Friday, February 28, 2014

March is Adopt a Rescued Guinea Pig Month!

Not only does March bring us closer to spring, but it also brings us to the 12th annual Adopt a Rescued Guinea Pig Month!  This was designated by the National Shelter Outreach to raise awareness, because many people don't realize how many guinea pigs are out there in urgent need of homes. alone has listed over 10,000 guinea pigs in a single year!! Many guinea pigs are left in shelters, and unfortunately, the reality is that if they are not adopted in time, they are euthanized.  The great news is, we all have the ability to help change this by adopting rather than shopping pet stores and preventing our guinea pigs from breeding.

Many guinea pigs that end up with shelters or rescues have already been handled a lot and are very friendly, because they were spoiled with love until their human got tired of them. Those guinea pigs in the big box pet store most likely came from a place very much like a puppy mill with many guinea pigs in tiny cages with little to no human interaction, because the goal is the profit, and these types of breeding facilities can supply large numbers of guinea pigs to the big pet chain stores at the rate they are ordered. When you buy there, you are supporting these efforts between the breeder and big box store. 

By checking on you can quickly find any adoptable guinea pigs in your area at a rescue or shelter.  It's very likely you'll find young and adult guinea pigs of many colors and hair types.  You may even be able to find spayed or neutered guinea pigs, so you can keep a boar and sow together.  Please keep in mind that guinea pigs are very social and should be kept in pairs.

If you've done your research on how to care for guinea pigs, and you're ready to add them to your family, consider adopting!  :)

You'll have a blast interacting with your new guinea pigs and feel good knowing that you've made a big difference in your furry friends' lives!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Story of Chewy, Chunky, and Dan Who Inspired This Blog

If you've been reading here and following the Guinea Pigs' Cavy Club Facebook page, you may wonder what the story is behind the three boys that I talk so much about and post many pictures of.

This will be long, but I'm going to give some history to help you understand where my passion for guinea pigs evolved from - and it involves mistakes along the way.  I had several guinea pigs as a child, but one in particular stands out: a little girl named Ginny, pronounced Guinea.  (We won't talk about my lack of name creativity.)  I got her when I was in middle school, about 12 years old.  I still had her in my 20s, she moved with me when I got my own place, and she was there after I became a mother.   Ginny died at about 11 years old from Leukemia.  She was the sweetest little black and white Abyssinian, who was always watching what I did and wanting attention.  I've missed her dearly.  While I kept her on Aspen bedding, because I had heard other woodchips were not good for guinea pigs, I still made many other mistakes.  She was a solo guinea pig, and her cage was smaller than it should have been.   There were many things I could've done better that I didn't realize.  My learning was slowly growing as I gained experience with guinea pigs, but I didn't have the internet at my fingertips then.

After Ginny passed, I had several adult guinea pigs and built them a huge C&C cage since learning guinea pigs should be in a bigger cage with companions.  I kept them on recycled paper bedding.  Their ages were unknown, but after about 6 years, they all had passed.  I didn't interact with each one enough on an individual basis, which is very important for guinea pigs to become human social, especially since they were already fearful of people.  I wondered why they didn't live as long as Ginny, and in hindsight maybe it was because I fed them generic guinea pig food sold by the pound and didn't give them enough veggies.  I was disappointed that this guinea pig experience hadn't been as fond as what I remembered, and I decided I wouldn't have guinea pigs anymore.

Years passed and I still thought about guinea pigs, especially my memories of Ginny.  I wanted my kids to have fun with guinea pigs like I did growing up.  I wanted them to know what it's like to have a refrigerator alarm and a veggie scrap garbage disposal that you can pet.  I also decided if I was going to venture back into the world of guinea pigs, I was going to find ones that needed homes the most and do all the research I could to give them the best home I can.  I had picked up a lot of knowledge from my years of experience with guinea pigs, but I decided it was time to really educate myself through the online sources, books, and magazines.  Then I was ready!

