Breeding - Purchase
The number of animals
Guinea pigs are purely social animals: the need they have for the reassuring presence of their fellow humans is even physiological. A guinea pig always left alone will be a sad and suffering animal. If you cannot devote a lot of time and attention to the pet, it is far preferable to keep two of them together, to keep each other company. The commitment that involves maintaining two guinea pigs is practically the same, and the two animals will be happier.
Two females will get along without problems, and so will two males if brought together as children and as long as there are no females around. Two adult males in the presence of a female would attack without hesitation, even if raised together, unless sterilized.
Buy young animals, possibly 5-6 weeks of age. Older females, housed together with the males, may already be pregnant at the time of purchase. You can distinguish young and adult guinea pigs by their smaller size.
Do not choose an impulse guinea pig, just because the type of coat or the color attracts you, but examine it carefully to verify that it is healthy. The guinea pig must be lively and alert; if she is quiet in a corner, without paying attention to what is around her, she is probably sick.
Look carefully at the coat and skin: there must be no areas without hair or covered with crusts; the coat must be thick, clean and uniform.
Ask to pick up the guinea pig you intend to buy, and caress it: you must not feel the bones sticking out and the hips must not be sunken, as happens if it is too thin. Check that the legs have no problems: the lower surface of the limbs must be in perfect condition, without redness, scabs or swelling. The lower part of the legs is hairless, and the skin must be pink, not red, and without crusts. The nails must not show anomalies. Signs of disease, which require discarding the subject, include: the presence of crusts or drains from the eyes, the anal area smeared with feces, the presence of diarrheal feces in the cage. Do not choose a subject in a group in which one of the animals appears ill, or if the hygiene conditions of the cage leave something to be desired.
Guinea Pig Buff
Guinea pigs are undemanding about the type of cage. The most important requirement concerns the space, which must be as large as possible: the minimum dimensions are 80 x 40 cm for a guinea pig housed alone. Multiple guinea pigs require proportionately more space. It is possible to build larger cages by hand, or connect several cages together to allow animals to exercise more.
The bottom must be preferably solid, because the guinea pigs have relatively small legs with respect to the weight they have to support, and the grid can favor the onset of infections and injuries to the feet. Also on a grid of inappropriate dimensions the legs can get stuck and fracture. The lower part of the cage must have relatively high side walls, so that the bottom material does not continuously fall outside. The height of the cage is not an important factor because the guinea pigs do not jump and climb the bars; a minimum height of 20 cm may be sufficient. For the same reason, if there are no dogs, cats, ferrets or small children in the house, it is not even essential that the cage has a top cover.
The best materials are represented by steel and plastic, while wood is absolutely not suitable: it becomes soaked with urine and is gnawed.
The bottom of the cage must be filled with absorbent material, soft and harmless to the animal; it must not be dusty, because small particles can be inhaled into the lungs when the guinea pig sniffs. Sawdust and shavings are not a good choice, because they pack in the genital area and can create serious problems. Straw is also to be avoided: it can hurt the eyes. Suitable materials are good quality hay, corn cob pellets or recycled paper (found in pet stores), chopped paper. By placing newspaper sheets on the bottom of the cage, and above them the bedding, cleaning is very easy, removing the newspapers from the bottom together with the bedding. The litter must be thick and always very clean, to ensure the health of the legs.
An indispensable accessory of the cage is a small house. Guinea pigs are very shy animals, and when they don't feel safe they run to take refuge in a sheltered place. A small house allows the guinea pig to take shelter whenever it feels the need, with undoubted advantages from a psychological point of view. The house also constitutes the indispensable nest where the guinea pig goes to sleep at night. The house can also be made of wood or cardboard, to be replaced when it is dirty or too damaged by the teeth. Just take the precaution not to choose toxic materials (paints) or that there are no dangerous elements if ingested (pieces of scotch, for example) or that there are no elements that can injure the guinea pig (nails, metal staples, splinters).
Other accessories are: racks for storing hay and vegetables, feed containers, preferably ceramic so that they are not easily reversible, and drinkers. Guinea pigs tend to enter and defecate in food containers, which must therefore not be too large, in order to prevent the rodent from entering.
The drinkers must be siphoned, to hang on the wall of the cage, so that the water is always clean. But pay attention to their correct functioning: guinea pigs love to blow into the drinking trough tube, clogging it with food particles and blocking the water outlet.
Placement of the cage
The cage must be located in a quiet area, where there are no disturbing noises (cackling, stereo, radio, television) or confusion, where dogs, cats or ferrets do not have access. Guinea pigs are easily frightened by sudden noises and the presence of potential predators.
The ideal ambient temperature is 21 ° C, and in any case between 18 and 26 ° C. A healthy guinea pig with a sheltered house can face lower temperatures, but is very sensitive to drafts and cold. High temperatures are tolerated very badly, especially in the presence of high humidity. Guinea pigs do not sweat and have a very compact body, which dissipates heat badly, and high temperatures (already above 27 ° C) can cause death. The relative humidity of the environment must be kept in the range of 30-70%. During the hot season it will therefore be necessary to take the precaution of placing the cage in the coolest part of the house. Avoid direct exposure to the sun (for example in front of a window, or on a terrace), because excessive heat can kill guinea pigs in no time, and confined in a cage they could not go looking for a cooler area. Do not place the cage next to air conditioners or radiators.
Guinea pigs can hardly be trained to get dirty in the box, and deposit feces and urine almost everywhere; moreover, they tend to gnaw everything that happens to them within range. For this reason, they are not very suitable to be left free to walk around the house, unless you monitor them on sight and are willing to clean often where they passed. In any case, it is necessary to prevent the guinea pig from coming into contact with electrical wires, toxic substances or poisonous plants, and from finding an escape route.
If you take it outside, it is essential to proceed step by step and choose an absolutely quiet place, without the coming and going of people, where dogs or cats do not access, and always supervising the pet on sight. If the guinea pig gets scared and runs away, it can be very difficult or impossible to retrieve it.
Guinea pig is a narrow herbivore: it feeds exclusively on plant foods. It has a digestive system very sensitive to changes in the diet, therefore it is very important to avoid sudden changes in nutrition, which would cause serious intestinal problems. All its teeth, both long incisors and internal teeth, molars and premolars, continue to grow, and if they are not adequately consumed by chewing food they cause very serious ailments, up to preventing the animal from eating causing death.
It is also a very difficult animal in eating habits: if a type of food is supplied that it has not learned to know as a child, it can refuse it. Even a change in food containers can cause a refusal to feed.
Guinea pigs, a unique case among rodents, require a daily dose of vitamin C; their body is unable to synthesize it, and they must receive it with food. In case of deficiency, a serious pathology occurs, scurvy, which causes the death of the rodent. Very often the diet provided to guinea pigs contains too low a dose of this vitamin.
Feeding is based on the administration of excellent quality hay, field herbs, vegetables, small quantities of fruit, specific pellets for guinea pigs. Among the vegetables we can offer all those suitable for human consumption: carrots, chard, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, chicory, salad, field plants.
An unlimited amount of food can usually be left available (ad libitum nutrition), unless there are particular medical reasons for limiting the food available. It is important that nutrition is correct, otherwise tooth problems, intestinal disorders, hypovitaminosis C and other pathologies can be caused. In particular, the diet must be rich in fiber and vitamin C. However, be careful to make each change of diet very gradually, over a few weeks, to avoid intestinal problems.
Guinea pig classification
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