- Guinea pigs are herbivores and need a high fibre diet.
- Best feed is hay and grass – Alfalfa or Lucerne hay are very high in calcium and protein so should only be given as a treat, and for pregnant or nursery guinea pigs, as excess calcium can cause bladder stones.
- Guinea pigs need vitamin C every day as they can’t make their own. So provide fresh vegetables and fruits daily, eg: carrot, parsley, tomato, green or red capsicum, spinach, rock melon and strawberries.
- Do not feed rabbit or rodent pellets. (Rabbit pellets contain no vitamin C, and may contain antibiotic traces which could kill a guinea pig.)
- Do not feed seeds, as seeds are too oily and husks get stuck in teeth and can cause choking. Seeds are often in rodent mixes.
- Do not feed cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, collards, bok choy, broccoli or lettuce, except in very small amounts as treats, as they cause tummy upsets.
- Do not feed nuts, dried fruits, sugar, dairy or meat products, cereals, grains, corn, peas, beans, bread, sweets or chocolate.
- Do not give multivitamins – but you can give vitamin C, 10-30 mg per day, or dilute cranberry juice (but this must be changed twice a day) and give fresh water as well.
- The bigger the cage the better.
- Wire bottoms can injure feet and legs.
- Do not use cedar shavings (they contain aromatic oils which are phenols, and cause respiratory problems); do not use sawdust (too dusty); do not use corncob (too mouldy).
- Newspaper is better.
- Do not keep rabbits and guinea pigs together. This is because of the risk of cross infections of bordetella, pasteurella and pseudomonas which can be fatal.
ONE OR TWO?
Guinea pigs are very social and are best kept in pairs, not alone.
Guinea pigs are slobs, so their food and water containers need to be cleaned daily. Water bottles are useful, but sometimes guinea pigs will block the end of the water tube with a slurry of food and water because they spit as they drink. A metal tube end to a water bottle is better than plastic because they chew on the plastic.
- Guinea pigs live on average 4-5 years (but can live up to 8).
- Males are called boars.
- Females are called sows or does.
- Young are called piglets.
- Pregnancy lasts 59-71 days and they may have up to 10 piglets in a litter.
- Guinea pigs can run around within a hour of being born.
- Piglets are weaned at 3 weeks but may even start eating grass at 2 days of age.
- They are sexually mature at 4 weeks – so separate sexes at 3 weeks of age.
- They weigh 75-100 gm at birth.
- They drink 85ml per day on average, and eat 6gm per 100gm body weight per day.
- Their body temperature is 38.3 -0 degrees.
- Heart rate 230-320 per minute.
- Respiration rate 90-150 per minute.