I decided to search for a guinea pig that urgently needed a new home.  I didn't care about hair type, color, boy, or girl.  I met a nice young lady with a new baby who needed to downsize on pets.  She had a male guinea pig living with a rabbit.  He was very sweet, he'd obviously been handled a lot.  She guessed him to be around a year old, but she had gotten him from a little boy who had allergies.    I suspected the guinea pig wasn't being fed the right diet.  He was thin, had some sores I could feel under his fur, his feet were dirty, and nails overgrown.  I loved him immediately.  I found fleas on him on the way home.  I bathed him as soon as we arrived home, put a drop of Ivermectin behind each ear, and gave him plenty of quality Oxbow pellets and hay.  I also started giving him daily veggies.  After a few weeks, he was like a new pig.  Meet Chewy!

Since Chewy was feeling good, he was ready for a companion.  This time it would be important to find another male, and I also wanted to find one that was in urgent need of a home.  I found a posting of two male guinea pigs that needed homes ASAP.  The guy wanted them out of his house immediately.  From what little he said, they were left by a girlfriend, and he had no history on them or if they had names, he just wanted them gone.   They actually looked quite well cared for, I'm guessing up until she left, because their nails were just a bit overgrown.  They had a good sized C&C cage that someone cared enough to build for them.  The two boys were in a box waiting at the door for me when I arrived.  They had been fighting and were wet with urine.  Little Chunky (as you know him now) had huge eyes and was so terrified.   I found out on the way home that the other male was a bully.  He continually chased and mounted Chunky all the way home and had a torn ear from an apparent fight.  Both were very people friendly.  After changing their environment, baths, enlarging the cage, rearranging, it was clear the other male could not get along with companions.  Chunky hid as long as the other guinea pig was around.  It took awhile, but I found the other boar a great piggy loving home where he's the only guinea pig.  Chunky and Chewy are both very laid back boys that are very compatible.

Since I had this big expandeed pen I decided, just one more guinea pig.  Then I came across a posting of "Dan" and I could tell he was such a sweetie.  He was kept in pine bedding and his overgrown nails had dirtiness caked on them.  The top layer of skin on his feet was peeling off in spots, possibly from ammonia burn from being in a wet soiled cage, but I cannot be sure.  The person had recently gotten him from another person, who had him in a trio, but Dan was separated from the others.  The people now have a puppy and not enough time for him.  They handed over lots of veggies with him, and it was apparent they did care about him.   Dan was instantly cuddly on the long ride home and continues to be such a sweetie.  He fits in well with the other boys.

From what I could gather from the history of each boy, I am at least the third person they've been with.  I can also tell by the sweet trusting personalities, each one of them was very loved at some point.  I'm sure they made mistakes, like I did, because they didn't know any different.   I regret all the alfalfa, carrots, and lettuce I gave my guinea pigs as a kid.  I don't know that I ever gave them any of the right veggies or timothy hay back then - and I had no idea it was wrong!  The cage wasn't big enough, the bedding wasn't always right.   It's hard for me to admit I made all these mistakes.

I now have a "full house" and bringing in more guinea pigs isn't an option.  I also can't change the past mistakes that I've made.   I decided what I can do, is my very best to try to help people who have guinea pigs or are getting guinea pigs.  I hope to intercept as many people as possible who just got a guinea pig or are looking for one.  I also enjoy hearing from other people who have guinea pigs experience.   I don't know everything, so I look forward to hearing new tricks to having more fun with guinea pigs or making care easier.   I truly hope I can enrich your time with your guinea pig(s).

Saturday, February 22, 2014

So You Got a Guinea Pig -- Why Add Another You Ask?

Just like the subject says - You have one guinea pig, why get another?  First, we'll start with the most basic biological reason.  Guinea pigs are a species that live in colonies naturally.  They feel a connection to their own kind.  No, it doesn't mean they don't connect with people as well - they do.  In fact, in small groups they'll go into a guinea pig chorus, cheering each other on for the common goal of mind control on their human.  Multiple guinea pigs are likely to be less shy.  They are a prey animal and it's natural for them to be leery, especially of hands coming from above to swoop down and snatch them away.  It takes some work to get them to understand that you're there to love them, not eat them.  When one stops to get a head scratch, the other one(s) start to get a little jealous about that, and it tends to calm the herd.

