Guinea Pigs

Page Contents:


I've posted lots of guinea pix on flickr:


I try to weigh the guinea pigs every day. This takes about 3 minutes. I herd each guinea pig into a carrier and then place the carrier on a kitchen scale.

Here's a spreadsheet showing their weights and a chart (updated 2009-02-14):

NOTE: The weight chart has a lot of data and might take a while to load, depending on the speed of your computer and connection. If you have OpenOffice, I recommend you try the OpenOffice version (which loads a lot faster).


I've created a terse checklist which we let our pet-sitters use.

In additional, here are some more descriptive notes, which should will give you an idea of how much time guinea pigs consume, and the type of activities you can expect.



add fresh veggies

Every morning, I make the pigs a fresh veggie "salad" in a small bowl. We feed them baby green mixes, plus red pepper (for vitamin C). They love it.

They used to hate veggies, and would only eat apple and carrots for a couple months. But then I found that the carrots and/or apple gave Donovan diarrhea. So we kept trying to get them to eat spinache and lettuce, and eventually it worked. I guess green veggies are an acquired taste.

We've also tried cucumbers, tomato, and banana, none of which they'll touch. So baby greens and red pepper it is.

I like to give them the veggies first so they are distracted while I perform the next steps.

remove old pellets

So far the guinea pigs are good about keeping the pellets in the bowls; they only knock over the bowls once or twice a week. They do, however, occasionally poop in the food bowls. Yum.

Anyway, we're supposed to throw away all uneaten food, so I dump out the pellets every morning. Since they don't always eat all the pellets, we end up wasting a lot. Oh well. Better to waste a few pennies on pellets than a few hundred dollars on vet bills.

remove old hay

They love to climb under and in the hay and then run around the cage. Brats. So, hay gets strewn around the cage. I used to use a plastic cookie sheet as a hay tray, in an attempt to keep the hay in one area. Unfortunately, both pigs are now in the habit of crawling under the hay tray, like a turtle. We've even seen then sleep there. Weird. So I now use a triangular litter box (in the corner) as a hay tray. It's heavier, and so far they haven't been able to lift it. Anyway, I dump it out and refill it every morning.

remove poops

I use a rubber glove to remove all the poops and little bits of hay that I can see within, say, 10 minutes. It's not as gross as it sounds, since their poops are firm and non-smelly. Still, I like having that glove there.

add fresh hay

We currently only use Timothy hay, although for the first couple months we used Alfalfa since the guinea pigs were still young.

Anyway, we put a large handful in a corner of the cage. They drag it all over the place, though. So there's no point in using a bowl.

change water

They have 3 water bottles. Each morning we dump out the old water, rinse the caps and bottles, and then fill each bottle about 1/2 way with cool tap water. We don't add anything to the water, and don't filter it. So far no complaints.

NOTE: We do not add any vitamin supplements to the water because it might make the water taste bad. If the water tastes bad, the guinea pigs are less likely to drink. Dehydration is bad. So we keep it simple.


remove veggies

I toss any uneaten veggies, so they don't rot. Usually, there aren't many pieces left.

weigh the pigs
I like to weigh each pig every day. Every month or so I update my spreadsheet. This helps me get a sense of "normal" weight fluctuations, so that I can more quickly spot real problems.


add fresh veggies

I give 'em another bowl of veggies, this time just greens, no red pepper. I read that too much red pepper can give them kidneys stones or something like that.


remove veggies

Before I go to bed, I remove any uneaten veggies. I also give them more hay if they need it, and tell them goodnight.


Clean Cage

Every Saturday morning, I clean out their cage. This takes about 45 minutes. I clean the right side of the cage first (while the guinea pigs are on the left) and then switch. This way, I don't need to move the pigs out of their cage.

remove everything
I remove all the houses, bowls, water bottles, trays, and then use a scooper thingie to scoop out all the hay, beddings, pellets, etc. I vaccuum the dust with a mini-vac.
wash cage
I wipe the cage bottom and sides with a mix of vinegar and a little water. I use paper towels, and a rubber glove so it's not too gross.
dry cage
After the floor and walls are clean, I dry them off with paper towels and then a cloth towel. Moisture is bad, so I try to be thorough.
add bedding
I then fill the clean part of the cage with bedding (Carefresh). At this point the pigs will come over to investigate.
repeat with other side of the cage
While the pigs check out the clean side of the cage, I finish the remaining dirty side.
wash bowls

I have two pairs of bowls, and rotate them each week. I wash the old pair with vinegar and hot water.

check health

This is the main reason you're supposed to pick up the animals. Cuddling, bonding, asserting your dominance... all that is more for you than the animals. Not that it's bad to make yourself happy. Just don't forget that these critters are living beings that you need to protect first, enjoy second.

