The Guinea Pig is a popular pet. It has been kept by Humans for about 7000 years. This is longer than most of the animals kept by man.
The scientific name of the Guinea Pig is Cavia porcellus, and they are often called cavies; it is sometimes referred to as the restless cavy. Many Cavy owners have never seen their pet asleep. They do sleep, but tend to sleep in short bursts, and they wake up easily. They can live for about 7 years.
Choosing your Pet
The best place to buy an animal is from a breeder. The breeder should be able to tell you about caring for your pet.
Guinea Pigs are not famous for their space journeys, but they beat Humans into space by 34 days. The first space travelling Guinea Pig went into space on March the 9th 1961; the first Human went into space on April the 12th 1961. Oddly, while Major Yuri Gagarin received a well deserved promotion and was decorated with the title of Hero of the Soviet Union for his achievement, there is no record of similar honours for the first Guinea Pig in space.
The usual way of keeping a Guinea Pig is in a hutch. This will need to be a reasonable size. I suggest at least 30 inches (75 cm) long and 18 inches (45 cm) wide. Most hutches will have a solid floor. You can place newspaper on the floor with straw bedding on this. The newspaper makes cleaning easier.
A variation on this which I have used successfully in both Australia and England is to have a hutch open at the bottom and move the hutch around on the lawn. This way, they will eat the grass, both providing them with fresh food and keeping part of the lawn mowed and fertilised. In England, they need to be moved to warmer accommodation in the winter.
Shade should be provided.
Guinea Pigs are herbivores and do not eat meat. Their natural is green vegetation; mainly grass and other low growing plants. It can be said that if a plant is green and not poisonous, it is suitable. Of course, common sense should also be applied.
Anything that is known to be poisonous to either Humans or to other animals should be avoided. Although Chocolate and Avocados are both good Human food, do not give them to animals. Rhubarb is also best avoided. Alcoholic drinks may be safe for Humans, but do not give them to your pets. This also applies to the high caffeine, high sugar energy drinks widely available nowadays.
Avoid bulbs or the leaves and flowers of bulb plants.
Most animals can make there own Vitamin C. Guinea Pigs, Humans and Apes cannot. Therefore, your Guinea Pig, Gorilla and Chimp need fresh food, just as you do. Fresh really does mean fresh. For example, lettuce loses most of its vitamin C within hours of harvest. Fresh grass or weeds are often a convenient food with plenty of vitamin C.
Of course, many people want a standby food. As long as your pet is getting plenty of fresh green food, rabbit pellets can be used. Your pet will also enjoy the occasional carrot or apple. There are many types of mixed foods suitable. Avoid foods like laying pellets which contain meat meal. Although you might get away with a little bit, your pet’s liver is not well adapted to remove the waste products produced from meat.
Your pets should have clean water all the time.
Guinea Pigs are not very good at defending themselves and are vulnerable to many predators, both wild and domestic. Dogs kill them. Dogs are highly intelligent animals and can be trained to not attack, but your pet would still be at risk from other dogs.
Cats can easily kill them and I have certainly known this to happen, but I have also known several cases where people have kept cats and Guinea Pigs together in total harmony. Rabbits are not a predator of Guinea Pigs, but a large Rabbit could easily injure one so care needs to be taken.
Wild predators will certainly kill Guinea Pigs. This includes Rats. So your pet will need to be protected from many types of animal.
Guinea Pigs are social animals and prefer to be in a group. Two females are often the preferred combination. Two males can be kept together if there have been together from a young age, and there are no females in the area. If you simply buy two males and put them together, they will usually fight. If a male and a female are kept together, you will soon have more pets.
Although a rabbit can potentially injure the smaller Guinea Pig, I have kept them with a very small Rabbit. This Rabbit was only about the same size as the Guinea Pigs.