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Are Guinea Pigs the Right Companion Animal for You?

Guinea pigs make wonderful family pets, but they are not the right pet for everyone. They are marketed as "great starter pets for children" by big box pet stores, and we strongly disagree with this statement. Judging by the numbers of unwanted guinea pigs filling up our shelters, abandoned outdoors and the multitudes of emails and messages we, and every other rescue receive daily, we know that once they are purchased, consumers are finding they disagree with that claim as well. 

It is our goal to fully inform. We have high standards for their care, if you can't commit to the amount of square footage they need for their habitat, or you think the vet costs are too high, they are not the right pet for you. If you are unsure about making the commitment, that's ok! We have an awesome foster to adopt program where we will set you up, give you all the support you need and facilitate the opportunity for you to "try before you buy".


Please read on and feel free to message us if you have any questions. 

You  (the parent)  Must Be the Primary Caretaker for Life

We do not adopt guinea pigs out as children's pets for a long list of reasons. At the very top is that adopting a guinea pig is a five to ten year commitment. Children's schedules change a lot over a guinea pig's lifespan. They get busy with school, sports, friends, they often move out to attend college. Guinea pigs are practically impossible to rehome. The market is flooded, there are too many looking for homes and not enough homes to go around.

Teaching your Children Responsibility

We dislike the idea of guinea pigs being used to teach children responsibility because, sometimes kids just don't want, or can't handle, the responsibility and the guinea pigs suffer. Guinea pigs require daily cleaning, feeding and attention. We feel their care is too involved and demands a solid commitment every single day, this is a lot to put onto a child. 

A much better approach is to lead by example with the parents assuming the full responsibility and bringing in the children to help. They will see you putting in the commitment every day and that will teach them what commitment, and being responsible for a living thing entails. Our goal is to adopt our guinea pigs out as treasured family pets, with everyone working together to give them a good life, and sharing in the joy and silliness they bring. 

The Time Commitment

Guinea pigs are time consuming and they need specialized care. They live approximately eight to ten years and  require about a minimum of 30 minutes a day. They need the following every single day:

Feeding: Unlimited fresh hay - Healthy pellets - One cup of fresh vegetables - Vitamin C Supplement - Refilling water bottles as needed

Cage Spot Cleaning: 15 to 30 minutes - replacing wet soiled bedding and sweeping out poop if using fleece

Attention & Enrichment: Guinea pigs are social animals; they get depressed with little interaction.

Weekly Deep Cleaning: Laundering fleece bedding once a week (one to two hours ) or 100% replacement of paper bedding, disinfecting liners, washing water bowls and bottles.

Weekly Weighing: Weigh once a week to make sure your pig is not losing weight. Weight loss is the first sign something is wrong. Record weight with our printable weight tracker.

Monthly: Nail trims and boar cleanings.

Other Tasks: Shopping for, washing and prepping vegetables. Picking up hay at the feed store and storing, or ordering online. 


Being Patient with their Natural Temperament

It can take a few months for a guinea pig to settle into a new home as the sights, sounds, and smells are all new to them. As small prey animals, they are usually skittish and slow to trust. They dislike being picked up and will run away and try and jump out of your hands. It takes time for them to come out of their shells but once they feel safe with you, the bond is well worth the time invested.

The Financial Commitment

$200 to $300 =  initial cost for cage, bedding, accessories, adoption donation.

$30 to $50 = per month for bedding, hay, pellets, veggies, vitamin C
$80 to $600 = for simple vet visits plus medications & x-rays
$300 to $5000 for complex visits & surgeries (like bladder stones)

two guinea pig friends
Sample Pig Schedule


  • Refill pellets, hay and water   *hay must be available at ALL times

  • Provide Vitamin C supplement

  • Provide 1 cup of fresh veggies PER PIG (healthy & toxic veggies list) You can break this up and feed half veggies in morning and half in evening if you like. **please note, this amount doesn't have to be exactly 1 cup, its ok to go a little over or under.

  • Spot clean habitat

  • Give lots of love, floor time, lap time, enrichment


  • Check weight & visual overall health inspection (Weighing is very important)

  • Thoroughly clean cage, water bottles (including spout with q-tip), food dishes


  • Trim nails

  • Boar cleaning

  • Gently clean ears

Guinea Pigs at a Glance

  •  A guinea pigs' lifespan is 5-8 years although it’s not uncommon for some to live longer, even up to 10 years!

