Guinea Pig Care

Guinea pigs, also known as “cavies,” are rotund rodents from South America. They are affectionate and gentle, and well-suited for households with children.  However, as true herbivores that are very low on the food chain, they should be kept away from dogs, cats, ferrets, and rats. The guinea pig is an amazing creature who when properly cared for can live a long healthy life,  an average of 5 to 7 years, but could live to 10!


Guinea pig sight is not as good as humans, but they have a wider range and don’t see things in full color. In place, they have heightened senses of hearing, smell, and touch. You will quickly learn that movement and sound is an important part of a piggy’s life. Although they have little short legs and cannot jump or climb many obstacles, they can show you how they feel by movements.

Cavies are startled easily by loud noises, especially at first, and will either stop in its tracks, or run quickly for cover. It’s good to make sure they have somewhere to hide, so he/she will need a safety house such as a box or igloo.

Communication through a variety of different noises is the most common way to know how your cavy is feeling; happy, scared, etc. Here are examples of sounds that you may hear:

  • Popcorning: is a movement that you will see with your little one. This is a hop or twitch-like action that you will see them do when they are excited and happy. Very comical to watch, especially with more than one!
  • Wheeking: Most common sound that you will hear. The sound actually sounds like the word when you say it. It’s high pitched, and is a sound of excitement you will hear either feeding time, or sometimes when you come into the room!
  • Chut/Chubble/Mutter: This is a hard noise to describe – when your guinea pigs are out and about, you’ll notice they will be happily walking around on the floor, going about their business and this is when they may make a repeated chut sound. It really sounds as though they are muttering to themselves. It means they are relaxed and contented.
  • Purring: This is another common sound you will hear a lot of. This one is a sound of contentment.
  • Rumble: This sounds like a purring sound, happens usually when a male piggy is romancing another guinea pig. A female can also make this sound if she is in season. A rumble sounds deeper than a purr with a vibrating effect. While making this sound a guinea pig will sway their hips and walk around another guinea pig. This is known as the mating dance, other terms used are motor boating or rumble strutting.
  • Shrieking: Sounds like a very sharp, high pitched wheek and it means your guinea pig has suffered pain, alarmed or may be very afraid. Shrieking can also be an alarm call. Young guinea pigs calling to their mother, or calling to a cage mate. This can happen if a guinea pigs cage mate is out of the cage or they have been separated for whatever reason.
  • Chirping: A rare sound made by some guinea pigs – sounding like a bird singing. Head will be held high, chirping like a bird. Little lips going in and out as though they’re whistling a tune.

Signs of aggression are very uncommon with Guinea Pigs but here are some signs that you can watch for:

An angry guinea pig will start teeth chattering, it’s a sound heard when they are clacking their teeth together. Although it’s rare, if it’s directed at you, they are telling you to keep away, so please be respectful if your guinea pig is annoyed or upset. Guinea pigs seldom teeth chatter at humans and rarely ever bite, but just be aware that if they are extremely upset or afraid, they may nip. When a guinea pig is teeth chattering at another guinea pig, a fight may break out. This often happens when two boars meet for the first time and they are trying to sort out their position in the hierarchy. It can also happen with sows when they first meet. Usually the fur around their necks will be raised to make them seem larger. They will sway from side to side and look very agitated; they may also show their teeth. If you see your guinea pigs doing this to each another, its best to separate them before they fly at each other, just remember to watch your hands. Place a towel over them to confuse them, and then you can separate them.

Coprophagy – If you see a guinea pig duck their head underneath and then notice that they are munching on something, well they are actually eating their own poop. Rabbits also eat their own poops. They aren’t the normal poops that you see in the cage; these poops are smaller and softer. Guinea pigs need to re-ingests these soft poops because the guinea pigs digestive system doesn’t extract all the vitamins from the food straight away.

Licking – Yes, some guinea pigs like to lick you, while you are holding them. Think of it as guinea pig kisses. Their tongues are very soft, not like some animals.

Sleeping – Unlike hamsters, guinea pigs aren’t nocturnal and don’t sleep for long periods. They just take small naps during the day and night. They often don’t close their eyes unless they are feeling very relaxed and even then its not very often, as guinea pigs like to be on the alert for danger.

