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It’s all about guinea pigs here as we lay out the importance of proper guinea pig care and what that looks like. Whether you have a guinea pig or are considering adding one to your family, there’s probably something we can help you with! 

We’re talking about breeds, guinea pig language, diet, enclosure, bonding, handling, and a lot of other fun parts of owning guinea pigs (also known as cavies)! 

Is A Guinea Pig Right For You?

Guinea pigs are small, gentle, adorable, and a tempting animal to spend time with. However, just because they are small doesn’t mean they don’t require a lot of care. Here are some questions to ask yourself before getting a guinea pig. 

Do You Have Enough Time and Space?

A guinea pig needs a large enclosure as well as time outside of their enclosure every day. They also need time to socialize with their humans! Do you have enough time to supervise and interact with your guinea pigs every day? 

Their enclosure needs to be deep cleaned on a weekly basis and spot cleaned throughout the week. It’s like adding another room to your house! And putting some messy friends in it… do you have time to clean up after them? 

Having a guinea pig is a big commitment for a long period of time. Guinea pigs usually live between 5 and 8 years. This is a long-time friend you’re taking on!  

Do You (And Kids) Have Enough Patience?

Guinea pigs are prey animals who need slow, calm interactions. Chaos from kids can frighten them easily. When a guinea pig isn’t handled properly they can get injured. Guinea pigs are not toys and need to be supervised when with young children. 

Some guinea pigs need a lot of time before they warm up to their human parents. These aren’t puppies who gladly join the chaos. 

Are You Willing To Have More Than One Guinea Pig?

Guinea pigs are very social animals. In order for them to have the best emotional health they need a companion guinea pig. Many guinea pig rescues won’t adopt out a guinea pig unless there’s at least a pair going together. Having a guinea pig friend prevents loneliness and boredom. 

Only adopt a guinea pig if you can commit to giving them the best life you can! 

Where Should You Adopt A Guinea Pig?

There are a lot of guinea pigs that need homes! It’s best to look at all of your options and avoid purchasing from a pet store. These guinea pigs often come from irresponsible breeders and it also supports more breeding.

The best place to start is with your local animal shelter. Animal shelters often take in small pets and if they don’t, they probably know of a guinea pig rescue nearby that does. Community forums will also have people looking to rehome their guinea pigs. is another option, though you might need to be okay with a bit of a drive to meet the guinea pig!  

Where Do Guinea Pigs Come From? 

Guinea pigs’ wild ancestors come from the Andes mountains and live at higher than 14,000 feet of altitude. They live in herds where they huddle together for warmth and safety. They prefer to be in close contact with other cavies. 

Prey animals have survival instincts to stay together in a herd where they look out for each other and can warn each other if there’s danger around. This is why it’s so important to have multiple guinea pigs! 

The Language Of Guinea Pigs

If you want a guinea pig to join the family, you’ll need to learn their language. That’s right, better practice your wheeking and purring. Just kidding, we will leave that to the cavies. It sounds cuter when they do it, sorry, human. 

Guinea Pig Sounds 

What you need to do is learn how to recognize the different noises a guinea pig makes and what they mean. That way you can help them when they’re scared and get happy with them when they’re excited!


Wheeking is a repetitive high-pitched sound that guinea pigs make when they are delighted. It reminds me of a 4-year-old who is excited to tell you something. They may wheek when they see food or even when they see their best human friend!


Chutting is another sound guinea pigs make when they’re happy. You’ll hear this sound when your guinea pig is feeling content and safe. It’s a calmer feeling than wheeking. Chutting sounds like a mix of a cluck and a chuckle. You may hear your cavy chutting when you pet them. 


Purring is similar to chutting. You will hear a guinea pig purr when they’re content. It usually sounds lower than chutting and it’s surprisingly loud for such a little animal! 

Teeth Chattering 

A guinea pig will chatter their teeth quickly when they’re feeling threatened or if there’s danger around. This almost sounds like a little woodpecker. If you hear teeth chattering among your guinea pigs then you need to investigate and find out what the problem is or separate the guinea pigs if there is any aggression. 


Chirping is a sound guinea pigs make when they’re trying to sound the alarm. Something has scared them or they think someone in the room looks suspicious. This sounds a little like a squeaker toy being pushed over and over again. 


A guinea pig’s scream almost sounds like a bird. This sound comes when your cavy is in distress, scared, or in pain. It sounds a bit like a shriek or a squeal. Definitely, a warning that you need to check on your cavy and get them out of the stressful situation they’ve found themselves in!

