Challenges of Raising Guinea Pigs: Easy or Tricky?

A 2022 article in The Guardian reported that guinea pigs top the list of all the pets surrendered at ASPCAs. The main reason provided was that their owners had incorrectly assumed because they are smaller than cats and dogs, they would be less work. Many were also purchased as starter pets for kids without checking their care requirements. But just how hard is it to take care of cavies?

Guinea pigs are not hard to care for, but they do require effort and the correct cage setup. In addition to ample hay, they need fresh veggies and vitamin C. Their nails must be clipped regularly, and some need their coats groomed. Cavies poop a lot, so spot-cleaning the cage is a daily requirement.

Devoted cavy owners know nothing quite like the feeling of being welcomed home by excited wheeks from a small herd of adorable piggies. Once you have established a routine, caring for them often becomes second nature. Let’s explore some of the ins and outs of what it takes to own guinea pigs.

Are Guinea Pigs Hard To Take Care Of?

Deciding whether cavies are hard to care for depends entirely on the time and energy you have to devote to them. There is no doubt that piggies are delightful animals, and if they have a spacious cage, companionship, and some basic accessories, they are not difficult to take care of.

Since high maintenance means different things to different people, it is up to each prospective cavy owner to decide how difficult they will find caring for pet piggies.

The table below outlines some of the essential guinea pig requirements and how often each task should be performed:

Cavy Care Requirement

Reason

Frequency

Hay

Essential to the health of cavies. Gastrointestinal and dental health depends on hay.

Clean hay must always be available. It is the staple cavy food.

Pellets

It is not a staple food but can be given in small quantities.

Daily

Fresh produce

Provides essential vitamins and minerals and adds interest to the diet.

Piggies should each receive around 1 cup of fresh, mixed vegetables daily.

Water

Cavies may refuse to drink water that isn’t fresh.

Water bowls and drinkers must be changed at least once each day.

Vitamin C

Cavies cannot synthesize their own Vitamin C, and deficiencies can result in conditions like scurvy.

Vitamin C can be offered in a variety of ways. Cavies require 10-30 milligrams of Vitamin C daily to stay healthy.

Wash food dishes

Prevent the growth of bacteria

Daily

Spot Clean Cage

Piggies pee and poop a lot.

Spot cleaning should be done every day.

Deep Clean Cage

To keep the environment clean and hygienic.

Once a week. This includes laundering all soft cage accessories and toys.

Nail Trimming

Cavy nails grow continuously. Overgrown nails can cause the pet to walk uncomfortably.

It is recommended to trim cavy nails at least once a month.

Grooming

Prevent matting and keep the coat clean.

All breeds benefit from brushing, but longer-haired breeds must be groomed at least once a week.

Handling and interacting with the pet

To bond with the piggy and check that it has no injuries or health issues.

Daily. Guinea pigs also need time out of their cage every day.

Vet visits

Injury, illness, neutering males if you have a mixed-sex herd.

As required.

Are Guinea Pigs High Maintenance?

Although guinea pigs are often regarded as starter pets for kids, taking care of them requires the proper setup and plenty of know-how. There is no such thing as a ‘starter’ pet of any species, as owning any animal is a long-term commitment and can even involve veterinary bills.

Cavy owners who are adequately prepared with the correct spacious cage setup and know what to expect will not consider guinea pigs’ high maintenance. With an established care routine, piggies make delightful pets.

Some ways that you can reduce the amount of work required to keep guinea pigs healthy and happy:

  • Get the largest cage possible. Piggies need lots of space and will be much happier running around and playing in a big cage.
  • Get more than one. Cavies are highly social herd animals, and a lone piggy will require a lot of dedicated attention. They can even suffer a decline in health if kept on their own.
  • Unless you have lots of time to devote to grooming, get a short-haired type like an American breed guinea pig.
  • Make time to spend with your piggies every day. That way, the extra effort and chores required will feel worthwhile.

Like all pets, guinea pigs require daily effort. Since they are difficult to potty train, more daily chores like cage cleaning will be necessary. However, if they are kept in pairs or small groups in a spacious cage, they won’t be as demanding of your attention as a dog. They will happily play and socialize with each other.

Do Guinea Pigs Smell If Kept Indoors?

Guinea pigs don’t smell, but if their cages aren’t cleaned regularly, the odor from a build-up of urine or feces can quickly become unpleasant. Cavies pee and poop a lot! It is vital to use absorbent bedding and establish a daily spot-cleaning routine to avoid the build-up of droppings and urine in the cage.

Do Guinea Pigs Need Baths?

Most guinea pigs do not need to be bathed. Merck Veterinary Manual suggests that piggies may only need to be washed every 3 to 12 months. Only use a shampoo that is specifically formulated for cavies.

Although piggies don’t require frequent baths, they benefit from regular grooming. They should be gently brushed at least once weekly to keep their fur tangle-free and in tip-top condition.

Do Guinea Pigs Need Vaccines?

Guinea pigs do not require routine vaccinations like cats and dogs. However, that does not mean they don’t need regular veterinary care, as they can get injured or sick.

Although piggies don’t need immunizations, like all pets, they require regular deworming. They may also need flea treatments, especially in multi-pet homes. Always check with a veterinarian about the safest flea treatment for your pet, as general pet flea products may contain chemicals that are toxic to cavies.

Conclusion

Guinea pigs are not hard to to take care of if owners are well-informed and have the proper cage setup. Because they are small, readily available pets, the impression has been created that they are easy-to-keep starter pets. Caring for cavies requires specific knowledge about the species, commitment to their wellbeing, and lots of love to share.