Chewy and Chunky out to see if there are goodies.
Piggy trains crack me up.  They follow each other in a line, so concerned that someone else is going to find something new and exciting and they will miss out.

Here comes a piggy train at full speed!
This keeps them moving with their inquisitive nature.  When they see me with veggies, they'll go up to each others mouths for inspection to see if there's a treat in there.  It's like they're saying:  "Did you get a goody?  Nope.  Ok, good, lets keep staring at her until she gives us something."  They also have a wide variety of vocalizations that are a hoot to listen to.  I can hear a high pitched wimper/whine from across the room, and I will know it is Dan eating in the hay box, and someone else is sticking their head in there eating hay.  I know he's whining "Mooooom, Chunky's eating all my hay!"  It also encourages them to eat more of a variety, because anything that's good enough for one of the other pigs to eat, they're all going to try.  A little friendly competition won't hurt anyone.
Hay tastes better with company.
I have other pets, can't they be a companion?  No.  Rabbits are frequently added as companions for guinea pigs because they're roughly the same size and both eat green pellets and drink from a water bottle.  HUGE mistake.  They are entirely different species, speaking different languages, with very different nutritional needs.  Rabbits are much stronger and can hurt a guinea pig accidentally or intentionally with a swift kick.  Rabbit pellets cannot be fed to guinea pigs.  They contain no vitamin C, which is detrimental for guinea pigs to lack.  The dangers of mixing your guinea pigs with other animals are similar.  Animals are animals, they can feel threatened by a guinea pig, maybe a misinterpretation of body language, or flat out aggression can maim or kill a guinea pig in seconds.  Please don't allow another animal to be your guinea pig's companion, and if you do allow your other pets to be near your guinea pig, only allow it under close supervision.
Chunky doesn't mind other animals, but he prefers his piggy pals.

You decide to add a cavy companion.  Now what?  Well, it does get a little tricky from here.   First, you want to add a guinea pig of the same sex.  This is extremely important.  Breeding guinea pigs can get out of control fast, and there are health risks that will be saved for another posting another day - please do your research if you consider breeding.  A boar that is hopped up on breeding hormones will not make as good of a pet as one that doesn't have females on his mind.  Check out, your local shelter, or rescue.  There many, many adoptable guinea pigs out there just waiting for someone to love them.  Many of them have already been handled a lot and are very friendly, because they were spoiled with love until their human got tired of them and decided they were a disposable pet.  Those guinea pigs from a big box pet store most likely came from a place very much like a puppy mill.   Lots and lots of guinea pigs in tiny cages with little to no human interaction, because it is about the profit, and these are the places that can supply guinea pigs to the big pet chain stores at the rate they are ordered.   When you buy there, you are supporting these mass breeding and mass buying efforts between the breeder and big box store.  I urge you to consider that, and if you want a baby that you cannot find available for adoption, search for an ethical breeder who handles and loves their guinea pigs and wants them to go to the best homes.  Not to the home that hands over money the fastest on impulse.
Everyone likes company over breakfast.
It is important to say that all guinea pigs are individuals.  They have their own personalities.  Everything I am saying here is a generalization to the majority of guinea pigs.  There will always be an exception here and there, so be prepared to take the time to find another loving solo-pig home, or keep another cage on hand for the long term if this does not work out.
What's cuter than one guinea pig? Three!
Tips for the best method of success:
#1.  Do not just take a guinea pig and place it in your resident pig's home.  That's an intruder and your guinea pig is likely to be alarmed and take action.  The new guinea pig will be on the defensive and fight back.  The key is to move slow.
#2.  Introduce the guinea pigs on neutral ground with many goodies.  This makes the meeting a pleasurable experience.  When it's time to introduce the new guinea pig to the shared cage for the first time, have it freshly cleaned, rearranged, and put in some new fun stuff to change it up.
#3.  Bathing both guinea pigs first so they smell the same can help.
#4.  Rumbling and swaying is natural.  They're going to sniff each other.  They may mount each other to compete for dominance.  
#5.  Monitor them closely with a towel, but leave them be unless fighting is serious.  If fighting becomes serious and there is blood shed, throw the towel in and grab one immediately.  If there is not blood drawn, let them squeal, chase, and work out their piggy hierarchy.  They will compete to determine who's the leader and who's the follower.  It's natural; you only want to step in if there's serious fighting.
#6.  Introducing a younger pig is likely to go better than adding an older one.  A baby guinea pig is likely to accept the other pig as a leader much more quickly.  Two older pigs are likely to work out their differences more harshly.  Two "teenager" guinea pigs guinea pigs on the brink of adulthood are more likely to be hormonal and aggressive temporarily.
#7.  Be patient.  The payoff is very much worth it.  I introduced all three of my boys one at a time when all were over a year old.  Success is very possible.