  • Guinea pigs are herd animals; they are healthier and happier with a (same sex) friend. Females can live in multiples of three, males are difficult to bond and more than two is rare

  • Guinea Pigs teeth constantly grow. They need an unlimited supply of hay to keep them from overgrowing

  • They are the only mammal, other than humans, that cannot manufacture their own vitamin C.  They require a supplement in addition to veggies containing vitamin C

  • They communicate by wheeking, burring, chattering & chirping

  • An average adult male weight 2-2.5 lbs

  • An average adult female weighs 1.5-2 lbs

  • Guinea pigs are cavies, a group of rodents native to South America with the largest cavy being a Capybara

  • They are strict herbivores. 80% of their diet is made up of hay. Hay is the most essential part of their diet. Foods containing dairy or other animal products should never be fed



Let's Talk About Diet

Guinea pigs should be free fed and have unlimited access to timothy or orchard hay 24/7. We tell adopters that

if they have given hay and the piggies have eaten all of it or nearly all of it, then you haven't given

enough. Unlimited hay should look like a small mountain.  Additionally using a large hay bag or a small cat litter box and keeping full at all times will ensure that your piggies never run out.

Not feeding hay 24/7 will lead to a number of health issues, including overgrown teeth, GI stasis, diarrhea,

anorexia and heart disease, malnutrition can lead to an early death and guinea pigs have a difficult time bouncing back from periods of malnutrition. Hay cubes or blocks are not a substitution for long strand loose hay. We are big fans of buying hay in bulk. You can purchase 25-50 lb boxes online of Oxbow or SPS hay, or try your local feed store and purchase by the flake or bale. This can save guinea pig owners a lot of money.


In addition to unlimited hay, guinea pigs should have high quality plain timothy based pellets. Nursing mamas and babies can have alfalfa based pellets.


*We understand the industry standard is 1/8 of pellets per piggy per day, however we recommend offering a full bowl of pellets. Most guinea pigs will not overeat. By feeding an 1/8 cup, which is two tablespoons of pellets, you run the risk of not feeding enough. By weighing your pig once a week, you can make an informed decision on how much pellets to feed based on your individual guinea pigs eating habits. If your piggie devours an entire bowl of pellets then you can limit the amount but this is very rare as most guinea pigs will stick to hay being their primary source of sustenance. 

Brands we can recommend are Oxbow Essentials Cavy Cuisine Adult Guinea Pig Food, Oxbow Garden Select,

Oxbow Organic Bounty, Sherwood Small Pet, Timothy pellet, KleenMamas and Small Pet Select.


*Please take care not to select rabbit or rat food as the bags look similar. Guinea pigs need food formulated for their unique nutritional needs. Pellets containing seeds, nuts or other colored bits are also extremely unhealthy for guinea pigs. 

*All of our adoptable guinea pigs are currently eating Oxbow Essentials Adult Guinea Pig Food.

Guinea pigs also need about a cup green leafy veggies each day. Check out our Veggie Guide for a more detailed list of recommended veggies. With this list you can learn how to build your piggies daily salads as well as avoid veggies higher in calcium which can cause painful and often deadly bladder stones.

We recommend giving a vitamin C supplement to ensure piggies are getting the needed 25-50mg per day

We like the Oxbow vitamin C cookies as well as the Childlife liquid vitamin C. Lack of vitamin C can lead to life threatening scurvy, hair loss, brittle teeth and tooth loss, arthritis and more.

Recommended treats include pea flakes, , veggies and herbs, Oxbow and Kaytee timothy based fruit & veggie treats, Forage mix is also a nice treat you can sprinkle into the hay pile or feed by hand. 


           Never feed yogurt drops, salt and mineral licks, seeds, nuts, or treats and foods containing any of those.



Guinea Pig Supply Checklist

See our Supplies List page for links to all our favorite items

See our Links & Resources page for trusted suppliers

o  Cage / Habitat: Minimum 10.5 sq. feet for boars and 8 sq. feet for sows.

C&C & Kavee Cages are the best choice as they provide a little more space (above the minimum). The midwest guinea pig habitat is also a good choice for 2 sows as it provides the minimum of 8 sq feet. We also like that you can add onto the midwest with a second one making for a nice piggy palace. Never house piggies in aquariums, multi level rodent cages or rabbit hutches.

