View Full Version : Adopting two guinea pigs today - We've read a lot but have no previous experience

10-21-11, 09:32 am
Background info...Over the years I’ve had several people ask if I would take in their guinea pigs. (I volunteer with a rescue group that handles dogs and cats.) Each time I researched the care of guinea pigs and have decided not to take them because I was afraid I could not care for them properly for various reasons (newborn twins with health issues, one of my dogs was a full-time job, etc.). Based upon my reading, caring for them properly is a lot of work and space. I’ve spent a lot of time reading through this site in particular.

Well...My children’s school has been looking for a home for two of the classroom guinea pigs and I have been considering it for six weeks. I am bringing them home today.

My first questions (I’ll probably have more)…
Bedding – Is fleece a good option for a beginner? The guinea pigs have been living with pine or cedar shavings at the school. (I’ve read that cedar is not a good option.) Maybe I should start with Care Fresh? I’ve spent I lot of time on various sites and from what I’ve read the layering or quilting together of towels and fleece seems like a cleaner option – and possibly better for the guinea pigs. Although it seems difficult to keep the hair out of the washing machine and a little gross to wash.

Location – I believe the cage they are currently in is too small. My husband has been researching designs and would like to build a larger ‘guinea pig housing system’. We thought we should put it in the dining room which is on our main floor open to the living room, foyer, and near the kitchen. We spend most of our time on the main floor and we’ve read that guinea pigs are social animals that prefer to be near the household activity. However, our dining room is already a little tight and the thought, aesthetically, of having a huge guinea pig housing complex in our dining room does not appeal to us - but we can get over it. Another idea we had was to put the cage in the children’s playroom which is on the second floor with their bedrooms and their bathroom. It is a sunny room with a south facing window so the guinea pigs would be placed on the north wall out of the direct sunlight. Since we do not spend much time up there, I am planning to get a playpen type system and bring the guinea pigs into the kitchen with me during the day and in the evening when the children are home. They would basically be in the playroom when we are not home and at night. (and I am home most of the time.) Is the playpen idea a bad idea?

Food – I’ve found the thread on this site about recommended food variety, frequency and dangerous foods. I think I need to study it more and make a weekly menu for Caramel and Duncan - It sounds more difficult than feeding the children! We are a vegetarian family so I think we will have plenty of fresh veggies on hand but I do need to study which foods are best, how much to feed, etc. Is it true that they cannot eat previously frozen food? We grow or pick much of our fruits and veggies and freeze them to use throughout the year.

Brushing - The guinea pigs have long hair and one is quite matted in the backend. Can I just cut out the knots? Is there a specific type of brush/comb I should buy? I've read that they should be brushed daily.

Anything I am not considering? Today I am going to the pet store to purchase the play-pen type structure and the feed store for timothy hay and other supplies. Any suggestions for a first time guinea pig family are appreciated.

Thank you!

10-21-11, 09:54 am
Welcome to the forum, and thank you for taking in these two guinea pigs. We will need pictures as soon as possible!

Before you purchase a playpen, read the Home page on this website about C&C cages. The grids are much cheaper than those pens, and work just as well. That page also has information on needed cage sizes. The photo galleries have lots of cage pictures, and you should be able to get lots of inspiration from there.

Cut away on the knots. Many pigs have wonky haircuts. It also helps to keep their skirts trimmed around their butts so they don't drag the hair through the pee. Do use sharp scissors, as they seem to have nerve endings in their hair lol, and complain mightily while it's being trimmed.

Some people give frozen blueberries and other small fruits. Frozen food does lose some nutritional quality, but probably not as much as the stuff on the store shelves does from being picked early and shipped. Mine don't like the mushy texture after it thaws, though, so I don't even bother. They won't need all that many veggies, and the ones they do need don't freeze too well anyway -- red or green leaf lettuce, cilantro and bell peppers are the mainstays, followed by slices of tomato, small pieces of carrot, zucchini, occasional green beans, etc. I doubt that their fresh food will break your grocery budget.

You can put them wherever they'll have the most interaction with you that is safe for them. Our huge pen is in our living room, prompting my husband to say that we have an actual pig sty in our house as well as living in a place that's as dirty as one. That's not really true -- it's clean, just cluttered! But you'll find that they're funny little creatures, and you'll spend a lot of time watching them and talking to them, so put them wherever it's handy.

I wouldn't spend the money for fleece right off the bat. Do some more reading before you decide -- there are definite pros and cons to fleece. I started out with it, but eventually gave it up because I got very tired of trying to get the hair and hay off of it, and because the lint filter on my washer is very hard to get to for cleaning. In the meantime, yes, you can use carefresh, or aspen shavings, wood pellets, or even towels with a cheap fleece blanket clipped over them. Or, you could try all of those out and see which you like better. Fleece is definitely the cutest, and I love wood pellets -- far fewer cage changes, and absolutely no odor.