Breeds and Varieties of Guinea Pigs - So Many Kinds to Love

Albino or Pink-Eyed White "PEW"

It is debatable whether a true albino guinea pig exists.  It is believed that white is actually a color in guinea pigs, not a lack of pigment, and therefore Pink-Eyed White, or PEW, is the correct name.  These guinea pigs are white, sometimes there is a Siamese like darkening around the ears and/or nose.  They have beautiful ruby red eyes, shown in the below pictures.   These ruby red eyes can exist on guinea pigs of other colors too, such as the White Crested pictured below.

Above photo of "Snowball" courtesy of ZiXiuphotos.

Above photo of "Rosie" courtesy of Tiffani Ralph.


This is a very pretty wild type color that is common in guinea pigs.  Agouti guinea pigs have a two tone coat with a peppered look.  The two tones can come in a variety of colors.  You can see the brown/black ticked agouti below.  The second picture is a lemon agouti broken cream guinea pig.

     Above photo of "Chewy" courtesy of Tiffani Ralph.

Above photo courtesy of Alysianne Fay DeSha.


These cute guinea pigs have all kinds of character in their hair.  They have multiple rosettes all over the body that create twirls of fur sticking up in all directions.  They look like they just rolled out of bed at all times of day.  Their fur should be a uniform medium length, although in Abyssinian mixes, it's not uncommon for them to have longer hair.
Kellie McMurray's photo.

Above photo of "Tigger" courtesy of Kellie McMurray.

Above photo of "Chewy" author owned photo.


These gorgeous guineas require lots of grooming.  The guinea pig below has had her hair trimmed, which is quite necessary for regular maintenance.  The untrimmed hair on a Peruvian can extend several inches flowing from the body.  This is prone to tangling and matting, so a well trimmed Peruvian like the beauty below is a happy Peruvian.

Above photo of "Sky" courtesy of Lisa Savino.

   Above photo of "Sky" courtesy of Lisa Savino.


A Silkie, also called a Sheltie, has a thick medium length soft coat that flows away from the head.  It requires a moderate amount of brushing to keep the coat clean and healthy.

Above photo courtesy of Lisa Swatsky/ Moonlight Caviary.


Skinny pigs are very much like the name sounds, covered in skin!  They have a little bit of course curly hair on the nose or feet sometimes, but other than that, they're quite bare.  Skinny pigs may not need brushed, but they do need extra attention to stay healthy.  Keep them warm and away from drafts, as they are more prone to getting sick.

Above photo courtesy of Lisa Swatsky/ Moonlight Caviary.

Above photo courtesy of Lisa Swatsky/ Moonlight Caviary.


These are stunning!  They have long curly ringlets that are soft and abundant all over the body.   These breed requires a substantial amount of grooming to keep the coat clean and healthy.

Above photo courtesy of Lisa Swatsky/ Moonlight Caviary.

Above photo courtesy of Lisa Swatsky/ Moonlight Caviary.


The teddy guinea pig has a coarse and wirey type coat that is short in length, but the hairs tend to stand outward rather than lie down.  There is also a breed called a Rex guinea pig, that looks very much like a Teddy, but the gene is not the same.  I am not able to discern one from the other by looking at them.

Above photo of "Wilma" the expectant mother, courtesy of Lisa Swatsky/ Moonlight Caviary.

Above photo of "Cookie" courtesy of Bridget Montoya.

Above photo of "Buttercup" the baby Teddy, courtesy of Bridget Montoya.


This is likely to be the most common type of guinea pig you see.  They have short and smooth hair.  They require little grooming of the fur and are quite soft.

