What you need to know about guinea pigs
The guinea pig originally comes from Peru and northern Chile. The domestic domesticated guinea pig, as we know it, has a wild ancestor and relatives there. Namely, the mountain sarcophagus, which, in contrast to our domestic animals, does not live in cuddly living rooms or native gardens, but lives up to 5000 meters in the mountains.
The domesticated form of our guinea pig can not be clearly proven – but historical evidence indicates that domestication of the animals began more than three thousand years ago. Guinea pigs apparently played an important role in the culture of the Inca, though not the pet’s: the pigs were popular slaughter and sacrificial animals. Even today, guinea pigs are considered by some nations as livestock.
The story of the guinea pig
In records from the 16th century, the guinea pig is mentioned for the first time in Europe. At that time the animals were mainly bred in the Netherlands. First, the guinea pig was considered a useful experimental animal and researched. In the meantime, however, the cute little animal has blossomed into a popular pet. However, guinea pigs are not suitable for everyone, as there are some things to keep in mind when keeping them.
Guinea pigs need a lot of space – 0.5 square meters per animal at least.
Guinea pigs are very social, moving animals. Since they can not be kept alone, the animals need a spacious and varied enclosure with many hiding places. The available in the pet shop lattice cages are usually much too small and have nothing to do with a real guinea pig enclosure. On the Internet you will find various cage farmers who offer species-appropriate animal housing or make on request. DIY is often cheaper – but requires manual skills. Upon detailed research, you will quickly come across numerous instructions and suggestions for large and species-appropriate guinea pig enclosures, which should also be able to build people with two left hands.
The optimal number of guinea pigs for species-appropriate husbandry
If you want to keep guinea pigs as pets, you have to be prepared to take responsibility for more than one pig. At least two guinea pigs have to move in with you, since the individual attitude in the social animals is not an acceptable solution. And would you like to close happy, lively pigs, right?
The pure couple attitude leads however also with the animals often to boredom. In a large group with several females and a castrated goat (male guinea pig), the rodents feel most comfortable, because this form of housing most closely corresponds to their natural way of life. But other group constellations are possible. Beginners are often discouraged only by several goats and several females in a guinea pig group.
Pure female groups, however, are widespread. Occasional trickery is usually not dangerous, and if the group becomes too restless, a castrated buck may well make peace. A group of several goats may also be harmonious as long as the animals have or had no contact with females. However, it can still come to fierce fighting for the fringe order. Bucking groups therefore have a rather problematic reputation and should be treated with caution for beginners. Two bucks from a litter can live together harmoniously. Of course, this form of attitude is not.
Important: Detect fear stiffness in guinea pigs
Balanced guinea pig food, regular exercise outside the enclosure and meaningful employment opportunities for guinea pigs should not be missed, of course, if you want to keep the animals species appropriate. Guinea pigs do not usually cuddle particularly, especially not with humans, because even among each other, little is cuddled with the pigs.
If you want to keep guinea pigs, you should definitely be concerned with the body language of the animals. What many people find relaxing, namely, when the guinea pig is resting on their lap, is in fact fear-ridden. Guinea pigs are very scary and therefore happier if they are only picked up for a daily health check and are otherwise only observed. Anyone looking for pets to touch is therefore not well advised with guinea pigs.
Under these conditions guinea pigs are suitable for children
Although the animals are often touted as ideal pets for children, but they are due to their dreadfulness only conditionally. Smaller children can feed guinea pigs together with their parents – but they should not look around for the animals and be able to behave calmly. Otherwise, there will be great stress on the guinea pigs, which can damage their health in the long run.
Elderly children who are satisfied with watching the animals should also not be responsible for the guinea pigs alone, but can take on many tasks and look after the animals. However, if the children lose interest over time, the parents have to step in and take care of the animals. However, if the needs of the animals are taken into account, guinea pigs may well be suitable pets for the family.
The right location for a guinea pig enclosure
Guinea pigs have a complex phonetic language that can disturb us when sleeping. Even if we do not wake up, our sleep quality suffers from the noise. Nursery or bedroom are therefore not the ideal place for the guinea pig enclosure. Better is a location in the living room, but not in front of the heating or in the blazing sun.
Drafts should also be avoided. Ideally, the enclosure is not directly on the ground. This not only makes it easier to watch the animals, it also protects guinea pigs when visitors come to visit with small children or a dog. Who has no place in the house or apartment, does not necessarily have to refrain from the guinea pig attitude. The outdoor keeping of guinea pigs is possible and is practiced by many owners.
Playing with guinea pigs – That’s how it works
Guinea pigs can and should be employed. In the cage, the animals spend a lot of time eating. To make these varied and to challenge the pigs, you can, for example, hide special treats in a cardboard roll or under a cardboard box. While the animals occupy themselves in the enclosure, you are asked in the outlet.
The most important rule when dealing with animals is the consideration of their needs. This means that everything happens in the rhythm of the guinea pig and it is never forced to play or train. Animal-harming accessories such as jogging balls or lines for guinea pigs have of course also no justification in guinea pig enclosure or spout.
Some guinea pigs can make friends with the clicker – they are conditioned by rewards to respond to a particular sound with a desired behavior. Animals must be very attentive and are mentally challenged. The round shape of the piggy can already be guessed: high-performance athletes are guinea pigs rather not. But with the right treat, they can be motivated to overcome small hurdles. Important: Do not exaggerate to protect the joints of the animals.
The foundation stone for health: the right diet
A wrong feeding can have serious consequences for the guinea pig. Like rabbits, guinea pigs can also get a so-called drum rumination, a gastric distension – a life-threatening condition. Commercially available dry food is suitable for guinea pigs at most as concentrated feed. Much more important is the so-called roughage (hay, herbs, meadows), which is essential for the digestion of animals.
Especially important for the diet are high-quality, dust-free hay, meadow and herbs. Even fresh food such as vegetables and small quantities of fruit may not be missing. Shelled sunflower seeds are also on some diet, but make thick and should therefore not be fed too often. In any case, prior to purchase, intensive consideration of proper guinea pig nutrition is essential to avoid dangerous feeding errors.