Looking after your guinea pig


Congratulations on acquiring your new guinea pig

Guinea pigs (cavies) originate from South America and make fascinating, intelligent and friendly pets. There are three major varieties: short-haired smooth coated, harsh-coated rosetted, long-haired silky coated. They communicate through a whole range of high-pitched squeaks, chatterings and grunts. On average, they live from four to eight years and are therefore a long-term commitment, often outliving a child’s interest.



Guinea pigs are very sociable animals and live in extended family groups in the wild. They need company of their own kind and can be kept in small same sex groups or pairs. Groups of males or a pair of adults that don’t know each other may fight so it is best to choose young litter mates of the same sex (two brothers or two sisters), a father and son or a mother and daughter.

It is important to realise that guinea pigs are sexually mature at an early age (females at four to five weeks old and males at eight to nine weeks old) and need to be separated into same sex groups to prevent unwanted pregnancies. If males and females are to be kept together, then the male should be castrated.


Guinea pigs should not be kept with rabbits as they can be bullied and injured by them. In addition, rabbits and guinea pigs have quite different feeding requirements.


Guinea pigs need a weatherproof, predator proof hutch raised off the ground and positioned out of direct sunlight and wind. Allow plenty of room i.e. at least 120cm long x 60cm wide x 60cm high for two guinea pigs.   In cold weather, the hutch should be moved into a shed or porch but do not place the hutch in a garage where exhaust fumes could be toxic to the guinea pigs. There should be two connecting compartments: one for the day and one for night retreat with a solid wall. Guinea pigs like their own separate sleeping compartments.

Ideally, the hutch should be within a secure wire enclosure where the guinea pigs can graze and exercise. Tubes, boxes, logs and flowerpots placed in the run provide interesting hiding places for guinea pigs.


Health matters

It is important to check your guinea pig daily for signs of good health. It should be alert, bright eyed, active and interested in food. The coat should be clean and glossy without hair loss or scratching and there should be no discharges from the eyes, nose and mouth. The guinea pig’s breathing should be quiet and regular.

Don’t forget to check that your guinea pigs bottom is clean, as fly strike can be a rapidly developing problem particularly in long-haired breeds. Grooming is important especially with long-haired breeds and nails and teeth should be checked regularly to ensure that they don’t become overgrown.

Small Furries Health Information

Find out more

To assist owners in understanding more about a health conditions that are specific to small furies we have put together a range of information sheets to talk you through some of the more common health concerns seen and treated by our General Practice Vets.