Guinea pigs make great pets for children, but they do require some care. When buying guinea pigs you need to make sure they are healthy and well taken care of. A pet store is a better place to buy them from, individuals may be getting rid of them because of problems they are having with their guinea pigs.
Guinea pigs rarely bite and are small enough for young children to handle them easily. The guinea pig is the common name for the cavy, which is short for their scientific name, cavia porcellus. The cavy or guinea pig is a small rodent from South America. They have small feet with three and four toes and no tail.
The guinea pig makes a great pet for young children due to their size, their good tempered nature and ease of care. If your thinking of getting one for your child as a pet, get a book on them first. Look at your local library and borrow one from them to see if the care and room that they require are available and you would want one before you go look at them at the pet store.
If you are thinking of getting a guinea pig as a pet, there are some things you should do before hand. First you will need a place for the pig to stay. A decent guinea pig cage is about 18 by 18 inches wide and 12 to 15 inches tall. If you get a cage for one pig smaller than this the pig will start to develop personality disorders due to be cramped in too small a cage.
Pet stores sell good quality cages, you can also check out farm supply stores for the materials or ready made cages. The best kind of cage is the one that has a plastic tray on the bottom that pulls out from a lost in the side. The plastic does not rust, this is why it should be plastic. The tray for these are two feet by two feet, just big enough for one or two guinea pigs.
Cages for the plastic tray are very simple ones if you buy the kind available for rabbits at a farm supply store. This may not be as fancy looking as a pet store one made of plastic and coated or painted wire but there are things about those that are not so good for your pig. The pigs will chew on the bars of their cage, all the time.
Ours greets us when we go by it’s cage by squealing and chewing on the bars. If the bars are coated with plastic or painted they will ingest some and that is not good for them. The ones at farm supplies are a bit cheaper too.
The plastic tray is easier to clean than the metal ones and they are more durable. If you bend a metal tray it will be harder to pull in and out. The metal will rust even if it is galvanized. The acid in your pigs urine will eat away at it. With the plastic ones they do not nearly as much.
The cage should have some kind of lid or door that is easy to get at the scurrying pig when you go to take them out of the cage. They will do this when you try to take one out. They are known to scamper away from you unless you train them not to. So a door on the cage should be wide or big enough to put your arm into the whole cage to reach in all the corners.
After you have purchased a cage, you will need a few things for the cage, a water bottle, a cup for food and something for the pigs to hide in. They are naturally shy because of being a rodent in the wild. They are used to being hunted and find a small box, or tube is perfect for them to call their own house. You can buy one but it is just as easy to get a shoe box, cardboard box or a 3 or 4 inch piece of PVC tube.
The water bottle should be the kind with a metal ball in the end of the tube, so the water doesn’t leak out into the bedding. The water bottle will hang outside the cage with the nozzle sticking inside. That way it is easier for you to take off and fill and convenient for the pigs to get a drink.
The bowl or cup for food should be something that they find hard to tip over, the will be putting their front feet on the edge of the bowl and sticking their head inside to get food. So whatever you get should be harder to tip. You can get a crock or small cup that sits on the floor of the cage, or one that hangs on the side of the cage.
I prefer the kind that hangs on the side, the pigs can’t spill the food. If you get a crock, make sure it is the kind with a big base. They have ones for pets at pet stores that are sloped on the side toward the center of the bowl to make tipping very hard. This is the best kind of bowl if you want one that sits inside the cage.
The box or tube should be about a foot long and four inches or so wide and tall. It can be anything that is made of cardboard or wood. Even a piece of PVC pipe from the hardware store that is a foot long and three or four inches in diameter will work very well.
The PVC costs only a few dollars a foot, a 10 foot piece of 4 inch diameter cost about 18 dollars. You can have them cut you a one foot piece and it should cost about two dollars or less. If not go to another store and find one that will cost low and will cut you a piece.
