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How to keep your pet guinea pig happy

guinea pig eating* With proper care and attention, your guinea pig can live for up to 10 happy years and sometimes longer. 4 – 5 years is typical though for a domestic guinea pig.

*As children are their main owners, they should grow into teenagers having learnt all about caring, cleaning, nurturing and finally having to say goodbye and learn about death.

All these are such valuable lessons in life and how lucky some children are to be given the chance to have a guinea pig to learn all this from. It is vital though that your little pet is cared for properly, so here are some guidelines.

*Guinea pigs are friendly, chatty and very responsive to caring owners. They each have their own character which makes them endlessly fascinating. They are herd animals and would naturally live in large groups.

*They are also known as cavies as they originate in caves and rocky areas in South America where they live in colonies as a form of defence against ever present predators. All they have in their defence is their speed.

*As they are so gregarious, they do get lonely and it is best to keep at least 2 together, but beware the speed with which a mixed pair will breed.

*If you do want to breed, the sow must be between 5 and 9 months before she has her first litter. You can keep any number of females together.

*Males or boars are best kept in pairs – if a younger male is introduced to an older one, he must have a tube or pipe he can hide in initially to hide from his bigger new hutch mate.

*Do not keep guinea pigs and rabbits together if they have not already been used to each other from a very young age. Rabbits have strong back legs and uncontrollable urges in uncastrated males to mate. This may lead to sometimes potentially fatal wounds in your guinea pig.

*Ensure that the hutch they live in is large enough for your guinea pig to stand on its hindlegs without its head touching the roof.

*Outdoor hutches should have a sloping roof with an overhang to protect it from bad weather and covered with roofing felt to prevent it leaking.

It should be away from draughts and direct sunlight. It should be raised off the ground and have mesh with holes that are very small to prevent mice from entering. This happens commonly as mice are attracted to your guinea pig’s food. They can spread disease.

*Guinea pigs are heat and cold sensitive so never keep them in greenhouses. Do not keep their hutches in garages that house cars as they may be affected by the car fumes.

*Their enclosure can be brought indoors if it gets too cold but keep them away from other pets, the TV and radiators.

*They will need an enclosed outdoor run – the tent-shaped varieties are very good as predators such as cats and foxes are unable to enter.

*Ensure that there is always somewhere it can hide – a tube or drainpipe is adequate just in case it sights a predator.