Guinea Pigs as Pets

March Is Adopt a Rescued Guinea Pig Month

Julie Morris, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) senior vice president for National Shelter Outreach, designated March as Adopt-a-Rescued-Guinea Pig month. Morris states: “The idea behind the celebration month is to encourage future adopters to think of shelters and rescue groups first.”

Guinea pigs are a favorite pet among children because of their docile nature and ease of handling and the many vocalizations they make. Although guinea pigs are considered low-maintenance pets, daily care and feeding can be time consuming and their bedding and hay tend to get messy. The average lifespan for a guinea pig is five to seven years, though they may live up to 10 years, so be sure to consider this moderately long-term commitment. Even though guinea pigs are often chosen as a first pet for a child, since they have special requirements, such as a roomy cage, specialized diet, daily cleanup, and gentle handling, an adult should ultimately be the primary caretaker.

If you have a guinea pig, or a “cavy” as they’re properly called, or if you are considering adopting one, here is some useful information:


Guinea pigs are popular because they are very social animals. They rarely bite if they are handled properly. Guinea pigs do stress easily, so they should be picked up slowly and gently and held close to your chest where they feel secure. Guinea pigs are not suitable for younger children as they often squeeze the guinea pigs too tight, or poke and jab them. Older children, however, make excellent guinea pig owners. Guinea pigs tend to get lonely, so if you have the room, adopt two.

You can train your guinea pig like a Pavlov’s dog. Shake their bag of food every time you go to feed your guinea pig. Soon your piggy will squeak when he or she hears the bag rattling knowing that you’re going to feed them. I once worked with guinea pigs that actually knew what I looked and smelled like. Every day at the Santa Barbara Humane Society, I’d come in to feed the guinea pigs timothy hay and veggies and they would start squeaking as soon as they saw me even if I didn’t have a bag of treats!

Funny Facts About Guinea Pigs

* Guinea pigs all have a little bald spot behind each ear.

* They have four toes in the front and three in the back.

* They will sometimes sleep with their eyes open.

* Guinea pigs are famous for “pop corning” — little vertical hops of one to two inches they make when they’re excited or happy.


* Guinea pig pellets (these aren’t the same as rabbit pellets).

* Leafy vegetables such as kale, cabbage, and romaine lettuce; carrots, celery, and broccoli.

* Fresh fruit such as apples, oranges, and strawberries. Be sure to remove all seeds from the fruit.

* “All they can eat” timothy hay

* A gnawing log is essential as guinea pigs’ teeth grow continuously throughout their lives.

* Be sure to include these extra fruits and veggies as guinea pigs are unable to produce their own vitamin C and can potentially get scurvy from lack of vitamin C.


* Change water daily. Guinea pigs tend to backwash when they drink; if you are using a water bottle, the bottle they drink from will get quite murky.


* The best cages to use are those that have plastic bottoms. The wire-bottom cages can cause sore hocks and foot problems in guinea pigs, so stay away from those.

* Their living quarters should be at least 18 inches wide, 14 inches high, and 25 inches deep. Check out this Web site for more information,

* Guinea pigs should always have a place to hide—plastic igloos are the best option, but an old shoebox works great, too.

* Newspaper and timothy hay are the best options for lining the cage. Never use cedar shavings or sawdust. They can be very harmful to guinea pigs. The pigs will use the hay as food, bedding, and as their bathroom. Be aware that guinea pigs are messy! They typically scatter their bedding and food.

* Guinea pigs are curious and playful, so provide plenty of entertainment such as toys and tunnels. Paper towel and toilet paper rolls make great tunnels.


* When picking up guinea pigs, be sure to support both their front and rear ends when you’re holding them, as their spines are fragile.

* Guinea pigs’ necks aren’t very flexible and so they always like to be held horizontally, not vertically. They should be held on your lap and not across your chest or your shoulder like a cat.

* Time out of the cage is very beneficial. Guinea pigs like to play on the floor, sit in your lap, or just run around. However, Guinea pigs must be supervised when they are loose because they will chew on anything in their paths—including electrical wires.

Health Care

* As mentioned above, your guinea pig’s teeth will never stop growing. They need to chew on tough hay stalks or wood blocks to wear down their teeth. Their nails don’t stop growing either. They will need trimming every once in awhile.

* Wax behind the ears is totally normal. Try to clean them occasionally, but they will most likely never be squeaky clean.

* The longhaired breeds of guinea pigs require frequent brushing and combing to stay clean and tangle-free.

For more information on adopting a rescued guinea pig in your area, visit

Guinea Pigs Available for Adoption in Santa Barbara

BUNS (Bunnies Urgently Needing Shelter) has guinea pigs available for adoption. For more information on adopting a guinea pig from BUNS, call Animal Control Services at (805) 681-5285, or BUNS at (805) 683-0521, or visit

Guinea pigs tend to hide out in their igloos in shelters, so you will need some assistance in choosing one. If you sit on the floor with your legs straight out with another person doing the same (their feet touching yours) you have created a little play area for the guinea pig so you can get to know them before you adopt.


Cat Food Recalled

WellPet has decided to recall all of the lots listed below because of inadequate levels of thiamine (also known as B1).

The lots involved in this voluntary recall are: Wellness Canned Cat (all flavors and sizes) with best by dates from 14APR 13 through 30 SEP13; Wellness Canned Cat Chicken & Herring (all sizes) with 10NOV13 or 17NOV13 best buy dates.

For more information, call 1 (877) 227-9587


Adoptable Pet of the Week

Moo is a very sweet cat who is a little on the shy side. He has always been an indoor cat and would probably get along okay with a dog. To learn more about Moo, call the Santa Barbara Animal Shelter Assistance Program (ASAP) at (805) 683-3368 or visit the Web site at ASAP is located at the S.B. Animal Shelter, 5473 Overpass Road (just beyond the Humane Society). Regular business hours are Monday-Friday from 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., closed Sundays.


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