Written by Dr Michelle Trevan
The guinea pig (Cavia porcellus, commonly referred to as a 'cavy') is a member of the rodent family and generally has a life span of four to eight years.
They make lovely family pets and children absolutely adore them.
Relatively easy to care for, they don't take up a lot of space, don't eat you out of house and home, are friendly and inquisitive little creatures with unique personalities and create strong bonds with their owners.
Guinea pigs also really enjoy the company of other guinea pigs, however introductions should happen slowly to prevent unnecessary fighting and injury.
They live comfortably in a hutch that is either inside, or undercover and free from windy drafts, direct sunlight and rain.
Good husbandry is extremely important with guinea pigs as many diseases are preventable with appropriate care. For example, guinea pigs produce ammonia in their urine, so if bedding becomes too soiled, a common result can be respiratory diseases due to inhaling high levels of ammonia in the air.
Guinea pigs also have specific dietary requirements to keep them healthy. They need a diet high in fibre and protein. Diets lacking in fibre commonly result in gastrointestinal issues and dental disease.
Another guinea pig quirk is an inability to produce and store vitamin C in their body, and because of this they need daily supplementation of vitamin C (approximately 50-100mg per guinea pig per day), which can be provided through certain fruits and vegetables or a chewable Vitamin C tablet.
Great vegetable choices include parsley, broccoli, capsicum, kale and cauliflower...just to name a few.
While guinea pigs don't require an annual vaccination just like your other furry household members, they do require regular vet check ups to ensure they stay healthy.
Hair loss, weight loss, lameness, dental disease, behavioural issues and skin growths are just some of common reasons we see guinea pigs at the vet.
Desexing your guinea pig is also recommended from three to four months of age. Along with preventing unwanted pregnancies, desexing reduces aggression between hutch mates, prevents the development of ovarian cysts in females and reduces the risk of faecal impaction in males.
So what are you waiting for? A guinea pig may be your ideal pet.