Body Language 

There’s more to understanding your guinea pig than what you hear. Oftentimes you need to combine body language and sounds in order to understand a situation. 


Strutting is a situation where you really need to pay attention to the sounds a guinea pig is making in order to understand what’s going on (as well as the social situation at hand). 

When a guinea pig struts while making a rumble sound this means they are either trying to mate or assert dominance over another guinea pig. Strutting is walking with a little more side-to-side shift than usual and a rumble is a low purr sound. 

If a guinea pig is strutting while teeth chattering this is a sign of aggression. They’re saying they’re the boss but they feel threatened and may become aggressive. 


Most guinea pig parents are familiar with popcorning. This is what we call those happy jumps into the air that a guinea pig does when they’re excited and happy. It’s a little burst of energy that is so fun to see. 

Freeze Response

A guinea pig will freeze when they sense danger or are unsure of what’s happening. This just means they’re scared and need a little reassurance. If you see that everything is fine, talking in a calm voice can help reassure them that they’re safe and you’re one of the good guys. 


If you see a guinea pig rubbing their chin, face, or bottom on anything this is just their way of marking their scent. They are letting you and other guinea pigs know that something is theirs. Just imagine them walking around saying, “mine, mine, mine” as a little display of dominance. 

Guinea pigs are small but they sure can be bossy. Okay little cavy, the hideaway is yours. 

A Guinea Pig’s Enclosure 

Setting up your guinea pig’s enclosure is a fun part of cavy parenting. But before we talk about everything you need in a guinea pig’s room, you need to make sure you have enough space.

Two guinea pigs need at least 10 sq. feet of space. Three guinea pigs need 13 sq. feet of space. The more guinea pigs you have the more space they will need of course. However, if you have more space to give then please do! The bigger the better and your sweet cavies will appreciate it. 

Bedding and Litter Box

Guinea pigs do great with a litter box. Cavies are clean animals and they want to go poo in the same place. If you have a spot where their urine will be absorbed (litter box with bedding) then they will certainly be tempted to use it! 

If you haven’t started using a litter box, then you’ll probably notice a corner of their enclosure where they leave their droppings. This is the spot you want to put the litter box. 

Guinea Pig Bedding Options

There are a variety of bedding materials that work well for litter boxes. If you choose not to use a litterbox then you’ll need to have bedding spread on the floor of your cavies enclosure and you’ll need a lot more bedding! 

When looking for bedding, you want to check these boxes:

  • low dust
  • no dyes 
  • sludge-free
  • never-recycled print
  • no artificially scented bedding 

Your guinea pig will breathe in their bedding a lot. Their little noses are right down in it. It’s important that they aren’t breathing in chemicals, toxins, or dust so their respiratory system stays healthy. 

Soft Paper Bedding

Soft Paper Bedding may be the most popular type of bedding for guinea pigs. Some people prefer White Paper Bedding because it’s easier to spot the soiled litter for spot cleaning. Brown Paper Bedding is just as soft and also 100% compostable. 

Just make sure you buy your bedding from a responsible company and check the package to make sure the paper has never been printed on, is sludge-free, and low dust. Quality bedding goes a long way with a guinea pig’s health as well as their environmental hygiene. 

Aspen Shavings Bedding 

Small Pet Select’s Aspen Shavings Bedding is shaved off of logs and heat-treated to eliminate any bacteria and mold. It’s also 100% compostable so it’s safe for pets and the planet. Aspen Shavings are a little less absorbent than Soft Paper Bedding but if you’re looking for bedding made from wood shavings this is an excellent choice! 

Paper Pellet Bedding 

Paper Pellet Bedding is a good option for people who want to spot clean throughout the week as this bedding is easy to spot and scoop as needed. This bedding should still be completely replaced once a week. 

Hemp Pelleted Litter 

Hemp Pelleted Litter is the most eco-friendly bedding choice on this list. It’s made from 100% all-natural hemp fibers utilizing the sustainable hemp crop in the best way! It’s more absorbent than paper-based beddings so an excellent option for keeping your guinea pig’s enclosure clean and dry. 

Pine Pellet Bedding 

Small Pet Select’s Pine Pellet Bedding is heat-treated and completely safe for guinea pigs. It’s another pellet bedding that’s great for spot cleaning and scooping, allowing you to go a little longer between deep cleanings. 

