A guinea pig is a unique pet for any individual, and proper care for a guinea pig is defined by the right type of food, clean water, appropriate grooming and companionship. These are the essentials to watching your guinea pig live its average five to seven years in good health. Guinea pigs are also referred to as a cavies, or a cavy, short for its scientific name, cavia porcellus.
Just like with humans, the proper care for a guinea pig starts with its diet. It should have unlimited access to hay and grass, with Timothy hay and orchard grass preferred. Fresh water should be given and changed daily to encourage the guinea pig to drink plenty of water. In addition, pellets fortified with Vitamin C should be given daily to care for a guinea pig, along with fresh vegetables. Vitamin C is absolutely essential to the proper care of a guinea pig because a cavy can not manufacture the vitamin on its own. If the diet of a guinea pig is proper, it may receive adequate Vitamin C through hay and vegetables, but if not, it will require either a solid or liquid supplement.
The cage of a guinea pig is its home, so it is important that a proper cage be adequate in size and have the proper ventilation without gaps in the flooring on which it can catch its feet. Many guinea pig advocates recommend as much as seven square feet (2.13 square meters) for a cavy's home, with an extra two to four square feet (60.96 sq. cm to 1.22 sq. m) to per additional guinea pig. If one wants to properly care for a guinea pig and can not find an adequate home at a pet store, one may consider buying one online or building one.
As far as grooming a cavy goes, daily brushing is essential to remove loose hairs and help prevent shedding. Some guinea pigs are never bathed, but a conscientious owner might find that his or her cavy needs a bath. In that case, one should choose a shampoo specially designed for a small animal, which will prevent issues with drying and allergies. One should pay special attention to the grease glands of a cavy, which are located right above where a tail would be. There is one grease gland on each side, and these can become irritated or infected if not cleaned regularly.
Gentle grooming of the ears is a periodic necessity which should not be overlooked in the care of a guinea pig. One may use a drop of mineral oil in the ear to loosen up debris, or may simply wipe the ear with a soft cloth wrapped around a finger. Guinea pig nails should be trimmed regularly, and it is suggested to start monthly at an early age so that the cavy can become adjusted to this necessary process. In addition, some cavies are long-haired and might require periodic trims.
Breeding guinea pigs is a risky process, and is not recommended. A female guinea pig can be sexually mature in as little as four weeks after birth, so it is important to keep males and females separate unless they have been spayed or neutered. Male guinea pigs also have a tendency toward fighting, so the disposition of a cavy needs to be monitored and may result in the separation of one of the pets.
It is highly suggested that guinea pigs be paired with another of the same sex. This is because cavies are highly social animals that thrive with companionship. Humans are not an effective substitute for a companion in the proper care for a guinea pig.