Guinea pigs are great little pets guaranteeing you warm, fuzzy bundles of love that don’t require constant attention. Yet, the truth is, in order to stay healthy, they do need you for good, healthy food, a warm, cozy shelter, and companionship.
Once you welcome them into your home, they’re reliant on you for all of their necessities, and to keep them safe. But is there anything you can do to brighten up their little lives?
Yes, you can please your piggies, and we’re here to give you the scoop on what you can do for your precious pets. Whether you’re a new guinea owner or a seasoned cavy expert, you may want to check out this great list on how to make guinea pigs happy.
1. Offer a Healthy, Balanced Diet Full of Fun Options and Guinea Must-haves
No matter what pet you may have, you’ll need to feed them a healthy, balanced diet. Guinea pigs are no exception, and it’s important to keep them on a strict meal plan to avoid digestive issues. But really, when it comes down to it, it’s quite simple to keep your piggies pleased, because they don’t require a whole bunch of exotic items.
Overall, you’re looking at a relatively simple list:
- Unlimited hay
- Unlimited, clean water
- Fresh vegetables and fruit, though in limited quantities
- Healthy guinea pig pellets, limited quantities
Normally, guineas don’t overindulge when they eat, and once they’re full, they simply leave the rest of their food for later. Quantities are a bit tricky, and that’s because different vets say different things. Even the quantities on the back of dry food differ depending on the brand.
Typically, it’s recommended to give each piggy about 1/8 of a cup of pellets and 1 cup of mixed vegetables per day.
The key is a healthy, proper balance of hay, pellets, and fresh food.
2. Provide Yummy, Nutritional Treats
If there’s one thing these little rodents love, it’s their fresh treats! Even though pet stores sell packaged piggy snacks, several of which are actually nutritional, you’re always better off providing these fuzzy herbivores with the ‘raw deal.’ In comparison to dry, dehydrated fruit, fresh options are lower in sugar as they still have their water content, making them the healthier option.
Since there’s quite a bit of natural sugar and acidity in fresh fruit, guinea pigs shouldn’t have more than 3-4 servings per week, less if you’re offering them the dehydrated equivalent. As such, they can technically have more fresh fruit, so just stick to raw options and they’ll be able to enjoy more in the end.
Veggies and lettuce are a guinea’s primary source of food as they contain more vitamins and nutrients than fruit, minus the high sugar levels. As such, your fluffy friends can enjoy a lot more vegetables and various forms of lettuce in their diet.
With veggies, offer up to a handful per piggy per day, and several lettuce leaves as well. However, stay away from iceberg lettuce since it is high in nitrates, which causes diarrhea, and low in nutrients. Instead, opt for romaine, curly, arugula or mixed lettuce leaves.
Try these excellent fruit ideas:
- Strawberries (with the tops)
- Grapes (seeds removed)
Here are a few veggies that are guinea favorites:
- Bell peppers (any color, seeds removed)
- Parsley (leaves and stems)
- Carrots (sliced or with tops)
- Cucumber (with skin)
For more healthy snack ideas, visit our guinea pig treats post!
3. Spend Some Quality Bonding Time With the Fluffsters
As mentioned several times, guinea pigs are social creatures. They love attention, though in moderation, and see petting and stroking as a reward.
To keep your little ones happy, spend some time with them every day, even if it’s just 15-20 minutes. Doing so aids with bonding, decreases skittishness, and keeps them happy. Also, it gives you the opportunity to monitor their physical health. The best part is, spending time petting your pigs is also good for human health, too! Say goodbye to stress and hello to Zen.
4. Make Sure They Have a Clean, Cozy Cage
A guinea pig’s cage is their castle. Since they spend most of their time there, you’ll want to make sure the environment is as comfortable as possible. To you, it’s just a cage, but to them, it’s the place where they sleep, play, eat, go to the bathroom, nibble on hay, chat with their roommate, drink water, and people-watch crazy humans. The point is, they’re almost always in there, so provide them with the best cage setup.
For this, you’ll want to consider several things:
- Bedding such as fleece liners or bath mats
- Water bowl or dispenser, ideally, more than one
- Litter or “kitchen” area for a cleaner cage
- Wooden structures for chewing, playing and hiding
- Houses for sleeping and hiding, minimum one per piggy
- Food bowl for dry pellets
- Additional food bowl for fresh food (don’t fix fresh with dry)
- Toys and assorted entertainment items, store-bought or homemade
A lovely set-up is nice and all, but you’ll need to clean their cage at least once a week. Anything less, and you’ll be keeping your precious pets in an unhygienic state, thus exposing them to unhealthy living conditions.
5. Place Their Habitat in a Nice, Quiet Location
Before setting up their cage, locate a nice, quiet area to place their piggy palace. Now, this doesn’t mean they’ll need a locale that’s always as quiet as a library. Actually, guinea pigs love a slice of action since they’re incredibly social creatures. However, they also value their quiet time, and if you normally have a ton of craziness going on in the house, it’s always best to keep their cage in a tranquil nook. Besides, you can always take them out for a lovely visit to the living room or kitchen once in a while.