Naturally Scented Soft Paper Bedding 

Many scented beddings are made with artificial fragrances that expose guinea pigs to chemicals. These are not safe for a guinea pig to be breathing in all day. Small Pet Select makes three varieties of naturally scented paper bedding that use real flower petals to create beautiful-looking bedding and a subtle floral smell. 


It’s very important for prey animals to have a place to go when they sense danger. They need to calm their nervous system in a place that is familiar and safe. 

Wild guinea pigs sleep in burrows and whenever they hear loud noises or strange smells, you guessed it, to the burrow!

Your guinea pig’s hideout should be large enough for them to turn around in and made of safe material in case they chew on it… seems likely if you’ve met a guinea pig. 

If you have multiple guinea pigs, you’ll see they may like to cuddle together in one. It’s still a good idea to have a hideout for each guinea pig, this way there’s enough space to get alone time if they need it. 

Toys and Enrichment 

The word toys might make you believe what I’m talking about next is optional. Let me assure you, it is not. Guinea pig toys are essentially creating a natural environment for them. One more similar to what the guinea pigs have in the wild. 

A wild guinea pig has many different plants and roughage to taste and chew on throughout the day. They forage for their food, pulling and tugging on things as they explore. Toys give your guinea pig tastes and textures to explore and problems to solve, similar to their wild counterparts. 

Or at least, more similar than an enclosure without toys and enrichment to give them something to think about! 

The best kind of toys are the ones that are edible! This gives your guinea pig more motivation to solve the problem of: 

“How will I get hay off this mobile that keeps swinging away from me?” 

“I need to pull harder to get this stick out of the corner.” 

“This ball tastes great but it keeps rolling away!” 

Or even just the idea that what they’re seeing is something new makes their day more exciting and stimulates their brain! 

Mobiles, balls, fidget sticks, twigs, logs, puzzles, rings, and grass mats are all great additions to your guinea pig’s enclosure. 

Check Out Some Natural Toys button

Diet and Nutrition

Health is wealth in the guinea pig world. No cavy wants to chase a ball with a stomach ache so let’s keep the energy up with a five-star diet. The food you make available to your cavies every day in their enclosure has the biggest impact on their overall health. 


That beautiful pile of hay should be front and center when it comes to your guinea pig’s enclosure. Okay, not literally, you can put it in a glorified corner but what I mean is it should be the biggest priority for you and your guinea pigs!


Guinea pigs need fresh hay available 24/7 as a free choice food. This is their main source of calories, nutrients, fiber, and roughage to keep their teeth worn down. 

Guinea pigs less than 6 months old need hay with more fat and more calcium like Alfalfa hay. Otherwise you’re looking for a low calcium hay like Timothy hay or orchard grass hay to be the free-choice food. 

Let’s take a closer look at some of the different types of hay for guinea pigs!

Timothy Hay

Timothy hay is the most popular choice for adult guinea pigs. It has a great nutrient profile for cavies, it’s high in carbohydrates and low in calcium. Guinea pigs need low-calcium hay to help prevent issues with their kidneys and bladder. 

Timothy is a crop that can be cut three times in one growing season. Each time it’s cut, it yields different results. This means, your guinea pig may have a favorite type of Timothy hay. As well as there might be one type that works better for their specific situation and health than another. 

To the Timothy hay drawing board! 

1st Cutting

The first time you cut Timothy hay, you get a lot of stems and fewer leaves. The stems are the toughest part of the plant and they also have the most fiber! You know how much we love fiber. The stem-to-leaf ratio of each cutting is where you see the different nutrient profiles coming from. 

What you need to know about 1st cutting Timothy Hay:

  • toughest hay to chew and great for wearing down teeth
  • takes the most energy to chew and senior or picky guinea pigs may not be up for the challenge
  • highest fiber and lowest fat content of the 3 cuttings
  • the cutting with the most flower heads
2nd Cutting

The second time Timothy hay is cut you get more leaves but also less flowerheads. Some guinea pigs get excited about the flowerheads. This cutting has slightly less fiber and slightly more fat. It’s really a great middle option when it comes to Timothy hay and likely the most popular choice for guinea pigs. 

What you need to know about 2nd cutting Timothy hay

  • soft enough for most guinea pigs
  • rough enough to keep guinea pig’s teeth worn down if they eat enough
  • a healthy amount of fat for guinea pigs 
3rd Cutting

Not all farmers do a third cutting of Timothy hay. In fact, most don’t. The third cutting only happens when you have ideal weather conditions at the end of the summer and into the fall. However, when you do get a quality third cutting, it’s an amazing option for many guinea pigs! 

