so make sure you give them lots! (Whee get the most delicious timothy hay and soft hay from the Dust Free Hay Company) This cannot be emphasised enough. Far too many guinea pigs suffer from dental issues simply because they don’t get the hay they need to wear their teeth down. Before getting piggies you should track down a good supplier, preferably with dust extracted hay. Not only is this better for us piggies and our sensitive respiratory systems but also for you. It is not nice inhaling hay dust. Trust me! Whee piggies get through a lot so it is cheaper to buy it is bulk if you can store it.
A Guinea Pig needs good quality food pellets, fresh veggies and fresh water. Regarding what food they can eat and how much, rather than list it all here whee are going to share a link to a fab little page on The Guinea Pig Forum where they cover everything.
Obviously you need to think about how much this all costs and if you can afford it. Mummy thinks she spends roughly fifteen pounds a wheek on veggies for us four but bulk buying or getting multi-packs can really help.
How much space do piggies need and what bedding is best?
Guinea Pigs should be housed in a shop bought cage that is a minimum of 120cm to meet RSPCA guidelines (Many of the big chain pet shops sell cages that are far too small so that when your piggies outgrow the cage they can make more money from you by selling another) or a C&C grid cage which can be as big as you want. (C&C cages are beyond Mummy’s knowledge of DIY but there is a gallery of homemade cages here that you can look at.)
If your piggies will be outdoor piggies then you need to invest in a large, secure, weather-proof hutch. Mummy would recommend getting a cover for overnights and if you have particularly cold weather bringing them inside until it improves. But not taking them in and out and in and out because sharp changes of temperature (eg. Freezing out door into lovely central heated house) can be dangerous for piggies who struggle to regulate their body temperature. Our vet says piggies are quite similar to hoomans, so if it is too cold for you then it’s not nice for us either.
This brings us neatly onto beddings. There are lots of different choices for beddings to put your piggies on. Currently whee are bedded on newspaper and hay but whee have tried dust extracted woodshavings, paper pulp bedding, care fresh, megazorb and shredded paper. Mummy is going to investigate some of the beddings in the next couple of wheeks to pick the best for us. Some piggies are bedded on fleece which does sound cozy but Mummy thinks it is a little unnatural. Hay does seem to be the favourite as whee love playing ‘diggy pig’ through it and making little nests. However it is all down to personal preference and what works for you.
Do guinea pigs use litter trays?
Ummm. In short no. There are rumours that some people have managed to train piggies to use them but no evidence of this. Some piggies are tidier than others and you usually find they will poop in certain corners anyway. You can try putting a tray there but it is highly unlikely to work. Whee piggies live by the motto; If you gotta go then you gotta go. Wherever, whenever.
How often do piggies need cleaning out?
It does really depend on the bedding used. On hay Mummy spot check our cage daily and tidies our poop corners then cleans us every three days. When on woodshavings whee were cleaned out every other day. It does become obvious when whee need cleaning as, particularly us boars, can be a little stinky!
What about floor time and exercise, even in winter?
Another thing you need to invest in is an outdoor run for the garden, as big as you can. If you don’t have a garden then don’t panic, you can get an indoor run or piggy proof a room or area indoors like Mummy does with us in Winter. With our indoor run whee go in the hallway. This is because there are very few hazards there. No wires whee can chew, or things whee can break. Also because it is laminate flooring it is easy to clean afterwards. Our only real issue is the radiator pipes. For some reason Mummy won’t let us near them, something about not wanting us to burn. So she has cut cardboard toilet roll tubes in half an blue tacks them to the wall round the pipes to stop us from getting at them.
Another consideration is knowing when it is too cold to put piggies outdoors. Mummy wouldn’t dream of putting us out if it is so cold that she couldn’t bear to sit out with us. That is how she judges it but this is all down to common sense.
How many should I get and should I get boys or girls?
Well if you are happy with what you have read so far then whee are going to tell you the next very important rule with piggies; A Guinea Pig should never be kept alone. Imagine being shut up somewhere with people who, although very nice and caring towards you, don’t squeak a word of your language. It becomes a very lonely existence and they are not there all the time anyway.
With boys you should not try to get more than a pair to live together. Ever heard the phrase two is company, three is a crowd? Whee boars practically invented it. Very rarely a trio will work and even experts can struggle with this.
Sows however can live happily in large herds. You can add a neutered male to live with a little harem of females but not more than one as they will battle for dominance, sometimes to the death.
However, again similarly to hoomans, whee all have different pigsonalities and sometimes just don’t get on with one another.
If you have a lone boar there is a wonderful thing called ‘Boar Dating’ which reputable rescues can do to carefully introduce lone boars and create happy pairs. A lone sow could also find a friend this way of be paired with a neutered husboar and become a happy little wifepig!
As for battle of the sexes. Mummy prefers us boys because it limits how many of us she can have, with only space enough for two cages. But whee boys can get smelly and a little known fact is that whee actually need our manly parts checked regularly and sometimes whee get bits of hay and bedding caught there, which though undignified, does need removing gently with a damp cotton bud. Females can also be very temperamental, with unbelievable mood swings. Mummy was surprised looking after a friends piggies by how stroppy they could be. Again this is just personal preferences.
Are guinea pigs high or low maintenance?
Actually pretty high. Whee need regular attention and basic daily health checks (which whee will actually do a special post on) Whee are masters are hiding injuries and illness so if whee are off colour then a vet trip is almost certainly in order as it means it is so bad whee cannot hide it. Whee can be demanding and when our confidence grows and whee have settled in you will find that you can no longer open the fridge, or rustle a carrier bag or chop fruit or veggies without loud squeaking interruption!