Edit: more pictures and a bit more text about cages and uterine cysts, because people asked (:
Hello there (:
I've written it together with my guinea pig friends xD (forgot to submit it here too)
submitted it in her Website (:
Did you knew that grain isn’t good for your guinea pig?
Maybe you are interested and want to read it:
Or that the cage for two guinea pigs should have a minimum size of 140×80? In this article some useful information for guinea pig owners written by Sarah S.
She works at a private shelter for guinea pigs in Germany and often works together with vets.
Guinea pigs are one of the most favorite pets.
They look cute and it’s just fun to watch them interact with others of their kind. But much people also ignore the fact that guinea pigs are not that simple and uncomplicated to keep.
Just like other animals, like dogs, horses, cats etc. they got requirements. They are no cuddle toys for kids and no birthday presents.
So where does our guinea pig come from?
Guinea pigs come from middle- and South America.
They live in caves above ground in thick vegetations and their natural diet consists of grasses, herbs and other green plants. They are highly socialized animals who live in groups, so called harems.
A harem is known as a group with one male guinea pig as a leader and his many ‘wives’.
What do we have to know as Owners?
Anybody who keeps an animal as a pet should know that keeping a pet means responsibility.
We should take the nature of our pets as an example in order to give them a beautiful and species-appropriate home.
To make this real we cannot put our animal in a little cage with unhealthy food as a present for a little 5 year-old child. Only a human, who is responsible, can take care of animals.
They are no birthday or Christmas presents, no toys, no dump and no propagation machines. They want to live, they want to be healthy, they want conspecifics, they don’t want to feel pain or suffer and they want to be happy.
And we want to give them a happy life in our home.
What do guinea pigs need? Social life:
Guinea pigs are highly socialized animals and live in groups.
You need at least two guinea pigs, but more than 2 are way better, because they will interact much more. You will feel the liveliness of your guinea pigs, like they were reborn.
You know from their natural life system, that guinea pigs life in harems. So the best thing you can do is to get a castrated/neutered male and one or more female guinea pigs.
The keeping of groups of one gender
is impractical. Why?
For example some people, who are familiar with guinea pigs, can keep groups of males.
The problem is that not every male tolerates other males, depending on their socialization status. Many guinea pigs were separated from their mothers in a very young age, so they never got socialized.
In their first years of life they go through puberty. People who never owned guinea pigs often cannot assess these hormone surges. This can end fatal, if the amateur guinea pig owner doesn’t know what to do.
Also important is that male guinea pig groups need much more space than harem groups, so they can avoid each other better.
Pure female groups are not welcomed.
The reason is that guinea pigs, living in female groups are more susceptible to hormonal diseases, like uterine cysts.
This way of keeping guinea pigs is unhealthy and unnatural.If you want to know more about uterine cysts go ahead to "Health, medical help and Vets"
Guinea pigs shall never stay alone!!
They will wither and get mental problems, it's animals abuse.
It’s like putting an animal in jail for doing nothing wrong. (a good hint for the next topic)
The enclosure/cage and guinea pig equipment:
Besides to healthy food and social life, this topic belongs to the most important ones.
Just like rabbits, dogs and other animals’, guinea pigs need much space.
Owners often say that their guinea pigs are slowly moving, unmotivated, that they don’t do anything; they bite the cage lattice and so on, but why?
Even if it sounds a little bit rude, you can answer yourself this question with a healthy human mind:
If people would put their dog in a little Guest Bathroom for 24 hours a day, a lifelong, what will happen to this dog?
He will get frustrated, maybe even insane and tries to bite, he will get fat and after all that’s not a good life, don’t you think so too? This would be animal abuse.
And it’s just the same as with guinea pigs and rabbits. They want to run (and hell yes, they can run fast
!), they want to explore their enclosure, they want to live with their companions.
Two guinea pigs will never be happy in a little 100×80 cage.
So what's the difference?
After many people kept their guinea pigs in cages, they noticed that they needed something: More space!
