For a while now I’ve wanted to make an article all about my guinea piggy Autumn. I waited for at least a year and a half to pass and I’m glad I did. I’ve learned from so many trials and errors what guinea pigs DO and DO NOT like. They are are small, sassy, loving, and dramatic creatures, especially female ones. I have compiled a list of 10 ways to keep your guinea pig happy, healthy, and content. I hope I can help all my other guinea pig parents!
- Clip guinea pig nails every month. The longest to wait should be a month and a half, but even then that’s a stretch. If you wait too long their nails and veins will begin to combine, then leading to very painful and dangerous future clippings. You can clip their nails yourself or take them to the vet to be done professionally. Clipping their nail takes time and should (emphasis on the word should) get easier over time, but you should always buy clippers made specifically for their little fingers. There is also Styptic powder you can buy which can help stop bleeding in the case of an accident.
2. Guinea pigs need play time. Make sure you keep a contained area where they can run around as often as possible to stretch their little legs. Also make sure to have hideouts so they can run to them and feel safe while they are playing. They are prey animals so big open areas can be scary to them.
3. If you want to have more than one guinea pig, introduce and raise them as babies right away. In my experience, female guinea pigs are way more sassy and picky than males. I’ve heard that males can be quite territorial, but I believe this comes with both genders. When introducing your guinea pig to a new member, I recommend not waiting too long and introducing them as babies. If you wait too long then they tend to get very territorial and aggressive.
- I thought Autumn was lonely because she didn’t have a friend, but she’s one years old and her new friend was a few weeks old. It did not go well. Autumn was biting, attacking, and peeing everywhere. Lesson: introduce piggies when they are both young.
4. Piggies do not like a dirty cage. I personally recommend fleece blankets for guinea pigs. It’s much easier to clean up as well as reduce allergens from dust. (Side note: fleece blankets must be washed 1-3 times before use to loosen the fibers in order to become absorbent.)
- Bedding whether paper or pine shavings, will go everywhere and take up more space compared to fleece blankets and old towels. Autumn loves to make her own racetrack around the cage so the more space the better. The fleece absorbs the urine and all you have to do is spot clean the poop daily. (This also helps reduce allergens.) Wash and repeat once a week.
5. This tip goes with keeping a clean cage too. Only give your piggy as much vegetables, hay, and fruits as they can eat. Excess hay can lead to more allergies and the food sitting in the cage isn’t very clean. Piggies don’t like old food either, so make sure to clean out old food with the daily poo.
- If you do decide to go with fleece bedding you will have less dust flying everywhere, therefore your piggies will stay clean longer and will only need a bath every few months (or when absolutely necessary). They are clean animals and tend to manage their own hygiene very well (i.e. why they do not like dirty cages).
6. If a piggy throws their head up, they are not feeling what you are doing. Stop before they throw a fit and you get bit. They’re not all biters though. From my experience with Autumn, guinea pigs do not like their butt pet a lot. It makes them feel controlled.
7. Piggies do not like loud sudden noises or strange ones (even in music). My advice with this, if there are loud noises out of your control like thunder or construction outside, holding your piggy can help them feel safe and create a closer bond.
8. Talk to your guinea pig often. If you do it enough while they’re a baby they can even learn their name. I pet Autumn a lot as a baby and said her name all the time, so she learned it quite quickly. This helps them become more comfortable being around you and less afraid to be “exposed” to you.
9. Always, always make sure your piggy has a hideout. Get them cozy ones to keep them warm and cardboard ones for their teeth. (Hideouts also help them feel safe.) Try to keep a consistent temperature with them as well. Not too hot and not too cold. If you’re hot they’ve been hot, and if you’re cold they’re cold too.
10. Last but not least, guinea pigs love to run and exercising is mandatory to keep them healthy and happy. Give your guinea pig as much room as possible. Most people recommend making a custom made cage, but if this is not an option for you, you can try what I did. I created Autumn her very own bedroom so she could be out of her cage for hours and I didn’t have to worry about watching her or cleaning up secret bathroom spots. My tip for this, ensure it’s an area you have control of. By this I mean, block off all the areas you want to stay clean before you leave your piggy alone, they will, and I promise you they will find a way to get to them and make a mess.
There’s so much more to know about keeping your guinea pig content, so I recommend doing as much research as you can.
I hope these major tips and lessons helped! Love your local piggy mum & Autumn 🙂