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A guide to guinea pig body language

Guinea pigs are able to communicate in a variety of ways to help us understand what they are thinking and feeling. The most obvious form of communication is verbal which means that the subtle body language clues they provide are often overlooked.

Whilst its vital to understand your guinea pigs verbal behavioral patterns, learning their different types of body language is equally as useful.

Popcorning

The most amazing of sights is to see your guinea pig leap into the air (sometimes continuously!) This is also the easiest to spot. This is more common in younger guinea pigs although older piggies can often be seen leaping for joy – just not as high as their young counterparts.

Popcorning indicates pure joy and happiness, your guinea pig is literally so happy they are jumping for joy.

Our guinea pigs can frequently be found popcorning over all sorts of things – a new toy for their cage, giving them hay and even when we come in and have a chat with them.

Licking

Not only do guinea pigs purr like cats they also lick like them too! Licking is thought of as another friendly gesture that our guinea pigs do to show us how much they care.

There is some debate as to whether guinea pigs are simply tasting the skin for salt – but we like to think its to show their affection.

Snifffing

Have you ever really watched your piggie and wondered why they sniff everything so much? Ours sniff each other, the hay for eating, the hay for sleeping in, the carpet….

Sniffing is an excellent way for guinea pigs to discover what is going on and whose about. Its a very normal activity!

Rubbing / touching noses

This is a friendly greeting often exchanged between cage buddies. Our guinea pig Orange though will happily touch noses with us to show us how happy she is.

Freezing

Try not to take it personally when your guinea pig turns to stone the moment your around. This is a normal instinctive behavior that keeps wild cavies alive. In the wild, cavies will freeze in the hope that predators will find it harder to spot them.

Our domestic friends often freeze when startled or are uncertain about something. Its more common for new and young guinea pigs as they are still trying to get used to their new environments.

Our guinea pigs frequently froze when we brought them home but after a few weeks they stopped. They rarely do it now unless they are surprised or their are young children in the house.

Scent marking

Guinea pigs show their dominance to other guinea pigs through scent marking. This involves rubbing their cheeks, chins and back end on items they have claimed as their own.

Urination can also be used to the same effect to show their dominance.

Mounting

It can rather alarming to see your guinea pigs mounting each other especially if they are the same sex. When we first saw this behavior, we were convinced the pet shop had given us piggies of the opposite sex.

In same sex guinea pigs, mounting is a way of exerting dominance among the group and is very common in females.

In opposite sex piggies, mounting is to initiate breeding behavior so ensure you are fully prepared for any new arrivals.

Strutting / rumble strutting

If you spot your guinea pig shifting its weight from side to side, wiggling its hips and making a low rumbling sound then its rumble strutting.

Rumble strutting is a sign of aggression and is common in groups of guinea pigs when dominance is being established. Its important to be observant during this behavior as your piggies may end up fighting.

To calm fighting guinea pigs, the safest and most effective way is to carefully place a blanket over the top of them. This calms them down and distracts them as they become more concerned over finding the way out.

If you have fighting guinea pigs then it may be necessary to separate them either for a short time or permanently.

Fidgeting and/or running away from being picked up

Fidgeting whilst being held is common in young and new piggies. It can be an indication that they are simply fed up or being held. It may also need they need to answer natures call.

If you find that your guinea pigs fidget frequently whilst being held, it could be a sign that you need to reduce the amount of laptime and then increase it slowly.

Running away from being held is a normal guinea pig instinct and should not be taken personally. Guinea pigs are prey animals and so have defense mechanisns in place, such as running away in order to keep them safe.

Slowly, over time your guinea pigs will no longer feel the need to run away from you and will welcome the chance to be held.

Guinea pig happiness : 10 ways to tell you have a happy guinea pig

There is no better feeling in the world than knowing you have a happy guinea pig. Its conformation that all the love, attention and care you show your guinea pig is paying off. I believe every guinea pig owner’s first priority is to strive to have a healthy and happy guinea pig.

If you’re a new guinea pig owner, it can feel very overwhelming in the beginning. Uncertainly creeps in and it can be tough working out what your guinea pigs signs and body language means.

That’s why we have put together the top ten signs that you have a happy guinea pig! Its important to remember that all guinea pigs are different and your guinea pig may not show the same signs as someone elses guinea pig. Your guinea pig doesn’t have to be showing ten out of ten of this checklist. One or two shows they are perfectly happy and healthy!

1. Popcorning

There is nothing more amazing than seeing your guinea pig literally jump for joy due to sheer happiness! Popcorning is the guinea pig dance move of happiness! It is when a guinea pig runs, jumps into the air and then does it again.

It is is normally more common in younger guinea pigs. Older piggies have still been known to perform the odd popcorn however it is less noticeable. The jumps are less high and the running is slower.

Guinea pigs have many reasons to popcorn – Their favorite hay, getting fed pellets and even socialising. We have found that if a guinea pig is in a cage that is too small then they are unable to popcorn. Happy guinea pigs require plenty of space in order to popcorn. Ours when they were younger popcorned in their cage. They are older now and popcorn when they are running free during indoor playtime.

2. Wheeking

The most common of guinea pig sounds! Its hard to miss this amazing sound. Happy guinea pigs will wheek at even the mere chance of food – plastic rustling, the fridge opening and even the sight of their favorite hay.

Did you know that wild cavies do not wheek in the wild? Our domestic piggies have created this special sound just for us humans. Its their way of gently encouraging us to feed them and often works. Its hard to resist a wheeking piggie! Ours often wheek as we walk up the stairs in the hope of a little treat. We feed our happy guinea pigs chunks of cucumber and the occasional strawberry as their treats.

3. Approching

The most frustrating thing when you first bring your guinea pig home is their frequent hiding. Its nothing personal they are just made that way! Being prey animals they are the natural instinct to hide when they sense danger or are unsure of their surroundings. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing your little guinea pig emerging out of their hidey hole and exploring the world!