You will need to have a bedding for your guinea pigs to use for their droppings and urine. You have to use something that is healthy for them. Pine shavings works best, and its cheap. You can get a block that is five cubit feet of pine shavings from Walmart for $5. If you want there are things like pellets made from recycled newspapers or a couple of other products you can use but be sure it is okay to use for guinea pigs.
This is important, no matter what anyone at a pet store tells you, cedar shavings or any cedar product is not safe for guinea pigs. They are toxic to them and will get them sick. Do not believe a pet store employee that they are perfectly safe for your pigs. We have actually heard of stores that insisted that cedar was safe for their pigs.
The cedar gives off an aroma that is powerful if you have to have it around you all the time. Think about keeping that small rodent in the cage with all that cedar inside. It will not be a good smell that is that strong. They will start to have breathing problems and the oil in the cedar can be a poison to the pig.
The bedding will have to be change about once a week for one pig, and more often for more. You will tell from the aroma that smells like ammonia that it is time to change the bedding. Simply dump out the old stuff into a trash bag and remove to the outdoors. Then scrub out the tray with hot soapy water and a scrub brush and let dry.
While your doing this is a good time to give your pig a quick check and see that they are healthy. Use a good book for instructions on checking over you pet to see signs of good health. There are many things that you should be looking at and a book like Your Guinea Pig by Wanda L. Curran is perfect for a child that wants a guinea pig for a pet. The book is a great guide to guinea pigs and has lots of information.
When the tray is dry, add some clean bedding and put everything back in. The water should be changed and check to see that it is full or at least they have some. They should get food every day, twice a day. We feed them pellets that are available from Walmart or other stores especially for guinea pigs.
You should feed them guinea pig food that is only for them, not any other animal. Guinea pig require a lot of vitamin c and they get this from their food. The pellets have added vitamin c and they also should get treats like vegetables for added nutrition. Carrots, celery, broccoli, lemon and orange with the peel, and other things that are healthy and natural are good for them. They require the extra nutrients and will be healthy with them.
You should only get one guinea pig if you do not plan on breeding them. Guinea pigs are difficult to tell sometimes the sex and if you put a male and a female together, you’ll get babies eventually. You will have to make sure you know what your doing and seek advice if you want to breed them.
There is a lot to do when breeding and this is something that you should do after you have had some guinea pigs for a year or two before trying to get into breeding.
When you get your guinea pig you will want to take it to a vet to get it checked out. If you don’t you can’t complain if there is something wrong with it and it gets sick. The guinea pig is a rodent and a big one. They can have problems that you are not sure of how to take care of and you should get a good book on their care and raising.
We have a few things that we do and use for taking care of our guinea pigs. One thing is for the cleaning and bedding. We have two new trash cans that we use for them. One is for the old bedding, it is just a trash can we have in the basement that we use to put a bag in and the old bedding, then take it out to the garbage outside when we empty the tray.
We have another trash can for the bedding, the new bedding. We buy our bedding at Walmart and get the big bag, dumping it into the trash can that is clean and scoop it out of there when we change the bedding. It is less of a mess than keeping it in the bag and spilling it out every so often.
We also have a shop vac to help with the pine bedding getting all over the house. You may want to get a shop vac of some kind to keep near the cage for the mess the pigs will make. When they scurry around in the cage they will spill bedding out of the cage and onto the floor. You will also probably spill some when cleaning, so we have a shop vac there for cleaning up.
We also use a three inch metal scraper or putty knife to clean out the trays when they get bad. You could also use a cheap window scraper for this, it is handy to get the clumped bedding out of the corners and such when you are cleaning out the tray.
And then use a scrub brush with some vinegar water to wash the tray. Use about a half cup of vinegar in a half gallon of water to scrub the tray with. The vinegar will dissolve the buildup on the tray and will make it easier to clean.
We have been taking care of guinea pigs and showing them at county fairs in 4-H for about ten to twelve years. We raised our own and bred them ourselves. It takes a lot of care and some work to clean up and take care of them. It is also rewarding for use to have our kids take care of animals and the responsibility they learn from it.
Guinea pigs are a great pet, they will show your kids responsibility and they will have fun taking care of them.