How to Keep Your Guinea Pig Happy and Healthy

Disney has announced that it will release its blockbuster smash hit G-Force on DVD on December 15, 2009…just in time for the holiday season. The film chronicles the life of FBI trained guinea pigs who – in line with Disney’s tried-and-true formula – save a lot of people and instantly win over the hearts of an animal-loving audience. The cute pets – voiced by Hollywood powerhouse actors Penelope Cruz, Tracy Morgan, Steve Buscemi, Nicolas Cage, and many others – are adorable, personable, and just about the cutest critters you can see on film.

Undoubtedly, the DVD-release will remind audiences just how sweet and adorable these fuzzy creatures are. Children will beg for a guinea pig and most parents will comply (whether willingly or under duress). Call it the “101 Dalmatian” syndrome or whatever you like, the fact of the matter is that knee-jerk pet ownership decisions focus more on cuteness than the importance of our role of responsible pet care-givers.

Before making a decision to bring a guinea pig home with you, carefully review these next few steps on how to keep your new pet happy, healthy, and around for a long time.

Happy Cavies Need Your Time and Attention

Cavies are social animals and do best in groups. If you are thinking about getting a guinea pig, if you can’t afford to house two, you are best to wait. Just think about it. If you were left home for over eight hours a day while your care-giver was at work, shopping, or whatever – how happy would you be? Cavies were once used by scientists as the perfect test subjects due to their similarities with human behavior. If you wouldn’t be happy, neither will your pet.

Take the Time to Keep Your Cavy Happy!

Spot clean your cavies’ cage daily. Yes, by daily I do mean every day. My piggies can product a lot of waste and it’s important to keep their living area fresh and clean from powerful odors and waste build-up. As a cavy companion myself, I generally spot clean 4-5 times a day and refresh the areas of the cage they eliminate in once a day.

Your New Cavy Family Will Need Vitamin C and Fresh Vegetables and Fruits

Pellets and a constant supply of fresh Timothy hay are just the basics. These two, along with fresh non-chlorinated water, should be available at all times. But they also require fresh vegetables, fruits, and a lot of Vitamin C since they are not able to product their own vitamin C like humans. Most major pet stores carry vitamin C drops; but ideally vitamin C should be consumed through a healthy diet of fresh vegetables – different varieties of lettuce, carrots, celery, cucumber, parsley, etc. – and fruits. Before feeding your new fuzzy friend ANYTHING, do your research and be SURE what you are about to feed your cavy is not poisonous. There are many things humans can eat that guinea pigs cannot.

Large Cage + Play Time = Happy and Healthy

Store bought cages are usually nothing more than glorified litter boxes. I only use my store-bought cage when I am cleaning my cavies’ home – and with 3 guinea pigs, I use two of these cages. You should be able to provide a cage (whether purchase or constructed yourself with coroplast and wire cage cubes found at art supply stores or places such as Target or Wal-Mart) that is AT LEAST 2 sq ft per cavy. This is not an option! And no matter how big your cage, you should spend time with your cavies each day. “Cuddle time” (i.e., snuggling while watching TV) and “play time” (25-45 minutes each day allowing your guinea pigs to run around on the floor) are both necessary. Again, do your research and find out how exactly to do this – and if you have the time and space to provide these necessary activities.

Again, cavy ownership is not to be taken lightly. Just like a pet dog or cat, a guinea pig requires special attention and unique needs. Be sure to research and think about your decision to adopt before welcome one into your home.

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