This is the softest cutting with the most leaves which makes it higher in fat but easier to chew. Guinea pigs that need an easier way to get calories while still chewing to keep their teeth healthy are the perfect candidates for third cutting Timothy hay. 

What you need to know about 3rd cutting Timothy hay

  • the softest and easiest to chew of the 3 cuttings
  • the higher fat content makes it good for guinea pigs that need to gain weight
  • often a winner with picky guinea pigs or cavies with less energy 

Orchard Grass Hay

Orchard grass hay is probably the runner-up option to Timothy hay. The nutrient profile (only slightly higher in protein) is very similar so still an excellent choice as a guinea pig’s free-choice hay. 

Some humans have an allergy to Timothy hay which makes orchard grass the obvious choice!

Oat Hay

Oat hay is significantly higher in fat than orchard and Timothy making it not a good choice for the unlimited free-choice hay a guinea pig needs. It can be used as a treat or to provide foraging opportunities for your guinea pig. 

Oat hay has a sweeter taste and a tougher texture than Timothy and Orchard grass providing some fun variety for guinea pigs in both taste and texture. 

Alfalfa Hay

As mentioned earlier, alfalfa hay is perfect for young guinea pigs less than 6 months old. It has more fat and calcium than an adult guinea pig should have on a regular basis. It can be used in similar ways as Oat hay where it’s part of a treat or to create variety. 


Guinea pig pellet food should be considered an addition to a guinea pig’s main food and not their main food. Hay is and always will be the star of the show around here. 

Pellets make a great multi vitamin and should be fortified with Vitamin C (more on the importance of that in a minute). The main ingredient in pellets should be, you guessed it, hay!

How Much Pellet Food Should A Guinea Pig Be Offered A Day?

Guinea pigs can have ⅛ of a cup of pellet food a day. That may not seem like a lot but look at your cavy, they aren’t very big! And they need to save plenty of room for hay and drum roll… possibly their favorite part of their diet, fresh food! 

Fresh Vegetables 

Guinea pigs can’t make their own vitamin C so it’s essential that they get vitamin C in their diet. Fortified pellet food is a great source but fresh vegetables should also be a part of their regular routine. 

A guinea pig should be given ½ of a cup of greens per 1 pound of body weight. A lot of guinea pigs weigh 2 pounds so this would be one cup of greens per day. 

Some great options to choose from are:

  • romaine lettuce
  • red and green leaf lettuce
  • cilantro
  • parsley
  • kale
  • turnip greens
  • thyme
  • dill

It’s good to use a variety of fresh foods and keep rotating what your guinea pig is offered. This gives them a variety of nutrients and doesn’t overdo any one thing. It’s also fun for them to try out new tastes and textures! 

Make the cavy’s salad interesting!

Fruits can be given in small quantities as a treat but it’s best to stick with low-sugar options when it comes to fresh foods. Some other low-sugar options for your guinea pigs to try are:

  • brussel sprouts 
  • sweet bell pepper
  • red cabbage
  • broccoli
  • cauliflower

Higher sugar options that should only be given in bite-sized pieces occasionally:

  • tomatoes (no leaves)
  • kiwis
  • guava
  • papaya
  • strawberries
  • blueberries
  • apples (no seeds)
  • carrots
  • bananas
  • mangoes

Offer New Foods Slowly

When it comes to new foods, less is always more. Overdoing a new food can cause digestive issues. It’s best to start with just small pieces and then observe how your guinea pig responds to it. You can give them more next time if they seem to do well with it. 

A guinea pig’s gut should have all the necessary bacteria to digest hay very well as this is their main food. When you add something new sometimes their gut bacteria just isn’t ready for it!

Similarly, if you give them too much food low in fiber or high in sugar, their gut bacteria could shift away from the bacteria that eats hay. So make sure fruit and treats are kept to a minimum and you’re prioritizing fresh hay for your cavies. 

Guinea Pig Treats 

Which brings us to this fun section where we talk about the best treats for guinea pigs! We mentioned fresh foods and small pieces of fruit being great options when you want to give your cavy something exciting.

When you want to give your guinea pig a packaged treat, there are a few things to keep in mind. The best guinea pig treats don’t stray too far from your cavy’s usual diet. New tastes and textures are what get guinea pigs excited but that can often be found in treats that also include hay.

Yes, they do some exciting stuff with hay these days!

Hay Cubes are simply hay pressed into cubes making them the perfect worry-free snack for a guinea pig. They give your guinea pig a new texture to chew on while keeping their gut happy. 