For the health check, you're supposed to examine their toenails, eyes, notes, teeth, and private parts. I'm not sure what we should expect to find, though. What's normal? What's not? Hmmm..

We're not good at this yet (especially the private parts), so I can't give good details.

hand-feed veggies

While they're in your hand for the health-check, it makes sense to try to hand-feed them veggies.

Note: Don't force yourself to this if you're pressed for time. If you rush through the feeding process with stuff on your mind, the animals might sense your impatience. Or you might jab food in their face in a way they don't like. Plus, you won't enjoy it and will be less likely to pick them up for health checks in the future.

Assuming you have time, hand-feeding has these benefits:

  • You can study their breathing and chewing more closely.
  • You can see what fresh veggies they prefer.
  • You might be more likely to get them to eat something new by shoving it in their face rather than letting them eat it from the bowl, but I'm not sure.
  • It'll help the animal associate you with food. This should make it easier to pick up the animal (for health checks) and reduce its stress when you are around.
  • You might get warm fuzzy feelings from having the cute critter eat from your hand. This doesn't really help the pet, but makes you more likely to pick up the pet for the health check.


We feed them the following:

timothy hay
I give them lots of hay, about enough to fill a pillow each day. To reduce cost and hassle, I order bulk (45 lb boxes) from KleenMama's Hayloft or Oxbow Hay. Each box lasts 3 or 4 months.
timothy pellets
I fill two bowls with pellets every morning, and throw the remainer away the next day. I buy bulk, usually from Oxbow. I make sure the pellets are fortified w/ Vitamin C.
fresh veggies
Each morning I give them a bowl of mixed baby greens and 3 or 4 quarter-sized pieces of red pepper. They hated veggies for the first few months, but now love them. Veggies only keep fresh for a few days, so I have to buy new veggies once or twice a week.
We fill their three water bottles with cool tap water. We have good water where we live (in the Pacific NorthWest), so I don't worry about weird chemicals.


We've tried the following beddings:

This recycled paper product is expensive, but easy. It blocks odors well and is safer than some of the wood beddings. For cheap places to buy it, see the Best Prices topic on the forum.
fleece / towels
We have tried cloth bedding a couple times and find it very hard on the nose (stinky), eyes (yucky messy), and washing machine (we had to replace ours). Not recommended.
We've never exclusively bedded them on hay. However, we do notice that the pigs love to crawl inside the hay. It might be cheaper to bed them on hay instead of Carefresh, but I worry about them running around and poking their eyes out on stiff stalks of hay. So, we try to keep the hay in the bins and the running on the Carefresh.



We started off with one cage (17" x 27" = 3.2 square feet). It seemed small, more like a travel cage than a permanent home.

About a week later, we bought another, larger cage (20" x 38" = 5.3 square feet). I removed one side of the crating from each cage and put them back to back. This lets them go back and forth between both cages.

I need to figure out a way to make them a nice ramp to make it easier for them to go back and forth.


Right now they have 2 wood houses plus one or two carboard boxes. When they were younger, they could fit inside of 2 cardboard tubes and 2 cloth tunnels, bought from a pet store. I make sure that the bottom of their hide is always Carefresh, because poops and pee quickly soil cardboard.

Health Problems

Donovan had diarrhea (and soft poops). We eventually [think we] tracked this down to carrots and apples, which were his favorite food. Once we removed those from his diet, his poops firmed up.

They probably had had a nasty fight shortly after we got them. We found one absess on Donovan and two on Coffee. The vet surgically removed them. This was expensive, but allowed the wounds to heal cleanly without us having to lance and drain the pus. Yuck.

We had to give the pigs oral antibiotics for about a month. That was not fun. We got better at it, though. It used to take us an hour or two; we got so that we could give both of them their meds in 5 minutes.

When we first got him, Coffee hated being touched; he bit us a lot. People on the forums suggested that we treat both pigs for mites, in case mites were causing Coffee to be irritable. So I gave them Ivermectin a few times. Coffee still hates to be touched. He's mellower now, though, so just grumbles instead of biting.


Here's my favorite guinea pig related links:
Tons of well-organized information about guinea pigs.
Cavy Spirit
Another nice well-organized site.
Diddly Di
More chaotic, but more personal.
Lots of practical info.