The next step from this is when during indoor playtime, they start coming over to you to explore. Our happy guinea pigs will even sit on our feet and play with our socks! You will find your guinea pig will approach you more and more as they gain confidence in their surroundings. Some guinea pigs will never fully approach you and will maintain a safe distance away. They may frequently run back to the nearest tunnel or shelter as well. That’s normal and natural behavior.

4. Signs of good health

A happy guinea pig is a healthy guinea pig! Happiness and healthiness go hand in hand for our little piggie friends. Ensuring your guinea pigs health is vital to a happy guinea pig. The best to perform a health check (Check out our guide to learn how) is during laptime.

The signs of a happy and healthy guinea pig are:

  • Energetic and not lethargic or limping.
  • Their normal appetite and enthusiasm for food.
  • Clear nose, dry eyes and the body free from sores / bumps
  • Lots of their usual vocal and physical signs.

If you think your guinea pig is unwell, then its best to consult a vet immediately.

5. Chilling out

A happy guinea pig can often be sign stretched out and lying down. We have special guinea pig fleece and our guinea pigs love to lay down on it. Chocolate often wraps herself up in it and has a little nap.

Guinea pigs can take a while to get to the “stretching out” point. They usually start with standing still and rather stiff. Next they move onto resting their head nearer to the ground. Finally comes the chill out! Our guinea pig orange isn’t a big fan of lying down but Chocolate adores it.

6.Licking

flickr

A happy guinea pig likes to share the happiness in the form of some licking. Similaraly to a cat, happy guinea pigs will show their happiness by licking your hand.

There is some thought that this behavior is due to guinea pigs liking the salty taste of human skin but we like to think of the licks as kisses! Plus unhappy guinea pigs have not been known to lick their owners.

7.Purring

Another cat likeness. A happy guinea pig will purr whilst enjoying laptime! A purring guinea pig indicates they are relaxed, calm and comfortable.

Its useful to beware that there are two different types of purring sounds that guinea pigs make. A low and deep grumble is the happy purr. It will be obvious as your guinea pig will exhibit other types of happy behavior (such as a relaxed posture or lying down)

A high pitch purr indicates something is wrong.

8.A big burst of energy.

Have you ever noticed your guinea pig suddently run around a space as fast as possible? Yes this is the sign of a happy guinea pig. Similarily to hamsters, guinea pigs do get a build up of energy. Wheels are unsafe for guinea pigs and a happy guinea pig will delight in running around at high speed. Our guinea pigs have a whole room to themselves and often chase and play with each other during this energy burst.

9.The stretch and yawn.

This is fairly uncommon behavior. We thought for the longest time that yawning was associated with aggressive behavior. Luckily after a serious amount of research we learned that if the yawn is accompanied with a stretch then it means to opposite. Both our guinea pigs stretch and yawn during lap time. They are obviously happy guinea pigs and want to show us.

10.Chutting.

A fairly rare sound made by guinea pigs. The name reflects the sound that is made by your piggie. Chutting mainly occurs during laptime and is thought to be a behavior reserved for those under two years.

Our happy guinea pigs only chut when they are out of their cage and exploring their room.

What do guinea pig sounds mean?

When we purchased our first guinea pigs and brought them home, we remember being really surprised about all the different sounds they made. We tried for many months to try to learn their sounds and what they mean’t. There isn’t a lot of information around the different sounds that guinea pigs make and even what they mean.

Similarly to cats and dogs, the sounds that guinea pigs make provide an indication of how they are feeling and if there is an issue. Guinea pigs can communicate in many different and unique ways and it’s important to discover what they mean. This will help you react quickly if your guinea pig is hurt or feeling threatened.

Understanding the different sounds your guinea pig makes will also help you build a closer relationship with them. This ensures a closer bond and helps you both get the most out of your time together. When you have a Happy Guinea pig, they will often spend all their day making a variety of sounds such as purring, wheeking and chortling.

Wheeking

This is probably the most common of the guinea pig sounds! Every guinea pig owner has heard this when opening the fridge or opening their hay. Guinea pigs also use it when they are asking for attention so its important to get familiar with this sound.

We keep our guinea pigs in their own room upstairs and anytime someone goes upstairs, our little piggies wheek loudly asking for us to come and play with them. They also wheek when they wish to be let out of their cage and to enjoy some floor time.

The best way to describe wheeking is it is a high pitched sound that is often repeated and comes in short, sharp, fast bursts. This sound is used to express excitement and anticipation.

A fun fact about wheeking – Wild cavies do not wheek! Wheeking is directed exclusively to humans and never happens in the wild. Guinea pigs developed this new sound as a way to express to humans that they wish to be fed – clever piggies!

Click here to listen to what wheeking sounds like.

Purring

Purring isn’t just for cats! Guinea pigs have a few different types of purr depending upon the situation they are in. A deep purring sounds usually comes during laptime and means they are relaxed, calm and comfortable.

A guinea pigs happy purr is a low and deep grumble type of purr. It will be easy to tell it’s the happy purr as your piggie will appear content and relaxed.

If your guinea pig makes a higher pitched purr, similar to a cat then this is not a happy purr. In fact its their way of telling you they are annoyed. We have found our guinea pigs tend to make this sound if they are happy and relaxed and something (or someone!) startles them.

This annoyed purr will be shorter than the happy purr and will be presented in short bursts opposed to the happy continuous rumble.

Rumbling

Rumbling is best described as a low and more active purr. A rumbling guinea pig will often walk slowly towards other guinea pigs and appear to be swinging their hips from side to side.

Rumbling is a sign of dominance used typically towards other guinea pigs. It can also be used by male guinea pigs when courting females.

A rumbling guinea pig appears to almost vibrate whilst making this sounds. A low rumble whilst the guinea pig making the sounds is walking away, indicates that the piggie is showing passive resistance to the more dominant guinea pig.

Click here to listen to what rumbling sounds like.

Chutting

This noise is fairly rare among guinea pigs so do not feel offended if your guinea pig never chuts. Chutting sound a lot like purring although your piggie will make a distinctive “chut” sounds repeatedly.

Chutting occurs during stroking mainly, however our guinea pigs chut happily whilst they explore their room. We change their room up repeatedly and they “chut” their approval. Chocolate even chuts when we fill the hay rack with her favorite hay!

