Cavies make wonderfully sweet companions;
however, bringing a cavy into your life is a decision that should
be made only after great deliberation. While many companion animals
are relatively self-sufficient, cavies definitely are not. Cavies
are very dependent on their humans, and unfortunately too many
cavies suffer from neglect when taken in by ill-prepared (albeit
well-meaning) adults who believe that proper care requires little
more than filling a pellet bowl and water bottle and changing
the cage litter every few days. (And don't even get us started
on cavies left in the sole care of children like little living
toys!) While we believe everyone's life could be enriched by
befriending a cavy, we also strongly believe that you should
not even consider adopting one unless you can and will commit
to treating the cavy as a true member of your family -- and that
means providing comfortable and clean shelter, nutritious food,
stimulating toys, and adequate professional medical care.
In this section we hope to provide you with some suggestions
on where you can find what you will need.
First, however, you should have a good
basic understanding of what is required for proper care. A good
starting point is our Guinea
Pig Care Fact Sheet . We also urge you to read the other
articles on our
site for detailed information on specific topics.
Once you are aware of all the requirements
for good care, you may feel that you have no way of getting the
high quality supplies necessary to provide your cavy with "the
good life." While that might have been true a few years
ago for those living in particularly remote areas, rest assured
that the Internet has solved this problem. If you can't find
what you and your cavy need in your town, any number of Internet
retailers have truly wonderful supplies that can be delivered
to your door at very reasonable prices.
For example, nothing is more basic to
good cavy care than adequate housing. Don't know what kind of
housing is best or where to find it? We've got you covered --
just read our article on Guinea
Pig Housing. As for cage furnishings (ceramic pellet bowl,
water bottle with metal tip, hay rack, and privacy hideaway),
your local pet store (or sometimes even large discount stores
like Walmart) may have what you will need. However, if your local
merchants don't carry quality items, you can easily order them
from the small animal departments of Internet pet stores like
Once your cavy has a comfortable home,
it needs a full belly. And a healthy cavy belly is filled with
(1) fresh fruits and veggies, especially those high in vitamin
C, (2) guinea pig pellets, and (3) hay.
The fruits and veggies are easy enough
-- go to your local grocer. Just make sure that you are buying
the right types of food. Don't know what to buy? Check out our
again for some suggestions.
Pellets are more difficult. While most
pet stores and even major discount stores sell guinea pig pellets,
many bags are filled with little more than cavy junk food which
appeals mainly to the human eye (consisting of brightly -- and
artificially -- colored "treats" and potentially harmful
seeds). For reasonably priced, truly healthy, high-quality pellets,
however, it's hard to beat the Oxbow Hay Company (www.oxbowhay.com), American
Pet Diner (www.americanpetdiner.com), and Kleenmama's Hayloft (www.kmshayloft.com).
Oxbow sells Cavy Performance (an alfalfa-based pellet for growing
cavies) and Cavy Cuisine (a timothy-based maintenance pellet
for adult cavies). (If you don't like ordering over the Internet,
Oxbow also sells through some local retail outlets, such as vets.
You can check their web site to see if there is a retailer in
your area.) American Pet Diner sells alfalfa-based Alffy Guinea
Pig Pellets and timothy-based Timmy Guinea Pig Pellets. Kleenmama's
Hay Loft sells alfalfa-based guinea pig pellets from Canada,
Like pellets, hay can also be found at
local pet stores and discount stores -- but it is usually dreadful
quality (dry and brown) and sold in extremely expensive mini-bales
of a few ounces. However, both the Oxbow Hay Company, American Pet Diner, and Kleenmama's Hayloft also sell lovely, fresh,
green hay that your cavies will LOVE. All three companies have
timothy hay as well as other varieties of grass hay. (And, as
noted in our Fact
Sheet, we recommend their grass hays, such as timothy, rather
than alfalfa.) Even with shipping costs, buying hay from them
is usually MUCH cheaper because you can buy in bulk. Buying 10
(or 25) pounds of hay may sound ridiculous at first, but it will
stay fresh for months in a cool, dry storage space. (And even
after six months, this hay is still noticeably fresher
than those awful, plastic-wrapped mini-bales of Kaytee hay.)
Once your cavy has a comfy home and a
full belly, the next order of business is providing stimulating
toys. Luckily, cavies aren't exactly known as the mental giants
of companion animals, and so toys that will fascinate your cavy
aren't hard to come by. For example, many cavies are endlessly
amused by something as simple as a paper bag. (Roll down the
top of the bag so that it will stay open, toss it in the cage,
and watch the fun begin.) With a little imagination, you can
fashion other "toys" cheaply from many household objects.
Of course, pet stores also offer a wide array of toys for small
animals. If the selection is limited at your local pet store,
check out the internet retailers like www.petsmart.com. Just make sure that the
toys are gnaw-proof (soft plastics are particularly bad, because
some cavies will eat them and may get sick). Also, be aware that
just because a toy looks cute to a human, a cavy may be spectacularly
indifferent to its charms. For example, some cavy owners spend
small fortunes on an endless parade of store-bought toys that
get little more than an initial sniff and quick nibble from an
unimpressed piggie. Therefore, we strongly recommend you use
your own imagination first (we did mention the paper bag,
right?) and remember that sometimes the simplest toys are the
And, as they say, last but not least,
an indispensable part of cavy care is good health care. Please
be aware that this includes a good vet. Just as you sometimes
need a doctor to stay healthy, rest assured that your cavy will
at some point in his or her life need the services of a vet.
(And, sadly, it may be unfair but it's true: if you can't afford
a vet, then you can't afford a cavy. It is no kindness to adopt
a cavy if you are unable or unwilling to provide it with adequate
medical care.) And, PLEASE, don't wait until you have a medical emergency
before trying to locate a vet. Sick cavies often worsen quickly,
and your cavy may die if you don't already have a good, cavy-experienced
vet to consult.
Unfortunately, not all vets even treat
cavies, and many that do (especially those who see mainly dogs
and cats) often are not knowledgeable about their special needs.
If possible, try to find a vet who specializes in "exotics"
(cavies, rabbits, rodents, etc.). You may be able to locate
one through The Guinea Pig Compendium's Vet Finder (www.aracnet.com/~seagull/Guineas).
If not, find the best vet you can by asking other pet owners
in your area -- and then educate yourself as much as possible,
so that you can assist your vet by discussing possible treatments.
The best way to educate yourself is by getting a good quality
medical text on guinea pigs (click here
for a few of our suggestions) and, to a lesser degree, checking
out the medical information on reputable web sites Guinea Lynx - Cavy Health Care Online! (www.guinealynx.info).
Gurney's Guinea Pig Health Guide (www.oginet.com/pgurney/index.html)
Guinea Pig Compendium (www.aracnet.com/~seagull/Guineas)
also offer care and health information. However, please be aware
that not all web sites offer solid, correct advice, so use caution when getting information in this
Once you have found a vet, take your healthy
cavy in for an initial check-up. The check-up may run $40 or
$50, but it is a good investment for the future, because you
can gauge whether you actually like the vet, your cavy will be
an established patient (which can really help when an emergency
appointment is needed), and the vet will have a good baseline
record of your cavy in its healthy state for comparison during
a later illness.
After reading all of this,
you may be thinking that having a cavy can be expensive and a
lot of trouble. If so, you're right -- it can be. But if you
are willing to put in the effort and money necessary to care
for your cavy properly, you can experience years of happiness
with a healthy and loving companion. And, more importantly, if
you aren't willing to provide the needed effort and money, you
shouldn't get cavy at all. The world already has too many neglected
cavies -- please don't add to the problem.