Guinea Pig 101

Quick Facts
LIFESPAN: Approximately 5-7 years
SIZE: Up to 12” (30 cm) long

Socialization & General Care

  • It’s important to get your new friend used to you, and used to being handled. Start by feeding your guinea pig treats by hand and petting him; once he’s comfortable, you can gently and securely pick him up. Hold him for a short time at first, and gradually increase the time. Remember that all pets may bite, scratch, kick or try to escape especially when stressed.
  • When picking up a guinea pig, be careful to fully support his body so that he feels secure.

A guinea pig’s teeth never stop growing


  • Guinea pigs are herbivores and a large portion of their diet should be hay. Guinea pigs less than a year old should be fed alfalfa hay, which is high in calcium and protein. Guinea pigs over one year should be fed timothy hay. Other types of hays can be mixed in to provide variety. Fibre is critical to a guinea pig’s diet as it keeps the intestinal activity normal.
  • For optimal nutrition, your guinea pig should be fed a high quality pellet diet.
  • Guinea pigs cannot manufacture or store their own vitamin C and as a result need to be fed a diet that is supplemented with vitamin C. Adding additional vitamin C in the form of drops, fortified treats, or powder is recommended.
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables should be offered every day and any uneaten food should be removed before it spoils. Acceptable choices are dark leafy greens (kale, collard, carrot tops), carrots, zucchini, celery, apple, strawberries and oranges.
  • Treats should be offered sparingly; once to twice weekly. Acceptable choices are pre-packaged treats made for guinea pigs, blueberries or alfalfa hay.
  • Fresh water should be available at all times and food dishes and water bottles should be cleaned daily.
  • Never give your guinea pig potato, cabbage or junk food including chocolate.

Health Issues to Watch For

  • Sneezing, discharge from nose or eyes
  • Cloudy, sunken or swollen eyes
  • Diarrhea or discoloured droppings
  • Bare patches in fur
  • Lethargic behaviour
  • Weight loss; not eating or drinking normally
  • Overgrown front teeth
  • Shaking

If you notice any of the symptoms above seek veterinary care.

Fun Guinea Pig Facts

  • Guinea pigs “freeze” when they are startled or frightened. They will stand perfectly still.
  • Guinea pigs are in the rodent family.
  • Guinea pigs are fully developed at birth.
  • Guinea pigs, especially young ones, jump straight up in the air from a standing position. This is called “popcorning”.

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Adopting Small Pets

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