Healthy Snackers are similar to hay cubes except with a touch of dried fruit added. Your guinea pig gets to try some fruity flavors but still get the fiber punch that comes with hay.

When you’re out shopping for guinea pig treats, here’s what you want to avoid:

  • artificial flavors or colors
  • added sugar (yogurt drops we’re looking at you!)
  • dairy 
  • high-fat foods like nuts or seeds

Generally, long lists of ingredients are usually not good, and if there are items on the ingredient list that you don’t know about, you don’t want them! 

Button: Shop For Healthy Treats For Guinea Pigs

Common Health Issues with Guinea Pigs

When kept in the right environment with a proper diet, guinea pigs are hardy pets. So while none of these issues we will discuss are necessarily common, they are all conditions that are preventable which is why it’s good to know about them!

Respiratory Infection

Guinea pigs are curious animals. They like to check everything out with their noses. They breathe in particles from their environment all day long. When they’re breathing in something that’s irritating to their respiratory system, they could be more likely to pick up a respiratory infection. If their system is overloaded, it may have a harder time fighting off infection. 

This is why using proper bedding is so important. If you missed out on the previous section on bedding, I recommend it. 

Signs of a respiratory infection:

  • labored breathing or wheezing
  • discharge from eyes, nose, or mouth 
  • sneezing
  • drooling 
  • low energy
  • loss of appetite

If you ever suspect your guinea pig is showing signs of illness, contact your exotic vet immediately. 

Heat Stroke

Guinea pigs have thick fur and can’t sweat. When they overheat, it can be difficult to cool themselves down again. Guinea pigs shouldn’t be kept in temperatures higher than 75 degrees. If they’re ever left outside, make sure they’re in an enclosure with plenty of ventilation and keep them in the shade. 

Signs of heat stroke: 

  • heavy breathing or panting 
  • low energy and laying in a stretched-out position 
  • drooling

G.I. Stasis

G.I. stasis is a condition where a guinea pig’s digestive system slows down or stops. It’s usually a secondary condition that results from a guinea pig being too sick to eat properly. It can also happen when their diet isn’t high enough in fiber!

Fiber keeps the gears turning in a guinea pig’s digestive system and when those gears slow down, there may be a blockage. This condition can be fatal so if you have any idea that this may be going on, you need to get to an exotic vet ASAP. 

Signs of G.I. Stasis:

  • low appetite (or no appetite!)
  • hunched position 
  • hiding
  • low energy
  • bloated stomach
  • stops pooping
  • poop is small or a strange shape


Scurvy is a word for vitamin C deficiency in guinea pigs. Vitamin C keeps a guinea pig’s skin, gums, and joints healthy. It’s also crucial to support their immune system and wound healing. 

This is why it’s so important to use a quality pellet food that’s fortified with vitamin C as well as incorporate vitamin C-rich leafy greens into your cavy’s diet. 

Signs of scurvy are:

  • weakness
  • rough coat
  • loose teeth
  • grinding teeth
  • gets sick easily
  • low appetite
  • diarrhea

Bladder Stones

Bladder stones are mineralized masses that form in the bladder. A diet too high in calcium can lead to bladder stones in guinea pigs. This is why you need to offer low-calcium hay as the free-choice food for your guinea pig (Timothy hay, Orchard grass hay).

Make sure you aren’t giving too many vegetables that are high in calcium either. This is why rotating leafy greens is important! Kale is great but not every day. Some other greens that are higher in calcium are:

  • spinach
  • collard greens
  • turnip greens 

Signs of bladder stones in guinea pigs: 

  • strong-smelling urine
  • dark colored urine
  • creamy colored urine
  • grinding teeth
  • low energy
  • hunched posture
  • low appetite


Bumblefoot (or sore hocks) is when a guinea pig has inflammation, sores, and infection on the soles of their feet. It’s caused by bacteria and is usually brought on by poor living conditions. 

Conditions that can contribute to bumblefoot:

  • wire-floor cages
  • bedding that doesn’t get changed regularly enough
  • lack of exercise
  • overgrown nails
  • vitamin C deficiency 

Guinea pigs have delicate feet that need soft material to live on every day. Signs of bumblefoot in guinea pigs are: 

  • limping
  • swelling of the feet
  • scabs or bleeding wounds 

If you suspect your guinea pig has bumblefoot, get them checked out by an exotic vet. This article from a guinea pig-savvy vet, Dr. Brem, talks about her experience treating bumblefoot in guinea pigs. 


