Guinea Pigs Planet


                                    Care and Feeding

Your Guinea Pigs' Home
Bigger is better! For the health and well-being of your guinea pigs, beyond the minimums, provide as large a living area as you can manage. Cubes and Coroplast (C&C) cages are an easy and inexpensive alternative to the small cages used by breeders and those sold at pet stores. Follow the minimum cage size standards of 7.5 or 10.5 square feet and you will see your own guinea pig's behavior improve significantly. Enjoy the new antics of your happier, healthier, and perkier guinea pigs in their proper environment. 


     Paper -- Processed paper products like Care FRESH and Yesterday's News 
     Hay & Others -- Hay, Towels, and EnviroTiles

     AVOID -- Cedar, corncob bedding, straw, etc. 
     Favorites -- How pet owners make it all work

The most commonly used beddings are pine shavings and processed paper products but you will find a number of interesting and sometimes innovative beddings. Some pet owners who have embraced large cages, perhaps constructing a CC cage have found that lining the cage with fleece or towels (used in combination with litter boxes) is a workable solution.

Be sure to look over the Favorites page and see if one of the recommendations is right for you. The 
Hints and Tips will help you make a selection that will work for you. Be prepared to experiment, for when it comes to bedding, there is no single best choice.

Health Tip: Keeping the living area clean is vital to good health. A build up of ammonia is not only objectionable to the pet owner, but hard on your pet's respiratory system. Determine what works best for you by trying different beddings and be sure to use a large cage.

What To Feed Your Guinea Pig

Large, unlimited amounts of fresh hay should be offered daily. Young guineas should be introduced to hay as soon as they can eat on their own. Mixed grass hay or Timothy hay is preferred because it is lower in calories and calcium than alfalfa. It is also higher in fiber

¼ cup per day of pellets (no added dried anything!) for adult guinea pigs. Unlimited pellets for guinea pigs younger than 6 months
TRY TO FEED 3 VEGETABLE SERVINGS PER DAY. BE SURE ONE IS SOME TYPE OF LEAFY GREEN. PLEASE, NO MORE THAN 1 SERVING OF ANY GIVEN VEGETABLE!! A variety is necessary in order to obtain the necessary nutrients, with one each day that contains Vitamin A. Add one vegetable to the diet at a time. Eliminate if it causes soft stools or diarrhea.Limit fruits to 1-2 tablespoons per 2 lbs. of body weight (none if dieting) from the list below of high fiber fruits. USE FRUIT ONLY ONCE OR TWICE A WEEK. Sugary fruits such as bananas and grapes should be used only sparingly. Guineas have a sweet tooth and if left to their own devices will devour sugary foods to the exclusion of healthful ones.

(!)=Use no more than twice a week. High in either oxalates or goitrogens and may be toxic in accumulated quantities over a period of time. 
(*)=Use no more than twice a week.

Vegetables: Alfalfa, radish & clover sproutsBasilBeet greens (tops)*Bok choyBroccoli (mostly leaves/stems)* - 1 FLORET &  STEM
Brussels Sprouts - 1 Sprout

Carrot - 1 to 2 baby carrots or equivalent
Carrot tops* 
Celery – 2 INCHES, cut in 1 inch pieces
Chard (red or green)* - 1 LEAF
Cilantro – 6 - 8 STEMS AND LEAVES
Clover – 10 
Collard greens* - 1 LEAF
Cucumber – 1 SLICE
Dandelion greens and flowers (no pesticides)* - 6 LARGE OR 10 SMALL
Green peppers – 1 SLICE
Kale (!)* - 1 LEAF
Mustard greens* - 1 LEAF
Parsley* - 6 - 8 STEMS AND LEAVES
Pea pods (the flat edible kind)*
Peppermint leaves
Radichio – ½ CUP
Radish tops – 3 LEAVES
Raspberry leaves
Romaine lettuce (no iceberg or light colored leaf) or red/green leaf - 2 LEAVES
Wheat grass


Strawberries Melon 
Orange (including peel) 
No Hay or Hay as a Treat ONLY or Wrong Hay
Not giving guinea pigs unlimited Timothy Hay around the clock is a big mistake. Many people don't seem to know that guinea pigs NEED hay. Many people buy the hay they find at the pet store, the most commonly found packaged hay is Alfalfa hay. Many people buy Alfalfa hay because that is what the pet store people told them to buy. Alfalfa hay should only be given to pregnant mothers and growing babies. Alfalfa hay has too much calcium and other nutrients which can cause bladder stones in guinea pigs. Timothy hay helps their digestive system and is the best way to help keep their molars ground down and healthy.


