How to Care for Your Guinea Pig

Written by Oxbow

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March 11, 2022🞄


Your guinea pig is a central member of your family and we know you want to provide piggie with everything he needs to be happy and healthy every day.  That’s why we’ve put together this collection of essential guinea pig care tips to help you along your journey together.

In this article, we’ll cover the following important topics:

  • Feeding your guinea pig
  • Guinea pig behaviors
  • Enriching your guinea pig’s world
  • Housing your guinea pig
  • Essential guinea pig supplies
  • Your guinea pig’s health

Feeding Your Guinea Pig

  • Grass hay is the most important component of every herbivore’s diet, and your guinea pig is no exception!  The high amounts of beneficial fiber in hay help meet the important digestive and dental health needs of guinea pigs and other small herbivores.
  • daily recommended amount of uniform, fortified food provides essential nutrients (e.g., vitamins and minerals) not found in hay.
  • Fresh, pig-friendly greens are an essential component of every guinea pig’s daily diet.
  • Healthy treats, while not nutritionally essential, can help make your relationship with your rabbit more fun and meaningful.

guinea pig in pile of hay

Hay For Your Guinea Pig

It’s important for your guinea pig to have unlimited access to a variety of quality grass hays. Hay helps prevent obesityboredom, and dental and gastrointestinal disease, among other benefits. Replacing the hay in your guinea pig’s habitat can encourage picky eating, so we recommend changing it only when soiled.  Offer a variety of types of grass hay to further discourage unhealthy picky eating habits.

Young (less than 6 months old), pregnant, nursing or ill animals can benefit from eating alfalfa hay in addition to grass hay because of the higher nutritional content (including higher levels of protein and calcium). Otherwise, alfalfa should only be given to your guinea pig occasionally as a treat.

Hay Selection

Keep in mind that grass hay should make up the majority of your pet’s daily diet. Offer a variety of types of grass hay to your guinea pig to promote optimum health. Use the Taste & Texture Guide located on every Oxbow hay package to determine your pet’s taste and texture preferences.

We have many all-natural, farm-fresh hays to choose from including Western TimothyOrchard GrassOat HayBotanical HayOrganic Meadow Hay, and Hay Blends – Western Timothy & Orchard. Also, check out our Harvest Stacks line of compressed hays for extra enrichment.

Photo of guinea pig eating Oxbow pellets

Your Guinea Pig’s Food

Providing a daily recommended amount of high-fiber, age-appropriate fortified food will help ensure that your pet receives essential nutrients not found in hay.

Always choose an age-appropriate, uniform food formulated specifically for guinea pigs.  Oxbow offers a number of quality food lines to meet the unique preferences of all piggies.  Unsure which to choose?  Don’t worry!  We’ve outlined the unique characteristics of each of our food lines to make the decision easier!  It’s also important to remember that not all guinea pig foods are created equal.  Some options, like popular mixes and forage blends, promote unhealthy selective feeding behaviors that can lead to serious health conditions.  Learn more about the differences between uniform and mix-based foods and what this means for your guinea pig’s health.

two guinea pigs eating lettuce

Greens For Your Guinea Pig

Fresh greens are an important part of your guinea pig’s daily diet.  Greens help keep your piggie hydrated and offer important vitamins and minerals, as well as enrichment.  Romaine, bib, and red leaf lettuce are good greens to offer, but avoid foods in the onion family such as leeks, chives, and onions.  Learn more about the best greens for guinea pigs.

Treats For Guinea Pigs

Treats (including fruits and veggies) are great for encouraging interaction between you and your pet, but they should never take the place of essential daily foods.  Offering too many treats can lead your guinea pig to refuse his healthy, essential foods.  Not all treats are created equal, either!  All Oxbow Simple Rewards treat varieties are designed to be as wholesome as they are delicious.

Guinea Pig Behaviors

Guinea pigs are most active at dawn and twilight, taking naps throughout the day.

Guinea pigs often show their affection through vocalizations. For example, you may hear a sound called “wheeking” when your pet is looking for a treat, or purring when being held. Also, your guinea pig may “popcorn” – bounce excitedly and repeatedly to express happiness. The best way to interact with your guinea pig is to play with him on the floor. As creatures of habit, guinea pigs need to be introduced to changes slowly in regards to feedings and routines.

Some guinea pig behaviors can seem strange at first.  For example, you may see your guinea pig eat its own poop.  This is a normal, healthy behavior that provides essential vitamins and nutrients.

Enriching Your Guinea Pig’s World

All guinea pigs are wired to engage in a set of healthy instinctual behaviors each day.  These behaviors include chewingplayinghiding, and exploring.  Intentionally encouraging these behaviors in healthy ways is called enrichment.  Support all four behaviors in a variety of ways each day to support your guinea pig’s mental and physical health.

Picture of Guinea Pig in Hay House

Housing Your Guinea Pig

It’s easy to make guinea pigs feel at home inside your house.  As prey animals by nature, all pigs (even those with a free run of the house) need a safe place where they can spend time and escape potential environmental stressors.  Choose a spacious, quality habitat with a solid floor and set it up near household activities, but away from drafts.  Your guinea pig’s habitat should be outfitted with environmental essentials such as a hay habitat (Timothy CLUB Bungalow or Tunnel), a litter box lined with litter and bedding, multiple chews, grass hay, a food bowl, and two sources of fresh, clean water.

Essential Supplies For Your Guinea Pig

Every guinea pig should have daily access to some basic supplies for health and happiness.  Make sure you’re stocked up on the following:

Photo of guinea pig eating Oxbow vitamin C tablet

Your Guinea Pig’s Health

Many guinea pig health problems are a result of nutrition, diet, digestive and dental issues.  Contact your veterinarian if you notice any of the following symptoms:

  • Loose, soft, or lack of stool
  • Small, dry, or infrequent stools
  • Blood in the urine
  • Sneezing or trouble breathing
  • Hunching  in a corner or lack of activity (lethargy)
  • Overgrown front teeth
  • Observed difficulty with chewing
  • Bald patches in the fur
  • Sores on the feet
  • Abnormal eating or drinking

Still have questions about how to provide the best care for your guinea pig? Our experts are here for you! 

Learn More