When it comes to buying supplies for your new pet, the list can seem intimidating. With so many sources online these days, you can hear one group saying to buy a particular item, and another group will be telling you to never buy that item for your pet. This can confuse you to the point that you think to yourself, “Will this kill my pet? No? Well, then let’s try it.” Since this is not the best solution, let me share with you a list of necessities along with a few pointers, on what you will need to keep your guinea pig happy and healthy. So let’s take a look at what your guinea pigs need:
The type of cage you decide to buy is possibly the most important decision you will make. Not only will it affect your own household, but also it will affect the lifestyle of your guinea pig. The popular choice of every guinea pig enthusiast is the C & C cage (cubes and coroplast). These cages are excellent due to their size, functionality, and flexibility. If you are able to make one, it could be a great option. A second option, and the one I chose, is to purchase the Midwest Guinea Pig Habitat.
This cage measures 2′ x 4′ giving two guinea pigs a nice amount of room to live and play. If you feel the need to have a larger cage, or you have more than two pigs, you can purchase the expandable version instead. This will allow you to connect multiple cages together as well as provides a cover for the cage (if you need one.) The canvas bottom is great and no, it does not absorb liquid or leak. It always worked well with pine bedding, but it works even better now that we use fleece. I cannot recommend this one enough. Not to mention, the price is great. The Midwest cage or a C & C cage is really the only two options I can recommend. Any other cage you see sold in stores is way too small (as in please never buy one of these things and make your guinea pig live in it kinda small). They aren’t really even big enough for one pig (please don’t have just one), let alone two or more. Just don’t take it to the other extreme. Although I’m sure guinea pigs would have a blast living in a cage that filled an entire room, the average household can only spare a portion of a room for the cage. Another thing about guinea pigs is that they don’t need a lid/ cover on their cage unless you are trying to keep other family pets out. No cover on the cage allows for easier access to the guinea pigs and everything in the cage. And just in case it needs to be said, make sure that the cage does not have a wire floor. This will lead to injuries or foot problems. (I say this because some rabbit hutches still use wire flooring and has long been perceived as ok— it’s not. Don’t use it for any caged pets.)
For many years, it was no big deal to go to the store and pick up some pine, cedar, or aspen bedding for your guinea pigs. Today, things have changed. While many people still believe these and other options to be good for their pigs, others disagree. For those who don’t know, here is the rundown of the bedding situation. Never, never, never use cedar or aspen. Neither of these are a good idea for guinea pigs. If, if, you decide to use pine bedding, be cautious. Not so much for the “low dust” or “better quality” aspects (because I feel that they are all pretty similar with only slight variations). I used pine bedding for all of my guinea pigs until I bought a bag full of damp shavings and, dare I say?, termites. FYI, wood shavings are often avoided due to stories of causing guinea pig respiratory problems, skin irritations, and so forth. While using pine bedding, I never experienced this; however, it has been known to happen to some pig owners. Sooooo… another option is paper bedding. This stuff is pretty good, but… so expensive. It would be crazy trying to pay $20+ per bag (which is basically every month). So that brings us to fleece bedding. I know, I know. You are very skeptical about this option. I was too. But it has really won me over. This is what’s really popular right now and is probably one of the most economical choices. And it’s super easy to clean and use. (Plus, your guinea pigs will love it.)
Guinea pigs do not require much to keep them healthy when it comes to their food. As much as 75% of their diet should consist of Timothy hay. If you find yourself to be allergic, you may try feeding them another type of grass or hay, just research it first to make sure it is a good substitute. The remainder of their diet will consist of fresh fruits and vegetables along with special guinea pig pellets. Here are some good guidelines to follow when choosing pellets:
- Fiber should be above 20%
- Protein should be around 15-16%
- Fats should be no higher than 1-2%
(These numbers were taken from guineapigsaustralia.com.au/nutrition.htm)
These guidelines will quickly rule out the vast majority of pellets on the market (such as the ones with the pretty colors and little “goodies” that are totally unhealthy for pigs). Guinea pig enthusiasts swear by Oxbow and other high end brands. I would love to feed this to mine as well; however, the price is simply too high. Instead, I use Kaytee Timothy Complete.
