If you are thinking about getting a guinea pig, there are some basic essentials you should be prepared to buy beforehand. Guinea pigs are great pets for kids, and fairly easy to take care of, but you want to make sure that you know what their requirements are.
We have owned several guinea pigs over the years. I had guinea pigs as a child, and then each of my daughters have had guinea pigs. During the pandemic, they each got a second guinea pig from an animal shelter. Little did we know that each of those guinea pigs was pregnant! We ended up with 13 guinea pigs total! We currently have 6 guinea pigs, so we have learned a lot along the way about how to best care for them.
1. A good size cage
Cages have come a long way over the years, and so have size requirements. We always bought very large guinea pig cages or rabbit cages for our guinea pigs. If you have some time to shop around, you can usually find a coupon, or you can look for a used cage on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist. There are smaller cages marketed as guinea pig cages at pet stores, and I always tended to go towards a larger size often advertised as a rabbit cage.
Pine is not recommended, due to the oils in the wood. We use Carefresh mixed with something like aspen (since Carefresh is expensive). Make sure you change out the bedding regularly. I also recommend a cage cleaner to help with odor issues. We also hose out the cages between uses to help reduce any odor issues.
We tried fleece liners for our guinea pig cages for about 3 months. While this seems like a great option, the liners have to be washed frequently. I was going crazy trying to wash out the liners every couple days. They are not supposed to be dried in the sun (as it causes them to shrink), and I ended up with guinea pig hair all over my laundry. It was tough to shake off all the bit os hay that would get stuck to the liners. Again, I loved the concept, but it turned into a laundry nightmare!
We use guinea pig pellets, as well as a daily diet foraging mix. I try to stay away from dry foods that have seeds or “junk food” like little bits that have food dye in them. We are a fan of Oxbow pellets, which come in formulations for young or adult guinea pigs.
4. Fresh fruits and veggies
We give our piggies fresh veggies every day. Always check to make sure that the veggies you give them are safe! And while things like lettuce are good for them, it is better in small amount. We have even grown our own grass in trays for the guinea pigs as a treat! (See my post here).
We always have hay available for our guinea pigs to forage on. They do go through a lot, so we buy big bags. Make sure that the hay is intended for guinea pigs, such as timothy hay. Other types of hay, like Alfalfa, are only recommended in smaller amounts. Keep in mind that straw is solely for bedding for other animals, and you want to find a fresh, green timothy hay.
6. A hideout
Guinea pigs like to feel safe, and it is good to provide them with a space they can hide, sleep, and feel safe. You can make hideouts with cardboard boxes, and also buy ones from the pet store.
7. A water bottle
A good water bottle is a must. Too often, water bottles can be leaky, and guinea pigs can drink a surprising amount of water. My recommendation is a couple of large, good quality water bottles. We hang up a couple in case the kids don’t fill them often enough.