How to Care for Guinea Pigs

Four Parts:Setting Up for Your Guinea PigFeeding and Watering Your Guinea PigExercising and Socializing Your Guinea PigKeeping Your Guinea Pig Clean and Healthy

Guinea pigs are smaller pets, but they require plenty of space, time, effort, and human interaction. If you are willing to give your guinea pig a good home with proper food, attention, living space, grooming, and veterinary care, you will be rewarded with a happy, healthy, and fun guinea pig.

Part 1
Setting Up for Your Guinea Pig

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    Make or buy a large enough cage. You should allow at least 7.5 square feet of cage space as a minimum for one guinea pig, or 10.5 for two.[1] However, bigger is always better -- if you have enough space for a larger cage, go for it! Your pigs will appreciate all the space they can get.
    • The cage must have a solid bottom (not a wire bottom) to protect guinea pigs' fragile feet.[2]
    • A lid is unnecessary if the walls of the cage are at least 12"-14" high.
    • Use caution with multi-level cages. A fall from higher than 6" can injure guinea pigs' feet or legs, and elderly guinea pigs should only be kept in flat cages.[3]
    • Provide the guinea pig with several inches of bedding made of paper and be sure to change it at least twice every week or more often if you live in a humid area. Make sure to never use cedar or aspen bedding, as it can cause respiratory problems. Pine is usually alright, but be sure to air it out if it seems especially odorous. Paper is always preferable, though. [4] Also, you can use a soft fleece blanket with a UHaul pad or other absorbent layer underneath to absorb everything without having to clean off bedding from your guinea pig.
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    Find a good location for the cage. A place where the family frequents several times a day for extended periods of time is the best location. A living room, bedroom, or hallway is the best choice because there is frequent traffic.[5]
    • Guinea pigs are very sensitive to temperature, so many veterinarians recommend keeping them indoors, which has the additional advantage of allowing for more interaction. However, some experts do suggest exposing guinea pigs to sunlight regularly. The best balance of indoor and outdoor time will depend on a variety of factors, including your climate. Talk to your veterinarian to make the best decision for your particular guinea pig.
    • Ensure that no one will trip, push, or knock the cage over.
    • Do not place the cage in a garage with cars because the fumes can harm or even kill Guinea pigs and the temperature is usually not regulated in a garage.
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    Adopt two or more guinea pigs so they are not lonely. Guinea pigs need company because they are herd animals. Spend some time with your pets every day. Keeping a sociable animal alone can lead it to become depressed.
    • You can put together two females, two neutered males or two males who have never been separated.
    • You can adopt a male and a female, but be aware that they might mate. If you suspect that the female has become pregnant, separate the Guinea pigs and call your vet for care instructions.
    • Be sure to properly introduce the pigs to avoid fighting.