Basic Care

Large, unlimited amounts of fresh hay should be offered daily. Young guineas should be introduced to hay as soon as they can eat on their own. Mixed grass hay or Timothy hay is preferred because it is lower in calories and calcium than alfalfa. It is also higher in fiber. Guinea pigs also eat pellet food. Adult guinea pigs should have about ¼ cup per day of pellets, while guinea pigs younger than 6 months should have unlimited pellets.

We recommend Oxbow Cavy Cuisine or Martin Little Friends Guinea Pig Food, as both of these contain a great amount of Vitamin C which is VERY important in a little piggy’s diet. Guinea pigs need about 25-35 mg of vitamin C a day.

Try to feed about 3 servings of veggies daily. Make sure one serving contains a leafy green. A variety is necessary in order to obtain the necessary nutrients, with one each day that contains Vitamin A. Add one vegetable to the diet at a time. Eliminate if it causes soft stools or diarrhea.

Limit fruits to 1-2 tablespoons per 2 lbs. of body weight (none if dieting) from the list below of high fiber fruits. USE FRUIT ONLY ONCE OR TWICE A WEEK. Sugary fruits such as bananas and grapes should be used only sparingly. Guineas have a sweet tooth and if left to their own devices will devour sugary foods to the exclusion of healthful ones.

This is an excellent site for vitamin content of vegetables:

Absolutely NO Chocolate (Poisonous), cookies, crackers, breakfast cereals, bread, pasta, yogurt drops or other “human treats.” There is research to suggest these items, in excessive amounts, may contribute to fatal cases of enterotoxaemia, a toxic overgrowth of “bad” bacteria in the intestinal tract.

If you choose to use a dish, use heavy lead-free ceramic food dishes, so that the pigs can not knock over. However, water dishes are quickly get soiled with loose bedding and food, so water bottle are the better choice.

Water bottles with stainless steel ball bearing sipper tubes are much better. Guinea pigs drink a lot of water and love to run the water out of the bottles. That is why the sipper tube must have a metal ball in its spout.

Some people say that guinea pigs are rodents and some say they are not. Like rodents, guinea pig’s teeth are constantly growing. They need safe wooden or bone objects in their cage on which to wear their teeth down or the teeth will overgrow, making them ill.

Like most animals, guinea pigs need nail trims. Be careful not to cut too short as you can cause the nail to bleed. You can also contact local groomers and vets as they can do it for you as well if you are too nervous.

Play time
It is important to make sure your little one gets enough play time out around so he/she does not get over weight. Also, it will make your piggy very happy. It is okay to bring them outdoors, in a pen or little harness. They will eat the grass and LOVE dandelion leaves. Please be careful that the area has not been sprayed with pesticides.


Select a smooth bottomed cage (no wire bottom). A small covered house or box inside the cage will provide a sense of protection and a place to sleep. If separation from other household pets is not an issue, an open-topped enclosure may allow you to interact with and pet your cavy more easily.

Not Recommended: Aquariums and plastic tubs are much too small and have poor ventilation. This type of housing isolates the guinea pig from its surroundings by limiting sight, sound and smell.

Do not house your cavies outside. Temperature fluctuations can be very hard on your guinea pigs. Predators sometimes break into cages. A guinea pig inside will receive better care as you will catch health problems more quickly.

Pine or cedar shavings are not recommended for bedding. Use a scent free bedding or fleece blankets on the cage floor. Other options are Yesterdays News, Care Fresh or other recycled bedding.

Not Recommended: Cedar and raw pine (not kiln-dried) shavings contain aromatic oils (phenols) which can contribute to respiratory problems. Sawdust (small particles may be inhaled) and cat litter (which a cavy may eat) are also poor choices for bedding.

Litter Training – Yes, a guinea pig can be trained to use a litter. They usually pee in the corners so if you can cover all corners and figure out which one is the ‘usual’ place, you can place the litter so you wont need to line the whole pen/cage with bedding. In its place you can use fleece or any other fabrics or anything that they wont digest that will help them from slipping around.

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