Shrieking

My least favorite guinea pig sound as this one means they are sensing imminent danger or are in pain. We are lucky that we have never heard this sound from any of our guinea pigs however its definitely one to be aware of.

If you have to take your guinea pig to the vet for the first time, its common to hear this sounds from them unfortunately. If you keep a large amount of guinea pigs you also may hear this sound which is signaling that their is trouble between them.

This sounds exactly how you would think – a loud high pitch shriek similar to a shout for help.

Teeth chattering

This sound often sounds like the quick succession of teeth grinding and is a fairly common sounds. Your guinea pig will make this sound when they are feeling unhappy or agitated.

Our guinea pigs make this sound if your too playful after their nap or if they have finished their laptime before you have.

Growling

Another noise that isn’t very common. This sounds is pretty self explanatory and your guinea pig will make it when they feel distressed or threatened.

This sound is particularly important when you introduce a new piggie into the mix.

Whining

This sound is an indication that your pet is distressed or in trouble. If your guinea pig makes this sounds continoulsly then its bet to seek medical attention from a vet.

Its important to remember that all guinea pigs are individuals and yours wont make all these noises. Enjoy and celebrate the sounds they make when they are happy.

What to feed your guinea pig

A guinea pigs diet should consist of unlimited hay, grass and water. Since guinea pigs are unable to synthesis their own Vitamin C then they must rely on obtaining it from the foods they eat. The best way to contribute towards this is through vegetables. Guinea pigs love their veggies! It can be confusing as a new owner to know which foods to feed their Guinea Pigs and how often.  Below we will outline the basics which are discussed further in our  nutritional requirements article. 

Hay

The best type of Hay for your guinea pig is grass hay more specifically Timothy Hay. Guinea pigs need hay to wear their teeth down and to keep the digestive system healthy. A cost effective way is to provide a cheaper hay as bedding and to keep the more expensive grass hay to fill hay racks and containers. Guinea pigs refuse to eat soiled hay so hay racks and containers are essential.

Grass

Grass is another type of food that can be fed in unlimited supply.  A guinea pigs digestive system is designed to eat foliage and grass is a great source of nutrition. 

If you do not have access to fresh grass (they should never be fed lawn mower clippings!) then providing plenty of grass hay is essential.

Vegetables

Vegetables form a very important part to your guinea pigs diet – they provide essential vitamins and minerals whilst also wearing teeth down. Not all vegetables can be eaten daily and some are even limited to monthly due to the high sugar content.

Some owners fall into the trap of feeding the exact same combination of vegetables daily and guinea pigs can often get bored. Guinea pigs are very similar to us humans, they like a wide variety of food to keep things exciting! The recommended amount is between three and five different types of vegetables per day to ensure your guinea pig doesn’t get bored eating the same foods day after day.

Portion size is important even with vegetables. The recommended amount is to provide each guinea pig a matched boxed size portion. This would be a single lettuce leaf or a small floret of broccoli. 

Below are the vegetables suitable for daily consumption:

Daily

  • Peppers any color – 1 Slice
  • Celery – 1 – 2 slices
  • Cucumber – 1 slice
  • Coriander – 1 – 2 springs 
  • Green Beans – 1 bean
  • Gem Lettuce – 1 leaf

These are the quantities for one pig and should be adjusted if you have more than one piggie.

Two to Four times per week

Whilst the above are recommended for daily consumption by your guinea pig, those with a varied diet will be much happier and healthy than those subjected to the same meal day in and day out. The above is a great sample diet to use as a starting base. All the foods listed below can be eaten more frequently:

  • Artichoke
  • Carrots
  • Collard Greens
  • Parsnip
  • Savoy

Fruit

Guinea pigs can also eat certain types of fruit, however this shouldn’t be a daily treat. Fruit has a much higher sugar content that vegetables and should only be given once or twice a week as a treat. Guinea pigs that eat too much sugar suffer from obesity. Some types of fruit also contain high levels of acidity levels and this can cause sores around your guinea pigs mouth. 

  • Apple
  • Apricot
  • Bananana
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Cherries
  • Grapefruit
  • Grapes
  • Kiwi Fruit
  • Mango
  • Nectarine
  • Orange
  • Peach
  • Pear
  • Pineapple
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Watermelon

Remember these are a treat and shouldn’t be fed to your guinea pig on a daily basis. 

If you have any questions about your Guinea Pigs Diet please don’t hesitate to get in contact with us!

The Ultimate Guinea Pig Meal Planner Guide

Choosing your guinea pigs food each day can often seem rather complicated! We frequently get asked how to plan out a guinea pigs meals to ensure they are eating healthy without being bored. The internet often offers a variety of conflicting information.

This is why we have decided to put together our “Ultimate Guinea Pig Meal Planner Guide” Before reading this guide its useful to read our other articles on Guinea Pig Nutritional Requirements along with What to feed your guinea pig.

The Wheekwell Guide is our version of “The Eatwell guide” which is a document produced in the UK that shows how much we should eat everyday. It also includes the different food groups humans should be eating from.

The Wheekwell Guide shows what your guinea pig should be eating everyday and which vitamins they require.  Its a simple, easy to use guide for new owners and a reference point for guinea pig veterans owners!

The Wheekwell Guide Overview

This chart shows your guinea pigs general daily requirements. These quantities are what you should aim for daily.

Wheekwell guide

As you can see 80% of your guinea pigs diet should come from Hay. Grass hay in particular is the best for wearing down teeth and aids a healthy digestive system. 

10% Should come from dried guinea pig pellets. Not all pellets are equal so aim to buy the ones that are not too high in calcium as this can lead to kidney and bladder stones. An easy way to check if your guinea pig has too much calcium in their diet is to watch out for milky white deposits in their urine.

Choose pellets that also have vitamin C added since guinea pigs are unable to make their own like us! Our favourites (and the ones we have used for all our guinea pigs) are Excel Burgess Nuggets

Its important to remember that fresh water should also be included for your guinea pig! 