Above photo of "Gizmo" courtesy of Kellie McMurray.

Above photo courtesy of Alysianne Fay DeSha.

     Above photo of Bear and Tiger, courtesy of the Stephison household.

White Crested  

The white crested guinea pig is smooth like the American guinea pig, but with a single rosette, called a crest, on the forehead.  Like the name indicates, it is a White Crested, if the crest is white.   If the crest is the same color as the rest of the guinea pig, it is an English crested.

       Above photo of "Chewy" courtesy of Tiffani Ralph.


A Coronet guinea pig has long hair like a Peruvian, but a crest on the forehead like the Crested guinea pigs.
*If you have a picture that shows a Coronet well that you would submit to have posted here as an example, please provide it here:

Roan and Dalmation 

Roan and Dalmation guinea pigs are very similar to each other.  They have solid color head (although Dalmations are more likely to have a white stripe up the nose) and then they have a white body with splashes of color throughout. Roans have thin specks of color all over, very intermixed with the white hairs.  Dalmations have more distinct larger spots throughout the body.
*If you have a clear Roan or Dalmation photo that you would submit to have posted here as an example, please provide it here:


Satin guinea pigs can come in nearly any color or breed listed above, however the hair has a very high gloss shine.  This appearance is caused by the light that shines through the hollow hair shaft.
*If you have a picture that shows a Satin coat well that you would submit to have posted here as an example, please provide it here:

Health Concerns in Breeding

There will be another article coming soon on breeding guinea pigs, risks, and why I suggest adopting, however I will touch on some of the reasons here that directly pertain to certain kinds of guinea pigs.  Roan and dalmation guinea pigs have what is called a lethal gene.  Breeding these guinea pigs together creates a risk of a micropthalmic baby, or "lethal white" guinea pig.  These guinea pigs are white in color, but their eyes and teeth are not viable.  The guinea pig has little chance for survival.  For this reason, Roans and Dalmations are typically bred to solid colored guinea pigs, however if you do not know the history of your guinea pigs genetics, it is possible that you're breeding guinea pigs that carry Roan or Dalmation genes, even though you do not see it, and a lethal white can still be produced.

Satins are another cause for concern in breeding.  These guinea pigs have beautiful shiny coats, but there is a darker side to this pretty hair.  They are very prone to get an unpreventable and incurable disease called Osteodystrophy that doesn't present itself until the guinea pig is one to two years old.  This painful disease causes brittle bones, limping in the hind legs, and problems eating due to a weakened jaw.  Little can be done for the guinea pig, and pain medication is the best relief.  There has been some reports of increased calcium slowing the effects of the disease, however this would need to be carefully monitored by a vet because high levels of calcium is hard guinea pigs.

When you adopt guinea pigs, chances are you will end up with a mixed breed guinea pig.  They are every bit as fun and cute, however it isn't likely that you will ever know the origin of their genetics.

If you would like to have a specific breed of guinea pig for showing or other reasons, please search for an ethical breeder.  The breeder you choose should be passionate about their guinea pigs and the care of them, rather than see the animals as an object for profit.   A good breeder will take great care of their guinea pigs and ask you questions to make sure you understand how to care for a guinea pig.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Making a Guinea Pig Part of the Family

One of the first things you should be considering when you get your new guinea pig(s), is where you're going to locate them in your home.  Making your guinea pig(s) an active part of the family will make them the most enjoyable for your family. If you cannot keep the cage in the living room/family room, consider having a play pen there. 

Chunky always wants to see what's going on.

Dan finds being held very relaxing.

Did you know guinea pigs have great hearing? They do, and they quickly learn your voice, the sounds of their favorite foods being opened, the fridge door, and much more! Keeping them in areas around you allows them to become more comfortable with your presence, so they tame more quickly. A guinea pig kept isolated in a room less traveled is likely to become bored and depressed. It will be more fearful of people and movement, rather than the exciting and inquisitive guinea pig you'd likely find in a family room.

Chewy thinks something interesting is in the air.

