Guinea Pig Guide for Beginners

How to Prepare for Your New Pet

Guinea pigs may be small in stature, but their lively personalities and mighty appetites for playtime, treats, and cuddles make these animals tremendous companions. With the proper attention, you and your new buddy will bond for life. So what exactly do you need to know? Don't stress — we've laid out all the details in this comprehensive guide to caring for guinea pigs. 

cute guinea pigs with flowers

Know What You're Getting Into: Guinea Pigs are a Long-Term Commitment

While many rodents have short lifespans of two or three years, guinea pigs tend to stick around a while longer. On average, they live anywhere from five to eight years — though some make it to double digits! Therefore, it's important to thoroughly consider whether you will still be able to care for a guinea pig several years down the line. A guinea pig's living conditions, diet, and hygiene are all factors in their lifespan, so strive to provide yours with the best care possible.  

Tip: Baby guinea pigs are undoubtedly adorable, but if ten years of care seems daunting, there are plenty of older piggies in shelters who would make great companions and love you all the same. 

guinea pigs dining together

Sweet Tempers & Talkative Tendencies — Your Guinea Pig Loves to Socialize

Guinea pigs possess an abundance of unique traits, and each one has a distinct personality. While some may be slightly skittish as they adjust to a new environment, guinea pigs are typically affectionate and social creatures. With gentle handling and consistent attention, your new pet should warm right up to you. Most guinea pigs enjoy cuddling, so learning to hold them safely is vital. Ensure a sense of security for your pet by using one hand to support their rear and the other to cradle their midsection. During playtime, however, place them on the floor for exploration and exercise! 

Guinea pigs crave interaction and prefer living in groups, so adopt more than one if able. Introducing them as babies is the easiest way to get a pair to bond, though many adults will cozy up to each other if presented with patience and care. If two piggies are too much to handle right now, be sure to dedicate enough time each day to keep your pet company. 

Guinea pigs communicate through different vocalizations. "Wheeking" is a high-pitched squeal indicating hunger or a need for attention, while soft purring suggests happiness! "Popcorning" is when a guinea pig hops in the air repeatedly, sometimes while running or squealing, and is mainly displayed by younger pigs to express joy. Though guinea pigs rarely show aggression, keeping an eye out for signs of stress is still necessary. For example, teeth chattering may signify anger or fear. If this happens, drop a treat in their crate and give them some space. 

guinea pig in cage

Make Sure Your Guinea Pig's Cage is Clean & Comfortable 

Guinea pigs are active and need room to roam. Unfortunately, most cages advertised for guinea pigs are way too small. These animals do best with solid floors, air circulation, and at least 7.5 square feet per pair of pigs. Unlike many rodents, guinea pigs are not great climbers, so spacious single-level cages or pens are best. You can add ramps and platforms to create dimension, but these surfaces must be sturdy and low to the ground to evade hazardous falls.   

While there are some sufficient habitats for sale, building your own is ideal. C&C cages are crafted from cubes, corrugated plastic, and wire grids and are popular among small animal enthusiasts for being easily expanded and customizable. 

Warning: Wire foundations are dangerous and notorious for causing injuries to guinea pigs' feet. 

Cages should be kept far from drafts, in a quiet area, and stand at least 10 inches tall (or have a lid) to avoid accidents with other animals or children. Guinea pigs like to burrow, so lay down some bedding or hideouts to allow your pet privacy and shade from bright light. Your new friend will also appreciate having a few toys in their cage to keep them entertained during the day. Routine cleaning keeps your guinea pig safe and your home free of harsh smells, so remove soiled materials daily and replace bedding about once a week.  

ginger and lulu smelling hay

What Do Guinea Pigs Eat? Hay is Your Herbivore's Best Friend 

Guinea pigs require a diet of simple, plant-based ingredients. However, simple shouldn't mean dull. A balanced spread of vitamin and nutrient-dense forage, treats, and produce gives your pet the boost they need to thrive while improving digestion, oral hygiene, and immunity. 

A bounty of farm-fresh hay should make up about 80% of your guinea pig's diet. Andy's premium small-batch forage is harvested from our family-owned fields and delivers hardy, wholesome nutrition. Providing an endless supply of Timothy hay keeps your guinea pig satisfied and helps tame their ever-growing teeth. In addition, our Andy-Pak™ pre-packaged feeder boxes keep cages organized, while the cardboard box doubles as a chew toy! 

While your guinea pig grows, they should consume primarily alfalfa hay for its high concentration of fiber and calcium. Timothy hay, however, contains more suitable levels of fat and fiber for adult guinea pigs and should be fed after they reach six months. Keep in mind, guinea pigs cannot produce their own vitamin C and rely on their diets to get it. Hence, limited quantities (about a quarter cup a day) of guinea pig pellets should be fed regularly as a source of essential vitamins. Leafy greens and fruits are also significant components and can be stimulating for your pet to sort through and snack on. To promote hydration and general wellness, try supplementing your guinea pig's diet with roughly half a cup of collard, mustard, or dandelion greens and modest amounts of sweet peppers, cucumbers, apples, or berries. A clean supply of water should also be available at all times, placed in bottles or bowls throughout their cage. 

Our team at Andy is dedicated to bringing the best to your guinea pig's plate and is here to support you through all the joys and challenges of welcoming home a new pet. Share your journey with us, we'd love to hear from you!

Blending the worlds of ecommerce and marketing, Kristina spearheads Andy’s digital efforts. She's also a proud pet mom to Burrito and Jefe (good dogs!), Kirby the cat, and her sweet little guinea pigs, Ginger and Lulu.