The remaining 10% of the Wheekwell Overview chartsis for vegetables and herbs which we will cover in greater detail below:

The Wheekwell Daily Plate

We have created the Wheekwell Daily Plate to show how to choose your meals for your guinea pig friends. There are also suggestions included as to what to choose for each category.

The below is the recommended amount each day for one guinea pig. We feed our guinea pigs vegetables and herbs twice a day.

One Vegetable High in Vitamin C

Guinea pigs need to be fed Vitamin C rich foods daily in order to keep healthy and ward off disease. If your vet has advised you that your guinea pig has a Vitamin C deficiency then its especially important to provide them with foods rich in Vitamin C. One portion is one chunk, slice or several leaves for the leafy vegetables.

  • Celery Leaves – Chop into small chunks and remove “vein” to avoid chocking
  • Collard Greens
  • Swiss and Red chard – Can cause diarrhoea
  • Spinach – Use caution as too much can cause kidney and bladder stones
  • Kale (curly or plain)
  • Brussels Sprouts – Introduce slowly as may cause bloating
  • Peppers – sweet or bell. Any colour – 
    Introduce slowly as may cause bloating

One herb rich in Minerals

Minerals are essential for healthy guinea pigs and the best way to provide these for your piggy is using herbs. Never feed your guinea pig dried herbs or frozen. Fresh is best and they are very easy to grow. One portion is a sprig or two.

  • Parsley (curly or plain) – It is high in calcium though
  • Coriander
  • Dandelion Greens – Ensure these are free from animal urine if collecting from the wild.
  • Mint
  • Thyme

One portion Mineral and Vitamin C rich vegetable

Cabbage type vegetables are great for this requirement! They contain both magnesium and Vitamins however they can cause bloating. Below are a selection of vegetables for this category. One portion is one slice, chunk or a few leaves.

  • Broccoli  – Stems best to feed opposed to florets. Can cause bloating.
  • Cabbage – Can cause bloating.
  • Cauliflower – Can cause bloating.
  • Corn on the cob
  • Radishes
  • Spring Green – the mildest of the group and able to be eaten almost daily. 

Other Green Stuff

The last guinea pig requirement is just some plain old greens to keep it interesting! Its vital to get your guinea pigs used to a wide range of foods when their young as they tend to get rather fussy when they are older! 

  • Cucumber
  • Courgette
  • Lettuces – Red, green, butter, romaine but NEVER iceberg as it has no nutritional value.
  • Carrots – Contain high amounts of Vitamin A which can cause liver problems
  • Turnip
  • Parsnip

We have also created The Wheekwell Daily Plate Printable for your use. Its great to have on the fridge or somewhere else that you will see it. Simply click to download!

The Wheekwell Daily Plate

Introduce dietary changes slowly and always with other food, never on its own. Keep a close watch over your guinea pig and during its health check to watch for any changes. 

Remember to consult your vet immediately if you think something may be wrong with your guinea pig.

Guinea Pig Nutritional Requirements

It can seem rather overwhelming when you do a simple online search for what to feed your guinea pig. We remember when we first researched guinea pig nutritional requirements. We were fairly shocked to read you feed them three times a day. It seems like a huge amount but after owning guinea pigs a numerous years now you can see why they need it!

Helping-your-guinea-pigs-settle-in

Guinea pigs do not eat meat, high amounts of carbohydrates or fatty foods. They are very strict herbivores.They should never be fed meat or diary products! When it comes to feeding your guinea pig, its useful to remember that in the wild they live in the hills and mountains of the Andes, Peru. They spend their days grazing on fresh grass and other plant materials. 

We will cover the basics of guinea pigs nutritional requirements in this article.

Vitamin C

Guinea pigs are rather like humans in the sense that we both can not make our own vitamin C. Guinea pigs, like us rely on getting their daily recommended allowance of vitamin C from their food alone. In order for a guinea pig to intake vitamin C you need to provide suitable vegetables and a small amount of pellet food to ensure they do not suffer from disease.  Most experts agree that at least five milligrams per kilogram of body weight is the requirement on Vitamin C for your guinea pig but as a rule of thumb twenty milligrams a day is preferred. 

Whilst this may sound a large quantity in comparison to your fairly small guinea pig, it is actually easily obtained by feeding your piggie a supply of fresh vegetables (along with the occasional sweet fruity treat.) Liquid drops of Vitamin C are also available to be added to water. We recommended speaking to a vet before administrating to your pet. 

Grass and Hay

Guinea pigs LOVE grass and hay! If your guinea pig lives outside or has access to an outside space then you are safe to let them graze on it all day! A word of caution: if your guinea pig does live outside, remember they shouldn’t be kept on wet grass. Guinea pigs little furry bellies lie close next to the ground. If walking on wet grass, it will make their tummy wet and can cause colds and pneumonia. 

happy-guinea-pig

If your guinea pig doesn’t live outside, don’t worry as there are still ways of providing them with grass. We cut our lawn with a pair of scissors and bring it in for them. We place it in hay racks and various containers for them to graze on.

Grass hay can also be purchased. Hay is such an important part of a guinea pigs diet and it is crucial for  their survival. Guinea pigs love hay – sleeping in it, eating it, digging in it and of course leaving their droppings in it too.  It provides a nutritional requirement as well as being good fun for guinea pigs. Grass hay aids proper digestion along with the constant chewing action serving to wear down teeth ensuring they don’t become overgrown. The best type of hay is Timothy hay.

Guinea pigs should have hay on the floor of their cage for sleeping in. Since they do leave droppings in it, it is also essential to get a hay rack to ensure they are eating clean hay. A guinea pig will often refuse to eat hay that has been soiled on. A hay rack is really important to ensure they are eating enough hay. A constant supply of clean hay should be provided daily. 

A cost effective way to manage your money whilst also providing unlimited hay for your guinea pigs is to buy a cheaper hay for ground cover and the more expensive Timothy Hay to put into various racks around the cage. This also saves on wastage.

