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The 1996-2000 American Cavy (guinea pig) Breeders Association lists 12 recognized breeds of guinea pigs. This includes smooth coated, long coated, frizzy coated, rosetted (one or many) coats, and extra shiny breeds. Show guinea pigs are accepted in nine solid colors - black, white, chocolate, red, beige, cream, red-eyed orange, blue, and lilac. There are also many accepted combinations and patterns of these colors. Mixed breeds make equally as wonderful pets, and are just as interesting and uniquely beautiful.

Adult Size/Weight and Life Span

Length is approximately 6-7", roughly 25-33 oz. in weight. Average life span: 5-7 years.

Nutritional Requirements/Recommendations

Guinea pigs require unlimited amounts of fresh green grass hay (such as timothy, orchard, canary or brome). Alfalfa hay/alfalfa treats are okay for young guinea pigs and pregnant or malnourished adults, but otherwise should not be given on a regular basis. Most guinea pig pellets are alfalfa based, which is fairly high in calcium. Feeding additional alfalfa hay/alfalfa treats may provide too much calcium and lead to bladderstone problems in some guinea pigs.


Feed pellets made specifically for guinea pigs. Use a heavy bowl that cannot be tipped. Feed approximately ¼ - ½ c. fresh pellets per animal daily, depending on how much it eats. Choose a brand that does not contain seeds, nuts or dried fruit - these are not good for guinea pigs. A guinea pig can choke on whole sunflower seeds. Fresh water must always be available, preferably in an easy to reach water bottle, and should be changed twice daily. Food bowl/water bottle must be cleaned regularly.

Guinea pigs require vitamin C on a daily basis. The vitamin C in pellets can dissipate over time. A vitamin C supplement of 10-30 mg/day per average sized adult is recommended. Vitamin C can be supplemented by adding the proper dose of powdered or liquid vitamin C to the guinea pigs food or water, by giving it orally, or by supplementing the diet with high C fruits and veggies (although it is more difficult to supplement the correct amount). Liquid C, a human supplement sold at GNC and other health/nutrition stores (also check webrx.com, twinlab.com) provides 30 mg. vitamin C in ½ cc of pleasant tasting liquid.

Fresh greens and vegetables can be fed in moderation. Too large a quantity or variety can cause diarrhea or other digestion problems, or nutritional problems.

Guinea pigs can be given: parsley, bell peppers; romaine lettuce, live wheat grass (sold at some pet stores), carrot tops, celery leaves, clover, spinach, alfalfa sprouts, chemical free dandelion leaves and fresh grass, carrots, grapes, apple, cranberry (also dried cranberry) and a little citrus fruit.

Vegetables belonging to the cabbage family (kale, broccoli, cauliflower) should also be very limited (or avoided) as they can cause bloat, a serious condition. Fresh foods should always be thoroughly rinsed. Introduce any new food item in small amounts to allow a guinea pig's system to adjust to it gradually.


A guinea pig must be an indoor pet except in tropical climates. When providing housing for guinea pigs: 1) keep the cage clean, 2) keep the area dry and free from drafts, 3) keep the temperature between 65-79 degrees Fahrenheit. A guinea pig's cage should be in an environment that is well lit but not exposed to direct sunlight and offers the guinea pig access to daily human activities.

Housing Needs/Minimum Housing Size

The best guinea pig cages are usually wire cages with a solid bottom (metal or plastic) that is easily removed and cleaned. Wire cage bottoms are not acceptable as they can easily injure their toes/feet. The following floor size requirements are recommended by Jack Pine Guinea Pig Rescue:

1 guinea pig: 24" X 24" (or 576 square inches floor space)
2 guinea pigs: 24" X 30" (or 720 square inches floor space)
3 guinea pigs: 24" X 36" (or 864 square inches floor space)

 One of the guinea pig cages available at www.martinscages.com

Aquariums and plastic tubs are NOT recommended. They are usually not large enough, may not offer proper ventilation and can isolate the guinea pig from its surroundings by inhibiting sight, sound and smell. Finding a suitably sized cage in most pet stores is unfortunately not always possible. Some good sources for reasonably priced properly made guinea pig cages are:

 Da-Mars Equipment Co: www.DAMARS.com, 1-800-95-BUNNY (may need "kit cage" to ship).

