Guinea pigs make wonderful companions. They are vocal, enjoy being around people and rarely bite. They will even make "purring" sounds when they are being petted and feeling content on your lap. While most guinea pigs are friendly, some are afraid of humans and will have to be trained over time with patience and care to trust you.
Learn even more about being a great guinea pig guardian by reading our Guinea Pig Care Guide.
Guinea pigs are herbivores, which means they eat grasses, vegetables and fruits. Give them a small amount of a variety of fruits and vegetables that are high in vitamin C (for example, peppers, parsley, spinach, kiwi and papaya) every day along with guinea pig pellets from the pet supply store. Pellets must be specific to guinea pigs because they include vitamin C, which is important for guinea pig health. You must also include an unlimited supply of Timothy hay as part of their daily diet. To keep their constantly growing teeth worn down, guinea pigs need to have apple or aspen branches to chew on.
Guinea pigs should always have fresh water available to them through a sipper bottle. Change the water daily and clean the bottle with soap and water once a week.
Guinea pigs need a living area that is at least 65 cm by 65 cm per guinea pig with 30 cm high walls. Guinea pigs like company so two guinea pigs can live together as long as they are the same sex and have a large enough living space. Never bring a new adult guinea pig into the cage unless they have grown up together. Adult guinea pigs will fight. It is best to introduce a six-week-old guinea pig to adult guinea pigs.
Your guinea pigs' cage can be open on top and can be made out of wood, metal or plastic. The floor bottom should be flat, not mesh. Cover the flooring of the "cage" with aspen wood shavings (cedar and pine can cause health problems) or "CareFresh" (bedding made from recycled paper). Scoop soiled shavings daily and clean the complete cage at least once a week with soap and water. Add small "hiding" boxes and cardboard or plastic tubes in the enclosure - guinea pigs love to run and play. Learn how to build a large, inexpensive guinea pig enclosure.
Guinea pigs need plenty of exercise. They love to run along walls and hide under furniture. In a safe enclosed area provide daily exercise out of your guinea pigs' enclosure.
Long-haired guinea pigs need to have their fur brushed regularly. They also need to have their nails trimmed every four to six weeks. Clipping should be done by an adult or you can have the nails trimmed at your vet clinic or by a dog groomer. Learn how to how to clip guinea pig nails.
Guinea pigs do groom themselves but you can periodically give your guinea pig a bath if he is smelly or greasy. Use mild shampoo from a pet supply store and bathe your guinea pig in a bathroom sink filled half-way with warm water. Make sure you keep your guinea pig's face dry and rinse out all of the shampoo by pouring water from a cup all over his body until there is no shampoo left in his fur. Dry him off with a towel. Do not use a blow dryer because the heat can burn his skin.
Call or take your guinea pig to the vet if you notice he has diarrhea, difficulty breathing, hair loss, increased thirst, or if he is not moving around much, not eating or doing anything else you think is unusual. Injuries due to falls or other accidents should be treated by a veterinarian right away.
When you first get your guinea pig give him a few weeks to get used to you before you start holding him and playing with him. He may scurry and hide to avoid being caught. Start by talking to him and then feeding him from your hand. Try offering a spinach leaf or piece of apple. Gently stroking his head as he eats will show you can be trusted. Over a few days your guinea pig will anticipate and enjoy the contact.
How to pick-up a guinea pig
Always pick up your guinea pig with two hands: one hand under his hind end and the other around his chest. Don't let your guinea pig wander on tabletops or anywhere he can fall off. When holding your guinea pig, be gentle - don't squeeze him or grab him. Guinea pigs can be scared of humans until they get used to being held. Hold your guinea pig while sitting down with a towel on your lap. Gently petting may result in you hearing a "purr" of contentment!