Pellets

Guinea pigs also need to eat dry pellets as part of their daily nutritional needs. It is important to buy pellets that are made specifically for guinea pigs. Do not to use those intended for rabbits as they do not have the same nutritional needs. Guinea pig pellets have Vitamin C added to them. Avoid feeding your guinea pig brightly colored pellets as these rarely contain any nutritional benefits. Guinea pigs tend to leave the most nutritious pellets to the end. 

Guinea pig pellets often come fortified with vitamins, minerals and calcium.  Calcium is required to keep teeth and bones healthy, however too much can be dangerous to your guinea pig. Its useful to watch out for any white deposits in your piggies urine. This can be a sign that the food has too much calcium in it. A high intake in calcium can lead to formation of bladder stones. 

According to the RSPCA, the recommended amount of guinea pig pellets per day is one handful.

Vegetables 

Guinea pigs love vegetables! Vegetables are a crucial part  to a guinea pigs diet. The best type of vegetables are romaine lettuce and spring greens. Ensure you feed your guinea pig a variety of vegetables daily to ensure they have a good mixture to snack on all day. Guinea pigs can also eat small quantities of fruit and herbs as a treat but due to the high sugar content of fruit, this shouldn’t be happening daily. The RSPCA have a wonderful food chart that helps form the basis of your guinea pigs meal plan:

Water

guinea-pig-water-bottle

Its important to ensure your guinea pig has a constant supply of fresh, clean water. It can be provided in with a water bowl or water bottle. Ensure you clean the water and bottle / bowl daily to prevent the build up of bacteria that could make your piggy ill.

Cecotropes (soft feces)

Yeah unfortunately we are talking droppings! You may have noticed that your guinea pig produces two types of dropping: A hard type and a dark, shiny one. The latter is the one they eat and usually straight from the source (IE their bottom.) Whilst its slightly odd to us humans, guinea pigs practice coprophagy which is the eating of this special type of dropping. 

These special types of droppings are actually full of Vitamin B and Vitamin K which is essential to a guinea pig’s good  health. Studies have shown that guinea pigs prevented from eating these special droppings develop malnutrition and die. 

A Quick and Effective Guinea Pig Health Check

Giving your Guinea Pig a quick but Effective Health check should be a priority for all owners. Guinea pigs although shy and timid are actually fairly hardy when  it comes to health. Give them a clean cage, grooming, social interactions and plenty of the correct food then they will rarely become sick.

Guinea pigs can get ill of course but it very rarely happens without warning signs and we mean A LOT of warning signs. If you have a sick guinea pig, you should be able to tell through your numerous interactions throughout the day. The best way to ensure your guinea pigs health is to do a quick health check at least once a week.

We check our guinea pigs daily for signs of ill health more out of habit than necessity. Its not just cuddles for our Chocolate and Orange. We constantly give them a quick check over to ensure they are happy and healthy.

Why you should perform a health check on your guinea pigs


Many people believe that the smaller the animal then the less amount of care it requires but this isn’t the case. A guinea pig can get illness and diseases just like other animals. If these are spotted in the early stages then it minimises not only your animals discomfort but also cuts down the vets bill! Be warned though, guinea pigs will hide injury and illness fairly well since they are predator targets.

In the wild a sick or injured guinea pig is easier prey! It isn’t too hard to spot a limp, loss of appetite or discomfort if you have a great bond with your guinea piggies. The main thing to watch out for is if a guinea pig refuses a treat – something is defiantly wrong.

It can be really upsetting if your guinea pig is unwell but there are many things you can do to keep your guinea pig happy and healthy. Below we will detail how to perform a quick and easy health check along with recommendations on how you can help keep your guinea pig healthy. 

Signs to watch out for

If your guinea pig is already experiencing any of the list below then please take them to the vet IMMEDIATELY!

  • Runny eyes or nose
  • Skin conditions such as rashes, lumps, bumps or swellings
  • Limping
  • Unusual bleeding
  • Diarrhea
  • Drinking much more or less than normal
  • Big weight loss or weight gain over a short time
  • Not eating
  • Overgrown teeth
  • Lack of energy/sleeping more than usual
  • Signs of pain, like not wanting to be touched
  • A change in their usual behaviour, as this could be because they’re feeling poorly.

The health check up list

All these checks are quick and easy to do – just add it into your normal lap time!

Eyes

Take a look at your guinea pigs eyes – they should be clear, bright and fully open. There shouldn’t be any clear discharge, watering or crustiness. If you spot a white milky subsistence (usually in the corner) don’t panic. This is normal and is used for your little piggie to clean their face and body. 

To prevent eye problems ensure you use hay and not straw as straw can poke your piggy in the eye. 

Ears

Guinea pigs have ear wax just like their human owners! This means that they do require a little clean once every two weeks. In  our experience long haired guinea pigs do tend to have a greater build up of ear wax but if you start with once every two weeks and adjust as needed. Its really easy to clean your piggies easy, although a little scary the first time.

Take regular cotton buds (Q tips) and ensure the end is moistened but not wet. You can buy Mineral oil and add just one or two drops if you wish. The gently clean the outer ear to remove any visible dirt or wax. DO NOT INSERT ANYTHING INTO THE OUTER EAR. You could seriously hurt your little guinea pigs if you do. If you think there is a large build up of wax please take your piggie to the vet. 

The outer ear should also be clean, free from crusting and smooth. They should also be free from unusual markings or black dots as these are signs of infection. Ensure you check behind their little ears as well. Remember dirty ears attract mites. 

To prevent ear problems ensure you clean the outer ear once every two weeks. 

Nose

The nose should be clean and free from discharge. Guinea pigs do the cutest little sneezes! If your guinea pig is sneezing excessively (more than normal) this could be a sign of a cold or worse pneumonia so please consult your vet. 

To prevent cold and pneumonia ensure your guinea pigs are warm, have plenty of bedding such as hay and are away from drafts.

Breathing

Your guinea pigs breathing should be smooth, regular and quiet. There shouldn’t be any wheezing or laboured breathing. 

Teeth and mouth

There should be no sores, cuts or blood on your guinea pigs mouth. The teeth should be neat, and not overgrown. If their teeth are overgrown it could be a sign that you aren’t provided enough items to wear down the teeth and need to be taken to a vet straight away.