*Most of our pairs do require 10.5 sq feet of space (a 2x4 grid C&C or Kavee cage)  The Midwest cage is a great option for singles and gridbuddies but once you add two hides, a haybox or bag, bowls and water bottles, it is very tight for two guinea pigs.

o  Cage Bedding: Fleece with an absorbent layer underneath, Kiln Dried Pine, Aspen Shavings, Carefresh (No cedar, cat litter or newspaper) Plush Piggie makes a great cage liner. 

o  Water Bottle or Bowl: if using a bottle, at least one 16-oz bottle for 2 pigs. (2 for 2 pigs is great)

o  Food Dish: Heavy Duty Large Size (2 for 2 pigs is great)

o  Huts & Hideouts: 2 Medium sized wooden or plastic (can use a cardboard box). Snuggle Sacks, Cuddle Cups & Caves, Soft Fleece Houses, Tunnels & Hammocks

o  Pellets: High-quality plain timothy-based pellets only, no seeds, nuts or colored bits. Babies under 6 months and pregnant or nursing mamas need an alfalfa based pellet. Brands we highly recommend are Oxbow Essentials Cavy Cuisine Adult Guinea Pig Food, Oxbow Garden Select, Sherwood Small Pet, Timothy pellet, KleenMamas and Small Pet Select. *Our adoptable guinea pigs are currently eating Oxbow essentials. 

o Hay: Orchard Hay is the best. Can be blended with Timothy Hay (also provide Alfalfa for pigs under 6 months) * Our adoptable guinea pigs are currently eating Orchard Hay.

o  Vitamin C Supplement: Oxbow “Cookies”, Vit. C Tablets or Liquid (50 mg). We like the childlife liquid vitamin C. Administer 1ML per day from a syringe if using liquid.

o  Toys, Chews & Treats: Hay/Twig Balls, Hay Squares & Blocks, Hay Filled Paper Bags, Pea Flakes, Timothy Biscuits, Puzzles, Treat balls, TP Rolls, Bamboo Sticks.

o  Carrier: Sturdy Plastic with locks for small pet. Cat carriers with a top load work great for piggies. 

o  Nail Clippers & Cornstarch: To trim nails & stop bleeding for accidentally cut quicks.


o  Q Tips & Coconut Oil: For Boar cleanings 

o  Scale: Digital Kitchen Scale with notebook or our weight tracker to record weight

o  Pet Friendly Cleaner: Jackson Galaxy Stain & Odor Remover, White Vinegar, Nature's Miracle Cage Cleaner

guinea pig getting weighed on a scale
Guinea Pig Ailments & Symptoms

Guinea Pigs are prey animals so they will hide illness. This is why it's so important to monitor their weight weekly and spend time with them every day so you can recognize anything out of the ordinary. A guinea pig's health can deteriorate very quickly and by the time problems become apparent, illnesses may be life-threatening. Guinea pigs very seldom get over an illness without help.

Prompt, competent veterinary care is crucial. Find a guinea pig-knowledgeable exotics vet soon after adopting so you know whom to contact in an emergency. Visit our Guinea Pig Vet List  to find a qualified exotic veterinarian near you.
  • Bladder Stones / UTI: Blood in Urine, Unable to Urinate, Weight Loss, Straining and Crying While Pooping
  • Bloat: Swollen Abdomen, Not Pooping
  • Ear Infection: Head Tilt, Loss of Balance
  • Giardia / GI Stasis: Soft or Runny Poop - Stop All Veggies for 24 hours, Seek Vet Care
  • Mites / Mange Mites / Fungal Infection: Hair loss, Red Flaky Skin, Excessive Scratching
  • Refusal to Eat or Drink (Contact Vet Immediately Begin Hand Feeding): URI, Teeth Issues, Pain
  • Upper Respiratory infection: Lethargy, Hunched Posture, Refusal to Eat or Drink, Crusty Eyes, Sneezing, Wheezing, Rough or Puffed Up Coat, Labored Breathing, Dull Eyes
  • Ovarian Cysts and Reproductive Issues in Females: Changes in Behavior Such as Constant Chasing and Mounting Cage Mates, Crusty Nipples, Hair Loss Along Sides, Bleeding from Vaginal Area

When to See a Vet

  • Weight Loss: a change in weight of 50 grams gained or lost at weekly weigh-in indicates an underlying health concern
  • Not Eating: Guinea Pigs must eat constantly to keep their GI tract moving. If pig has stopped eating you must syringe feed with critical care every 4 hours
  • Wheezing or labored breathing - Crusty eyes or nose
  • Sitting hunched in a corner
  • Bleeding from any opening - Blood in urine, squeaking while or difficulty urinating
  • Severe diarrhea or Bloated: Tummy should be soft & pliable, not inflated or hard
  • Head Tilt or Drooling, any other sever injury
  • Problems Defecating: If your pig isn’t pooping, see a vet asap
  • Hair Loss: more than just shedding can be serious
  • Any behavior unusual for your pig, such as facing a corner, turning down their favorite veggies, refusing any food can be an indication your guinea pig is seriously ill. Seek veterinary care immediately