If you have a short-haired guinea pig, their grooming needs will be pretty minimal. Long-haired guinea pigs need to be brushed often and their fur is harder to keep clean due to it reaching further from its body! 

It’s like a toddler with long hair… 

Brushing a Guinea Pig’s Coat

Brushing a guinea pig helps keep their fur clean! Just make sure you’re brushing in the direction that their hair lays. The longer your guinea pig’s hair is, the more often it will need to be brushed. Long-haired guinea pigs need their hair brushed every day. 

Short-haired guinea pigs could have their hair brushed every day but once a week is usually good for them. 

Do Guinea Pigs Need Baths? 

Guinea pigs don’t really need baths. Especially short-haired guinea pigs. They do a lot of their grooming themselves! If your guinea pig is particularly dirty then it’s okay to give them a bath but certainly don’t make it a regular thing!

Guinea pigs have thick fur that makes their skin slow to dry out. Keeping your guinea pig clean and dry is essential to keeping their skin healthy and free of infections. For this reason, only bathe your guinea pig if it’s absolutely necessary. 

Nail Trimming

Guinea pigs need their nails trimmed at least once a month. Allowing your guinea pig’s nails to grow too long can result in curved nails that irritate their feet. This can lead to bumblefoot as we talked about previously. 

Long nails also get caught on things more easily which can cause your guinea pig’s paws to bleed. It’s important to keep their nails as short as you can without clipping the quick of the nail. If you let their nails grow long then the quick grows long. 

Keeping the nails short regularly will decrease the length of the quick inside of the nail allowing them to have more comfortable, short nails. 

Keeping The Enclosure Clean 

A guinea pig’s environment plays a big role in their hygiene. If their enclosure is dirty then they will be dirty. Check your guinea pig’s enclosure everyday and spot clean as needed. Deep clean at least once a week. 

The more guinea pigs you have, the more you’ll have to clean up! Saskia is talking more about keeping your guinea pig’s cage clean on YouTube


When it comes to being social with your guinea pig, as well as fostering happy relationships among your guinea pigs, it’s important to be well versed on guinea pig noises and body language. If you missed that section, I’d do a scroll and revisit it. 

Social situations go much better when you know what your guinea pig is trying to say! 

Proper Handling of Guinea Pigs 

If your guinea pig isn’t comfortable with you yet, it’s best to limit the amount of time you’re grabbing and holding them. Let them get comfortable with how you look, sound, and smell first. 

If you do want to hold your guinea pig follow these steps:

  1. Place one hand in front of the guinea pig to stop them from running off.
  2. Put your other hand behind them to stop them from backing up. 
  3. Slide the hand in front under the guinea pig’s chest and stomach.
  4. Use the other hand to support the cavy’s back legs and the majority of its weight. 
  5. Bring the guinea pig as close to your body as you can to help them feel secure and protected. 
  6. When putting your guinea pig back down, make sure you are holding them firmly until they have reached the ground.

Very young kids shouldn’t be handling guinea pigs. They may squeeze too tightly or not have a secure hold. A guinea pig can hurt themself as they try to get away when they don’t feel safe. Make sure young kids are supervised with their guinea pigs and taught proper boundaries to keep your cavies safe. 

Bonding With Your Guinea Pig

When it comes to building relationships with your pets, it's always best to take it slow. You plan to be together for a long time! Of course, you’re excited to meet your new family member but remember to always consider how your guinea pig feels as well. 

The first step to bonding with your guinea pig is to just spend time around them. Let them hear your voice. Let them become familiar with how you smell. Sit with them in a safe space and let them come to you to be pet

Bond Over Treats 

Of course, there are certainly ways to make yourself more exciting if you want to hurry along the process. Humans do this too. When someone new moves in, a neighbor might bring them cookies. Instantly the new neighbor knows who will be friendly if they need anything in the future. 

When it comes to guinea pigs, be the one with cookies. No, not literally. Well, actually there are some healthy guinea pig cookies that would be excellent in this situation. 

Using treats, toys, and chews, you can make yourself more tempting to hang out with. 

Do Guinea Pigs Need A Friend?

Guinea pigs love having a social life. Once you have two guinea pigs bonded together, don’t separate them! Their bonded family gives them emotional safety and security in ways that nothing else can. 

It’s best when guinea pigs can have the opportunity to bond and create social relationships early on in their life. There are social skills that need to develop to help them learn how to fall into place with other cavies. The hierarchy that forms among guinea pigs is essential to everybody getting along and knowing their place. 

