Thursday, July 3, 2014

Going Guinea ~ Part III

 {Last night I suddenly realised I hadn’t shared the final part of the miniseries ‘Going Guinea’...  I had it all typed out and waiting in my computer folder – all it needed was a few photographs to make it more cheerful!  And as I have waited so long to post this one, I decided to condense parts 3 and 4 into one, just in case I neglect to share the next one with you - again!} 

  Winter is here again and my six guinea pigs: Cocoa, Mr Knightly, Fudge, Jewel, Hot-Cross-Bun and Phronsie are happily living in their cages that have been placed on our porch to be out of the way of driving wind and rain.  It has been so long since I shared anything about our little pets...  Firstly, I made the decision to stop breeding guinea pigs as I just wasn’t able to find as many good homes as was required.  Secondly, have you ever tried keeping three, and sometimes four large cages clean and the guinea pigs residing in them fed, watered, put out to graze and happy?  It was just getting too much...

 Guinea pigs come in beautiful colour combinations and have such lovely temperaments – it will be very tricky to choose a favourite!

But here we are at the last part of this miniseries, and today I would like to share a few tips for picking the best guinea pig from the litter and making sure he or she is happy and healthy as well as some basics to get you started...

When we started out we didn’t know much about pairing guinea pigs up and so we went with the route we thought best – one male and one female.  The plan backfired when we ended up with two males who were a little put out at having to get along with each other!  This was because the person we got them from had a slight mix up and sold us a male instead of a female...  The moral of this story is to either find someone who really knows what they’re doing or to learn how to tell a guinea pigs gender yourself. 

I always suggest to first time guinea pig owners that they take two or more piggies of the same gender.  Breeding guinea pigs is not something I would readily advise people to undertake on a whim, especially not busy families.  Sometimes re-homing the babies can get a bit out of control and buying extra food can become a bit expensive.  Also bear in mind that once in a while babies will die or be still-born.  This is tragic and heartbreaking for little children.
Although we haven’t had trouble with our females giving birth thus far, some can have problems...  If you still want a male and female pair (or if you want to keep one male and two or more females together) but don’t want them to breed, speak to a vet about neutering the male. 

  Cuddle and play with your guinea pigs as often as you can – this will make for a tamer pet which will in turn make keeping them that much more enjoyable!

Guinea pigs are social creatures (like us) and prefer to live in herds.  This makes them feel safe and secure and provides company for them.

When getting male guinea pigs, try to find ones that have been raised together such as a father and son pair or a few brothers...  This way you won’t have to introduce the males to each other which can be a bit of a nuisance.  Males will need a bit more space in case the one gets in the others hair.  Read more about providing the right cage here.

Females are generally fairly easy to pair up.  But if you can get a mother and daughter pair or two or more sisters, this would probably be the easier route.  For tips on introducing guinea pigs to each other, visit this site.  I have successfully introduced females to each other, although it generally does take quite a little while for them to become happy with one another.
The next question is whether to get males or females...

Personally, I don’t find too much difference between male and female guinea pigs.  They are equally sweet and special.  Females are perhaps a bit more docile than males, so if you don’t like the idea of the occasional dispute between males, rather go for a few females.  But that said our one male, Fudge, is such a lovely guinea pig with the gentlest nature.  He is very friendly and affectionate.  I would say it really boils down to personal preference...

 Guinea pigs, like people, do get on each other’s nerves, especially dominant males...  Take this into account when taking them out for some playtime.  Also, keep females far away from may just end up with a whole lot of mini guinea pigs!

Guinea pigs live quite long time, so one should be prepared to look after them their whole lives through.  A healthy guinea pig should be with you for about seven or eight years.  To keep him or her healthy, do as much research on keeping them beforehand.  I have listed a few of my favourite websites for you to look at.  This will help you to make the best decisions. You’ll need a fairly big cage if you plan on keeping two or more guinea pigs. 
I like to keep my piggies in a closed cage near the house at night or when it is raining and put them in a run with plenty of grass during the day.  Guinea pigs love to graze and are wonderful at mowing the lawn!

When it comes to finding the best source to buy your new pets from, go for the best and not necessarily the cheaper option.  But be prepared to wait a while to find a good breeder who cares for her animals.  If you live in South Africa, you can visit the SAGPS site for a list of registered breeders.  Although I am not a registered breeder (reason being that I never knew there was an actual society in South Africa), I do love my animals and want them to go to the very best homes.
We waited a few months for our first guinea pig and got him from a wonderful touch farm in Cape Town.