People who are familiar with guinea pigs will advise you to build/buy a/an enclosure/cage with at least 0, 5 square meter per pig.
You’ll need a cage with the sizes 140×0, 80 or 1, 60×0, 80 for two guinea pigs. We know that such a cage costs very much and many don’t want to buy it. But firs
t: Every animal is expensive!
If you don’t want to spend money for a good cage/enclosure, you won’t pay the vet costs as well! That means you should not keep animals. Second
: A self made enclosure is low-priced and better.
For sure some people know these ’300 Euro palaces’, but you don’t have to spend so much money for this.
There are hundreds of ways to build a nice enclosure; you can also ‘tape’ an enclosure. If you got even more space: nice! A beautiful 200cm x 100cm enclosure for 2-4 Guinea pigs would be the best!
Your guinea pigs will love you for doing this! Guinea pigs are bottom dwellers, they rarely use floors/stairs, also a reason, why you should not buy cages with floors. They won’t be often or never used.
Some nice enclosures:
Summed up, you just need 4 wood panels and a urinary dense ground (so as example, pond foil or PVC coating).
Tape or screw the panels together and put it on the urinary dense ground. That’s it.
Even if the enclosure will be big, you should not forget to let your guinea pigs go outside sometimes (:
Here is a nice site which explains it: www.sifle.de/Klapp_Absperrung.…
You don't need to know the german language to understand it (;
Guinea pig equipment:
Just like in their natural habitat guinea pigs need many hiding places.
They live in thick vegetations and don’t like it, to move in an open area. Because of being a flight animal, they feel insecure, when the cage or the enclosure they live in is ‘empty’.
Every guinea pig needs at least one little ‘house’, little ‘shelters’ will be gladly accepted too. Be careful with equipment in pet stores, some are very dangerous or even deadly!
- Houses with 2 or more entrances / shelters.
(no ‘windows’, because guinea pigs can get stuck in it!)
- Big tunnels.
- Hay racks (there has to be hay 24h a day, all time! Be careful, some hay racks are dangerous, because the pigs can get stuck in them too! )
- Watering or drinking bottle/s.
- Cuddle stuff! There are many shops in the internet with guinea pig cuddle stuff
Guinea Pig food:
We will take a look again at the natural diet of a guinea pig.
It consists of grasses, herbs and other ‘green plants’. Guinea pigs always need grass or hay to keep their gastrointestinal tract fit and to wear down their teeth. They cannot produce Vitamin C by themselves
, so they need it from outside (herbs or vegetables).
Not everybody has the option to get herbs and grasses every day, so we can give our guinea pigs vegetables, which they can digest. Dry Food, Drops, Sticks, salt licks and bred:
Usual Pet store Pellets (etc.) are full of grain, sugar and animal by-products.
This has nothing to do in a guinea pigs stomach; it’s very unhealthy and unnecessary, guinea pigs don’t need that!
Only guinea pigs that live outside should get sometimes grain-free dry food for more energy. They cannot digest starch, they get stomach ache from it.
The big portions of sugar in drops, pellets etc. are very unhealthy for the liver and generally for the pig.
Just some of the aftereffects of dry food etc.:
- Overweight (Underweight-> old guinea pigs)
- Dental problems
- Fatty liver disease
- Kidney infections / Kidney stones
- Guinea pigs need 24h a day, every day fresh water and hay
. (also for their dental care)
- Varied and fresh vegetables, like salads, cucumber, paprika, carrots, fennel etc.
- Herbs and grasses, like dandelion, meadow-grass, edible wild herbs etc.
- Occasionally fruits, like an apple, watermelon, strawberries etc.
So where do I get my guinea pigs from?
If you think you are ready to take care for an animal, (besides you are also familiar enough with guinea pigs, have a nice and big cage or enclosure)
you have to think about, where to get your pigs from (:! Animal Shelters:
First of all, everyone who wants a pet should visit animal shelters.
There are many animals that want a new lovely home and deserve it as well, as animals from a breeder.
Most were given away because of lack of time and exemplary animal shelters let their animals free for adoption in a healthy condition. Males are almost always neutered/ castrated.