Read around on the main page of this site, and also at Guinea Pig Education, Care, Rescue and Adoption at Cavy Spirit (http://www.cavyspirit.com) -- the articles over there are down the left-hand side of the page. And get back to us if you have more questions.

10-21-11, 10:25 am
Hard to add to Bpatters' response... so thanks Bpatters for all of that.

Something I'm noticing up front: pellets. If you can find them, Oxbow pellets are fantastic for guinea pigs and can usually be found locally. If you know the pigs are under 6 months of age, Cavy Performance is best for them. Older than 6 months, and Cavy Cuisine is the best.

And, as Bpatters said, do look into the C&C cages. In my opinion, they appear less cluttered than the store bought cages, they are undoubtedly cheaper to make, and they are easy to expand or change the shape/design of. I find having an open top really makes for easy interaction and a stronger bond between your family and your pigs.

Best of luck and have fun! Kudos for looking out for your pigs and doing your research!

10-21-11, 11:08 am
Thank you for the replies.

I'm going to look for the wood pellets. I like the idea of fewer cage changes and less odor.

My husband and I have spent tons of time browsing the cages section of the site and are considering the C&C cages for their 'main house' in the playroom. I wanted the playpen because I was also looking for something that can be put away easily when not in use and moved around during the day so they can hang out with me. I thought the portable, foldup playpen might work for that. i.e. they can hang out in the kitchen while I cook, move to my bedroom when I fold clothes, etc. The school had one that they put up daily so Duncan and Caramel could have more run-around-time or outdoor time...a little change of scenery.c

Regarding the open top...I was planning on a closed top for their main house because we have dogs. We intend to keep the dogs away from the guinea pigs but just in case, I wanted to make sure the guinea pig home was high and closed.

I might still have a few green peppers and tomatoes in the garden.
I wasn't worried about the cost of the veggies...just making sure I have what they need on hand. (My children are fine with frozen :).) We eat mostly organic which I guess is good becauase I've read they are sensitive to pestisides.

Thanks again. We are really excited about getting them.

10-21-11, 11:19 am
I keep my guinea pigs in my dining room which opens to the kitchen and living room. It's the best way to guarantee it's always kept clean and fresh since I don't want my dining room smelly. It's also easily accessible to the kitchen where there veggies come from. I'd say, try the fleece by using an old towel and buying a fleece remnant from Jo-Ann Fabrics which will cost you a couple of dollars to see if you like it. That was you can compare to the regular bedding to see which works for you. I'd shy away from keeping them in kids' bedrooms. They won't get as much attention in there and I don't think it's particularly good to have them in the room where you sleep. Good luck and upload photos, please!

10-21-11, 11:19 am
I use a playpen also, but was just suggesting the grids because they're cheaper than the pens at the pet store. An old blanket is good to put down under the play pen -- you can just shake it out and let it dry when they're going back in the cage, and get several uses out of it before you have to wash it.

If they're not going to get a lot of fresh veggies in the winter, you may want to supplement their diet with vitamin C. Human vitamin C will do, just make sure it's the pure vitamin C tablet without additives. Most people find that their GPs will eat that sprinkled on the veggies. Don't bother putting it in the water -- it loses its potency almost immediate, and may make the piggies drink less water because the taste is off.

One tip about the pellets, if you like them and continue to use them. They're strictly a cold weather item in the south, where I am, so I have to buy enough during the winter to last me the whole year. Also, either buy the ones specifically made for horse stalls, or be sure you get the ones without accelerants.

10-21-11, 11:27 am
pinky...I wasn't going to put them in the bedroom. It was the playroom or the dining room. I agree with you about not having them were you sleep. My son has mild asthma and my husband has severe asthma but we've spent time with the guinea pigs to make sure they do not trigger an attack. (cats seem to be the only trigger)

bpatters...I think they will get plenty of fresh veggies and fruit. In addition to our frozen summer crops, we belong to a weekly organic produce co-op in the winter months.
Regarding the wood pellets...since your post I've already done a quick search and read about finding some without accelerants - I w/h never thought of that! Are they hard? Do you put something soft over them? Good tip about stocking up - we live in the Midwest so I am not sure about the availability. I think I'll start with Carefresh for today.

10-21-11, 11:31 am
I do throw some small fleece pads in the cage for them to sleep on since the pellets are hard. They start out under the hideys, but by the time the furniture movers are done, both the hideys and the pads are in different places. They do mostly seem to nap on the pads, though.

10-21-11, 11:57 am
I made a "play pen" out of excess grids zip tied together. You accordion out all of the grids, and accordion them back together for storage. I can fold out a 6x4 pen and lay down blankets for the pigs, having the whole pen set up, in under a minute. For the cost of a case of grids, you can encompass probably more than twice the area offered by commercial pens, and save around 50% the cost.