Also, guinea pigs are colony creatures by nature. Not only do they enjoy getting their noses in on what's going on with the humans in the room, but they still love to interact with their own kind. Please consider getting a same sex companion for your guinea pig. You will want to introduce cautiously with supervision in a neutral environment, but once bonded, they will be much happier, and their interactions will be very entertaining for you as well.  You can find more information on why your guinea pig should have a companion by clicking here.

Guinea pigs enjoy the companionship of their own kind.

Fresh Veggies/Fruits & More - Why You Should Know Oxalic Acid

Good Afternoon!

If you've been following the posts here on Facebook, you probably know that I feed a variety of mixed veggies each day, and sometimes fruit detailed in "Today on the Menu."   Veggies are an important part of guinea pig health, to supplement the additional Vitamin C your guinea pig needs.  I particularly choose things that are high in Vitamin C, like bell peppers, to feed each day.  Choosing your guinea pigs daily menu is a bit more complicated when you dig into it, and I actually put a good amount of thought into the selections I make.  I'm going to share what I know here and try to keep it simple.

First, you should know about Oxalic Acid (oxatales) which are commonly present in the veggies we and our guinea pigs eat.  It is a natural chemical that can become toxic at high levels.  At normal levels, people and animals will pass it in urine without issues.  Guinea pigs, especially those with a history of urinary complications, can have probelms with oxatales crystallizing.  Kidney stones may occur.  Since prevention is best, I limit foods that are high in Oxalic Acid.   Young veggies, like baby spinach or baby carrots, will have a smaller amounts of Oxalic Acid than more mature veggies.

Calcium is something else that you need to keep in mind.  It is important to all life, however too much of it can also create bladder stones.  If your guinea pig is prone to urinary blockages, you should monitor calcium and oxalic acid in the diet carefully.

Vitamin C, as mentioned above, is very important to guinea pigs.  This is because they cannot create it within the body, so pick veggies that are good sources.  The fresher your veggies are, the better the vitamin content will be.  When the leaves turn yellow, it's doubtful they hold much nutritional value and should be tossed.

Fruits are very much appreciated by your guinea pigs as treats, but they are high in sugars and should be fed in moderation.

Keeping in mind all of this information, I look for foods that are high in Vitamin C, and fairly low in calcium and oxalic acid for my daily staples.  These are my favorites:
#1.  Bell Peppers - green, yellow, orange, or red.  The more orange/red they are, the more vitamin C they carry but also contain more sugar.  I rotate feeding different color varieties.
#2.  Cilantro
#3.  Romaine lettuce, red or green leaf lettuce, butterhead lettuce, or other lettuces
#4.  Kale - red or green, fed a little less often than the lettuce varieties above

Next there are a number of other fruits and veggies that I rotate.  They may be higher in calcium, oxalic acid, or not have a powerhouse of vitamin C, but variety is key.  I just try not to give too many foods on any given day that are particularly high in calcium or oxalic acid.  Most of these items I chop up into small pieces and top the daily veggie dish with a small amount, like croutons on a salad.  Here are some of the foods I rotate in sometimes:
#1.  Baby spring mix - these baby greens are likely to have lower amounts of oxalic acid
#2.  Green seedless grapes - generally lower sugar than the sweeter purple kinds, and my pigs love them!  I usually only give one or two grapes per guinea pig weekly and they're chopped in half.
#3.  Green apples - also lower in sugar generally than the sweeter red varieties, and my guinea pigs love them too!  I chop the slices up into smaller pieces and limit how much they get each week.
#4.  Parsley - given in smaller portions due to high oxalic acid, but this is also very high in Vitamin C
#5.  Carrots - not great for nutrition, but my guinea pigs love them, so I offer a small amount a couple times a week, keeping in mind it's high in oxalic acid.  Here's why I don't buy baby carrots.
#6. Baby spinach - high in vitamin C, but also high in oxalic acid and calcium so I feed a couple times a month in smaller amounts.  Baby spinach should be slightly lower in oxalic acid.
#7.  Cucumber - not a great source of nutrition, contains some oxalic acid, but the pigs love it so it is fed in moderation too.

They key to feeding is variety and moderation.  Your guinea pigs love trying new things and are excited to see what's coming next.  If you'd like to know what veggies contain what, the charts on Guinea Lynx are phenomenal, in fact, you should check out the entire site if you haven't already.

