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Guinea pigs, also called cavies, need certain basics to ensure their health and happiness at home. Most people think that you can just get a guinea pig, some pellet food, a cage and you are done. However, that is not the case. A guinea pig requires hay in its diet to survive. Always provide it.
Likewise, there are two pet products that are very common toys for other small mammals and rodents that you should never buy your guinea pig. An exercise ball or running wheel are downright dangerous for guinea pigs.
Always Have Timothy Hay Available
If you're not experienced with guinea pigs, you might think that a pellet labeled as a complete diet is all your new little piggy needs. Unfortunately, if you only feed pellets, then you are leaving out a critical part of your pet's diet.
All adult guinea pigs need an unlimited amount of good quality timothy hay. Not only is the hay a food, but it also makes your pet chew much more than simply eating pellets can accomplish. Hay wears down your animal's constantly growing teeth and helps prevent dental problems.
If you have a pregnant or nursing guinea pig or a baby under a year old, you will want to feed alfalfa hay. Give all other piggies timothy hay since alfalfa is too rich for a regular diet and can cause health problems.
You do not need to buy a fancy type of timothy hay with herbs, dried fruit, or vegetables added. Those additions are on a par with human junk food. They have little if any nutritional value and the fruit is high in sugar. Get fresh, plain, good quality hay and feed your guinea pig vitamin-rich fresh vegetables separately.
Timothy hay also gives you many opportunities to enrich your guinea pig, and you can feed it in a variety of ways. Try stuffing it into cardboard tubes saved from toilet paper rolls or fill up a small paper bag. Or clear a spot in the cages and let each of guinea pig have a pile of hay in which to play.
You can also try a hay ball, but take off the roller frame that comes with it because that can be dangerous for piggies.
Guinea pigs, like humans, cannot manufacture vitamin C. Choose a pellet enriched with this important vitamin, and check the date on the bag to make sure the food is fresh. Vitamin C degrades quickly, so your guinea pig's main source should come from fresh vegetables and fruits provided daily. Otherwise, your pet risks developing scurvy.
Never Use Exercise Balls and Wheels
Movies like "G-Force" feature guinea pigs in exercise balls and running wheels. This may look cute, but it is terribly misleading. Exercise balls and wheels are deadly for guinea pigs.
These activities may be appropriate for some pocket pets like rats, mice, gerbils, and hamsters, but they should never be used for guinea pigs. Even if the product says on the package that it is designed for guinea pigs, do not believe the marketing.
Guinea pigs have a different anatomy, and they can badly injure their backs with an exercise ball or wheel. Also, exercise balls are also too enclosed and do not provide enough air circulation which can lead to heat stroke. This condition is often fatal for guinea pigs.
If you want your guinea pig to safely get enough exercise, buy the largest possible cage and give your pet floor time in a safe area.
Lap time is also an important part of a guinea pig's day. Although not all piggies are cuddly, many love time out of their cage to sit on their owners' laps. Always hold your guinea pig in a towel to protect yourself from potty accidents.