Part 2
Feeding and Watering Your Guinea Pig

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    Give your guinea pigs plenty of water. One of the most important elements of caring for any pet is providing it with fresh, clean water at all times.[6]
    • Keep your guinea pigs' water bottle clean and change the water daily. The best water dispenser is a guinea pig/rabbit bottle with the little ball in the spout. A dog water bowl that has never been used by a dog can work if the bowl is low enough for the guinea pig to put its front legs on the rim and dip its head in to drink. Be aware that guinea pigs can poop in the dog bowl and or pee in the dog bowl.It's advised to use hanging elevated food and water dispensers
    • Be sure to clean the water bottle nozzle frequently with a Q-tip to keep it free of obstructions and food residue that can breed harmful bacteria and clog the water flow.
    • The water bottle itself can be cleaned by placing uncooked rice and a little water in the bottle, and then shaking it vigorously. The rice will dislodge any greenish (algae) build-up.
    • If the cage is in the sun for part of the day, this can contribute to algae build-ups. In this case, cover the bottles with an opaque cloth to avoid algae.
    • Avoid adding anything to the water such as vitamin tablets. They do not provide effective nutrients and can make your guinea pigs refuse to drink.
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    Make grass hay available to your guinea pigs constantly. Guinea pigs are grazing animals, so they need something to graze on (such as timothy or orchard grass) at all times or their digestive tracts can shut down. But, they can also poke their eyes out on it, so make sure to pat down the hay so no pointed or sharp pieces stick out!
    • Alfalfa hay should only be fed to babies 6 months old and younger, and pregnant or nursing sows, because they have a lot of extra nutrients that healthy adult guinea pigs do not require.
    • Timothy, orchard grass, or bluegrass hay should be fed for guinea pigs older than 6 months. It should be fed 'free choice,' which means they have some in the cage all the time.
    • Lack of hay can lead to malocclusion, a misalignment of the teeth that may require surgical correction, and GI Stasis, shutting down of the digestive tract often leading to death.
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    Feed your guinea pigs fresh vegetables daily. Green leafy vegetables should make up about 20% of your guinea pigs' diet. Be careful about leafy vegetables as too many of these can cause stomach upsets and diarrhea. It is useful to get a list of safe fruits and vegetables from a trustworthy guinea pig website or your local vet.[7]
    • Guinea Pig servings should include plenty of vegetables high in vitamin C (as guinea pigs are unable to produce their own vitamin C, and too little of the vitamin can lead to illnesses).
    • Veggies that are good for guinea pigs include celery, carrots, off-the-vine tomatoes, cucumber, corn, kale, a bit of raw broccoli, small amounts of spinach and pod-peas. Be sure to limit servings of some vegetables to avoid serious harm to the guinea pigs’ digestive tracts. Some fruits are okay for guinea pig treats such as strawberries and apple pieces but these can only be given occasionally as some of the acids can be harmful to guinea pigs.
    • If a guinea pig seems unwilling to eat any vegetables, try cutting them up into slices or small chunks. Also be aware that guinea pigs may have individual tastes or preferences and may like or dislike different vegetables.
    • Vegetables to avoid feeding your guinea pigs include iceberg lettuce, rocket salads, red leaves, cauliflower, beet greens, potatoes, and radishes.
    • Each guinea pig will require about one cup of vegetables per day. Dividing the veggie meal into two servings is a good idea since guinea pigs are grazing animals who prefer to eat throughout the day instead of eating one big meal.
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    Use pellets sparingly in your guinea pigs’ diet. Healthy guinea pigs do not need to be fed nutritional pellets. However, if your pigs are used to being fed pellets, you need to acclimate them to their healthier new diet slowly. Ask your vet for details.
    • If your guinea pig is sick, feed good quality pellets. Oxbow's Cavy Cuisine is best for pigs over 6 months, and their Cavy Performance is best for pigs under 6 months. Kleenmama's Timothy Choice pellets is best for pigs over 6 months, and Alfalfa choice pellets only for pigs under 6 months. Try to find pellets that are lower in calcium.
    • Do not feed a guinea pig rabbit or other small animal pellets - the vitamin content is not the same, and can be harmful to your guinea pig.
    • If you do feed a guinea pig pellets, be sure that they are seed-free to prevent choking. Be sure to select pellets that are plain. They should not contain any colored pieces, dried fruit, corn, etc. It should contain nothing but pellets.
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    Do not feed your guinea pigs other foods. Pellets, hay, untreated fresh organic grass (wheat or standard lawn grass) and fresh veggies are all the foods that guinea pigs need. Feeding them other types of food can be very harmful to the pigs’ health.

