Introduction to Cavies (Guinea-Pigs)

Brushing and combing

If you have a long haired guinea pig (such as a Peruvian), you need to brush and comb it every day. If you have a smooth, short haired one (English, American, or Bolivian) or one with whorls of fur (Abyssinian) you only need to do this in the Spring and Autumn shedding season. Guinea pigs like the attention, and it’s fine to brush them more often, if you like.


Every day, you should give the guinea pig as much hay as it will eat. Use oat, timothy, meadow, or clover hay. Some people use Alfalfa hay, while others argue that it can be unhealthy because of all the calcium in contains. Also, include some guinea pig compressed hay pellets, and fresh greens, vegetables, or fruit. Some of their favorite fresh foods are: grass, clover, romaine lettuce, apple, pear, watermelon, grapes, lemon, parsley, celery, and tomato. Not all guinea pigs like every kind of food. Don’t forget to change the water daily.

Guinea Pig

Vitamins and Minerals

Most salt licks and salt wheels provide trace minerals needed by a guinea pig. Some owners add a liquid vitamin preparation to their pet’s water or food every time they change it. It is important that the guinea pig have plenty of Vitamin C every day, either from these preparations or from fresh food.

Cutting Claws

Guinea Pigs need their claws trimmed every once in a while. You can have a veterinarian do it, or you can cut them yourself once you know how. Don’t just read instructions-have someone show you. But in any case, make sure to stop short of the quick, the area with nerve endings and blood vessels. (This area is usually darker in color than the rest of the claw.) You may want to purchase some styptic powder in case the claw is cut too short and begins to bleed.

Choosing Cage Mates

If you are planning on keeping more than one guinea pig in the same cage, there are a number of things to consider. Two or more non-neutered males will often (but not always) fight with each other. Two or more females usually (but again, not always) get along nicely together. A male and a female get along the best, but be ready to find homes for the babies! You may also want to consider this option: a guinea pig and a dwarf rabbit can safely live in the same cage.

If you are planning to get a second cavy to go with the one you have already, it is wise to get them used to each other first. Do this on "neutral ground", a place free of either guinea pig’s scent, with plenty of room, where they have never been before.

Guinea Pig

If you choose to neuter a male or spay a female, be careful. It is a dangerous operation, so choose a reliable veterinarian or animal surgeon who has had experience with guinea pigs. It’s expensive, too- usually between $65 and $130 U.S. dollars. Neutering a male is sometimes cheaper than spaying a female- some surgeons say neutering is not as difficult.

What Size of Cage Will I Need?

A good cage size for a single guinea pig is 26.5 x 14 x 13.5 inches*. It should have a door on the top or on the side. Choose a cage with a metal or plastic floor pan. (Plastic is preferable; metal may rust.) The pan should be four to six inches deep. Because the animals enjoy burrowing, they tend to toss the litter outside the cage. This happens more often if the floor pan is not deep enough. A detachable floor pan is convenient because on nice days you can take the guinea pig outdoors. Put the upper mesh part of the cage over the animal in the grass. Meanwhile, you can keep an eye on things while you clean the floor pan.

*This size cage is good for most of the time, but don’t forget to let him exercise outside of the cage, too. If you are indoors, you may want to put a small box of litter in his favorite corner.

Cages to Avoid

Cages with wooden floors. The wood will soak up the urine, which is hard to clean, and unhealthy for the animal. (Not to mention the fact that it smells); Cages with mesh floors. Guinea pigs, especially baby ones, can catch their feet in it; Aquariums and other closed containers. Not as much air gets inside. It can also become too hot for your pet to tolerate. If you must use an aquarium, PLEASE keep it out of direct sunlight.


Do NOT use pine or cedar shavings. These types of litter are harmful to guinea pigs, as well as a variety of other small animals. Avoid scented or aromatic bedding of any kind. The guinea pig, believe it or not, can be allergic to its bedding. For alternatives, you may want to try these types: aspen bedding, untreated straw, hay, Kay Cob bedding, or Yesterday’s News. Using aspen litter, changing the litter twice a week should be sufficient. If you use hay, you’ll need to change it every day. Wash the floor pan at least once a week. Keep in mind that the time between cleanings, and changing of litter, vary. They are sample times for a cage with a single guinea pig. I have not had experience using the other kinds of bedding, so I can’t guarantee anything.

Food Containers

You can use a heavy ceramic dish for the animal to eat from. Plastic works, too, but you may find that your piggy constantly tips it over. Use a water bottle for water. The gravity-flow type, with the ball valve, works well. And a hay rack is an alternative to laying your guinea pig’s hay on the ground.

Sleeping House

The guinea pig should have a sleeping house, a place for it to go when it wants some privacy. Try a wooden box, open side down, with an entrance hole. A small flower pot on its side would also work.


Your pet needs something to stand on, places to hide, a rock to wear down its claws on, and plenty of room to run around. Hang a treat from the top of the cage, such as a piece of apple, or some Cheerios on a string. Mine has a platform that serves as a lookout. He is very curious to see what is going on outside the cage.