By Sari Reis
Cute, social and talkative, a guinea pig can be a super pet for a child or an adult who wants a pet to care for but not the greater responsibility of a cat or dog.
As a professional pet sitter, I have cared for several of them and even had one of my own when I was younger. Guinea pig caretaking is an excellent way to teach children about the importance of kindness to animals and the responsibility involved.
Members of the rodent family, guinea pigs are native to South America. Their average lifespan is 4 to 6 years but some have lived as long as 8 years. If you are thinking about getting one of these adorable creatures, here are some of the essentials you need to know about caring for them.
Guinea pigs need and love exercise so their cage should be large enough to run around in. It should have a solid floor, and bedding should be soft and absorbent. It should also be odor-free. Recycled paper bedding, spread thickly, is the best option. Since they are very clean animals, it is important that soiled bedding be cleaned daily and the entire cage cleaned weekly. They need a plentiful supply of clean water, which should be delivered in a bottle hung on the inside of the cage. The water needs to be changed daily and it is important to make sure the water tube is not clogged.
The mainstay of the guinea pig’s diet is timothy hay, and lots of it. They can also be given plain pellets but no more than two tablespoons for an adult. Since these rodents do not produce their own vitamin C, it must come from their food. The hay and pellets will provide the needed vitamins with the addition of vegetables. Collard greens, parsley, broccoli, bell peppers and romaine lettuce are good for them. Two or three small pieces of veggies can be given daily.
Since guinea pigs need exercise and love human interaction, they should be taken out of their cages regularly in a safe environment, to run around as well as sit in your lap. They should also have some toys for stimulation and to chew on — to keep their front teeth properly sized. Toys can include tunnels, tubes they run through, balls made from natural materials, and special chew toys.
As social animals, these little critters love to talk and will keep you amused with their chatter and their antics. You can find out more about them at guineapigcorner.com.
If you are considering acquiring a dog or cat in the near future, I recommend that you attend the 7th annual Doggie Street Festival at NTC Park Liberty Station on Aug. 22 from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. It will be a great event for all animal lovers, and there will be lots of wonderful dogs and cats available for adoption. For more information, go to doggiestreetfestival.org.
—Sari Reis is a Certified Humane Education Specialist and the owner of Mission Valley Pet Sitting services. For more information you can contact her at 760-644-0289 or missionvalleypetsitting.com.