Part 3
Exercising and Socializing Your Guinea Pig

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    Give your guinea pigs some floor time each day. Let them loose in an enclosed space but be sure that no one steps on them. You can do so by setting up a pen in a room (an area with easily-cleaned floors) or outside if it isn't too hot or cold.
    • Make sure to have plenty of space in their exercise area so that they can run and play. This exercise time is crucial to your guinea pigs’ happiness.
    • Make sure to put a few toys and tunnels in the play area.
    • Use extra care if allowing your guinea pigs to exercise outside. Guinea pigs should be supervised at all times when outdoors: they can slip through small openings and leave your yard, and predators such as foxes and hawks can get into even the most secure outdoor areas.
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    Supply your guinea pigs with plenty of toys and cage accessories. You can make your own toys out of boxes, paper bags, oatmeal containers, folders, and more. Be creative and use materials you find around the house.
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    Interact and bond with your guinea pigs several times daily. Guinea pigs are an inherently social species and live in herds or groups in the wild. Frequent handling each day is essential to your guinea pigs’ happiness. Talk to your guinea pigs, cuddle them, carry them, and pet them as often as you can. Set aside plenty of time to play with your guinea pig.[8]
    • In some countries, it is illegal to buy single guinea pigs: you have to buy them in pairs. Guinea pigs do very well having the companionship of another guinea pig.
    • Guinea pigs can express depression-like symptoms (loss of appetite, inactivity, etc.) if they aren't bonded with appropriately.
    • Guinea Pigs are very smart. You can teach them to stand on their hind legs, spin, jump, and much more!

Part 4
Keeping Your Guinea Pig Clean and Healthy

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    Spot clean your guinea pigs' cage. Guinea pigs are relatively clean, so try to clean their cages out at least twice a week, removing droppings and any uneaten veggies from the day before, cleaning the water bottle, and adding more hay to the cage. It is also useful to have two set days in the week where you have the time to do this. [9]
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    Clean the guinea pigs’ cage thoroughly at least once a week. The frequency of thorough cleaning depends on the type of bedding used and the number of guinea pigs you have.
    • Remove all debris, liners, bedding, food and toys and dispose of them or clean with a guinea pig friendly antibacterial spray, but be sure to remove any excess cleaners before returning parts to the cage. Don't use cleaning products designed for humans.
    • You may want to wipe down the inside of the cage/hutch with guinea pig friendly antibacterial spray, but you can also just use water and sunshine, which can kill bacteria naturally. You may want to place the cage outside to air out for a short while.
    • Now replace the bedding. It is often useful to put a layer of newspaper under your other bedding to prevent urine stains. Newspaper should not be used for bedding on its own and should not be easily accessed by guinea pigs as they may ingest the ink, which could be harmful.
    • Appropriate bedding for guinea pigs is CareFresh, moisture wicking fleece over towels, or aspen bedding.
    • Do not use wood chips or sawdust as bedding. Also do not use cedar or pine bedding or pine shavings, as these have harmful phenols.
    • Towels underneath fleece cut to fit your cage can also be used as cage liners - just shake off the debris, wash and reuse. Be careful that there are no loose threads in the material, as guinea pigs’ feet can easily become caught in them.
    • Make sure you provide an area for your guinea pig to sleep in - you can buy igloos from most pet stores or alternatively, you can provide loose hay for them to burrow in.
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    Trim your guinea pigs’ toenails every few weeks. If they have dark toenails, shine a flashlight behind the nail so you can see where the quicks are. If you clip too close to the blood vessel, the toenail may start to bleed. Use styptic powder or flour to stop bleeding. [10]
    • If you are unsure about clipping the nails, then it is a good idea to go to a veterinarian to have them clipped for the first time. A vet or vet tech can clip them for you and show you what to do in person.
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    Avoid bathing your guinea pigs frequently. You may wish to give your guinea pigs a bath, but bathing them upsets their natural body processes, so baths should be limited to a few times a year.[11]
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    Watch for signs of illness. Know what to look for in an ill pig.[12] Take your guinea pigs to a savvy exotics vet for proper treatment. Always be on the lookout for even the slightest change in habits or appetite as guinea pigs are extremely good at hiding any illness.
    • Make sure all guinea pigs are treated at the same time as some illnesses will spread from one guinea pig to its cage mates.
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    Check male guinea pigs’ genital areas. The genital areas on male guinea pigs can become impacted. You can simply massage the area a little and if soft poop-like stuff is present, gently clean out the pocket with a cotton swab. You also need to make sure that no poop clogs the hind quarters as well.
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    Keep your guinea pigs away from rabbits. Rabbits naturally carry a bacteria that can make guinea pigs very ill, and rabbits are bigger, stronger animals. Even a playful kick from a rabbit could kill a guinea pig.
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    Weigh your guinea pig weekly. A weight fluctuation of up to two ounces is normal but more than that can mean serious dental or other health problems that require the attention of a skilled veterinarian. A digital kitchen scale works best for this.