All guinea pigs teeth constantly grown throughout their lives and all their teeth look different. Its worth getting familiar with the look of your guinea pigs teeth so its easy to spot any changes or warning signs. We tickle our guinea pigs chins so they smile and we can sneak a quick look at their teeth! The chin and jaw of your guinea pig should be free from bumps and lumps.

To prevent overgrown teeth ensure you provide plenty of hay and chew-able objects along with vegetables to wear down the teeth. 

The coat

Your guinea pigs fur should be shiny and look healthy. There shouldn’t be any bald patches or signs of thinning fur. There shouldn’t be any red patches or bleeding skin. The tummy should be soft and very warm. It shouldn’t be hard or swollen. The body should be free from bites and scratch marks. The fur should be smooth and free from tangles and matted parts.

To prevent mites ensure you use the correct type of bedding and act immediately by taking your guinea pig to the vet if you think something is wrong.

The bottom

Yes unfortunately this area needs checking too! Its worth mentioning that guinea pigs have a grease gland at the base of the spine. Its hard to find at first but once you’ve located it you’ll always be able to find it. Some guinea pigs have a very active grease gland whilst others don’t. The gland is used for scenting and marking their cages or hutches. Its easy to tell if your guinea pig has an active grease gland as the fur covering it will be slightly greasy and tacky. If you do not clear this residue then it will build up and create an infection. To clean the grease gland simply rub coconut oil over the gland and wipe off with a wet wash cloth. Allow your guinea pig to dry thoroughly and place back into a clean cage or hutch.

Their bottom region should be clean and dry. Wetness can indicate something as simple as having long hair or something more serious such as a bladder infection. Ensure there are no droppings tangled up in fur around the bottom.

Feet

Guinea pigs are similar to humans in the sense that they don’t have hair on the soles of their feet! Your guinea pigs feet should be soft and free from cuts or sores. Red or sore feet can be a sign that your guinea pigs cage needs cleaning out more often or more thoroughly. If your guinea pig has sores or cuts on their feet, take them to the vet immediately. Do not try to clean them or treat them yourselves.  Guinea pigs that walk on wire cages (please don’t buy these types of cages!) or have untreated cuts and sores are liable to get a bacterial infection known as Bumblefoot. 

The nails shouldn’t be overgrown or excessively pointy. Check out our guide to caring for your guinea pigs nails. 

Weight

Its a good idea to weight your guinea pigs weekly so you can easily spot when something is wrong.

As always watch your guinea pigs and take note if they seem a little down or bored. Remember to change their cage and floor area daily to stop them getting bored! 

Indoor play time for your Guinea pig

It is common for new guinea pig owners to be completely unaware of  play time (both indoor and outdoor.) Its common knowledge that guinea pigs need holding, feeding and their cage or hutch cleaning, but very little information is given out about hosting indoor or outdoor play time (also known as floor time.) Whether your guinea pig lives inside or outside, play time is still essential to having happy, healthy little piggies! We recommend indoor playtime whether your guinea pig lives inside or out. 

Why guinea pigs need indoor play time

Wild cavies are constantly active and their domestic relatives, guinea pigs are no different. Guinea pigs need daily interactions, social time as well as plenty of exercise. Unless your cage or hutch is enormous then its likely your guinea pig will benefit from some playtime in an environment they are safe to explore.

Don’t forget how curious guinea pigs are! They just love exploring and giving them an extra space to run, popcorn and explore will help keep them healthy along with preventing obesity. Due to guinea pigs curious nature, its common for them to become bored stuck in a cage or hutch all day. Allowing them to have a large, safe place to explore can relieve that boredom. 

Guinea pigs that don’t have access to a large open space to run in often become bored, depressed, hold extra weight and interact less with their owners. Hosting playtime also lets you spend extra time with your guinea pigs and watch how they move and play. In time your guinea pig will interact with you. Ours run through our legs, lean against our backs and generally come over to investigate what we are doing! 

The best places for indoor play

 A clear, dedicated area is required for indoor play time. The area needs to be away from other pets and is safe for your guinea pig to run around. Some people have a whole room dedicated to their guinea pigs and so the guinea pigs are able to run free after the room has been safeguarded.

If you don’t have a whole room to spare then you can make a playpen from cardboard boxes, use a large easily manipulated cage or buy a dedicated playpen for guinea pigs. Ensure whichever form of play pen you choose that your guinea pigs are in a draft free area and they are protected from loud noises. 

How to set up your playpen 

The floor should either one that’s easy to clean or be covered with a waterproof fleece or piece of material. Guinea pigs have very small bladders so do expect multiple droppings and little accidents.

Guinea pigs shouldn’t be placed on any hard surface that could damage their feet or legs. They are delicate creatures with tiny bones. If you are not using fleece then a thick old towel with a soft blanket over the top is fine. Choose any blanket or fleece that is easy to place in the washing machine but remember not to tumble dry since this makes fleeces ineffective. 

If you are creating a closed playpen then you can use cardboard boxes. Ensuring they can’t be moved easily by your piggies. Or you can buy a specially designed pet playpen. They are easy to clean especially if you buy one with a waterproof blanket for the floor. The bars can be easily wiped clean as and when needed.

Don’t forget to put things inside the playpen for your little guinea pigs to play with and explore. Our favorites are tunnels, hideouts and PVC tunnels which can be chewed on. We always put some cardboard boxes to be chewed through along with some upturned old ice cream tubs to be used as “poop trays.”

Swap the toys you put in the playpen the same way you do with their cages and hutches to ensure they don’t get bored with the same toys. 

How to start indoor play time 

If your guinea pig is a new arrival or has never had indoor play time then its important to remember to be patience. Ensure the playpen is out of household foot traffic and isn’t in a noisy area of your house. To start, ensure you have set up the playpen and have it all ready for their arrival.

Next carefully hold your guinea pig and place it inside the playpen. Its likely it will run for the nearest cover, make sure the playpen is all set up before you start. Don’t take their running personally. Guinea pigs are prey animals so its their nature to run and hide in their favorite hideout. We always like to sit with our guinea pigs during floor time.

