How to Care for a Pet Guinea Pig

Guinea pigs often squeak with joy when their owners enter a room. How can you resist such welcoming pets?

You will need

  • A companion guinea pig or two
  • A guinea pig pen that's at least 4 sq. ft. in size
  • Newspaper & bedding
  • such as aspen shavings
  • shredded paper
  • or pellet-type
  • Guinea pig food
  • such as hay
  • pellets
  • greens
  • and vegetables
  • A one-qt. animal water bottle
  • Hiding places
  • such as empty coffee cans
  • shoeboxes
  • and flowerpots
  • A small pet brush
  • A hard-sided wading pool
  • Guinea pig vitamin C tablets

Step 1 Do research Before you actually bring your guinea pig home, do a little research online and in magazines and books. Guinea pigs need more care and attention than you might expect.

Step 2 Get company Guinea pigs are social animals—they’d much rather live with another guinea pig or two than by themselves. If you want your little squeaker to be the happiest, get her a friend.

Step 3 Consider roommates Female guinea pigs can usually live comfortably together. Male guinea pigs should be from the same litter to reduce grumpiness and fighting. And since guinea pig neutering isn’t widely available, don’t keep males and females in the same pen.

Step 4 Give them room Guinea pigs need plenty of space to run around. One guinea pig needs at least four square feet of space—but the roomier, the better.

Step 5 Line the cage Guinea pigs’ feet are delicate. Don’t keep them in wire-bottomed cages. Instead, use cages with solid bottoms, and line the cage or pen with newspaper topped with plenty of hay, shredded paper, or recycled pellet-type bedding.

Step 6 Provide lots of hay A guinea pig’s main food source should be fresh, high-quality timothy hay. Feed your piggies as much hay as they’ll eat—they need the fiber, and munching on hay is the best way to keep their teeth from growing too long.

Step 7 Give them vitamin C Guinea pigs depend on their owners to provide them with vitamin C. Commercial guinea pig pellets contain the necessary amount of C. Generally, one adult guinea pig needs a ¼ cup of pellets per day. Use fresh pellets, as vitamin C breaks down, and don’t substitute rabbit pellets, which aren’t the same thing.

Step 8 Give them greens Guinea pigs should also have a handful of varied greens and vegetables each day. Provide those high in vitamin C like kale, dandelion greens, and strips of red pepper.

Step 9 Give them water Guinea pigs drink tons of water. Make sure yours have clean, fresh water available at all times.

Step 10 Provide hiding places Guinea pigs love having hiding places to play and sleep in. Try empty coffee cans, shoeboxes with holes cut in them, and overturned flowerpots. While guinea pigs like to play, they’re not particularly nimble—offer them balls and low ramps for exercise.

Step 11 Let them run free Give your guinea pigs plenty of ‘floor time’ each day. Let them run around in a space that’s free of wires and other dangers—you don’t want them nibbling on your computer cords!

Step 12 Groom your piggies Many guinea pigs love to be brushed. Longhaired guinea pigs should be brushed every day.

Step 13 Watch their health Call a small-animal veterinarian if your guinea pigs are sneezing or coughing, have diarrhea, or seem lethargic. A happy, healthy guinea pig can live for up to 10 years, so with good care your little friend will be around for a nice long time.