Thinking about getting a guinea pig? Stop. Wait. Read these 5 things you MUST know before bringing home your sweet cavy. If you don’t think you can handle them, a guinea pig may not be right for you.
Two years ago, when I welcomed Krystal the Guinea pig into the family, Mike (the super knowledgeable PetSmart guy) spent a long time going over the basics with me. I had a good idea of what I was getting into, but as with any living creature, even an hour of guinea pig boot camp doesn’t cover all the ins and outs of their care. He gave us a few more tidbits of advice when we added Charlotte a month later, but we still had a lot to learn.
Over the last two years, we’ve spent a lot of time researching the guinea pigs. Between that research and actually raising two happy little pigs, I’ve come up with what I think are five things you MUST know before getting a guinea pig.
5 Things to Consider before Buying a Guinea Pig
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They shouldn’t be alone. This is probably the most important thing to consider: you can’t get just one unless you can truly commit to spending quality time with your pig every day, plus plan to keep her in an area where she can see all the action. Guinea pigs are social animals. Stick one alone in a cage tucked away in your son’s room and she’ll be miserable. This is why we have two. Krystal and Charlotte keep each other company when we can’t play with them. You need two girls though, not two boys. Also, not a boy and a girl unless you want lots of baby piggies!
The cage you’re thinking about getting is probably way too small! Since you now know you’ll need two pigs, that habitat you’re looking at on the shelf is too small. In fact, the biggest one on the pet store shelf that you’re looking at is likely too small. They need room to run around and get some exercise, especially if you can’t take them out often.
We started with the rabbit starter cage, actually, because it was bigger. The standard guinea pig cage is just insanely small, in my opinion. I’d say it’s a fair size for a mouse! We upgraded to a house that is about 2.5 times the size for surprisingly less than I thought it would cost! I think it was about $125, including shipping.
We ordered from GuineaPigCages.com. I’m sharing them not only because they’re highly rated on guinea pig forums (which my mom frequents), but also because I’m impressed by their customer service. My mom thought they sent the wrong thing and blasted them in an email. They called us five minutes later, even though it was close to 10PM. Turns out my mom misread the directions, but they were still quick to respond and super nice.
Basically, if you go with an itty, bitty cage, you’re not only being kind of cruel to your piggy, you’re actually setting yourself up for more expenses. How? When the cage is tiny, the pigs have no “bathroom.” When they have space, they designate a spot as their potty spot. If they go everywhere, you have to do more full-cage cleanings. Bedding is crazy expensive! Which leads us to the next point.
Guinea pigs cost more than you probably think. I spend probably close to $60 a month on bedding alone. That’s the recycled paper bedding sold in stores. Despite the fact that it’s sold in the same section, pine and cedar bedding are NOT good for your pig. They contain insecticides. Then you have the hay. Your pigs need hay pretty much all the time all the time. They constantly chew to keep their little teeth from growing into their sweet little skulls. My pigs are picky and prefer a specific type of Timothy hay. It’s $.025 more than the other cheaper brands, so I get it. Hay costs about $20 a month. We’re at $80 a month and we haven’t gotten to their salad bill yet!
A word about bedding: you may be able to get that cost down. You can make your own fleece bedding and just commit to washing it frequently. Some people say Yesterday’s News litter works well. You could also try recycling your own paper by shredding it. I did that once, but it wasn’t coming out soft enough and it didn’t absorb the urine well. I am still looking for the right paper to use. If any guinea pig people happen across this, I’d love your input on the bedding issue, as that’s where the bulk of my money goes.
Pellets and a piece of fruit aren’t enough. If you’re just feeding your pigs the pellets and the minimum quarter orange a day, you can get by only spending about $10-15 a month on food. However, that’s really not enough to be truly satisfying. Guinea pigs LOVE fresh fruits and veggies. That’s what they eat in the wild. My girls go nuts at breakfast and dinner time!
They really should get one cup of fresh veggies per guinea pig per day. We break it up into two servings. Lettuce (NOT iceberg) makes up the bulk. I buy romaine or endive, as that seems to go the furthest. Baby carrots, grape tomatoes, cucumbers and other veggies in the evenings. Some fruit mixed with veggies in the morning. Happy Cavy Blog has the best resource for knowing what you can and can’t feed them. I have their list printed out, saved on my phone and on my computer.
Cage location matters. Just like Goldilocks, your pigs don’t like things too hot or too cold. The room needs to be between about 65-75 degrees once they reach maturity (a bit warmer when they’re babies). If it gets too hot, they could have a heat stroke. They also can’t be in drafty areas, as these little piggies are very susceptible to respiratory infections. So think about where you have the space to put it. We just rearranged Jacob’s entire room to make space for the new habitat that we bought our piggies.
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If you’re cool with all of those things, though, guinea pigs really are fun creatures! Mine are so smart, they know exactly when I’m coming in to feed them. They squeal exactly like little piggies! Charlotte and Krystal have such totally different personalities, too. Charlotte is my spastic pig while Krystal is pretty mellow. I love my guinea piglets and I’m so glad we got them, but I really do wish I had known more about the overall cost involved. It was quite a shock!
I hope this helps you decide if you are ready for a guinea pig! If you have any other questions about guinea pigs, feel free to ask. I’m not an expert. This is all based on what I have learned over the last two years. If you have tips on how to lower any of the associated costs, definitely tell me!