For the first few times sit in the playpen and talk calmly, trying not to make any sudden movements. Its best to start getting them used to floor time by letting them spend a smaller amount of time in the beginning and watching how they behave. Refrain from touching them or picking them up during this time.

This is their special time to run, play and explore. Gradually increase the time they spend having play time and eventually you will have your guinea pigs confident enough to investigate everything in it – even you! 

How long should floor time be

This is a question we get asked a lot and many sites give many different answers. It is recommended between one to four hours a day. If your guinea pig lives outside and has a large run then it is likely to need less than four hours. If your guinea pig lives inside, then it is depend upon how large their cage is.

Many pet shops sell cages that are far too small for guinea pigs to live in once they get past six months old.

We have found that whilst it depends on the personality of your guinea pig, it is useful to host indoor play time in a place that your guinea pigs can access their cage safely. This way they are able to dictate when they have had enough. Our guinea pigs generally have around two hours of indoor play.

This is broken up into two one hour sessions. It varies on what we are doing that day, or how our little piggies are feeling. As a general rule they should be having at least one hour floor time.  A good rule of thumb is the smaller your guinea pigs cage, the longer their floor time should be. 

Ideally indoor floor time should take place at the same time each time each day and should take place daily. Obviously life is unpredictable so missing the odd indoor floor time isn’t the worst thing. Just make sure they are getting out at least once every other day. 

Guinea pig lap time: The ultimate way to bond with your piggie

A natural part of having pets is wanting to bond and have special “together time” along with companionship. All pets enjoy this human interaction and guinea pigs are no exception! We’ve found that a great number of pet shops undersell the amount of attention and companionship that guinea pigs need. Lap time (or cuddle time!) should form part of your daily routine and is important for both you and your guinea pig friends.

The importance of lap time

happy-guinea-pig

Bonding with your guinea pig is an important part of learning to care for them properly. From the moment you bring your guinea pig home, the bonding process begins and it is great for you as well as your guinea pig. The more time you spend with your guinea pigs, the more used to you they become. They may still run for cover when you go into the room or near the hutch since that’s part of their “run from predators” nature however they will be eating out of your hand (literally) the more time you spend with them.

A guinea pig that is handled frequently will be more tame, calm and relaxed in their day to day life. They will feel comfortable in their environment and will love exploring when it comes to indoor play! Guinea pigs are social and love the attention from humans as well as their own kind. The more you talk to them and the more that they have time on your lap the happier and more comfortable with you they will become.

We often get comments on how confident happy and calm our guinea pigs are and this didn’t happen through chance. The more time and love you put into caring for your guinea pigs, the more love you will get back.

Lap time is an important part of bonding as it gives you one on one time with them to just enjoy being with each other.  I often find myself just chatting away to our little piggies as they listen, Chocolate in particular will just lie down and listen to me whilst Orange climbs right up to my face!

Without lap time your guinea pig will stay scared of being picked up or held and will always run for cover when approached. They won’t respond to your voice and will always hide whenever you are near.

How to introduce lap time

If you have a new guinea pig, then you should start with our how to hold your guinea pig for the first time article. If you’ve had your guinea pigs a while and have tried and given up on lap time then its useful to refresh yourself on how to hold them. Its always best to start slowly when introducing lap time to guinea pigs, so don’t expect them to sit for hours and be happy with it.

We recommend always keeping a towel, thick blanket or a training pad used for puppies since guinea pigs have very small bladders and are known for leaking on their owners. The last thing you want during lap time is to be uncomfortable or wet as your guinea pig will feel like something is wrong and may become afraid. Ensure you have somewhere not too far away from their cage or hutch so you are not walking up and down stairs the first few times you get your guinea pigs used to lap time.

Set the area up before you bring your guinea pigs out, having their favorite tasty treat is also great to have as this will help your guinea pigs associate lap time with treats. We usually start with a maximum of five minutes for the first few attempts at lap time. Refrain from brushing your guinea pig during their first few outings and just stroke them gently, talking softly whilst they are munching!

If they start squeaking or trying to run for cover, calmly place them back inside their home. Try not to feel down heartened as it can take several weeks or months for some guinea pigs to get used to lap time.

Duration and frequency of lap time

happy-guinea-pig

This is a question that we get asked quite frequently and the answer isn’t as straight forward as we’d like! The duration of your lap time should be based around your guinea pigs reactions to it along with their personality. Some guinea pigs are happy to sit on their owners knees for a good hour before wishing to head home whilst others never really take to it and are fairly relieved to go back after ten minutes.

The best indication is to take the lead from your guinea pig, if they become nibbly, biting at your clothes, trying to dig, wriggle or make a high pitch squeak then its fair to say its time to put them back inside! We would say a good duration of lap time would be between ten minutes to one hour, but do let your guinea pig decide. One day they may be happy to sit whilst other days they desperately want to go back inside their hidey hole.

Can I watch TV with my guinea pigs?

Another question we get asked a lot! Guinea pigs love sound due to their poor eyesight so there is no harm in your guinea pig watching TV with you as long as the program isn’t excessively noisy and contains sounds such as gun shots, loud music or drums. Obviously don’t sit too close to the TV and ensure your attention isn’t solely focused on your favorite show.

We would advise that young children do not hold guinea pigs whilst watching TV as they tend to become too distracted and may forget they are also caring for a guinea pig. With regards to frequency, We would advise that between once and twice a day is perfect for your guinea pig especially since they will also be enjoying indoor play time, again take the lead from your guinea pig.

Do guinea pigs enjoy lap time?

All guinea pigs are different and some guinea pigs love lap time, others will get used to it with time whilst a few hate it always and forever! There are several ways to make lap time more enjoyable for your guinea pig, ensuring you are calm and relaxed helps them learn there is nothing to fear, along with using the same blanket or fleece each time you hold them.

They will associate it with lap time. Feeding them vegetables can also help to settle an anxious piggie. Remember some piggies are more active during lap time then others as well!

