You might just be thinking that dogs and cats are too common and this vacation you want a cute little guinea pig for yourself. Well, that is wonderful. Trust me, they are one of the friendliest creatures, not to mention tiny, gooey and adorable! The average size of a healthy guinea pig would be slightly bigger than your hand but they can quite be a handful. Also called cavy, they are usually kept in pairs, for they tend to get lonely. But I would advise you to buy a pair of the same sex. Two females would be ideal because males tend to fight if kept too close to each other. You can also get a male castrated and then keep him in the company of the female to avoid an unwanted litter. They are the ideal apartment pets and do not need to be taken out for a walk. So if you are a tad bit on the lazy side, you might have just found your kind-of pet.
They are also extremely easy to handle owing to their diminutive size. You can use public transport without letting the others know that you have this tiny adorable ball of fur tucked happily inside your fruit basket. Ah, what fun! Imagine doing that with a dog or a cat. Or rather, don’t.
Although a guinea pigs does not need to be walked like a dog, or fed and persuaded like a cat, you do need to look after it. There are some things to keep in mind while tending for your cavy. Firstly, you should get a large cage so that you pet is allowed some exercise when you are not around. Also, you might want to cover it with a layer of hay and cotton to make it soft. Remember that cavies are herd animals so they must get the grazing feel. Give them loads of leafy vegetables, except cabbage and broccoli. Cavies cannot produce Vitamin C on their own so make sure you include that in their diet. You can occasionally feed them fruits but in very small amounts for they do not tend to react well to acids. Feeding shouldn’t be centralised; instead of a large meal twice a day, break it into four petite meals.
Remember that guinea pigs tend to get depressed if deprived of your attention and care. So keep your cavy’s cage in such a place where it gets to see you most of the time. The drawing room or the hallway would be a great place. Your Company is paramount and there is no alternative to your attention. Keep handling your cavy frequently but with care. Clip its toenails once in a while and caress the fur. If possible, talk to your pet gently.
Cavies are cuddly and soft and that’s what makes them very precious to the owners, but that is also the source of their vulnerability. They are totally defenceless against animals bigger than themselves and thus it is advisable to not directly introduce your pet to other animals, however domesticated they may be. Take for instance Rabbits-though they might look like a close kin to your own ball of fur, yet a whimsical kick from a rabbit can put the life of the guinea pig at risk. One might think that such fragile pets are a burden, but hey! Look around! Fragile things like China Vase are collected as fragility and subtlety is a part of their attraction, and that’s why your cavy is so special! It might seem that they want to hog up all your attention, but essentially, you are the centre of the pet’s attention, so can you not give them back some of it?
Cavies are very sensitive to temperature, so it is better not to keep them at a dark corner of your room, but on a raised platform which gets proper air circulation. Keep them in limited contact with the sunlight so that in winter if the mercury drops a bit of solar heating would not harm them. You might have seen all those funny youtube videos of pet owners having lots of trouble in getting their pets to bathe, well expect no such resistance from your cavies as they need not have a bath unless they are sick. This brings us to the important issue of cleanliness which is paramount. The inside of the cage of a guinea pig has to be furnished with playthings, which could be as simple as cardboard boxes to keep them occupied. Now you need to clean those things on a regular basis and also clear the cage out of faecal wastes. They will rarely need bathing so they must be kept clean in other fashions. Put water bottles with nozzles inside the cage and they will drink it from the nozzle. It will be easier for them and it also makes for a funny sight!
As for sickness, Guinea Pigs that live alone might be sick due to aging and reproductive disorders. While living with another one, there might be wounds from scratches and other stomach related diseases that should not be overlooked. Guinea Pigs become stressed when they are sick so it is advisable to be a bit careful in this period while handling them and as little contact as possible except for medical attention is beneficiary. Make sure that dietary contents are not frequently changed and that the daily routine is kept balanced and harmonious. While sick, make sure that the Guinea Pig is getting enough Vitamin C in its systems and treatment through antibiotics has to be very carefully contemplated as they react adversely to it sometimes. So it is always better to have a vet called in. Also check for signs of Dehydration-dry stools, dark urine and pinch the skin to see if it instantly gets back to normal position, if not, the animal is dehydrated and needs more water.
So it is about time you got a cavy for yourself, and you can carry it around wherever you go on short trips!