  • Guinea pigs need a cozy area to sleep in where they can feel secure.
  • Guinea pigs chew on everything so when you let them out to run around, make sure to grab all important paper, books, etc.
  • Free roamers will enjoy their dining/watering station more if set up under a low table. (Guinea pigs are always fearful with too much open space above their heads.) You should also provide a bit of bedding fabric under low furniture for sleeping spots. And while they are not so apt to chew electrical cords as rabbits, you should keep all cords away from favorite hang-outs and runs. (Warning: they do seem to be interested in thin wires like cell phone charger cords.)
  • Guinea pigs will eat their own poop; this is called coprophagy and it is quite normal. You may often notice them reach over their backside, but don't be alarmed. When they ingest their poop they get important nutrients from the bacteria in their gut.
  • If your pig suddenly leaps into the air or rapidly twists its neck with a little hop, it is not having a seizure. 'Popcorning' may either indicate happiness or an attempt to release excess energy, similar to a cat suddenly getting the urge to race through the house.
  • Make sure you provide at least one soft place for your guinea pig.
  • You can help save guinea pigs by looking around your local pet store. Be sure they all have food, water, and show no signs of sickness. If they do not have these items and/or seem ill, alert the manager of the store immediately.
  • Guinea pigs are very social creatures. Be sure to give them a lot of love but don't be harsh or impatient if your guinea pig doesn't come to you.
  • Don't keep guinea pigs of different genders together. You can keep them together if one or both has been spayed or neutered.
  • Some people let their guinea pigs roam freely in their homes. They tend to remain in one room and develop favorite "runs". Free range guinea pigs are happy and more robust.
  • For daily exercise, put guinea pigs on the floor with a safe surround. Guinea pigs love to run. Be mindful that they might nibble electric cords and don't forget to closely supervise them whenever they are outside their cage.
  • Guinea Pigs should have fun cages with lots of entertaining toys. Cuddle cups, tunnels, chew toys, and hay toys are great entertainment options.
  • Get a heavy bowl for your guinea pig's food. They can chew a plastic one to bits, or knock a light one over.
  • Don't put your guinea pig on an exercise ball, as it can break its back.
  • Some guinea pigs may give you an exploratory nibble, don't worry. Once they find out you're not made of food, they'll stop.
  • Treat guinea pigs with respect and they'll love you! They're great pets!
  • Guinea pigs also enjoy toys, which can be purchased or made depending on your budget. The less complicated the better. Empty cylinders and paper bags make perfect toys.
  • Do not put guinea pigs on your bed or other high places, they could fall off and get hurt. You also should not drop them.
  • Guinea pigs will bite when startled so always be cautious and easy when handling them.
  • Guinea pigs may not eat everything you offer them, including treats.
  • Keep guinea pigs away from larger animals for their safety.
  • A free range guinea pig is best for an adult who lives alone. Such an arrangement would not be suitable for a family with young children or other pets.
  • Free range guinea pigs quickly adapt to soft-towel lined paper grocery bags as their personal toilets. These very disposable "bag privies" are easy to replace when they get a bit too soiled. Economical too.
  • Guinea Pigs cost roughly 15-30 dollars apiece which means at most 60 dollars for both of your animals! Good quality cages do not always have to be expensive either.
  • Never wash your guinea pig wash regular soap. It will make their skin dry. Go to a pet store and buy guinea pig soap.
  • Don't be frustrated if your new guinea pigs dive under cover whenever you approach. Guinea pigs need some time to warm up to you. It is also a matter of instinct and personality. Being prey animals, guinea pigs see looming shadows as a threat first and a friend later. Some will always resist being picked up, while others will approach given time to learn (especially if they figure out you're the food source).
  • Put down a towel when holding your guinea pigs so you don't have to change your clothes if they eliminate on you.
  • Guinea pigs will take about 3-5 days to adapt to you and their new home. Don't get annoyed if they don't come to you on the first day you get them.
  • Make sure your Guinea Pigs are safe from any other big pets, such as dogs.
  • If you provide a second floor to your guinea pig's cage, choose a ramp with low incline.
  • Guinea pigs can be tamed. When taming your fur baby, remember to always talk to them so they get used to your voice.
  • Keep an eye out for curled feet it could cause death.
  • Don't pick up your pig unless he knows you so make sure he smells you first.
  • Make your guinea pig feel loved, give him/her your attention and time. They're amazing pets and it takes them time to get used to you but they are very loving animals.
  • If you only have one guinea pig don't get another. If your guinea pig has adjusted to having no other guinea pigs around him/her they can become aggressive.
  • Remember to only give your guinea pig a bath twice a year. Excessive washing is detrimental to its health.
  • Put their cage on a low table so people can see where they are, it's easier to pick them up, and you can put their supplies underneath the table.
  • A single Guinea pig is fine to keep if you give it plenty of stimulation. However if you do not have too much time in your day, get two Guinea pigs or if you have very little time in your day, consider another pet.
  • Always check on your guinea pig in the morning and in the afternoon.