Plastic sipper bottles are best for water. Be sure the nipple is low enough for the smallest guinea pig to reach. Change water daily, and weekly clean and disinfect water bottle and food dishes. 

Vitamin Drops in the Water
DO NOT USE the vitamin drops in the water!
 The only supplement a healthy cavy needs is Vitamin C. The vitamin drops that you buy at the pet store contain additional vitamins and minerals which can potentially be toxic to them.
 Vitamin C deteriorates rapidly in WATER and in LIGHT. Cavies drink varying amounts of water. There is no way to know how much Vitamin C your cavy is actually getting. Adult cavies need 30-50 mg per day of C. The drops make the water taste bad, thereby discouraging many cavies from drinking water---not good!

Suggested Vitamin C supplementing:
Your healthy cavy shouldn't need additional Vitamin C supplements
 IF your cavy is getting proper fresh greens and some fruits and high quality, fresh guinea pig pellets on a daily basis. You should not give your cavy a diethigh in fruits to ensure they get adequate vitamin C.
To supplement, get the chewable 'Vitamin C only' tablets for adults or children. To ensure proper dosage, divide up the tablet and then crush it, or crush it and then divide it up. If you have a 500 mg tablet, then one cavy needs 1/10 of that daily. It's best to divide it up into two doses, one in the morning, one in the evening. You can mix the powder or chunks in with their pellets or sprinkle it on their veggies. An easy way to crush a tablet is between two tablespoons.You can also dose the C directly, especially if you have a sick or needy cavy. Purchase some liquid vitamin C from a health food or drug store. We use a flavored GNC brand and the piggies like it. It says one teaspoon equals 5 ml and that is 500 mg of C. So we divide 500/5 and we get 100 mg in 1 ml. So, for a 50 mg dose (divided in 2--am and pm), we give .25 ml in the morning and .25 ml in the evening. Of course you need a little syringe to do this--also available at a drug store or vet. (1 ml = 1 cc) If you have a very sick or pregnant cavy, you can double the dose.


Always use two hands to pick up your guinea pig. Be sure one hand supports the rump and hind legs. Guinea pigs like to be cuddled but must be handled gently and carefully. A nervous guinea pig may jump from your grasp, a common cause of broken legs and backs. Hold your guinea pig while you are sitting down, preferably on the floor, so that the animal will not be injured if he or she does fall. Support your guinea pig with a towel on your lap - guinea pigs sometimes have "accidents." Do not allow your guinea pig to walk around on table tops or couches because guinea pigs will most certainly wander too close to the edge and fall.

Keeping Nails Trimmed

The nail should be cut a bit beyond the quick, as shown in the above diagram.Illustration © Lianne McleodThe grooming needs of short haired guinea pigs are minimal, but if you have one with longer hair you will need to invest more time in grooming. However, all guinea pigs require regular nail clipping.Holding Your Guinea Pig for Nail Clipping 
The hardest part of doing nail trims on pet guinea pigs is probably holding the guinea pig still. With patience and practice, nail clipping will become part of your routine and your guinea pig will likely get less squirmy over time.

When starting out, it is probably best to have a helper to hold your guinea pig so you can trim the nails. However, most guinea pigs are not too difficult to hold. Possible methods of restraint include the following:

  • sit with your guinea pig on your lap facing away from you with its rump against your stomach to keep your guinea pig from backing up.
  • hold your guinea pig upright with its back against your body by placing your hand lightly around your guinea pig's chest. Important: make sure the hind end is supported (either on your lap if you are sitting down, or with the other hand). With practice, you can even hold one foreleg out by placing it between your fingers using this method.
  • if necessary, gently wrap up your guinea pig's body and three of its legs in a light towel, leaving one leg free for clipping the nails. If you choose this method be careful not to wrap too tight (this may impede breathing) and take a break between legs to reduce stress and the chance of overheating.

Nail Clippers 

You can use human nail clippers if you like. You can also use nail clippers designed for cats and other small animals. These look like little scissors with small notches toward the end of the blade for cutting the nail.

How Often 
Aim for doing the nails at least once a month, although you can do them even more often that that if you choose. Although nail clipping may be awkward and difficult at first, the more often you do it the more comfortable it will become for you and your guinea pig. More importantly, the longer the nails get, the harder they will be to trim. As the nails get longer the blood vessel (quick) gets longer too, and the nails will start to curl. Regular nail clipping helps keep the nails in good shape.

