Guinea Pig: General Advice


The guinea pig or cavy is a friendly intelligent animal that makes an excellent pet. These guidelines will ensure the wellbeing of your new friend.

Purchase from a reputable breeder or good pet shop. Select one that is active and friendly, and is at least 6 weeks old. They can live for up to 8 years, and so caring for them is a long term commitment.

The cavy is a social creature and needs companionship; preferably of the same sex as otherwise they will breed from a very young age. Neutered males will get along with females. If kept with a rabbit it is important to remember that they need a different diet: guinea pigs are unable to make their own Vitamin C (which rabbits can) and are totally dependent on a regular supply in the diet.

Guinea pigs are best kept outside in a large wooden or wire hutch that protects them from the weather and potential predators. An open area for the day and an enclosed space for sleeping are best. Position the hutch away from direct sunlight and strong winds, as they are susceptible to heat stroke. For bedding, use wheat straw, dust-free wood shavings or shredded paper. Clean the hutch regularly. Alternatively, create a large outdoor run with some form of netting on a timber frame. If they are allowed to wander round indoors, beware of them chewing electric cables!

When picking one up, use one hand to support the rear end and the other wrapped around the ribs with the thumb just under the shoulder. Feeding requirements include fibre rich guinea pig pellets, a regular supply of dust free hay and a source of vitamin C, e.g. from green vegetables or drops added to the drinking water. Supply fresh water daily; remember to clean the water bottle. A healthy pig will be alert and inquisitive with a glossy coat. Potential problems include diarrhoea, mange (hair loss, scabs, itchy skin) sore feet, eye infections and dental disorders if the diet is too low in fibre.

The pig may chunter or gurgle when stroked – this is a reassuring sound. A high-pitched shriek can indicate pain or fear or excitement at feeding time. Chattering of teeth is a warning sign to others to back off.


This information is provided for information purposes to our registered clients. It is the individual opinion of veterinary surgeons within the practice. It should not be relied upon as an alternative to a clinical examination and diagnosis by a veterinary surgeon. If in any doubt please contact the practice for further advice.

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