  • Always clean out the cage every three days if you use straw bedding, as it can develop maggots. If using straw bedding, also be careful it is not too hard as sharp strands can injure the guinea pigs' eyes.
  • Guinea pigs often hide symptoms of illness until they are quite sick. If a guinea pig shows signs of illness, it can worsen or even die very quickly. Consult a vet as soon as possible!
  • If you notice that your guinea pig has crusty eyes or nose, this may mean it has an Upper Respiratory Infection and you should bring it to a reliable vet very quickly.
  • Do not feed guinea pigs potatoes, onions, leeks, tomato plant leaves, chocolate, corn, wheat, dairy products, meat, mushrooms, junk food, alcohol, chocolate or iceberg lettuce.
  • Be wary of any pet store employee's advice. Few of them are trained and knowledgeable about what is best for guinea pigs.
  • Do not put Vitamin C drops in your guinea pigs’ water. The vitamin C degrades quickly in water and is essentially useless and does nothing. Instead, if you need to supplement your guinea pigs with C, try Oxbow Vitamin C tablets. Only sick or malnourished pigs will need supplements.
  • Also be very careful if you must buy a pet store guinea pig that it does not have diseases. Check around the nose, the eyes, and the ears.
  • Guinea pigs are fast runners, and they can outsmart you once you let them out of their cage, so be careful! Make sure the "floor time" run is well enclosed so they can't escape or get into danger.
  • Make sure to clean your guinea pigs’ cage frequently.
  • If you're giving them grass, make sure it does not have chemicals put in. The fresher the better, too!
  • Avoid commercially-produced treats and toys. Many are unhealthy for guinea pigs, so just stay away and feed healthy treats such as fruits or carrots once or twice a week in small amounts.
  • Never leave a guinea pig unattended on high places. They can break their legs in a fall.
  • Please remember that there's an overpopulation of guinea pigs. Many are in rescues and shelters looking for a good home. Adopt your guinea pigs instead of buying them, and please don't add to the overpopulation by breeding.
  • Never put your guinea pigs’ cage in direct sunlight or outside.
  • Never use sawdust or corn cob bedding. Never use plastic litter or most anything else in the cage, as guinea pigs will chew it and can suffocate on the chewed pieces.
  • Never hurt, throw, kick, drown, or do other to your guinea pigs or you will pay!
  • Never use exercise balls or wheels. Even though they are marketed towards guinea pigs, they are not safe and can cause foot, toe and spinal damage.

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