What to do if your guinea pig doesn’t like lap time

Firstly its important to remember guinea pigs are not toys and so not all like to be cuddled! Patience is key along with using the tips above. Never force lap time. Starting slowly with just a two minute lap time and building up can work wonders as can combining lap time and indoor play.

This way you can let them run over your legs without you touching them. They will learn that your not so scary and you can slowly introduce stroking them. Do not force them into lap time though, if it causes them distress to have lap time, increase indoor play and spend your time sitting next to their cage and talking to them instead.

How to care for your guinea pigs claws

A guinea pigs claws grow constantly and they are unable to keep the nails short themselves. Wild cavies walk around on hard surfaces which is an excellent way to keep their claws short, however for  domestic guinea pigs it is unsafe for them to do this as it may result in injury.  Caring for your guinea pigs nails should form part of your daily routine as long nails can result in broken foot bones or Bumblefoot which is a bacterial infection of the foot. Long guinea pig nails can grow straight and others can grow curling up which can cause considerable discomfort to your guinea pig.

The nails of young guinea pigs grown sharp and pointed, but regular clipping can help to blunt their sharpness. A guinea pigs nails change as they age and older guinea pig nails are brittle and can grow more misshapen. Some people believe placing a stone inside the cage or sandpaper is a way of keeping the nails short but we have found these methods do not work and can result in injury to your little guinea pig friend.

What you will need

Not much equipment is required for clipping your guinea pigs. You should invest in some good quality round ended scissors like these that we use although there are some other good choices such as these nail clippers or these more open scissors.

Its also useful to have a towel and  fleece blanket to hand so you can place the towel on your knee to protect from scratch claws trying to run away. The fleece can be wrapped around the guinea pig for comfort and to try to suppress the struggling. Its also worth investing in some styptic powder as this will help stop the bleeding if you cut the nails down too far and into the quick.

How to cut your guinea pigs nails

  1. Set up your items listed above in a safe area. Its useful to cut your guinea pigs nails on top of a counter or on top of a table.
  2. Pick up your guinea pig and give them a fuss in order to reassure them.
  3. Wrap your guinea pig up in the fleece to help them feel safe and secure. Its a good idea to use the same fleece each time you trim their nails as it will help them get used to the whole process. This should lead to them feeling more and more comfortable each time. Ensure you don’t wrap your guinea pig up too tightly or cover their head. We usually leave their front paws sticking out at this stage as they are the ones we clip first.
  4. Give your guinea pig a treat and get them to sit comfortably either on your lap or on top of the table or counter top, ensuring they are safe and unable to fall off. Make sure all other food is out of sight (and smell) range as otherwise your guinea pig will be restless trying to get to the food that is nearby. Give your guinea pigs lots of attention and fuss.
  5. Take a gentle but firm hold of your guinea pigs front leg – Don’t be surprised if your guinea pig wriggles it free and tucks it back in! It take practice and patience to get adapt at cutting your guinea pigs nails. If your guinea pig becomes distressed simply release the leg your holding and give your guinea pig reassurance. You can stop and start this process as many times as your guinea pig needs in order to feel comfortable.
  6. Once you’ve managed to hold onto your guinea pigs leg, steady the nail between your thumb and index finger as this ensures you have a good grip. Try not to squeeze or hold to tightly as this will cause your guinea pig harm. We prefer to chose the nail at the end of the foot and then work our way inside so its easy to keep track of which one we are up to.
  7. Pick up your nail trimmers of choice and identify the nail. This is easier to do on pale nailed guinea pigs opposed to darker ones. A guinea pigs nails are made up of a quick and the actual nail so its a challenge not to trim the quick. The quick is a blood vessel that runs up the nail but not right to the very end which is why its advisable to trim just the tip off. The more you trim your guinea pigs nails the more you will be able to judge the appropriate amount to trim.
  8. Carry on cutting the rest of your guinea pigs nails if they are happy. If they are uncomfortable and desperately trying to get away then give them a treat and stop there. Never try to force your guinea pig to “hold still” as this will cause your guinea pig harm and distress.

What to do if you cut the quick.

The hardest thing about trimming your guinea pigs nails is surprisingly not the actual act of cutting the nail. Guinea pigs hardly ever sit still during nail trimming time and its hard to judge where the quick is. For light clawed guinea pigs it should be fairly easy to see the blood under each nail thus making it easy to avoid.

For darker clawed guinea pigs you can shine a light underneath the nail in order to see the blood vessel and avoid it. Of course accidents happen and whilst it feels terrible to make your guinea pig bleed, it wont cause any lasting damage to your guinea pig. If you do cut the quick just use the styptic powder to stop the bleeding and comfort your piggie. If the bleeding continues then simply apply a little pressure for one to two minutes and it should stop the bleeding. If it still bleeds after this then consult your vet.

How often should you trim your guinea pigs nails

Aim for fortnightly to once a month to trim the guinea pigs nails. When you trim the nails regularly, you prevent the quick from growing too far up the nails which results in less chance that you will cut it by accident.

What to do if your guinea pig hates having its nails trimmed

There are two solutions here, the first is to practice getting your guinea pig used to it. This involves going through the routine as above for cutting the nails but without actually cut the nails. This routine gets your guinea pig used to having its paws and claws handled. Ensure you give lots of praise, petting and treats during these practice sessions. Then gradually introduce trimming the nails.

Start with just trimming one and then stopping. Gradually build up to two nails each time and eventually your guinea pig should be comfortable with having its nails trimmed. Alternatively, you can take your guinea pig elsewhere to get their nails trimmed. Check with your local vets if they offer that service and some pet shops with grooming sections also offer nail cutting services for a fee.

How to care for sharp opposed to long nails

If your guinea pigs nails are just sharp or if they are sharp whilst waiting for their monthly trim at the vets then using a simple nail file is perfect. There are no special nail files for guinea pigs but we prefer to use these ones as they are small enough to sneak a quick file in whilst our piggies are having their lap time treats.

The most important thing to remember is if your not confident trimming your guinea pigs nails or they really seem to hate it, then consult your vet on where to take them to have it performed by a professional.