2 guinea pigs: 24" X 30" (or 720 square inches floor space)
3 guinea pigs: 24" X 36" (or 864 square inches floor space)
Aquariums and plastic tubs are NOT recommended. They are usually not large enough, may not offer proper ventilation and can isolate the guinea pig from its surroundings by inhibiting sight, sound and smell. Finding a suitably sized cage in most pet stores is unfortunately not always possible. Some good sources for reasonably priced properly made guinea pig cages are:
To ensure the good health of your guinea pig, bedding must be kept clean. Aspen or kiln-dried pine shavings are good inexpensive bedding. Hay/straw can be used but is messier to clean and not as absorbent. Carefresh and some of the recycled pelleted beddings are very nice but more expensive. Cedar bedding should never be used and pine bedding that is NOT kiln dried is undesirable as the oils pose health risks to guinea pigs.
Guinea pigs are often easily startled. Use a quiet voice and refrain from any sudden movements while acclimating them to your home. Guinea pigs vocalize loudly when startled or excited over a food treat. Guinea pigs make good pets for older children. Children should be supervised when handling guinea pigs, being sure to support the guinea pig's entire body with two hands. Guinea pigs are easily injured if dropped, and may nip or bite if not properly handled.
Guinea pigs are very social creatures and require daily attention from their human friends and/or other guinea pig buddies. If you live in a household where everybody is gone much of the day, please consider having two guinea pigs to keep each other company. Your buddy guinea pigs will be happier and more entertaining pets. See compatibility below.
A suitably sized cage and "play time" with you every day will meet your guinea pig's exercise needs. Exercise wheels or balls are not recommended as they are not enjoyed by guinea pigs and may even injure their spine, legs or feet.
It is a common myth that two male guinea pigs will fight if housed together, but this is not necessarily true. Compatibility is more determined by personalities of individual guinea pigs rather than by sex. Neither males nor females are more easily paired up with a same sex buddy. However, some guinea pigs may be more selective about who they will room with, while others simply refuse to share their space and will fight any pig you introduce them to. The easiest match is usually between two babies or a baby and an adult, though two adults can often be paired up successfully as well. Introductions should be made in an open area, and the guinea pigs should be watched closely for an hour or so. If they seem to be getting along well they can be moved to a washed and cleaned suitably sized cage. The guinea pigs should be watched closely for another hour or two to make sure they continue to get along. Fighting guinea pigs should be immediately separated, with a towel to avoid being bitten.
Guinea pigs can become sexually mature as early as 5 weeks old. Average gestation is 68 days and average litter size is 1-4. If you adopted a guinea pig from an animal rescue or shelter you are already aware that there are too many animals, including guinea pigs, in desperate need of good permanent homes. Please do not add to this number by allowing your pet to reproduce. Do not pair up a male and female. Guinea pig sows are at risk of many serious problems during pregnancy and delivery. Breeding a female guinea pig after 8 months of age can be fatal if she has not had a previous litter. Pelvic bones fuse upon reaching adulthood and she may not be able to deliver her pups unaided. Spaying/neutering guinea pigs does carry risks and must only be done by a veterinarian with much guinea pig knowledge and experience. It is better to just keep the sexes apart.
Interactions with dogs, cats, other pets should always be carefully supervised. Never leave a guinea pig unattended in the presence of a dog, cat, ferret or any other predatory animal.
Guinea pig grooming involves toenail trimming, ear cleaning, combing and bathing. An "exotics" veterinarian who is experienced in treating guinea pigs can advise you on this and will be knowledgeable in the following medical conditions: vitamin C deficiency (scurvy), overgrown teeth, colds and pneumonia, bladderstones or infections, digestive upsets, etc. If a guinea pig seems droopy, has a dull coat and/or is losing hair, eats very little or nothing, has soft droppings or is otherwise acting abnormally, consult a veterinarian immediately. Guinea pigs can also suffer from internal and external parasites. Contact your veterinarian if you suspect your guinea pig has parasites. Refrain from using any medications intended for dogs or cats without first checking with a veterinarian experienced with guinea pigs. Guinea pigs do not require routine vaccinations, but an annual physical exam and parasite check is recommended.
This article may be found at www.JPGPR.com and is © 1993-2002 Vicki Palmer Nielsen - Jack Pine Guinea Pig Rescue. If you would like to reproduce anything from the website, please first e-mail Vicki at JPGPR@aol.com for permission.