Getting to Know Your New Guinea Pig Companions

When you first get your guinea pigs home, they will need some time to adjust to their new surroundings. They will probably be skittish and may hide and or run when you enter the room. It’s ok to start holding them and interacting gently with them, but be patient. Don’t forget, they’re prey animals and this means it’s natural for them to want to hide to protect themselves. With lots of love and patience, you’ll win over their trust. Guinea pigs are pretty good at learning when veggie time is too and before long they’ll be wheeking at the sound of your refrigerator opening!

In homes with small children (11 and under), we recommend parents pick up the guinea pigs and hand them to the child while the child is seated. Allowing a small child to walk around holding a scared and squirming piggy can lead to a dropped piggy.


Check out the following tips for bonding with your piggies: 

Talk to them softly through the cage so they can get used to your voice. Try to greet them at eye level so they will be less afraid of how big you are compared to them.

Use a soft voice and slow movements. Guinea pigs are easily startled so try and keep noise to a minimum in the beginning.

Try and set a routine and it usually works best when food is involved! Bring them a Vitamin C cookie in the morning or a sprig of Cilantro, try coaxing them out with food and eventually they will look forward to it and come and snatch it from your hand.

You can start introducing lap time slowly. Most pigs do not like being picked up, but once you figure out your technique, it should get easier. Make lap time calm and safe for them. Offer some of their favorite treats or sprigs of hay so they learn to associate lap time with positive things.

Wrap them in a towel or blanket for lap time and bring snacks! Try a forage mix as well. Many piggies love the forage mixes and will come and eat it out of your hand. 

It may take three to four months for them to start coming out of their shell. Look for signs of a happy pig like wheeking, popcorning, coming up to greet you and running laps around their cage.


tan guinea pig looking up

In Summary: A Few Things Your Pig Insists You Know


Hay makes up 80% of my diet and helps keep my GI tract healthy. It also keeps my teeth from overgrowing. Make sure I have a constant supply of fresh orchard, or orchard timothy blended hay. If I’m under 6 months old, feed me alfalfa too. 


Cedar releases aromatic oils that injure my lungs. Pine is a problem too if it isn’t kiln dried. Aspen or Carefresh are good choices. Towels topped with a fleece blanket are great for me and the environment too, toss them in the wash weekly for a zero waste option.


Give me at least a cup of veggies every day. Green and red leaf lettuces are very good for me! I need vitamin C to stay healthy.


Vitamin C drops make my water taste bad and the vitamin C starts fading away as soon as it hits the water. Give me fresh veggies so I get my vitamin C naturally and supplement with a liquid or chewable vitamin C supplement or a delicious Oxbow Vitamin C “cookie”.


I’m a herd animal so having a friend is important to my health & well being. So many of us need homes, please adopt a friend to keep me company. I won't bond with every pig though, so go through a rescue to make sure I get a good match! If I don't want to share my cage, getting me a grid mate is a great option!


I need at least 8 - 14 square feet of space. This gives me plenty of room to exercise and helps keep the peace between my cage mate and me. C&C cages are ideal, light and bright with great ventilation.


Sometimes! I might be timid at first, but if you take me in a safe place, I’ll be able to stretch my legs and work my muscles so I stay healthy and strong. A pop up playpen is great for floortime. 


Not every vet can treat exotics, you'll need to find a special small animal exotic vet to treat me. I hide illness so don't wait until it's too late to choose a suitable veterinarian for me. 


Please don’t house me with an intact mate! Pregnancies are very risky for guineas and with so many pigs in the shelters who need a great home, we do not want to bring babies into the world. Female pigs can get pregnant as early as 3 weeks of age (and also immediately after giving birth!), and male pigs can father litters at 3 weeks old! Separating pups at 3 weeks of age is critical in preventing unwanted pregnancies. A vet (or your local rescue) can help you determine gender.


Do not consider spaying/neutering a pig to pair with a friend of the opposite sex. Spay/neuter surgeries for pigs are high risk, they often result in death and should only be considered under life-threatening circumstances, as diagnosed by a qualified cavy vet.

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