I sell my babies through posters placed in town or over the internet.  I like to ask prospective buyers their reason for choosing a guinea pig as a pet.  I am very careful when agreeing to sell a baby to someone.  I also like to meet the person to hand over the guinea pigs.  And it is always special when the buyer emails me to update me on how the guinea pigs are doing!

Guinea pigs make wonderful pets for children, but always supervise the playtime.  Guinea pigs can break their backs very easily and by dropping or mishandling them, there could be some sad consequences.

Guinea pigs come in many different colour combinations and hair lengths.  I prefer keeping smooth hairs as they are less maintenance.  But I have also kept Abyssinians with coats which were also fairly easy to keep under control.  If you plan on keeping a long haired variety like a Peruvian, be aware that you’ll have to brush their coats every so often.  Many people even bath their pets – I don’t as mine seem to stay in pretty good condition and do not smell. 

Guinea pigs will also need their nails trimmed (like dogs).  Sometimes their teeth will also become overgrown – I have never had this problem in my guinea pigs though.  For more on guinea pig healthcare, please read more at the sites listed below:

When it comes to bedding, I would recommend you take the advice given at this site here and don’t use wood shavings.  Currently, shavings are sadly all I have access to here but I use them in conjunction with dry Lucerne grass when it is available.  This is not the best option and I would much rather have straw in their cages, but unfortunately no one seems to have any in this area.  However, there are other options, so be sure to read more at the site mentioned above.  I also only leave the guinea pigs in their cages at night and on miserable days, the rest f the time they spend in their runs nibbling grass.
 This book is a wonderful introductory to keeping guinea pigs.  I would highly recommend reading as much as you can about guinea pigs before purchasing one.

As to feeding your new pet, I would suggest you consult a good book on guinea pig care for specific feeding guidelines.  This website offers some wonderful information on feeding a guinea pig – it covers what is harmful (please check first before feeding a guinea pig something – I have heard some terrible stories of guinea pigs who were unintentionally poisoned when their owners fed them something they didn’t realise was harmful!) and what is okay to feed a guinea pig. 

You will also need to feed your pet dry food and some good hay, if you have access to it, of course.  When taking your piggies out for some cuddle time, always have a treat on hand.  Ours like spinach, parsley and carrot tops! 

I like to put my guinea pigs out in a run to get some sun and let them graze for a few hours.  Guinea pigs enjoy nibbling the green grass!  As they don’t burrow like rabbits, it isn’t necessary to place mesh at the bottom of a run – this will only hurt their delicate little feet.  But do ensure the run is safe from other pets such as dogs, and that there aren’t any ‘escape routes’ where an adventurous guinea piggy may slip out!

I hope that this miniseries has given you the information you were looking for!

See also:

Please note that although I have had experience keeping guinea pigs, I am not an expert and I have only written this article as an introductory to keeping guinea pigs.  I would encourage any person interested in these lovely creatures to do as much research as they possibly can before making any final decision. 


Grace Le Feuvre-Smith said...

AW!! I love, love, love, love, guinea pigs!! We have 16, but we are selling the one we can't keep, so we will only have 9 afterwards... We got a new guinea pig a few days ago, her name is Snow! And the day before yesterday Perrin, (my older sis) Mom, and Really (my little brother) came home from the shops with lots of plants, and stuff, Them me, Tane and Perrin went to hold guinea pigs for a little bit, and when I looked in the cage i saw another new guinea pig!! Then Perrin said "I bought that guinea pig for you guys by the way..." I was so happy. I will do a post on them soon. Wonderful post Kelly-Ann!! I loved it.
Grace xxx ☺♥☻

Kelly-Anne @ Beautiful Girlhood said...

Oh, how lovely, Grace! I am so happy you enjoyed this post:). Guinea pigs are so cute and make dear little pets! Lots of love, Kelly-Anne xxxx

Tane Hannah said...

Guinea pigs are the best. :) Next to dogs and cats... ;) I loved this post, and the pictures. Thanks for sharing! We currently have seventeen guinea We might take a break from breeding them soon. But they are such beautiful, sweet creatures.

Kelly-Anne @ Beautiful Girlhood said...

Aw, they are indeed, Tane:). We had 20 at one stage and that was just WAY too much - but, as you say, they are so sweet! Blessings to you! Kelly xx