In 2002 the ASPCA declared the month of March “National Adopt a Rescued Guinea Pig Month”. This was developed because of the overwhelming number of guinea pigs entering shelters. A guinea pig may be the perfect pet for you if you are not quite ready for the commitment of a dog or a cat.
Don’t get me wrong, guinea pigs are a big commitment just like our other household pets. They require a large space to live in and do best when they are around other guinea pigs; so usually adopting a bonded pair is best. According to the Humane Society of the United States, one guinea pig needs a cage that is 30”x36” to comfortably live. It is also strongly recommended that guinea pigs have at least one hour per day of play time outside of their cage in an even larger play area. Guinea pigs love to run around and explore new places! It’s also important to pick a good location to put your guinea pig cage in your house. They are very social animals and love to be around activity. A living room would be the best place for them since this area sees the most traffic from an average family. They are also very vocal (especially when they know it’s time for their veggies), so your bedroom may not be the best place for them to live. It’s also good to remember that guinea pigs are very sensitive to noise, so avoid putting your pig next to the TV. Also, be sure to keep them away from drafty areas, direct sunlight, and other pets in the home.
Before adopting a guinea pig, it’s important to understand their dietary needs. A guinea pig’s diet has 4 requirements: fresh hay, fresh water, pellets, and fresh vegetables. As a general rule, guinea pigs should be offered 1/8th of a cup of a good quality pellet every day. They should always, and I mean always, have access to fresh timothy hay. Guinea pigs are hindgut fermenters, which means they digest their food in the latter part of their digestive tract. If a guinea pig stops eating for a long amount of time it can cause what is called “gastro-intestinal stasis”. This means that the stomach is not properly emptying and the movement of food through the intestines drastically slows. This can cause back up of food in the stomach which causes a major medical problem because guinea pigs are not able to vomit the contents up once their stomach fills. Therefore, it’s important to always have hay available to your pigs. Another staple in your pet’s diet will be fresh vegetables. About 1 cup of leafy greens or other veggies (carrots, cucumbers, bell peppers) daily are necessary for your pet’s health. Guinea pigs are not able to produce vitamin C naturally so they must get this important vitamin through external food sources otherwise they may develop a deadly disease called “scurvy”.
Guinea pigs make great pets. I adopted my two guinea pigs, Lenny and Bentley, in 2016. I graduated from the Veterinary Technician program at Wilson College and these two brothers were a part of our Laboratory Animal class. I fell in love with them immediately and decided to adopt them. They spend most of their days lounging in their pig-loo’s, eating vegetables, and popcorning around their play pen. They made a great addition to my family!