How often should I clean my guinea pig's cage?

Your nose will tell you. Generally one week is the maximum between complete bedding changes. How often you need to clean will also depend on:

     Your choice of bedding material 
     The age of your guinea pigs (young pigs mean less waste) 
     The size of your cage (bigger is better) and 
     How many guinea pigs you have. 

Many pet owners spot clean on a daily basis. Others do complete bedding changes every four days. Towels usually need to be changed daily. 

Cleaning regularly will keep your guinea pigs healthier. More frequent cleaning prevents urine from breaking down into 
ammonia, which can harm your cavy's respiratory system. Frequent cleaning will also slow bacterial growth and your guinea pigs will be less likely to contract urinary tract infections.
How do I get the crusty parts off the bottom of the cage?Normal, healthy guinea pigs will pass calcium compounds and other minerals in their urine. This scale can be difficult to remove. 

To clean litter boxes or cages, remove bedding materials, clean with soapy water and rinse. Pour a tablespoon or two of 
vinegar on the calcium deposits and allow to sit for several minutes. This mild acid dissolves the calcium and mineral deposits through a chemical reaction (if you watch closely, you can see the release of gas as tiny bubbles). Repeat if necessary with more vinegar until the deposits are gone. You can scrub lightly with an old toothbrush to aid removal. Minimal scrubbing should be required. 

A general cleaning with a dilute bleach solution every month or two will help to keep bacteria in check. 
What if my guinea pigs have mites or fungus?If your guinea pigs have mange mites, perform a general cleaning as described above and vacuum the area just before or after you treat your guinea pigs for mites with ivermectin. 

If your guinea pigs have a 
fungal infection, washing with a dilute bleach solution (one part bleach to 20 parts water) will help to stop the spread of the fungus. Dispose of wooden hidey houses if the fungal infection is severe and difficult to cure. 

Neutering Guinea Pigs

Both my boys, Jake and Squeekie, were neutered in October 2003. Here, I will tell you my reasons for having them neutered and how my boys coped during their recovery. However, before Jake and Squeekie's story, there is much to consider before any guinea pig owner decides to have their boar neutered.

What dose neutering mean exactly?

Neutering is a term used for a surgical procedure in boars. Their testicles are surgically removed, making them infertile and unable to make babies with a female guinea pig. Spaying is a surgical procedure for a female which involves removing the ovaries and uterus (womb). Spaying a sow should only ever be considered because of medical reasons because its a large operation. Some female guinea pigs may develop ovarian cysts and surgery is considered.

Although neutering a boar is a smaller operation than a spaying a sow, like with any operations using anaesthesia, it still carries risks. Please remember that although a male guinea pig can impregnate a female as early as 3 weeks old. However, a male guinea pig should only be neutered after the age of 4 to 5 months old and he should be of a good weight.

Will neutering change a boars behaviour

The simple answer is no. Unlike many other animals, neutering a guinea pig does not change their behaviour. If you have two boars that have shown aggression towards each other, neutering won't have any impact on their behaviour towards each other. Besides medical reasons, the only reason to neuter a boar is because you have females that you want your boar to live with. 

Unlike many animals, neutering won't change a guinea pigs desire to show sexual behaviour. I have kept two neutered cats and both showed no sexual interest in females whatsoever. Guinea pigs however, still have the urge to romance a female and mount, but after a neutered boar has been living with the same females for a while, their desire to mount will decrease.
Other options to consider before neutering:

Male guinea pigs need a lot of room because some can be territorial ( a few females can also be territorial ) Much can depend on the guinea pigs personality as to whether two boars will get along together. Buying a larger cage might help your boys to get along better, so they'll have enough room to call their own. When my Jake increased his bullying with Squeekie, I didn't have enough room in the house at the time, to accommodate a larger cage. If you do have the space, its worth a try before neutering is considered. You could have two cages next to each other so your boys can still see and talk to each other. It might work out that they could still be together outside the cage, while having their free range time.

