Guinea Pigs - Before You Buy

Do you have time for a cavy?

Cavies have an average lifespan of 5-7 years, but can live longer if well cared for. You must be prepared to take care of your cavy for its full life. You can't leave a guinea pig in a cage and not spend time with him/her. They are very social and appreciate human companionship.

Where will you house your cavy?

Guinea pigs can be kept indoors or outdoors. Many pet shops supply large cages and hutches. These are suitable for one, sometimes two guinea pigs. It is often possible to order a larger cage or build one. An outdoor hutch obviously has more security requirements. It must be weather-proof and safe from predators. There is also the option of keeping your cavy in a garden shed. The most important factors whether your cavy is indoors or outdoors are space, warmth, light, ventilation and security.

Feeding your cavy

A guinea pigs diet consists of dry feed, hay, water, fruit and vegetables. Like humans, cavies are unable to produce their own vitamin C and rely on us to provide it for them. Dry food is easily available, often sold in 1.5kg bags. This can last about 2-3 weeks for one guinea pig.Hay is essential to aid digestion and water must be clean and readily available. Lack of adequate food can lead to serious dental problems.

Cleaning

About once a week is usually often enough to keep the cage clean. This varies depending on the number of cavies you have living togeather. Woodshavings can be used for bedding but straw is not suitable. Hay is also good for bedding as it is part of the diet.

Grooming

This is a good way of bonding with your cavy, it also helps them get used to being handled. Short-hairs don't require grooming too often, but long-hairs need to be groomed every 3-6 weeks. This varies according to how quickly their hair grows. Shampooing should be done about every 3 months to help prevent skin problems.

Which guinea pig?

After you decide which breed you prefer the next choice is whether to get a male (boar) or a female (sow).Both sexes make great pets, but if getting a pair it is usually best to get the same sex. Females get along very well but males tend to fight. It is easier to have two boars if they're togeather from a very young age. You should not keep a boar and sow togeather unless you are prepared to provide good homes for the off-spring. Another option is a neutered boar and a sow.

Veterinary Care

Before you get your cavy it is a good idea to find a local vet in your area who has experience in treating cavies. This will ensure your pet gets the best treatment should he/she fall ill.

Pet Shop - the common choice

When you have considered all the requirements and responsibilities the next step is to find the right cavy. Pet shops are usually the easiest option as they have the animals and supplies all under one roof. The negative aspects are that you can't be certain what breed the cavy is (unless the shop owner breeds to supply the shop), you get no medical history of the cavy and very few pet shops can sex animals.

Breeders

Obtaining your cavy through a breeder is also an option. A good breeder can tell you all you need to know about your new cavy. You'll have a chance to see the parents and confirm the health and breeding of your guinea pig.

Rescue

Alternatively you may choose to rescue a cavy from your local animaal shelter. Unfortunately no everyone breeds responsibly and as a result many piggies are abandoned. It is extremely rewarding to give a rescue cavy a second chance in life.