I hope this helps simplify your menu choices.

Easy, Affordable, and Fun Cage Accessories

Did you know that you probably have guinea pig toys laying all over your house?! Yep, sure do. Those empty cardboard toilet paper roll tubes are fun guinea pig chew toys, and you can stuff them with hay for extra fun!

Empty saltine cracker box with the bottom removed and paper bags make delicious hidey houses. No cracker box?  That's ok, other boxes work just as well!   Crumpled up newspaper balls are fun for guinea pigs to roll around and chew on.  They love to play in paper sacks too!   You can take those round oatmeal containers and remove the bottom for a cool tunnel of fun!

There are many other things you can find around the kitchen that your guinea pigs will enjoy.  Girl scout cookie boxes I've seen make great houses with a little piggy entrance cut in the front.  Take a look around at cardboard pieces you'll be recycling and see if they might be useful for your guinea pig.  Just remember to be careful that you don't use anything that the guinea pig could crawl in and become stuck or get their head stuck in. If you're not sure, cut it down the side before placing in the cage so it can't become dangerous.

My guinea pigs love playing with all of the above when they are available. I leave them in the cage for about a week or two, and when they look well worn, out they go. Since it isn't something they constantly have available, they always find it new and exciting. 
Look around, be creative, and have fun!

If you have extra fleece laying around the house, there are also many things you can do with that for your guinea pigs.  Here are a few "no sew" things I've done that are popular with my 3 guinea pigs:

This first one I call "the corner curtains" takes an estimated 5 minutes to create. I took a strip of fabric and used safety pins to secure it to the top of the cubes like a strap. Then I took a long, thin fleece fabric (fleece scarf) and folded it in a "V" shape. I hooked the top of the V to the corner of the cubes and let the strips hang down to each side like curtains over the strap that is pinned up. Chewy enjoying this one in the below picture.

The second thing I made is a corner tent, very similar to the curtains.  It takes an estimated 10 minutes to create. I made two straps, like the one in the project above, by taking two strips of fabric and safety pins to secure them to the top of the corner cubes, spaced a couple inches apart. Then I took a good sized piece of fleece and draped it over both strapes, creating a tent.   See Chunky enjoying this one in the below picture.

The third thing I made, a corner hideaway, became so popular I made a second one.  I took an extra cube grid and used zipties to secure it to the corner of the cage.  Then I took a piece of fleece and cut it twice the length of a grid (approximately 28" if I remember right) and made the width slightly less than the height of my cage.  You want it to not be the full height of your cage so the fringes don't drag on the ground - this keeps it clean longer.   Once I had the piece of fleece cut, I laid it out on the floor and cut fringes up to 1.5" from the top that were about the same size to fit within each square grid within the cube.  Then I pulled the fringes through all the outer holdes on the cube I ziptied to the corner of the cage:

You can see I put a piece of fleece on the ground, so they have something comfy to lay on.  I also put a piece of fleece on top of this cube, to create the dark hideaway.  This is very simple, low maintenance since it doesn't get dirty fast, and they love it!

Thanks for coming here to read this, and I hope this has helped you create a fun an interesting habitat for your guinea pigs!


Monday, February 17, 2014

Your Guinea Pig's Health

I will start by letting you know that I am not an expert, and if you have any health concerns with your guinea pig, I strongly encourage you to find a guinea pig knowledgeable vet - actually it's even better to find the right vet before an emergency presents itself.

You've probably noticed I post "Today on the menu" everyday if you follow the Guinea Pigs' Cavy Club on Facebook, but do you know why? It's really fun to see their excitement each day for fresh veggies, and sometimes fruit, but that isn't the main reason. Vitamin C is an essential part of a guinea pig diet and food alone doesn't provide all they need to keep them healthy. Most of the veggies I feed daily, particularly bell peppers, are a good source of Vitamin C. Do not dose water with Vitamin C - it breaks down too quickly to be of any health benefit and it can discourage the guinea pig from drinking by altering the taste of the water. You can give 25mg of orange flavored children's Vitamin C tablets, most tablets are 100mg, so break into 1/4.  You can read more about fresh foods here.

