Looking after your guinea pig
Guinea pigs are usually kept outdoors in a wooden hutch. The hutch should not be creosoted as this is toxic to guinea pigs. There should be at least 2.5 square feet per pig and the hutch should be at least 10″ high and include a draught free nesting area. Hutches must be weather proof and are usually lined with paper, straw or wood shavings (sawdust and hay are not suitable) and ample bedding should be available so that the guinea pig can make a nest. In winter the hutch should be moved into a shed or garage or covered over to protect the pigs from the worst of the weather. In summer a run can be used, but this must be cat and escape proof. Guinea pigs are fairly messy animals and cages should be cleaned out at least once a week. Guinea pigs are best kept in groups, but it is important to know the sexes first! Two males together may fight.
A commercial food is advisable but it may be supplemented with limited amounts of fruit or vegetables. All guinea pigs require vitamin C and most commercial diets are formulated to provide this, diets which are not designed for guinea pigs may not contain sufficient vitamin C. Vitamin levels in foods may decrease if the food is poorly stored. Fresh water should always be available.
Guinea pigs should be handled calmly and lifted with one hand on the shoulders and the other supporting the pig’s bottom. Regular handling from a young age produces a gentle pet, but beware, they can jump suddenly if alarmed.
Guinea pigs are usually sexually mature from 6 weeks old but it is best not to breed from them until they are 4 – 5 months old. They can breed throughout the year. Once pregnant, the female is best kept on her own. The gestation period is about 63 days but can be shorter if the litter size is large or longer if it is small. Average litter size is 3-4. Young pigs can usually start taking solid food in the first 1- 2 days of life but will take the mother’s milk until about 3 weeks old.
4 – 8 years