Dos and Don’ts of Owning Guinea Pigs
There are lots of things you can do to make your guinea pigs’ lives safer and more engaging. In this article, we cover the different dos and don’ts that all guinea pig owners should be aware of, to make sure you create a happy home for your pet.
For starters, did you know that it’s illegal to own just one guinea pig in Switzerland? This may be surprising, but it’s one of many laws that protect our furry friends from mistreatment – in this case, loneliness. Guinea pigs, just like us, need a companion if they are to live a happy and fulfilled life, and Switzerland has made sure that no guinea pig ever has to live its life alone!
Guinea pigs bedding dos and don’ts
Do use a bedding material with good absorbency, as this will reduce smell and create a more hygienic and comfortable environment for your guinea pigs.
Don’t use dusty or sandy bedding, as guinea pigs have delicate lungs and will suffer if they breathe in wood or sand dust. In their natural habitat, guinea pigs create their homes from larger pieces of wood and debris. Your pets will enjoy constructing complicated nests using larger bedding materials.
Do choose kiln-dried wood shavings, as the drying process removes any toxins and oils from the wood.
Don’t choose colour over comfort! If you want to use a multi-coloured paper-based bedding, consider mixing it in with a more natural tone that replicates the wood-and-grass colours of the guinea pig’s natural habitat.
Do use an aubiose-based bedding if possible, as this is naturally less dusty, more absorbent and made from a natural, sustainable material.
Guinea pigs food dos and don’ts
Do give your guinea pigs natural treats such as spinach or broccoli, as this is an essential source of vitamin C in their diets! If your guinea pigs refuse to eat leafy greens, it may be necessary to purchase a vitamin C solution that can be added to your pet’s water.
Don’t overfeed your guinea pigs – if they are leaving bits of food in their bowl each day, feed them a little less.
Do regularly clean out your guinea pigs’ food bowl, as their bedding, fur and general mess will quickly soil the bowl. Consider cleaning your pets’ bowls after each feeding with a wipe or spray.
Don’t give your guinea pig any type of meat or fish, as this could lead to illness. If your guinea pig has accidentally eaten meat, it’s best to take them to the vet immediately.
Do change your guinea pigs’ water every few days, not only once the bowl is empty. This ensures a clean water supply.
Don’t give your guinea pigs too many treats if you are attempting to train them – the treats will go further in training if your pet sees them as something special!
Guinea pig toys dos and don’ts
Do regularly change the toys in your guinea pigs’ run. Your guinea pig’s play will remain stimulating if you often swap the toys around. Your guinea pig may let you know if it’s bored of a toy by chewing or even eating it!
Don’t give your guinea pigs your leftover loo roll cards as a treat, as the chemicals used to treat them could be bad for your pets’ health. Instead, invest in a small tunnel system such as Zippi tunnels, which not only last longer but are safer too.
Do provide plenty of chew toys for your guinea pigs. Your pets will naturally nibble and bite any objects in their cage to maintain the length of their teeth. This can be dangerous if all they have to bite on is the metal cage, so having plenty of different things to chew on is essential.
Don’t put your guinea pig into a wheel or ball toy. Although these are great for our smaller furry friends, the guinea pig’s body is not designed to fit into such a small space. Your guinea pigs will be much happier getting their exercise in a large run or enclosure.
Do change the layout of any tunnels or playground you have for your guinea pigs. Many of the play sets available are modular and can be changed to keep the experience fresh for your pets.
Guinea pig cohabitation dos and don’ts
Do make sure that your guinea pigs have plenty of space in their enclosure. If you are keeping a small family of guinea pigs, then it’s important that they have enough room to play and establish their own space within the cage or hutch.
Don’t punish your guinea pigs by putting them into isolation. If your guinea pigs are being naughty, separating them from the others will only create further problems and is widely thought to be unhealthy and distressing for them.
Do keep your guinea pigs in pairs of sisters or neutered brothers. This will reduce aggression between the animals, as it lessens their mating urges. It is also possible to keep a neutered male with females, but you will need to wait six weeks after the neutering before introducing them, as males can still successfully mate in those early weeks.
Don’t keep just one guinea pig. Switzerland has the right idea when it comes to animal laws, as your guinea pig will get very lonely when left alone for long periods. This loneliness can actually shorten their lifespan. Your guinea pig will live a longer and happier life with a friend, so it’s a great idea to get a pair if you are considering becoming a guinea pig owner.
Keeping guinea pigs is simple and highly satisfying. By providing them with a stimulating environment and healthy diet and observing these few dos and don’ts, your pets will have long and happy lives.
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