Why do guinea pigs need so much Vitamin C? They cannot create it within their bodies, and a deficiency may cause Scurvy, which is quite serious and potentially fatal. It can cause sore joints, bone and teeth problems, bleeding gums, and even back leg paralysis. The good news is that Scurvy can be treated with an increased amount of Vitamin C of 50mg per day. As always, it is recommended that you consult a vet with these potentially serious health issues.

Leg paralysis can occur as a result of arthritis or injury to the spine, limbs, or pelvis. This is why it is important to see a veterinarian, as X-rays may be needed and medication such as Rimadyl may be able to treat the issue.

It is very important to prevent injury. Sadly, it is all too easy for an accident to happen when another pet feels threatened by the guinea pig or a human accidentally drops the guinea pig. A classroom guinea pig at a school recently died as a result of internal injuries sustained by a middle school student dropping him by mistake. Be sure every member in your family is old enough to understand how to safely handle your pig. Also, avoid exercise wheels! Those cause a guinea pig's spine to bend backwards in a way they are not meant to, causing very serious injury.

Equally as important, make sure your guinea pig cannot reach any potentially toxic plants, cleaners, air fresheners, or other toxic substances. Keep them away from electrical cords and anything else that isn't piggy proof.

In the event your vet recommends medication, it is easier to give a liquid medication with the help of one person to securely hold the guinea pig, while the other person holds the head and neck, and slips the syringe behind the front teeth to slowly release the medication from the syringe. Pills may be easier to give if the dosage is crushed and put in 1ml of a liquid such as Ensure, then using the above suggestion for giving liquid.

Let's also talking about bugs. Did you know that guinea pigs can get fleas, mites, or mange? It's true. I'm no expert, and I have ZERO medical experience, so I do not give medical advice. I recommend you closely observe your little piggies and if you see any bugs on them or itchiness, loss of fur, etc. contact a veterinarian.

I will tell you my personal experience with Chewy. Holding him for awhile on the car ride home, I noticed he had fleas. By the time we got home, I'd found a few hopping around on him. I bathed him as soon as we got home in Dawn dish soap and gave him a drop of Ivermectin pour on behind each ear.

We haven't dealt with any pest issues with any of the guinea pigs since, however I want you to be aware they do exist and be vigilant about keeping your guinea pigs safe. Parasites could make a guinea pig very sick, and they can be contagious. This is also a great reason to quarantine all new piggies.

This brings us to REGULAR MAINTENANCE: (I will post more detailed information in the coming weeks by topic. This information is intended as a brief overview.)

Some ways to monitor your guinea pig to ensure could heath include checking eyes and nose to make sure they are clear of discharge. Check the teeth to make sure they are not overgrown and causing issues eating. Provide chew toys to keep teeth worn. Feel your guinea pig over to make sure they don't have any lumps or patches of hair loss. Nails will require trimming to prevent overgrowing. Weighing your guinea pig regularly is a good idea. A steady loss of weight is a red flag that your guinea pig has a health issue. This can help you catch problem before it becomes critical. As always, consult a veterinarian if you have health concerns with your guinea pig.

Guinea pigs do not need regular baths, but it may be needed if they are dirty or need a bath for a medical reason. I've used shampoo formulated for guinea pigs, kitten shampoo, Johnson's baby shampoo, and Dawn dish soap. I only bathe a few times a year. It's important to keep the soap away from their ears and face. There is a grease gland on the rear of a guinea pig approximately where a tail would be that may require some extra time and cleaning. Be sure to locate the grease gland and ensure it is cleaned well. It may appear wax like on the surface. Cetaphil facial cleanser works well for this grease gland.  Boars may require some additional gentle cleaning around their genitals to prevent urinary issues, so check folds and creases for dirt buildup. It's also important to take the time to rinse fully, then dry them completely after a bath, so they do not get chilled from drafts.

There is some work involved in caring for guinea pigs, but with a simple routine, it's pretty easy to keep up on. The joy of their cuddles and squeaks far outweighs the maintenance.

Wishing you and your piggies an abundance of good health!