Keeping your guinea pig happy and healthy requires more than just regular food and attention, like we already discussed in this post here. However, even when buying colorful toys and what might be the recommended guinea pig bedding and cage for their pet, owners can still make mistakes.
Even though they might not look like it, guinea pigs are very sensitive pets, with specific requirements when it comes to their care and wellbeing. In order for your friend to enjoy a long and happy life, you need to provide the appropriate shelter, nutrition and care.
Many new cavy owners fail do to their research before buying or adopting a new pet and are guilty of making some, if not all, of the following mistakes.
#1 Feeding Your Guinea Pig Bad Food Or Not Enough Healthy Food
Your cavy’s nutrition is an essential aspect of its good health. A guinea pig’s diet should consist of approximately 80% hay. This is essential for its digestive tract, thanks to the high-fibre consistency of the hay, as well as for keeping in check its ever-growing molars.
Pay attention every day to your piglet’s food stock though, as damp or overly dry hay can have damaging effects on its health. Your furry friend’s water supply should also be refreshed on a daily basis.
Another very important element of your pet’s nutrition is Vitamin C. Without this supplement it could develop scurvy, which, in turn, can have devastating effects. Many guinea pig pellets add extra Vitamin C in their recipe, but it’s best to help your little furry friend’s diet by also feeding him or her safe fruits and vegetables rich in this vitamin.
Always remember that guinea pigs are herbivores, so meat is a no-no. Do not feed them any salty, processed or fat foods either. Sweet treats that contain a lot of sugar are bad for your pet’s health as well. Alcohol, dairy products and caffeine are also on the list of dietary restrictions.
#2 Not Offering Your Pet An Appropriate Enclosure
Your guinea pig’s cage is the place where it will spend most of his or her time. It is absolutely necessary to provide a comfortable and large enough enclosure for your pet, as this can have significant effects on its health and happiness.
First of all, most cages available in pet stores are not nearly big enough for a cavy. A large-enough enclosure for your guinea pig should be upwards of approximately 7.5 square feet.
Temperature & Ventilation
You don’t want your guinea pig to stay in a warm environment. Temperatures of over 80 degrees Fahrenheit can cause heatstroke, which is a big health risk for cavies. Taking humidity into account, this can also happen at lower temperatures.
Bear in mind to always offer your pet the possibility to cool down a bit – a frozen bottle of water in the cage might just do the trick.
Air ventilation is also a very important aspect of your cavy’s cage. Therefore, glass aquariums – another popular option amongst uninformed owners – are not recommended.
Lining & Accessories
Even if you have a big enough cage for your guinea pig, make sure that you cover the base with the appropriate bedding or blanket, as wired-flooring can cause blisters or bumblefoot.
A common mistake that cavy owners make is buying the wrong toys for their pets. Although very popular, wheels and exercise balls are not always recommended by experienced owners and veterinarians. Many of these accessories can be too challenging for your friend and can lead to injuries.
#3 Sharing Their Habitat With Other Species
It is widely recognized that guinea pigs are very social animals. They like to have a cage-mate to spend their time with, while their owners are away.
While many pet owners know this and buy or adopt another cavy buddy for their friend, some make the mistake of bringing a different type of animal into their guinea pig’s enclosure.
Even if they are not a natural predator of the guinea pig, bringing another species in its habitat can cause a lot of problems. Apart from potential interspecies aggression incidents, bacteria like Bordetella bronchiseptica can infect your pet by being passed on from species that seem otherwise healthy. This occurs most often with rabbits.
#4 Poor Handling Of The Guinea Pig
Guinea pigs are squeamish and nervous little creatures, so you need to take extra care when handling them. Otherwise, they can get scared and jump out of your hands, potentially leading to serious injuries.
While holding a cavy, you should support its abdomen and feet to prevent squirming. You should also be careful with the way you pick your guinea pig up from its cage. Chasing him or her with your hands around the habitat can cause stress.
Your little friend should be comfortable enough to come to you for being lift up and out of the enclosure. In order to get your guinea pig accustomed to your hands, lay them in the cage for several minutes without doing anything and put treats on them.
Do not allow young children under the age of 7 or hyperactive kids to play unsupervised with the cavies. They won’t always know how to interact with them or have enough coordination to know their own strength, which, in turn, can cause serious problems for your pet.
#5 Skipping on grooming and cleaning
Guinea pigs need almost daily brushing of their fur and constant nail trimming. Unkempt nails can split, break or get ripped out, thus making for a painful walk for your pet.
Baths, on the other hand, are not needed quite as often – only when your cavy’s fur gets dirty. The same thing cannot be said about the little rodent’s habitat though, which needs to be spot-cleaned daily, as well as thoroughly cleaned on a weekly basis.