In addition, the staff can assess the animals and say how dominant they behave. (Based on guinea pigs)
There are also private animal shelters for guinea pigs, which they take care of and let them free for adoption again. Breeders:
If you couldn’t find guinea pigs in (private) shelter you can go to a breeder. Make sure, that the breeder is professional.
People who simply throw guinea pigs in a cage to produce babies are inhuman propagators and animal abusers.
Professional breeders are familiar with genetic and guinea pigs:
They know about genetic errors, pregnancy complications,
how to nourish young, thin and powerless babies or mothers and and and… Things that a guinea pig amateur don’t know about, so let it be!
(2,5 Guinea pig babies and their mother died yesterday in our private guinea pig shelter,
because the owner didn't knew anything about complications and guinea pigs; the mother was only one month old, way too young) Pet stores:
Many people will advise you against, going to a pet store to buy guinea pigs. The reason for this is:
- Employers, who are not familiar with animals (no you don’t need to know anything about animals to get a job there)
- Wrong gender information
- (too young) Pregnant females
- Many animals with genetic errors (because of fabric-like propagation; similar to puppy mills!)
- Animal abuse
- Too small cages
- Not neutered/castrated males
These reasons should be enough to not visit a pet store.
For sure there will be some stores who look professional, but most of the time it just seems like the pet store would be animal-friendly. In a pet store animals are just a product.
Health, Medical help and Vets:
Not every Vet is familiar with guinea pigs.
Vets cannot know everything about every animal for sure.
Also guinea pigs are classified as ‘unimportant animals’, which means that Veterinarians,
even small animal doctors usually only deal with farm animals, dogs and cats, some birds and sometimes rabbits. Teachings of rabbits for example are often confused with guinea pigs.
Ask your Vet, if he/she is familiar with guinea pigs and ask him/her questions about guinea pigs.
The Check up:
If you own guinea pigs you should check them up once a week. (:
- Weigh your guinea pig.
(normal guinea pigs weigh between 750-1200g (females) and 800-1500g (males), significant weight loss indicates a disease)
- Look at eyes, nose and ears. Are they clear and clean?
- Feel your guinea pig. Does it have tumors or is it thicker somewhere?
- Investigate the fur and skin of your guinea pig. Can you see bald spots, other abnormalities or even injuries?
- Take a look at the anus. Is it clean? If something isn’t good with your guinea pigs, go to the vet!
Many people don't know why their female guinea pigs got/could get uterine cysts and ask about it.
Here is a little explanation:
Female guinea pigs get 'on heat' often, every 2-3 Weeks.
It's like with us humans that guinea pigs get an ovulation, with the difference, that they need
help, so that the ova can 'peel off'. So here comes our male to help
With intercourse the ova will be 'peeled off', if not it can be that they'll stick to the ovarian.
That's how cysts come into being.
Without a male a female guinea pig has a 60-90% Chance to get cysts.
That's the reason why animal shelters often not convey female guinea pigs into pure female groups.
As long as the cyst is not that big and medicated it's ok, but the pig can get pain and hormonal problems,
because of it and after all it's not really good. Also the medicaments (here in germany) for cysts
are expensive. Most people don't even know that their guinea pigs got cysts.
Old females get cysts more often than young ones because they often don't want to intercourse with the male.
A male cannot perform miracles, but we never had females with cysts here in our private shelter.
Only some females we've become from pure female group owners got them.When do you know your female could have cysts:
- unnormal aggressive behaviour, such as biting, hair pulling, gnashing of teeth etc.
- often 'rides up' other females or the male
- sexual frustration
- females with cysts often get cystitis too
If anyone of your guinea pigs behaves like that, please go to a Vet!
No, most of the time you cannot feel a cyst, so the Vet should x-ray your guinea pig.
A Harem with a castrated/neutered male is the best thing you can do for your guinea pigs (:
Thank you for reading my little article about guinea pigs and owning a pet.
I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Greetings, Sarah S. from Germany.
and from my Cuties♥