Reasons why my boys were neutered:

My decision to have Jake and Squeekie neutered, although a very hard decision, was for their future happiness, especially Squeekie's. Squeekie had always been the under piggy. Before the boys came to live with me, both boys lived together outside in a wooden hutch. Often hutches have a sleeping compartment and I noticed that Jake hardly ever allowed Squeekie in there. He was simply left out in the cold. If Jake was eating, Squeekie ran into the sleeping area, but as soon as Jake had finished eating, Jake ran in, Squeekie ran out. As the boys grew older, Jake began asserting his authority even more. Eventually Squeekie was always having to be on his guard and in the last couple of months prior to neutering, he was becoming quite stressed. I didn't want Squeekie to spend the rest of his life being in a state of panic every time Jake went near him as bullying can be just as damaging as a full blown fight. I just kept imagining how both boys would be, so happy living with my girls. On one occasion Jake attacked Squeekie, resulting in Squeekie having a sore nose. It was the first time Jake had ever drawn blood, so with a heavy heart, I decided to separate them. Both boys were always fine together outside the cage, so it definitely was a territorial dispute on Jake's part. Their cages were next to each other, plus they still had their free range time together, so it was more of a semi-split.

Squeekie was a very relaxed guinea pig living away from Jake. In a way, the separation helped with the very final decision to have them neutered. I personally didn't want them living on their own permanently. Because I already had females, I just knew they would be both very happy living with the girls. A boar would normally live with several females in the wild, so it also seemed a very natural choice. However, that doesn't mean to say two boars can't get along together, some boars have a very close relationship with each other, it often just depends on their personalities and finding a right match.

Please don't make a quick decision to neuter your boar.

Please remember that neutering a boar should never be entered into lightly. Please do lots of research, read about other peoples experience of neutering their boars. Before my boys were neutered, I spent many hours reading threads made at the  . . I also went along to my vet and asked him lots of questions.

Finding an experieced vet

After reading as much as you can about neutering, the next main step is to find a veterinary who is experienced with this kind of medical procedure on guinea pigs. I was fortunate that my vet had done 20 plus successful neutering operations on guinea pigs and had never lost a guinea pig during a neutering operation or encountered any complications. Please remember you are looking for a veterinary that works with exotic pets, guinea pigs, reptiles and small animals. If your vet isn't experienced, try getting in contact with your local guinea pig rescue centre. Some rescues routinely neuterer boars before adoption, especially single boars who may fair better with a female. Be prepared to travel, as that widens your scope. My veterinary surgeon, who performed Jake and Squeekie's neutering operations, is called Mr.David Hunt. My vet has two surgeries in the Cheshire area UK. Please click onto the image below to find out more information.

As a general rule castration of the male is significantly easier than spaying of the female, although certain principles must be adhered to to prevent some complications which are inherently more likely than in other species (eg herniation of abdominal contents). Anaesthesia of guinea pigs is frequently considered hazardous by veterinary surgeons, but with a little knowledge and experience of the species many of the hazards can be minimised or overcome. Some conditions can develop in the entire female guinea pig requiring spaying for example cystic ovaries. If you are considering having your guinea pig neutered ask you veterinary surgeon, a) If they have previous experience of neutering guinea pigs, b) What their success rate is c) Do they routinely provide post operative analgesia.

Please don't be afraid to ask your vet questions. Here is a list of questions you need to ask your veterinary surgeon.

1) You probably won't need to ask, as most vets will ask to see your pet before any operation is carried out. This is so your vet can give your guinea pig a health check to make sure they are as healthy as possible before the operation.
2) Unlike most animals and us human's, guinea pigs are unable to vomit, so food won't need to be withheld before surgery. But ask your vet if they can have any food within the last hour before surgery. My boys were able to eat just before we headed off to the surgery, but its best to check first. You will need to ask how many neutering operations they have performed on guinea pigs and what there success rate is.
3) Ask what anaesthesia they use. Isoflurane gas was used for my boys as its a safer option, but any anaesthesia still carries a risk.
4) Ask your vet about pain relief after surgery.
5) You will also need to ask if your vet routinely prescribes a small course of antibiotic after surgery to hopefully prevent any infection.
6) Remember to ask how soon your boar can safely be put in with a female. Its usually a minimum of 3 weeks after surgery, no earlier, but some vets may say 4 to 5 weeks.
7) Ask if you need to restrict your boars movements after surgery. My boy's were allowed some light exercise two days after surgery. You may find that your boar won't feel up to running around and may just want to walk slowly. Remember to remove any landings/ramps etc from the cage to avoid any straining. 

Please remember that not even a very experienced vet can give you any guarantees that the surgery will not have any complications.
You will need to look at the incision area every day to make sure there is no swelling, signs of infection (puss) or blood. You'll also need to make sure that your guinea pig is eating regularly and isn't acting too depressed. If you are worried at all about your guinea pig, please don't hesitate to contact your vet as soon as possible