So, when you’re trying to figure out where to place your pigs, keep these things in mind:
- Are your guineas in a safe place where kids or other pets can’t get to?
- Is this area free from chemicals, humidity, and draughts?
- Will they be warm enough or too warm?
- Is there enough light or too much direct sunlight?
- Would YOU be comfortable in this area?
6. Think About Upgrading Their Studio to a Mansion
Move your fuzzy friends into a fancier dwelling, or at least improve what they’re living in now. No pets, not even cavies, want to be caged up in a small space all the time!
After having my piglets a few months, I switched them over to a fleece-lined C&C habitat. Honestly, I’ve never seen them so thrilled! Now, fleece liners aren’t every piggy parent’s preference, but if you’re thinking of moving your little furries to a bigger space, you may want to look into a C&C set-up.
Try these ideas to improve a piggy habitat:
- Use soft surfaces, like fleece, bath mats, or cozier bedding
- Add another level or raised section for extra space
- Put in some tunnels, additional hidey houses, or ramps
7. Create a Space That Challenges Them Both Physically and Mentally
Guinea pigs are curious rodents that need both physical and mental stimulation to be happy. When bored or under stimulated, they often become depressed and destructive. Having a guinea companion or two reduces this scenario, but doesn’t completely eliminate the possibility.
Offer your pets toys or challenges to keep them occupied. But really, there’s no need to spend a fortune when there’s plenty of low-cost or no-cost ideas online.
Check out some of my tried-and-true low-cost ideas:
- Hide fresh veggies and fruit throughout their cage for them to forage
- Use paper towel tubes for edible enrichment
- Add cardboard or shoe boxes for chewable hiding spots
- Crumple paper for little balls they can play with and nibble on
- Incorporate more ramps for a maze-like play zone
- Find non-toxic wooden building blocks for stackable challenges that are also chewable
Look at these wild ideas:
- A play barn for lots of delicious fun
- Stimulating treat challenge toy
- Make a small DIY hiding house using a cardboard box
- Put hay inside an empty toilet paper roll and let your piggies work on their foraging skills
8. Bring Them Outside
Yes, the world can be big, and bright, and crazy at times, but it’s also full of glorious things like grass and delicious branches. For a real adventure, bring your guineas outside, to your backyard, if the weather allows it. It shouldn’t be too cold nor too hot for your piggies to enjoy it.
It’s natural for guinea pigs to be most active in dusk and down so avoid putting your guinea pigs in direct sunlight as they can overheat. It’s best to take them out early in the morning or in the evening.
Use a playpen to make sure they don’t run too far and supervise them at all times. Pick a pleasant field or patch of grass, and just let your furry friends nibble up a storm. Stay away from areas that could potentially have chemical pesticides, like overly manicured lawns.
9. Focus on a Clean Bill of Health
Although this one might sound way too obvious, it deserves a mention on our ‘happiness’ list. Any pet, when in pain, will become unhappy, sometimes even depressed. For this reason, it’s vital to keep regular checkups, ideally with a vet who’s trained to treat exotic animals.
At home, keep an eye on your pigs and if something seems out of the ordinary, bring them to the clinic right away. In the wild, guineas are prey for a great many larger animals. As such, they’re very good at hiding their health issues. By the time you notice something out of the ordinary, the problem may be serious.
Watch out for these tell-tale signs of illness:
- Excessive drinking
- Odd or aggressive behavior
- More noises than usual
- Starting arguments with cage mates
- Destroying things in their habitat
10. Add a Companion (or Two)
What makes a guinea truly happy? Companionship of the cavy kind. As a pet parent, you’re great and all, but… you’re no guinea. Sure, you may have a strong bond with your pigs, but they’ll always crave companions of the same species.
If you have a lone cavy, you really need to consider getting a second. Cost-wise, there are plenty of shelters where you can adopt a lovely guinea for little to no fee. And when it comes to food, the amount they consume is so minimal, your monthly food bill will likely stay the same.
If you’re ready to bring a new fluff to your home, make sure to introduce your guinea pigs the right way. See our 4-step guide to introducing guinea pigs.
11. A Nice, Relaxing Spa Day
Every once in a while, give your guinea pig a nice, relaxing spa day. No, it won’t include a facial, pedicure and manicure, but it will include a wipe down with a damp cloth and grooming.
Guineas aren’t comfortable with baths, so don’t include one unless they’ve found themselves in some serious stinky trouble. If you do end up with a messy pig, read through our extensive guinea pig grooming post, then give them a small wash-up.
A perfect spa day can include:
- Brushing their hair to minimize shedding
- Long-haired breeds like Texel guinea pigs might need a haircut because their hair tangles and leaves them prone to urinary tract infections
- Clean their grease gland with a guinea pig shampoo
The Joy of Perfectly Pleased Piggies
Guinea pigs are just so very special, and they make wonderful pets for any family. In the end, they don’t ask for much, and maintaining a tiny group of these fluffy friends is inexpensive, compared to other typical domesticated animals.
If you’re a lucky guinea parent, stick to our list of tips on how to make guinea pigs happy to ensure you have perfectly pleased piggies!