10-21-11, 02:00 pm
SurfingPigs...great idea for making the play pen. I bought one today but haven't opened it. I might be returning it. It was smaller than I had hoped. I forgot my list and need to go back for a brush anyway.

I'm leaving now to pick up Duncan and Caramel...so exciting!

10-21-11, 02:11 pm
I also use the zip-tied grids for a play pen. It works wonderful and is easily stored in a small space out of the way. Post some pictures of the new guineas when you can! =D

10-21-11, 03:59 pm
I think they are frightened. My husband isn't home to help me carry in the big cage so I ended up opening the small playpen I bought and putting it on towels on the kitchen floor. We put in their little hut (one of them that has been in their cage at the school) and they are both huddled in it. We gave them a slice of carrot and green pepper. Should we leave them be in their hut while we stay in the kitchen around them talking. Or...should we take them out and hold them? Which is less stressful for them?

Also, I bought the Oxbow food today but then realized the school used a different brand. I brought some of the old brand and was going to ease into the new brand to avoid stomach upset - like I would with a dog. Anything else I should do to switch foods?

10-21-11, 04:10 pm
One more thing...I learned a little more about their background today. They were in one or two homes prior to going to the school. The teacher felt they were not socialized well at their last home. Then they were put into the upper elementary classroom where they didn't recieve a ton of attention. Then they went with a family for the summer. Since September, they have been in a lower elementary classroom and have recieved much more attention. However, I noticed when I was in the classroom, the other two GP's (in another cage) are mostly out and about. These two spend more time in their huts. They are probably around two years old.

10-21-11, 04:23 pm
ok...I'm sure I sound like a neurotic new guinea pig person, but...I think they are getting a little more comfortable. They haven't ventured out of their hut but they are eating the carrots.

well...as I am typing Duncan is coming out of the hut!

10-21-11, 04:29 pm
I didn't mean to suggest you would keep them in the kids' bedrooms... :-) .... I have asthma, too, and I'm happy to say the guinea pigs don't bother me at all but timothy hay does so I buy orchard grass. Our guinea pigs have been wonderful pets for our kids. My daughter has always been afraid of dogs so they were out of the question and I'm allergic to cats. My son always held a guinea pig on his lap when he'd do his reading for homework. He's 20 now and still brings them out just to relax. I think you'll really enjoy them. If your kids are young, I'd make sure they are only brought out under supervision since it's easy to drop them or have them try and squirm away.
QUOTE=dbsam;575085]pinky...I wasn't going to put them in the bedroom. It was the playroom or the dining room. I agree with you about not having them were you sleep. My son has mild asthma and my husband has severe asthma but we've spent time with the guinea pigs to make sure they do not trigger an attack. (cats seem to be the only trigger)

bpatters...I think they will get plenty of fresh veggies and fruit. In addition to our frozen summer crops, we belong to a weekly organic produce co-op in the winter months.
Regarding the wood pellets...since your post I've already done a quick search and read about finding some without accelerants - I w/h never thought of that! Are they hard? Do you put something soft over them? Good tip about stocking up - we live in the Midwest so I am not sure about the availability. I think I'll start with Carefresh for today.[/QUOTE]

10-21-11, 04:38 pm
pinky...I never thought of the timothy hay causing a problem with the asthma. I bought a big bag today. My children are only seven so they will be supervised with the guinea pigs. I also told them they can only hold them if they are sitting down.

I have an example of what not to do living next door to me. My neighbor has GP's and does so many things that concern/sicken me. She has them live in a plastic storage tote with a lid, feeds them grass from her chemical filled yard, and when her children throw them across the room and kill them - or they die another way - she goes to the pet store and buys another. I sent her links to several sites including this one, but she doesn't care. I've bought her timothy hay and took over veggies. It's strange, because they are fantastic dog owners. I hope her children loose interest soon so she doesn't continue to get GP's.

10-23-11, 03:30 pm
I took a few photos while they were in the playpen this afternoon. (I'm not sure when their nails were last trimmed. I bought a cutter yesterday, could only find one for cats but the woman at the store said it would work. I am afraid to cut their nails or try to get the matted area cut out of Duncan's fur. They have been so nervous and frightened, I'm trying to let them get a little used to us before doing things they may not like.)

10-23-11, 04:30 pm
They're beautiful!

10-23-11, 04:42 pm
What sweet looking boys! Carmel looks like an abby I use to have when I was a kid. =D

10-23-11, 09:09 pm
Oh my goodness, look at those cute little piggie faces! Duncan looks like somebody dropped a wig on him! Caramel has such pretty coloring. I have a piggie with a black foot and I HATE clipping the nails on that foot. I just take a little off at a time because I'm terrified of hurting him:ohmy:! Some people suggest using a flashlight and shine it through the nail bed to see where the bloodline starts but that doesn't work for me. Good Luck!