Always plan on having at least two guinea pigs. A guinea pig's personality comes out when they have the opportunity to interact with other guinea pigs. They’ll be a much better furry friend to you as well if they aren’t lonely!

Bonding Multiple Guinea Pigs 

Guinea pigs love to live with other guinea pigs. This makes their hearts happy and their physical lives more fun. However, it’s important to introduce guinea pigs properly so that positive relationships can form without aggression. 

Guinea pigs will create a hierarchy among themselves and this can take a little bit of time to happen smoothly. Some guinea pigs get along right from the start while others need to take it slow. 

Before putting any guinea pigs together, make sure you’re working with the same gender! You don’t want any accidental breeding. 

Let’s talk about the steps you can take to bond guinea pigs if you want to take it a little slower and make sure you’re getting off on the right foot. 

Split Cage

One way to introduce cavies is by setting up their enclosures right next to each other, but keeping them separate while they get used to seeing and smelling each other. You can use panels to divide an enclosure as well. 

Set up a pile of hay on each side of the panel and let the guinea pig’s chat over dinner. 

Meeting In Neutral Territory 

After spending a few days in that setup you may want to put them together for their first meet and greet without the separation. 

This should be done in a neutral space. This means a space that neither guinea pig claims as their own. This way they’re less likely to get territorial. 

This meeting should be away from their cage and items they have gotten used to having for themself. Create a small, safe space where they can smell each other and talk things out. 

Use toys and treats to distract them from negative feelings and to create positive associations. 

It’s normal for guinea pigs to figure out who is going to be the dominant one. 

Common Behaviors When Guinea Pigs Are Meeting

  • butt sniffing
  • chasing
  • butt dragging
  • mounting
  • nose face-offs (the lower nose is the subordinate cavy)
  • small amounts of teeth chattering can be a sign of dominance
  • raised hackles (hair on the back of the neck and along the spine)
  • nips
  • big yawns 
  • snorting

Signs of Aggression With Guinea Pig Bonding

  • lunging with intent to harm the other cavy
  • loud teeth chattering with raised hackles could happen right before a bite attack or they could back down before it starts.
  • both pigs stand up and neither back down (This is what happens right before a fight so try and separate them!) 

If the guinea pigs engage in a full battle you need to separate them safely using either an oven mitt or a dust pan. Something to protect your hands. They have sharp teeth!

If you need to separate the guinea pigs, you can try again another day. If you jumped right to the neutral territory stage, try giving them some time in a split cage setup. 

Sharing An Enclosure

If meetings on neutral ground have been going well then you can try a shared enclosure. When you first put guinea pigs together in the same enclosure, it may seem chaotic. There will be more chasing and quick movements as the guinea pigs get a feel for their shared space and how they will work together there. 

Let things settle among the guinea pigs but keep an eye on them. Look for those signs of aggression that we mentioned earlier. 

The best thing you can do to support the bonding process is to make sure they have enough space and don’t feel overcrowded with each other. You probably get grumpy when you have too many family members in your space as well! 

The setup in the cage is also important. Make sure you have plenty of hideouts available so each guinea pig can have their own space if they need it. Provide lots of hay to keep the cavies happy and healthy. Treats can help them settle in and create positive associations with their new roommates as well. 

Breeding and Pregnancy 

Guinea pigs are only pregnant for three months but a lot happens in those three months. Baby guinea pigs (pups) are born with their eyes open, covered in hair, and have teeth! 

Before we talk about what to expect if your guinea pig is expecting, let’s talk about breeding practices. 

Responsible Breeding 

It’s not recommended for pet owners to breed their guinea pigs. There are a lot of guinea pigs who need homes and finding loving homes for these guinea pigs should always be the priority.

Pregnancy can be dangerous for a guinea pig. If a guinea pig gets pregnant for the first time after they are 8 months old it is especially dangerous. They may not be able to deliver their young due to the normal stiffening of the pubic symphysis. 

Guinea pigs reach sexual maturity at 2 months of age but they could be fertile before that. Create your guinea pig family with either all males or all females! 

Pregnancy and Birth: What to Expect

If a cavy has been misgendered, you may have an accidental pregnancy. More reason to get your new family members checked out at the vet so that you can be sure you have a proper gender. 

If you suspect that your guinea pig could be pregnant, again, talk to an exotic vet so they can direct you to the best care for your guinea pig. 

Saskia is talking all about guinea pig pregnancies on YouTube.

