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PET CARE Guinea pigs make great pets

Nurturing
A guinea pig

Power to the guinea pigs



Ask the vet
Ester Van Luipen


Many people think that guinea pigs come from Guinea or New Guinea, because of their name, but they actually originate from South America and the Andes Mountains in Peru. They come in all different breeds, colours, coat types and hair lengths.

Great pets
Guinea pigs make excellent pets for kids. They are very friendly, curious and social and are cheap to feed and don’t need to be walked. The beauty of a guinea pig is that they are diurnal, which means they sleep at night and are awake during the day just like us humans. This means that they make much nicer pets than hamsters, which tend to be very grumpy during the day.
While guinea pigs are rodents, they lack the long tail that gerbils and rats have. They are also very happy little creatures, which make lovely, happy little squeaky sounds. They’re very clean animals, and they don’t have smelly poo, because they are herbivores.

Breeding
Guinea pigs can live up to eight years of age. If you are going to purchase a guinea pig, make sure you find out what age it is: If you want it to breed, I would recommend ensuring this happens between four and seven months of age – after that the hips get very solid and it will be harder, and sometimes impossible for piglets to be born.

Diet
The most important thing in the diet of a guinea pig is that they can’t make their own vitamin C. Red peppers, kale, parsley and broccoli are high in Vitamin C and tend to be a favourite treat of most guinea pigs. Tomatoes, cauliflower, kiwi and green pepper are also rich in the nutrient. However, be cautious: A diet too high in Vitamin C can result in diarrhoea, while too much calcium can lead to the development of bladder abnormalities. For a good list of fresh food, get in touch via living@mayonews.ie, and I will provide you with one. Like many animals, including us humans, guinea pigs determine early in life what foods they prefer, based on eating experiences. This is why it is a good idea to gradually expose young guinea pigs to a variety of foods once they are weaned so later they have a broader range of food choices. Grass hay is very important to feed, but you may need to try several different varieties before you find the one it likes. Don’t give up, as it is really important to their diet. Once your guinea pig is eating grass hay, start trying to introduce some fresh foods at the rate of one new food every three to four days. Soon you’ll notice that your guinea pigs squeaks with delight whenever the fridge door opens!

Guinea pigs may not be the most common of pets, but they shouldn’t be underestimated. Guinea pigs are just as lovable as dogs and cats, but remember, they do need the same level of care. They make great little friends and are guaranteed to bring fun and energy into a home. Power to the guinea pigs!

Esther van Luipen is a veterinary surgeon in Claremorris Small Animal Practice. Feel free to contact her with any of your small-animal concerns on 094 9373955 or at living@mayonews.ie.