To Meet the Requirements of Guinea Pigs With Species-Appropriate Husbandry: This is How It Works

In order for your new roommates to feel really comfortable, you should pay attention to a few important things before they move in and inform yourself in detail about the welfare of guinea pigs. Because even if the small rodents seem quite undemanding at first, they have specific needs that you as the keeper have to meet.

Where Does the Guinea Pig Come From? Know and Understand Living Space

Guinea pigs originally come from South America, where, according to legend, they were domesticated by the indigenous people of the Andes. In their homeland, the wild guinea pigs live in large groups and travel long distances in search of food.

The two most important principles of species-appropriate guinea pig husbandry are derived from this:

  • Guinea pigs should never be kept alone.
  • Guinea pigs need a lot of exercises.

The More Conspecifics, the Better

Guinea pigs are happiest in a pack of four to five, in a pinch two animals are enough. All-girls groups get along very well. You can also socialize your ladies with a buck, provided that it is neutered. Keeping several bucks is more difficult because of the competition in the area, but it is also not impossible.

In no case should you listen to the well-intentioned, but completely wrong, advice about socializing a guinea pig with a rabbit. In nature, the two animal species have nothing to do with each other and speak two different “languages”. If they seem to get along well, it’s because they have no alternatives. Just like a guinea pig kept alone only becomes particularly trusting because it has no other social contacts apart from its human.

Sometimes there is a problem with keeping guinea pigs when a partner animal has died. You don’t want to leave your remaining comrade alone, but you don’t want to buy a new guinea pig either? In this case, contact a lovers’ association in your region: Many offer so-called loan pigs to keep your animal company.

Are Guinea Pigs Good for Children?

Many parents give in to their children’s wish for the cute-looking guinea pigs. However, guinea pigs are only recommended to a limited extent for children. Small children, who often act impetuously and run to the cage or enclosure with loud screams, only bring constant stress to the animals. In addition, they often lack the motor skills needed to hold a guinea pig gently without pressing or even dropping it.

From elementary school onwards, on the other hand, children are in a good position to take care of their guinea pigs themselves – provided you have appropriate guidance. With regular care with cage cleaning and feeding, your children also learn to take on responsibility at an early age. In addition, guinea pigs and children can be great playmates who spend hours with each other. It is up to parents to teach their children how to treat animals with respect. In the case of guinea pigs, this means that they must never be harassed, woken up, petted against their will, or picked up.

The Right Enclosure for a Species-appropriate Keeping of Guinea Pigs

Ideally, you offer your guinea pigs a habitat like in their home: a large enclosure with lots of hiding places and employment opportunities. For five to ten animals, expect at least six square meters. The TVT (Veterinary Association for Animal Welfare) recommends it. Also, think of a sufficient height: you don’t necessarily tell by looking at them, but guinea pigs are good climbers who enjoy some strong branches, stairs, and other climbing opportunities.

If the animals do not live outside all year round, daily exercise is also part of optimal guinea pig keeping. Let the animals zoom around the living room once or twice a day. Just make sure that they cannot crawl under couches and cupboards, as it will be difficult to lure them out again.

Guinea Pigs Can Be Kept Outdoors All Year Round

If you have a protected garden, you can also create an enclosure for the guinea pigs there with a permanent large run. As long as the sleeping house is well protected from wind, rain, and frost, nothing speaks against leaving the animals outside all year round. When it’s cold in winter, they snuggle up close to each other and give each other warmth. But: Many long-haired breeds are not suitable for keeping outside, as their long fur can quickly become dirty and wet. When keeping it outside, it is important that the enclosure is well protected from potential enemies such as foxes, martens, or birds of prey!

Of course, you can also take turns: in winter your guinea pigs live in the house, in summer they move to the garden. Set up a temporary enclosure, part of it must always be in the shade. Think about the wandering sun and enough freshwater, especially if you are going to leave the house for a long time.

More Tips on Keeping Guinea Pigs

Please study the species-appropriate diet of your guinea pigs in detail. Dry food alone is nowhere near enough. What else do guinea pigs need? Fresh hay, green fodder, and juice feed are essential. Also, think about how to keep the animals busy so that they don’t get bored in the enclosure. For example, guinea pigs love to hunt for food in hiding places. Even an empty toilet roll is accepted as a toy.

A final note on keeping guinea pigs: Many people believe that guinea pigs like to be petted because they remain quietly in the arm or on the lap of humans. Unfortunately, this is a misconception. If the small animals are grabbed and lifted up all at once by a human hand, this reminds them more of the prey grip of a bird of prey and they fall into shock. Guinea pigs may look cozy, but they don’t like to cuddle. It is better to give a hand-tamed animal a piece of fruit or vegetable and stroke it briefly. This is enough for him in terms of human contact.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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