Once you’ve chosen your piggy (or piggies) you’ll be counting down the days until you are bringing your guinea pig home for the first time! It’s a very exciting time to welcome your new addition to your home. It can, however, be very scary for guinea pigs to leave their known environment and adjust to a new place. This article will help ease the transition to help keep your piggy happy!
Make sure you have their home set up before you leave
The first and possibly most important thing is their home. Will they be living inside or outside when bringing your guinea pig home for the first time? If they are going to be living outside then they will need a suitable hutch. If they are to be inside then they will need a good-sized cage.
The cage or hutch needs setting up before you leave to collect your new guinea pig(s). Ensure there is plenty of hay in the sleeping area and that hay racks are also full of fresh hay. The hay racks clipped to the bars of the hutch or cage ensures that this hay stays clean for eating. The bedding needs an absorbant layer underneath. For this, you can use sheets of newspaper or puppy training pads to soak up the urine.
We have always used shredded paper in the main area of the cage/hutch for our guinea pigs. There is plenty of pre-shredded paper available to buy. We have been known to spend a good few hours shredding our own!
It’s very time-consuming! It definitely helps to invest in a good quality shredder, it can be similar to those you can buy. You do need plenty of paper though! Remember never to use sawdust as it can irritate them and get stuck in their eyes. We have seen several pet shops use sawdust. This is simply because it’s easy to spot clean but please don’t use it as it can make your little piggies ill.
There is also the option to use guinea pig fleeces. These are fantastic and are essentially waterproof blankets that can be placed on the bottom of the living areas. They can be fairly costly but are a one-off purchase as they can go straight into the washing machine! They also brighten the cage up with their cheery patterns.
Your guinea pigs will also need some hidey holes. It’s their natural instinct to run for cover as soon as you put them in their new home. This helps them feel settled so is an important part of making your piggies feel comfortable. If you’ve done your homework you’ll already know what they are used to. Otherwise, you can’t go wrong with some plastic ice cream tubs. Turn them over and cut out a hole in. You can also buy fluffy plush beds.
Ensure you have bought the dry food they are already eating or buy it when you collect them. Bringing your guinea pig home for the first time is a big change in itself. Your guinea pigs can become distressed if you change their food straight away. Plus big changes to their diet can cause tummy upsets. After they have settled down you can change it to a different brand. It’s best to do this over a period of seven to ten days. Start by adding a little of the new food into their current one to help them get used to it.
Remember guinea pigs are like humans and cant make their own vitamin C. Bare this in mind when choosing their food. Remember to get a solid bowl they can’t tip over as well as guinea pigs love to play. You will also need plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables to feed them. Include a water bottle or bowl for them as guinea pigs need constant access to fresh, clean water.
A guinea pigs teeth constantly grow so some form of chew sticks or edible huts is required. They make a great addition to their home, plus it gives them something to do. Guinea pigs can easily get bored and it is actually bad for their health. It’s also a good idea to put some things of interest in their home. Examples are crumpled paper, wooden chews and cardboard tubes/boxes.
We have created an at a glance feeding guide for you to print out! Simply click to download:
Pet Proof your house
Guinea pigs generally spend the majority of their time inside their cage or hutch. However, out of habitat play is important too. It’s essential to have an easy to clean area inside your house for them to run around in along with providing places to hide. We love using this pen that’s perfect for our little piggies to run about in.
If you choose to let them run around in a carpeted room then ensure that all cables are covered as guinea pigs love chewing! Also, make sure to pick up anything off the floor that could be a potential choking hazard.
If you have other pets ensure you keep them away from your guinea pigs cage and in another room. No matter how friendly your existing pets are the scent of them will frighten your new guinea pigs. A few years ago pet stores were advocating keeping guinea pigs and rabbits together. They were stating that they made very good companions for one another.
Please DO NOT keep guinea pigs and rabbits together! Recent studies have shown that guinea pigs can easily be bullied by rabbits and can become injured by them. Rabbits also pass on diseases to guinea pigs. Plus guinea pigs and rabbits have different nutrition needs so they shouldn’t be kept together.
Bringing them home
It’s important to be prepared to bring your guinea pigs home in a safe and suitable manner. The majority of people will be bringing their guinea pigs back to their new home in the car so it’s important to ensure you have a suitable pet carrier to bring them home in or to ensure that the place you are getting your pets from already provide a suitable container (ours was a cardboard pet carrier filled with hay.)
If you purchase a pet carrier then it should be big enough for your guinea pigs to turn around, stand up and lay down in. You should ensure you put some hay in there as well as a carrot or similar healthy treat to help ease their travelling anxiety. If you are travelling long distances then it is advisable to also attach a water bottle to the pet carrier so a cardboard one would not be suitable for this since the cardboard would get wet and become soggy.
Another thing to be mindful of is the temperature of the car, ensure that it is not too hot or too cold remember that a guinea pigs ideal temperature is sixteen to twenty-four degrees. If you are putting more than one guinea pig in the same carrier ensure that they both have enough space and check on them frequently to ensure they are getting along together.
Make sure that the guinea pig carrier is placed securely in your car and avoid putting the radio or music on since guinea pigs have very sensitive hearing and it may also startle them.
What to expect
Usually, the instant you put your guinea pigs in their new home they will run for the nearest place to hide! This is OK and is part of the guinea pigs nature to hide. Another normal part of their behaviour is to freeze and not to move.
Both of these instinctive behaviours are perfectly normal for timid guinea pigs especially when placed in an unfamiliar place for the first time. We remember when we first bought our piggies home and they hide and didn’t appear to eat or drink for days. It turned out they just sneaked out to play when we were asleep until they were used to us and their new home.
Guinea pigs will remain skittish for a good few days until you gain their trust. We recommend not handling them for the first few days and instead of attempting to feed them treats through their cage/hutch instead. This means they will gradually trust you and associate you with them getting a treat which will help for future handling.
Although you are not handling them and they are staying in the cage for the first few days it’s important to check they are eating, drinking and passing droppings normally.
It’s important to remember that if you have rescue guinea pigs then they take longer to settle in than pet shop bought guinea pigs (according to the RSPCA.)
Welcome to the family!
We hope you enjoy bringing your guinea pig home for the first time. Being patient with them will provide a solid base for you to enjoy your new pets. We would love to hear about your guinea pigs, please let us know by commenting below!