You will need an enclosure to keep your guinea pigs in. These are available commercially, but can be easily built if you are vaguely handy. Bear in mind that your guinea pigs will need sheltered sleeping quarters and an area to graze. The ideal enclosure will be portable enough to allow your guinea pigs to be easily moved around the yard. They are sensitive to extremes of temperature, so shade, good insulation of their sleeping quarters and a ready supply of fresh water are essentials.
The bottom of your guinea pig enclosure should be free of any form of wire, which can cause ulcers on their feet.
Your guinea pig’s diet should largely consist of grass and other green leafy plants, grass hay and be supplemented with left over raw fruit and vegetables, like carrot, celery, capsicum, cabbage, silver beet and salad greens. Do not feed your guinea pigs potato. These are toxic to guinea pigs.
Like humans, guinea pigs cannot generate their own vitamin C. This means it is important for them to eat plants high in vitamin C, such as tomatoes, citrus fruit and cabbage on a regular basis, in order to prevent scurvy.
For such small creatures they have enormous appetites and are great little poo machines for your garden, producing way more manure than even a chicken, This is best composted, as weed seeds can pass through their digestive system and it is high enough in nitrogen to act like a weedicide!
Being members of the rodent family, guinea pigs teeth need regular wearing down. Cabbage cores are great for this. Treats to gnaw on are readily available in pet shops, but your guinea pig will be equally happy with a small block of untreated wood, or some sticks.
They also enjoy something in the open part of their enclosure they can hide under. An old piece of clay pipe is ideal.
Guinea pigs breed readily and often, so same sex guinea pigs are ideal companions, unless you want to regularly find homes for their offspring, or humanely kill dress and cook the surplus. They are native to South America, where they are kept and bred for that purpose. Personally, I think I’d have to be pretty desperate to eat one of these furry little friends, but like rabbits, they are a good source of protein.
If you don’t want your male and female guinea pigs to breed, the solution is to have them desexed. This also prevents the males from being smelly, if you want to cuddle them on a regular basis.
Beware when introducing guinea pigs to each other. If they don’t get on they will attack and inflict awful wounds.
Ideally you should have your guinea pig vet checked at least once a year, to especially check teeth and claws.
You will need to change their bedding once a week if kept outdoors and daily if kept inside. Straw or hay is ideal bedding material, as it is fantastic insulation and is edible.
Like other pets, guinea pigs often get abandoned, so check shelters and cavy rescue centres before you purchase a new one.
My first guinea pig was an RSPCA rescue boy and the cutie pictured above,along with his companions, came from the Eureka Cavy Shelter, both in Ballarat
They live for between 3 and 5 years, but some have been known to make it to 10.
If you have a small lawn and don’t enjoy mowing yourself, a guinea pig or two will eliminate the need to mow if you move them around regularly. The bigger their run, the less they will graze your grass down to the roots.
Your guinea pig will greet you with a familiar “eee, eee eee” when it sees you, making you feel very much loved and acknowledged for the care you give them. They are highly social and intelligent creatures, who really do make captivating pets.