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Caring for Your Guinea Pig
By Mark Burgess, DVM
Guinea pigs, also called cavies, can be
sociable and enjoyable pets. They often live
to be five or six years old. If you’re thinking
about getting a guinea pig, please adopt
your cavy from a rescue group rather than
buying from a pet store or breeder. There
are many wonderful guinea pigs out there
just waiting to be adopted. To find a cavy
rescue, do a search for “guinea pig rescue”
on the Internet. Or, check out the “small and
furry” category on www.petfinder.com.
Guinea pigs need a dry, draft-free environment. Temperatures of 60-80 degrees Fahren-
heit are tolerable for them, with 70 degrees being ideal. They may be housed in wood or
wire cages with solid floors. Avoid wire floors, since their feet may become caught and
bones broken as the pet tries to free himself. Wire floors also tend to cause sores on the
feet. Provide a thick layer of good bedding, such as recycled paper, hardwood shavings
(not cedar or pine), or straw. Cavies may be housed in groups or singly. To prevent fight-
ing, mature males should not be housed together.
Cavies can be quite sociable if you interact with them regularly. Ideally, they should have
time out of the cage every day to exercise. Ink-free cardboard toys, such as toilet-paper
rolls, make good chew toys; small cardboard boxes make good hiding spots. Avoid giving
your guinea pig hard wood or metal objects as chew toys, since these may damage cavy
teeth. Female (or neutered male) cavies may be sociable with each other; solitary cavies
should have regular human interaction to prevent boredom and antisocial behavior.
The bulk of a cavy’s diet should be guinea pig pellets (not a seed and fruit mix), and
grass hay such as timothy (avoid alfalfa hay). Pellets may be fed free-choice, unless
obesity occurs; hay is always fed free-choice. Pellets provide balanced nutrition; hay
provides roughage essential for intestinal health in cavies.