As someone who grew up with guinea pigs in the home, I can tell you that they are wonderful pets. If properly handled from a young age, they will enjoy being picked up and petted. Cavies (as they are also known as) are curious, adorable, and easy to care for.
That being said, there are important things that you need to know before you get a guinea pig. Caring for a guinea pig is a lot different than, for example, caring for a hamster or rabbit. They require a proper cage, a daily supply of vitamin C, frequent cage cleanings, and various other care tasks that must be performed for your guinea pig to thrive.
To start with, your guinea pig needs a proper cage. Many cages sold for guinea pigs are much too small. They also require vitamin C. This is an essential part of their diet. A quality guinea pig pellet food will supply all the vitamin C your piggies need. If you're worried that they aren't getting enough, you can also buy vitamin C-filled treats or mineral chews. A guinea pig will die if he doesn't have a proper supply of vitamin C.
Any cavy owner will tell you that guinea pigs poop and pee a lot. Therefore, you need to keep their cage clean. Cleaning it at least twice a week is recommended. When selecting a bedding to line the cage with, be sure to avoid cedar or pine shavings. These can be toxic to them. Aspen shavings, Carefresh brand bedding, or lining the cage with polar fleece are great ways to keep your cavy's cage clean and comfortable.
There are numerous other tasks one must be sure to perform to properly. For one, their toe nails grow rather quickly. They need to be clipped often so that they aren't overgrown. Also, if the nails are shorter, they will be less likely to scratch you when you handle them.
Some breeds have long fur. This needs to be trimmed and brushed frequently to avoid matting. These longer-haired breeds can be beautiful pets if you brush them often enough. Brushing shorter-haired breeds is a good idea, too, to remove loose fur and keep the coat looking shiny and beautiful.
Though many pet suppliers will market them as usable by guinea pigs, exercise wheels and run-around balls are not good for them. Their backs don't bend as easily as other small critters, so these devices can injure them. They do enjoy time outside their cage to run about. Make sure you watch them to avoid any "accidents" (like I said, they poop and pee a lot) and to keep them from chewing on electrical cords or furniture.
Speaking of chewing, guinea pigs must always have something to chew in their cages. Like all rodents, their teeth are constantly growing. If they don't wear them down they will overgrow, inhibiting the cavy's ability to eat.
If you're planning on having a child care for your guinea pigs, think again. Its care should be left in the hands of an adult; however, young children can be allowed to play with it along with adult supervision. Guinea pigs are far better pets for children than hamsters or gerbils because they are much calmer. They will sit on your lap and let you pet them for a long time rather than run away. Just be careful to not have them on your lap too long, though―they pee wherever and whenever! So, if you think you'd like to get guinea pigs for your kids, just remember that you will be the one responsible for its care.