Guinea Pig 101: A Comprehensive Guide

Renowned for being easy to care for, guinea pigs come highly recommended for beginners. Before you jump into guinea pig ownership, let’s dive into the basics of guinea pig care.

Dec 21, 2023By Sarah Williams
guinea pig 101 a comprehensive guide

Guinea pigs have long served as charming little companions, following domestication at least 5000 years ago.

You may be surprised to learn that they’re social, trainable, and allergy-friendly. But, as amazing as guinea pigs are, they do require some specific preparation. Here are some things you’ll need to think about before you can welcome your new furry friend.

Housing Your Guinea Pig

guinea pig in cage
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Responsible guinea pig housing is crucial, your chosen enclosure will significantly impact their well-being. You should opt for a spacious cage with plenty of room for them to run, explore, and play.

The best guinea pig cages provide ramps and cozy hiding spots to support their mental stimulation and physical well-being.

In addition to providing an ideal indoor environment, you should carefully consider your cage’s location. Guinea pigs need proper ventilation for their respiratory health - but they can be sensitive to extreme temperatures. Position their cage away from direct sunlight in a draft-free area.

Guinea Pig Hygiene

wet guinea pig
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While most guinea pigs do not need to be bathed regularly, it’s perfectly safe to do so. But guinea pig hygiene doesn’t stop there. You should keep an eye on general cage cleanliness, too. Regular cleaning is essential to reduce bacteria and unpleasant odors; you will need to complete a full clean of your enclosure at least once per week.

You should skip out any wet bedding or droppings at least 2-3 times per week to keep your new friend comfy and happy.

Nutrition and Diet

guinea pig eating leaf
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You’ll want to pay particular attention to your guinea pig’s diet. Unlike other animals, guinea pigs are incapable of producing vitamin C, so they must have a Vitamin C supplement or vitamin C rich foods. Bell peppers, strawberries, and parsley are popular options to add variety and nutrients to their diets. You should be careful not to give your guinea pig too much sugar, though. Moderation is key to preventing obesity.

Guinea pigs love to graze on fresh grass, roots, and leaves when possible. However, fresh hay should be available at all times to aid in healthy digestion and limit the growth of their teeth. You should regularly refresh their water bottles or bowls and ensure continuous access to water to prevent dehydration.

While feeding them fresh foods is recommended, you should be mindful of calcium-rich foods such as kale and spinach. Excessive calcium intake can cause urinary problems in guinea pigs. For detailed dietary advice, you can consult with a veterinarian.

Social Needs

guinea pig group
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Understanding guinea pig behavior and social needs may seem overwhelming at first, but it’s not overly complicated. These little furballs are at their best living in pairs. Lone guinea pigs are at risk of loneliness, injury, and starvation. They thrive on companionship with humans, but a furry pal is crucial, too.

Don’t be intimidated, though. Looking after two happy guinea pigs is much easier and stress-free than looking after an unhappy one. You should take care when introducing them to each other, though. Gradual and supervised introductions are needed to ensure a positive relationship. Spayed/neutered or same sex pairings work best to avoid unwanted breeding.

guinea pig and child
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Human interaction is very important to guinea pigs, too. Guinea pigs may seem skittish at first, but they do appreciate and enjoy human interaction. Guinea pigs are friendly and easy to bond with, making them one of the most popular pets to own.

You can foster your bond by handling them daily in short bursts, talking to them, and offering them treats. Rest assured that whether they’re cuddling up with their furry pal or enjoying a few treats from their human companion, guinea pigs thrive on social bonds.


long haired guinea pig
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Your precise grooming routine will vary - with long haired guinea pigs requiring the most attention. Regular brushing 1-2 times a week will keep their fur smooth and free of knots, preventing skin issues and discomfort. Using a soft brush helps to remove loose hairs and maintain a shiny coat.

You’ll also need to pay attention to their nails, using nail clippers to prevent overgrowth, ingrown nails, and discomfort. If their nails get too long, you risk them tearing out or breaking the nail accidentally, risking pain and infections. When you cut their nails, you must be cautious to avoid cutting into the quick.

It may seem like a chore, but grooming sessions are a great way to bond with your new pal. You can ensure a positive experience by approaching it with gentleness and patience.

Traveling With your Guinea Pig

guinea pig with suitcase
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Whether you take your furry friend to the vet or a long-haul vacation, you’ll need to plan carefully to ensure their safety and comfort.
You should have a well-ventilated and secure carrier on hand. It should be spacious and well-lined with soft bedding to keep them cozy. If you’re traveling by car or bus, you’ll want to secure the carrier somehow to prevent unnecessary jostling.

Separately, pack a travel kit including food, water, hay, and a familiar toy to help keep them calm. Guinea pigs become anxious quickly in unfamiliar environments. If you’re going on a trip or vacation, it’s a good idea to consult with your vet before you book.

Common Health Issues

guinea pig eating carrot
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To keep your new furry friend safe, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with their health needs. Guinea pig teeth grow continuously, making overgrown teeth a considerable risk. Without proper care and prevention, they could have eating difficulties leading to pain and weight loss. This is why regular grazing and a reliable supply of hay are so crucial.

Guinea pigs are sensitive to respiratory issues, too. They can easily contract infections due to poor cage hygiene or cold temperatures. If your new pet starts displaying symptoms like labored breathing, wheezing, or severe nasal discharge, you must consider taking them to the vet.

Skin conditions are another common concern. Guinea pigs are vulnerable to fungal infections and mites. Symptoms to watch for include itching, redness, or patchy hair loss. Maintaining good hygiene and regular grooming can minimize the risk of skin-related issues.

Urinary tract infections and related issues, like bladder stones and infections, are something else to watch for. You should keep an eye on your new addition and ensure they have access to plenty of water and hay to ensure top-notch urinary health. If they display symptoms such as difficulty urinating or have blood in their urine, you’ll need a trip to the veterinarian's office.

Should you Get a Guinea Pig?

Guinea pig eating watermelon
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Guinea pigs are bundles of endless joy and love, but they’re not for everyone. Their high social needs are a blessing to some, but if you’re looking for a furry pal who’s happy to be kept alone, you could consider owning a hamster.

Guinea pigs are beginner-friendly, particularly compared to the likes of cats and dogs.

In addition, guinea pigs are a child-friendly pet; but your child may lose interest in their new furry friend, leaving all of the work to you.

Getting any pet is a big responsibility, and you’ll need to consider the impact it will have on your free-time, travel plans, and finances before you commit.

Sarah Williams
By Sarah Williams

Sarah, an avid writer with a soft spot for all furry companions, shares her home with two charming black cats, Bandit and Squeak. With a wealth of experience in caring for various pets, including rabbits, dogs, hamsters, and more, Sarah loves to share tips, tricks, and insights with other animal lovers.