Martin's Cages: www.martinscages.com, 1-888-451-2234 (may need to request specific size).


To ensure the good health of your guinea pig, bedding must be kept clean. Aspen or kiln-dried pine shavings are good inexpensive bedding. Hay/straw can be used but is messier to clean and not as absorbent. Carefresh and some of the recycled pelleted beddings are very nice but more expensive. Cedar bedding should never be used and pine bedding that is NOT kiln dried is undesirable as the oils pose health risks to guinea pigs.


General Behavior

Guinea pigs are often easily startled. Use a quiet voice and refrain from any sudden movements while acclimating them to your home. Guinea pigs vocalize loudly when startled or excited over a food treat.

Guinea pigs make good pets for older children. Children should be supervised when handling guinea pigs, being sure to support the guinea pig's entire body with two hands. Guinea pigs are easily injured if dropped, and may nip or bite if not properly handled.

Guinea pigs are very social creatures and require daily attention from their human friends and/or other guinea pig buddies. If you live in a household where everybody is gone much of the day, please consider having two guinea pigs to keep each other company. Your buddy guinea pigs will be happier and more entertaining pets. See compatibility below.


A suitably sized cage and "play time" with you every day will meet your guinea pig's exercise needs. Exercise wheels or balls are not recommended as they are not enjoyed by guinea pigs and may even injure their spine, legs or feet.


It is a common myth that two male guinea pigs will fight if housed together, but this is not necessarily true. Compatibility is more determined by personalities of individual guinea pigs rather than by sex. Neither males nor females are more easily paired up with a same sex buddy. However, some guinea pigs may be more selective about who they will room with, while others simply refuse to share their space and will fight any pig you introduce them to. The easiest match is usually between two babies or a baby and an adult, though two adults can often be paired up successfully as well. Introductions should be made in an open area, and the guinea pigs should be watched closely for an hour or so. If they seem to be getting along well they can be moved to a washed and cleaned suitably sized cage. The guinea pigs should be watched closely for another hour or two to make sure they continue to get along. Fighting guinea pigs should be immediately separated, with a towel to avoid being bitten.

Guinea pigs can become sexually mature as early as 5 weeks old. Average gestation is 68 days and average litter size is 1-4. If you adopted a guinea pig from an animal rescue or shelter you are already aware that there are too many animals, including guinea pigs, in desperate need of good permanent homes. Please do not add to this number by allowing your pet to reproduce. Do not pair up a male and female. Guinea pig sows are at risk of many serious problems during pregnancy and delivery. Breeding a female guinea pig after 8 months of age can be fatal if she has not had a previous litter. Pelvic bones fuse upon reaching adulthood and she may not be able to deliver her pups unaided. Spaying/neutering guinea pigs does carry risks and must only be done by a veterinarian with much guinea pig knowledge and experience. It is better to just keep the sexes apart.

Interactions with dogs, cats, other pets should always be carefully supervised. Never leave a guinea pig unattended in the presence of a dog, cat, ferret or any other predatory animal.

Grooming/Medical Concerns

Guinea pig grooming involves toenail trimming, ear cleaning, combing and bathing. An "exotics" veterinarian who is experienced in treating guinea pigs can advise you on this and will be knowledgeable in the following medical conditions: vitamin C deficiency (scurvy), overgrown teeth, colds and pneumonia, bladderstones or infections, digestive upsets, etc.

If a guinea pig seems droopy, has a dull coat and/or is losing hair, eats very little or nothing, has soft droppings or is otherwise acting abnormally, consult a veterinarian immediately. Guinea pigs can also suffer from internal and external parasites. Contact your veterinarian if you suspect your guinea pig has parasites. Refrain from using any medications intended for dogs or cats without first checking with a veterinarian experienced with guinea pigs. Guinea pigs do not require routine vaccinations, but an annual physical exam and parasite check is recommended.

This article and the JPGPR.com logo are © 1993-2002 Vicki Palmer Nielsen - Jack Pine Guinea Pig Rescue. No copyright is asserted herein regarding the illustrations accompanying the article; copyrights, if any, of the illustrations are retained by the original holders. If you would like to reproduce anything from the website, please first e-mail Vicki for permission at :

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