Whether you are interested in rescuing, breeding, showing, or you’re looking for a small companion animal, guinea pigs fit the bill. They are relatively easy keepers, very prolific, easy to handle, and, of course, super adorable! There are 13 different guinea pig breeds recognized in the US by the American Rabbit Breeders Association and the American Cavy Breeders Association. Guinea pigs come in all different colors, hair types, and personalities to fit right in with you and your family.
Guinea Pig Care
Setting up a safe home for your guinea pig should be a high priority before you pick up your new family member. Whether you’re breeding cavies on a commercial scale or keeping a few cavies indoors as pets, their requirements are the same. Their space should be cleaned regularly with fresh bedding provided often, clear of all hazards (like electrical cords), regulated temperature, adequate ventilation, and fresh food and water. Clean cages and fresh bedding help to neutralize odors and reduce ammonia, which can cause respiratory challenges in guinea pigs. Make sure that anything within their reach is safe for them to chew on. This means removing hazards, like electrical cords or plugging outlets, and providing items that they will want to chew on, such as maple sticks and chew toys.
Wild ancestors of our domestic guinea pigs originated in the Andes Mountains of Peru. Given their location close to the equator, wild cavies are only accustomed to one single season and consistent, moderate temperatures. Because of this, guinea pigs are susceptible to cold and heat stress. Heat stress occurs whenever temperatures reach over 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperature stress can trigger underlying health issues, cause them to stop eating, and also cause reproductive failure. Keeping your caviary in room temperature environments, between 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit, is ideal.
Handling your guinea pigs often will help them bond with you and your family. Always pick your guinea pigs up gently, using both hands. The more you handle them, the more comfortable they will feel with you and the more you will get to see their little personalities shine. When they are accustomed to being handled, they will also experience less stress when you clean out their cages, let them roam in an exercise enclosure, or when you travel to shows with them. Less stress makes for happy guinea pigs!
Food should always be stored in a cool, dry place and inspected regularly for spoilage. Try to find a reputable feed manufacturer that uses high quality ingredients. Clean, fresh water should always be available to your guinea pigs, as well.
Feeding Guinea Pigs
Quality of feed ingredients is something that’s important to consider when selecting feed for your guinea pigs. There are several factors that affect the digestibility of feed and not all nutrient sources are created equally. Some vitamins and minerals are more bioavailable than others, forage-based fiber sources are easiest to digest, and some of the more processed ingredients out there contribute high quality proteins. Here are some ingredients to look for:
Organic Trace Minerals
Organic trace minerals, like selenium yeasts and trace minerals that are linked to hydroxychlorides, glycinates, proteinates, and sugar ligands, are significantly more bioavailable than their oxide, sulfate or carbonate counterparts. This allows for higher levels of absorption, which, in turn, protects against potential mineral deficiencies.
When guinea pigs eat food that is high in protein, that protein is broken down into nitrogen and either utilized or excreted. Excess nitrogen that gets passed in urine or feces is broken down further by bacteria to create ammonia. Environments with excess ammonia can cause a host of issues as a result of added stress and respiratory duress. Guinea pigs being fed high protein diets and alfalfa pellets/hay are most susceptible to higher levels of nitrogen excretion. Yucca schidigera extract helps reduce the release of ammonia, which helps create a safer environment for your guinea pig.
Prebiotics are specialized plant fibers that serve as food for the good bacteria in your guinea pig’s digestive system. They can help maintain a healthy gut microflora, improve metabolic health, and even boost the immune system. The introduction of prebiotics to food also optimizes the use of probiotics in the diet. Prebiotics are commonly listed on feed labels as various types of oligosaccharides (example: FOS or fructooligosaccharides).
Probiotics are types of “good bacteria” that can be added to feed and directly introduced to your guinea pig’s digestive tract. These beneficial bacteria help to neutralize bad bacteria, control inflammation, promote digestion, and support overall digestive health. Probiotics are commonly listed on feed labels as specific bacterial strains, dried active yeast, or yeast cultures.
Check out Kalmbach’s Guinea Pig Food
Our top of the line guinea pig food provides 800 ppm of stable Vitamin C, is formulated with yucca schidigera extract to control odor, and covers your guinea pig’s complete dietary needs. Click here to learn more!