Once known for their use in scientific research, guinea pigs are now very popular as pets. You must create a proper habitat for your pet guinea pigs, so that, they can grow healthy and happily. It is advisable to seek the opinion of reputed breeders and experts, before you decide on setting up the cage.
Did You Know?
Rather than digging their own burrows, wild guinea pigs tend to use the burrows abandoned by other animals.
Guinea pigs are not pigs, but rodents that are commonly known as cavies. Domestication of guinea pigs dates back to 5000 B.C. While domestic guinea pigs (Cavia porcellus) are no longer found in the wild, there are some closely-related species that thrive in different parts of South America.
Guinea pigs are Cavia aperea (Brazilian guinea pig), Cavia fulgida (shiny guinea pig), or Cavia tschudii (montane guinea pig). It is said that the domestic guinea pig is a subspecies of Brazilian guinea pigs. Another contention is that they descended from montane guinea pigs. Recent studies suggest that Cavia tschudii could be the ancestor of domestic guinea pigs.
✦Habitat of Guinea Pigs in the Wild
Wild guinea pigs are found in groups; and each group consists of numerous females, a single male, and the young ones. They are mostly found in rocky outcrops and grassy plains. While they are rarely found to build nests, wild guinea pigs live in dense, tall vegetation, so as to protect themselves from predators. Such a habitat also provides food, as they mainly feed on grass and plant matter.
Guinea pigs usually use the burrows abandoned by other animals. They may also live in rocky crevices and tunnels in thick vegetation. These animals memorize their tracks in dense vegetation, as this helps them to escape from predators. In short, the habitat must provide them with adequate shelter and food, and safety from predators. Even though wild guinea pigs and the domesticated ones are of different species, there are some similarities, as far as their requirements are concerned.
✦Pet Guinea Pig Habitat
When it comes to pet guinea pigs, it is almost impossible to imitate their natural habitat. Housing them outdoors is also not recommended, unless you provide them with a weatherproof home that also keeps the animals safe from predators. Another cause of concern is the stress caused to them due to the presence (or mere sight) of predators and other pet animals. So it is better to keep domesticated guinea pigs indoors.
✦Raising of Guinea Pigs
Guinea pigs like to live in groups, so it is not advisable to raise a single guinea pig. You may keep females and young ones together. A neutered male may also be added to the group. However, it is not advisable to raise male guinea pigs together. Avoid keeping males and females, as these animals breed proficiently.
Most of the ready-made cages are found to be small for guinea pigs. Get a large cage, or build one on your own. According to experts, a guinea pig needs at least 3.5 to 4 square feet of cage space. It is always better to provide a 7.5 square feet cage (30″ x 36″) for a single guinea pig.
For two individual guinea pigs, a 10.5 square feet cage (30″ x 50″) would do. If there are three animals, choose a cage with a floor space of 13 square feet (30″x 62″). Likewise, you have to increase the cage size as per the number of guinea pigs you want to raise. The cage must be well-ventilated, and this is the reason why small glass aquariums are not preferred for these animals.
✦Features Necessary for Cage Of Guinea Pig
You can make the walls of cage out of square grids, but a solid floor is recommended, as wire mesh floors harm the legs of these animals. Once you put together the square grids and form the four walls, you can either keep the top open or covered. If there are any other house pets, it will be better to cover the top. The walls must have a height of at least 18 inches.
✦Bedding Of Guinea Pig Inside Cage
The cage floor must be covered with a suitable bedding, which has to be changed on a daily basis. You may use grass hay, shredded newspaper, or aspen/hardwood shavings. Cedar and pine chips/shavings may release volatile oils that are harmful for guinea pigs.
✦Features Required Inside the Cage
The cage must have a separate, covered sleeping quarters, as they like to have some sort of enclosure to sleep and rest. Another important requirement is a play area with enough toys and other stuff. They have the habit of hiding, so provide them with some grass huts, wooden logs, cardboard tubes, and plastic houses.
✦Accessories Required Inside Cage
You need to keep a food dish and a water bottle inside the cage. The water bottle must have a minimum capacity of eight ounces. In case you have more guinea pigs in the cage, use a bigger bottle. You may also use more than one water bottle. It is advisable to use an inverted bottle with a drinking tube.
✦Guinea Pigs have Habit of Trimming Their Teeth
Food dishes can be either plastic or ceramic, and must be wide-bottomed and heavy. As their teeth grow continuously, guinea pigs have the habit of gnawing and chewing. This is a natural way of trimming the teeth. So pet guinea pigs must be provided with materials, like a piece of untreated wood or twigs without chemicals.