Before you adopt a guinea pig, there is one important consideration – does anyone in your home have allergies? If you already own other pets and aren’t allergic to them, chances are you won’t be allergic to guinea pigs. But if this is to be your first pet, and especially if there are young children in the house, it is prudent to find out beforehand if allergies are a problem. Aside from having medical allergy testing, the best way to find out if anyone in your family is allergic to guinea pigs is to go to the source.
Visit a pet store or someone you know who has a guinea pig and spend time snuggling and cuddling the animal. Then wait for the telltale signs of an allergic reaction-runny nose, watery eyes, and skin irritation. There are also products available that you apply to the guinea pig which help to reduce the allergens that are carried on the guinea pig’s coat.
The arrival of a guinea pig at your home should be planned during a time that is relaxed and stress-free.
A new pet should not be brought into the home at a hectic holiday time such as Christmas or during a child’s birthday party. If the guinea pig is to be a surprise gift, give a gift certificate or some of the supplies needed, and then choose quieter, later time to pick out the pet and bring him home. This will make the transition to a new home much easier for the guinea pig.
What to Look for?
If you are looking for a guinea pig with show potential, you will want to find the best possible representative of the breed you have chosen. If you are simply looking for a pet to love, the ideal body shape and perfect hair type or whether the guinea pig is a purebred or a crossbreed won’t matter one bit.
Some of the most adorable pets are born out of crosses between guinea pigs with different hair types. A guinea pig with long hair will require more grooming time than one with a short coat.
Don’t rush into buying the first guinea pig yo see-carefully examine all those that are available. Look at the overall appearance of the animal. Pick up the guinea pig and view him closely. Does he look healthy? Are his eye bright and alert? Is his hair shiny and soft? Check for discharge arounde the eyes and nose and listen for any signs of labored breathing and congestion. Make sure the animal is clean, especially n the rectal area-there should be no feces stuck to the coat and the fur should not be soaked with urine.
Feel the body for lumps and bumps. Check that the skin beneath the coat, behind the ears, and on the feet is healthy. Also, observe how the guinea pig moves and watch for lameness or awkwardness in the stride.
Look for signs of malocclusion by holding the guinea pig up so that his mouth is level with your eyes. The mouth should be closed and appear relaxed, with the top and bottom lips meeting. Check the incisors, the top and bottom incisors should be about the same length. If they appear overgrown, or if one set is noticeably longer than the other, it could indicate a problem. To check if the teeth are protruding or receding, view teeth from the side by gently pulling back the guinea pig’s lips.
If you’re purchasing a new guinea pig as a companion for one that you already have, make sure that he is in perfect health before introducing him to your existing pets. If you have any doubts, have your new guinea pig examined by a vet or house him separately for several days for observation. This allow you to make sure that there are no potential health problems that may arise. You will also become aware of the normal eating habits and behaviors of the new guinea pig. You may wish to give your new pet an antiparasitic treatment just in case he is arriving with some unwanted quests.
Choosing a Gender
Both boars and sows are equally affectionate. Temperament has more to do with innate personality of the individual guinea pig that with gender, so the choice is up to you. The average guinea pig is about ten inches long and weighs two to three pounds. Males are slightly larger than females.
One or Two?
Guinea pigs do not like to be kept singly, although single pigs bond more quickly to their adoptive families, However, if you are away for long periods of time during the day, one guinea pig is likely to become quite lonely. Two females, two neutered males, or a neutered male and a female will love together very happily. Unneutered males will figth unless they are littermates, have been together since birth, and have not been kept around sows. Even then, they cannot be separated for any great length of time, because they will tend to fight when put back together again. Unneutered males and females can live together, but they will breed and must be separated when the females becomes obviously pregnant. Guinea pigs that are kept in separate cages placed beside each other will enjoy each other’s company even is they are separated by wire.
How to Tell Gender
Except to the experienced eye, it is difficult to tell the difference between sows and boars at first glance. Turn them over, and you will see that both genders have a set of nipples on their underbellies. There serve no known purpose in boars. The immature boar’s penis is enclosed within the scrotal area and can be revealed by gently pressing on the abdomen above genitals. On adult boars, the testicles appear on each side od the anal opening (just behind the penis) as rather obvious bumps, especially when the scrotal area is observed by holding the guinea pig upright. The sow’s genital area is closer to the anal opening than the boar’s. The folds of skin on genitals form a “Y” shape. When sows and boars are viewed side by side, the differences are much easier to spot.
Pet are an ongoing expense. Before adopting a guinea pig, make sure that your budget allows you to purchase necessary supplies when needed. It is best to have all you supplies and the cage already set up before you bring your new pet home.
The following is a checklist of items to have on hand: cage, nest box, bedding, water bottle, salt lick, prepared guinea pig food, food dish, hay and hay rack, fresh vegetables, gnawing items, and a vitamin C supplement.
What to Expect the First Few Days
Do not expect too much from your new guinea pig for the first few days, because the transition to a new residence will be very traumatic. If you have adopted a single guinea pig, providing him with a small, plush toy or cozy blanket for snuggling up to will help reduce the pangs of separation that a young guinea pig may feel at being taken away from his littermates. The guinea pig may scurry into his nest box when you walk into the room or when you try to pick him up. With holding a nest box to avoid this problem is not an alternative, because the guinea pig will be even more unnerved without a save place to hide.
Talk to your pet in soothing tones as you walk into the room-never sneak up on him. To reach your pet, slowly tip the nest box and put one hand in underneath to gently pick up the guinea pig. The terrified pig may scramble up your chest and tightly “hug” your shoulder. Stroking your guinea pig’s face often produces a calming effect. The more you handle your pet, the sooner he will become affectionate and trusting.
Food also plays a major part in helping you to bond with your new pet. You can use food to lure the guinea pig out of hiding and feed your pet tasty tidbits by hand to help reinforce trust. Be sure to find out what brand of prepared food the store was feeding your guinea pig. Buy the same brand, or of you plan to switch brands, do so gradually by mixing a bit of the old food with the new diet over a period of about two weeks to avoid intestinal upset. Introduce fresh foods to your pet slowly. Some guinea pigs that have not previously been fed lettuce or other produce may not accept fresh foods as quickly as other guinea pigs. Continue to offer fresh foods to your pet until he accepts them. Extra-tasty morsels such as grass and dandelion leaves may help the guinea pig’s transition to a balanced diet. Your pet will soon have an insatiable appetite for greens, but remember do not to feed too many, especially at first. With patience and lots of love, your guinea pig will soon become a full-fledge member of your family.