This is the only food I have found to have the right balance of nutrients and also be affordable (especially if you watch out for Petco’s online sales, such as free shipping + % off or you can purchase it from Amazon). As for the fresh produce, try feeding them approximately one cup per day. Some of their favorites will be lettuce, carrots, apples, and so forth. Research any foods that you are not sure about before giving them to your pets. Also, make sure that they are not receiving too much of any one kind. This can result in high levels of calcium, sugar, etc.
Bowls and Bottles
This is relatively straight forward, but the one thing you will need to make sure you have is a hay rack. There are a variety of sizes and styles available; simply pick which one you want and put it on the cage.
For the bowl, you will want to give them a wide but shallow dish. The best materials for this would be either ceramic or glass due to its heavier weight. Many guinea pigs like to put their front paws on the rim and eat from it that way. (Mine just like to tip it on its side so they can eat laying down… oh yes, and move the bowl all over the cage).
You do not have to be very picky about the water bottle. I originally bought an 8 oz. bottle and later bought a 16 oz. one as the pigs got bigger. I actually use both now for two reasons. One, that way they can each have one. Two, it helps prevent them from running out of water, which is a very good thing. (Note: Make sure you invest in a bottle brush. They are only a few dollars and are the only way to thoroughly clean out the bottle.)
There are two different forms of vitamin C supplements. One is in a pellet form and the other is in liquid form, which is what I always use. The vitamin drops are easy to use and will help your piggies to get enough vitamin C. Just make sure that you do not rely on this completely. Depending on how much water your guinea pigs drink as well as how much the vitamins have broken down will determine how much they actually receive. They should be receiving the majority of their vitamin C through the fresh produce they eat. So why use it? Because while it may not provide all that they need, it will help to give them some of their daily intake. Unlike other rodents, guinea pigs are unable to produce their own vitamin C; therefore, without enough vitamin C in their diet, guinea pigs can become susceptible to scurvy, etc. As a side note, some people will say they their guinea pigs do not drink the water if it has vitamins added to it. If this is the case, try to boost the amount of vitamin C they are receiving through fresh produce. (Btw, my guinea pigs have never had a problem drinking their water.)
Toys and Chews
Guinea pigs need things to play with and things to chew on. If you look online, there are so many great ideas for DIY toys and cage accessories. They absolutely love walking under things, going in between objects, and hiding in tunnels. Make sure you provide them with something to hide in. Guinea pigs need a place where they can get out of sight and feel secure. It’s part of their pig nature. They can be really easily entertained and it is hilarious watching them make a game out of random objects you give them. Allowing them a place to run around and get out of their cage for a while is always exciting for them. Just make sure that you supervise them and keep them out of trouble (like chewing on wires and whatnot). As for their teeth, a guinea pig’s teeth never stop growing. This is due to their having open roots. As a result, problems such as malocclusion can result if they do not have enough to chew on.
One of the worst things you can do is buy one guinea pig. When I was younger, I did this. Comparing him with George and Patrick… it makes a world of difference! There is so much interaction between the two of them. They have someone they can talk to, and they do. Patrick, who is the more timid of the two, gets so much more confidence when George, who is practically fearless, is around. Watching them play and popcorn around the room is hilarious. Although I am at work all day, it makes it better knowing that my piggies aren’t lonely. Please make sure you buy at least two.
In addition to that thought, make sure that they are both the same gender. There are so many classified ads that say something to the effect of: “I bought two guinea pigs, now I have five, please come buy all my guinea pigs because I can’t take care of them.” I don’t think I could take care of five guinea pigs right now either, sooooo… make sure they’re the same gender and you won’t have to worry about this happening 😀 (Note: Some guinea pigs won’t get along or will show dominance towards the other pig. If at all possible, either buy a pair of pigs that have been bonded, or buy pigs that are from the same litter, etc. This can help sometimes.)
I would love to hear from you all about what you find to be a necessity for your guinea pigs. Just share in the comments below!