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Owning a Guinea Pig for the First Time

Are you ready to meet the coolest little rodent on the chew block?

The guinea pig is a calm, easy-to-handle first-time pet for those looking for a pal. While they have their needs, like any other living animal, they’re simple to tame down and simple to care for. We can’t recommend them enough. Their sweet faces, their happy bouncing (popcorning), and their gleeful little noises? Guinea pigs are fantastic pals and I’m glad you’re considering them!

Here we’ll take a look at some of the things you’ll need to grab for a guinea pig, what you might see, and what you’ll need to learn before owning a guinea pig for the first time. Let’s go!

Not quite swine, but still divine

Despite their name, guinea pigs aren’t related to the large, pink Wilburs you’re so used to seeing on farms.

Additionally, guinea pigs also aren’t from anywhere called “Guinea”. In fact, nobody’s quite sure why these little guys are called what they are! But we still call them that today, after a long history of sending them throughout the world.

However, guinea pigs still wheek and squeal. They sometimes manage to make a high-pitched whistle of delight, too!

They’re unlikely to keep you up at night, though they can be active while you’re asleep.

And, like any rodent pet, they may decide to give you a curious nibble. Guinea pigs are one of the least likely rodents to bite and, as we mentioned, they tame easily.

We have a great article on taming your guinea pig in just two short weeks located here!

Guinea pigs don’t need a ton of room, but the more the merrier.

And that goes for their friendships, too. Try not to adopt one guinea pig at a time. These are herd animals and guinea pigs get lonely very quickly.

A pair of same-sex babies is perfect.

Getting started with your piggies

Before bringing home your new friend(s), get their living space setup. Here are the basics of what you’ll need: cage, bedding, hay, hiding spots, a hay rack, water bottle, and a food bowl. 

Fill the hay racks and water bowls before you put the guinea pig in the cage so you don’t have to startle it after they take up residence. 

Your cage need not be a tall structure. Many guinea pig caretakers have plastic panels surrounding a fabric-covered area.

Guinea pigs don’t burrow or jump like rabbits do, nor do they climb like mice and hamsters.

They’re pretty easy going. A simple enclosure is plenty for them, but more room is better than less.

I recommend buying timothy hay by the bale from a farm and placing it in a large storage bin inside the house. This keeps down on costs and keeps fresh hay available at all times.

Chew blocks or store-bought chew branches are wonderful ways to keep their teeth trim and in correct length.

Like all rodents, guinea pig teeth grow their entire lives. They can die from blockages caused by mis-aligned teeth if they don’t have the opportunity to chew.

(You might be interested in, Can Guinea Pigs Chew on Cardboard?)

Guinea pig food is usually fortified with vitamin C, but it’s always best to add more. Cilantro, spinach, turnip greens, and parsley are all well-loved time-tested foods that help guinea pigs.

These sweet little guys are very vitamin C deficient, so it’s best to keep a little extra around at all times.

Be careful about overfeeding vegetables at first if you don’t know if your guinea pig has eaten them before (or if they’re young). A slow introduction to veggies is the best bet. 

Start with less watery vegetables and move to more watery as they get used to eating them.

What to expect

When first bringing your friend home, give them some time to settle in.

Make sure they have a hidey spot in their cage and speak quietly when entering the room.

Sit next to the cage to let them get used to your scent. Don’t reach into the cage and don’t try to pick them up for the first day or two at a minimum. 

Given the right opportunity, you’ll have a friend for the next several years.

The oldest guinea pig in the record books was almost 15 years old! The average is between 4 and 7 years, with sows (girls) usually living a little longer than boars (boys).

You’ll hear squeaks, grunts, and whistles throughout the day and night as the guinea pigs explore and discover.

Sometimes you may even hear a toy being tossed across the cage. Hurry back and you’ll see the little guy trundling along after it.

They may not be the best at fetch, but they certainly like to play throw!

Your vet can help teach you how to restrain and trim the nails of your guinea pig. Remember to ask the next time you’re in the clinic!

Conclusion – Welcome to cavy ownership!

I’m excited to have you as part of the herd!

Guinea pigs are a little on the addictive side. So many times, we’ve heard people say they only want a pair, only to see them adding another pair a year or two down the road.

Their gentle personalities and sweet expressions bring people in and win their heart.

One final tip is to remember each guinea pig is different. Some may never want to be petted while others want to snuggle frequently.

You’ll get to know your piggy’s personality over time. 

Finally, for those in rural areas, guinea pig shows often compete right against rabbit shows.

This can help you expand your knowledge of guinea pig care and let you see several neat breeds! Check them out for some wheekend fun!

You might also be interested in, The American Guinea Pig: Facts and Can Guinea Pigs Blink?


Little Adventures – What you need to know when you first get your guinea pigs

Avian and Exotic Animal Care Veterinary Hospital – Guinea pigs 

Petco – Guinea Pig Cavia porcellus 

University of California, Davis Veterinary Medicine – Guinea Pig Care