Increased Appetite and Thirst

If your guinea pig is pregnant, you may notice their behavior change before their body changes. If they’re emptying their food bowl faster or seem to be extra thirsty this could be due to pregnancy. 

Weight Gain

Guinea pigs gain weight and their stomach grows but the change is so gradual that you may not notice it happening until one day your guinea pig seems to have doubled in size!

At first, your guinea pig may only look a little fluffier than usual. There’s nothing wrong with extra snacks so this may seem normal. Which makes that quick three-month pregnancy even quicker for you! By the time you realize your cavy is pregnant, the pups may be almost here. 

Sleeping More

A pregnant cavy may sleep more than they usually do. They may have a shorter temper and seem less friendly than usual as well. Your guinea pig’s pelvic floor is under more stress than it’s used to so try to leave your cavy alone and only pick her up if it’s absolutely necessary. 

When The Pups Arrive

After your guinea pig has her pups they will need to stay with her for three weeks before they are weaned. Check out Saskia’s video on YouTube where she tells you all about weaning guinea pigs and shows you some very cute pups!  

Common Breeds Of Guinea Pigs 

The American Cavy Breeders Association recognizes 13 different guinea pig breeds though there are other breeds commonly recognized as well. Let’s look at 5 of the more common breeds. 


American guinea pigs are known to be laid back and relaxed but of course just as we humans have a wide array of personality traits, so do guinea pigs. 

  • weigh 2-3 lbs.
  • 8-18 inches long
  • beige, cream, black, gold, red, and more! 
  • short and straight hair 
  • very social and love guinea pig friends
  • low maintenance when it comes to grooming 


Abyssinian guinea pigs are often known as the most friendly guinea pig. They have multiple rosettes across their body. These are where their hair seems to swirl or stick out in different directions. They have an adorable “I just got out of bed” look.


This hairstyle is sensitive to water and may take a while to dry out and return to its usual greatness. Only bathe guinea pigs if it’s necessary!  

These guinea pigs come in many colors as well as many different color markings known as brindle, roan, agouti, tortoise shell, and dalmatian. 

White Crested Guinea Pig

These guinea pigs are known for the white rosette on top of their head. Looks like they are wearing a crown. 

  • can grow to be 12 inches
  • short, smooth, and dense coat
  • can have other colorings and markings that aren’t a solid color


Peruvian guinea pigs have fantastic personalities but they’re especially known for their long beautiful hair. They require more attention when it comes to grooming and will need their hair brushed every day! 

  • 10-14 inches long
  • tri-color pattern, bi-color pattern and white, brown, black, russet, cream, and dark gray
  • lively personality 
  • extra care needed to keep their long locks clean and detangled 
  • their hair can grow up to 14 inches long


Now if you thought Peruvian guinea pigs had long hair, you just haven’t seen a Silkie yet! They have even longer hair that is also finer making it “silkier”. 

Silkies are known to be calm and gentle and just as lovable as the rest of the guinea pig family!

  • their hair can grow to be 24 inches long 
  • white, black, red, brown, gray, dutch, brindle, roan, agouti, dalmatian, Himalayan, and tortoiseshell
  • they need haircuts to keep their hair from picking up more dirt and bacteria 

Traveling With Guinea Pigs

If you’re going on a trip, your best option is to let your guinea pigs stay in their usual home/enclosure and have a friend come and take care of them. This will cause the least amount of stress. If you decide it’s best to travel with your guinea pigs, then here’s what you need to know. 

You will need a pet carrier that is at least 12 inches wide x 19 inches long x 12 inches high for two guinea pigs. Letting your guinea pig stay with their bonded buddy will make the trip less stressful.  

You’ll need either bedding or a puppy pad at the bottom of the carrier. Don’t put a bowl of water that can spill and make their bedding wet. Hay is a great travel snack. Make sure you have plenty of bedding, hay, and food to last the whole trip. 

Bring toys and chews to keep them happy and distracted from worrying about every bump along the way! 

Set up a larger cage or enclosure at your destination. The carrier should only be for the car. Never leave your guinea pig alone in a car when the sun is out or the temperature is warm. Even if it doesn’t feel warm outside, the temperature in the car increases fast! 

Final Tips For Guinea Pig Parents

While you certainly want to learn as much as you can about your pets, an exotic vet is a great resource to get advice on your specific situation. Find an exotic vet before you think you need one! You never know when something unexpected or confusing might happen with your little cavy. 

Guinea pigs are a lot of fun and the more energy you spend giving them the best life, the more positive energy they have to give back to you!

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