Answering Guinea Pig Care Questions For Beginners!


Guinea Pig Expert!

Whitney Potsus has owned guinea pigs for nearly a decade. She is Vice President of The Critter Connection, Inc., a Durham-based non-profit dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of abandoned and neglected guinea pigs. You can find the rescue on the Web at www.ctguineapigrescue.org. Please direct all your Guinea Pig questions to Whitney.


Q: Dear Whitney,

My daughter has a male guinea pig, who she got about 18 months ago. When he was 7 months old, we took him to the pet store and looked for a companion for him, but when we put him near other guinea pigs he started making noises. The person at the pet store said the noises he was making indicated that he was not happy about being near other guinea pigs. My daughter has been reading about guinea pigs and read that they can suffer from depression. Is it possible to introduce another guinea pig after they’ve been alone for so long?

Thank you! Eleanor

A: Eleanor,

Guinea pigs absolutely can suffer from depression. By nature, they’re communal animals and benefit greatly from companionship (visit www.guinealynx.com/companionship.html for more about the benefits of having two guinea pigs).

But as with any species, it can take time for your little guy to find someone he likes — picking someone, bringing them home, and then dropping both of them into the same cage never goes well. And it’s understandable. How would we feel if another human we don’t know suddenly shows up in our home and starts helping themselves to our food and water, crawling into our bed, playing with our toys, and taking the attention of our loved ones?

Any new guinea pig must be quarantined in its own cage — though that cage can be next to your little guy’s — for three weeks. As far as you know, yours is healthy but the new guinea pig might be in the early stages of an illness that hasn’t shown symptoms yet…and you don’t want to risk both guinea pigs getting sick. The quarantine period will also give them time to get used to each other and socialize through the cage bars. There is an entire language of sounds, behaviors, and body postures that accompany the introduction process between guinea pigs (see www.cavyspirit.com/sociallife.htm#Introductions and www.guinealynx.info/forums/viewtopic.php?t=2972).

When done properly (see the earlier link to Cavy Spirit), guinea pigs are often delighted to finally have a companion, regardless of how long they lived alone. Some matches are instant, some will take time; a guinea pig who has lived alone may be a little pickier about who it shares space with. It’s all about the individual personality — and guinea pigs, though small, have big personalities.
Thanks for writing, and good luck!

Whitney


Q: Dear Whitney,

Our girls are begging us to get the family a couple of guinea pigs. We’re amenable to having new family pets, but are concerned about having a smelly cage in the house. Is there anything we can do to reduce odors?

Thanks, Ann

A: Dear Ann,

Using the right bedding will reduce any odors that might come from a guinea pig’s cage. Products like Carefresh and Kay-Tee Total Comfort are excellent; they’re absorbent, control odor well, have virtually no scent of their own, and are generally easy for people with allergies or asthma to be around. Pine and aspen bedding are also suitable, but they are dusty and come with their own scent, although in a well-ventilated cage the pine/aspen odors should dissipate quickly. Cedar bedding should never be used; it causes breathing problems — frequently fatal — in guinea pigs and other small animals.

No matter what bedding you use, the key to having a cage that doesn’t smell is to clean it often. This means checking daily for really wet spots in the bedding, cleaning out those spots, and putting new bedding in. This also means dumping out all the bedding and replacing it at least 1 to 2 times a week. The more guinea pigs you have, the more often you need to clean.

If you want to shell out extra money for extra precautions, there are pet odor control products. Some products are designed to be sprinkled under the bedding when you clean the cage. I’ve used Ammo-Litter and found it to be effective; if you can’t find it locally, try online at www.shop.com or www.excitingpets.com. While I haven’t personally used it, friends with small animals give good reviews for Nature’s Miracle Litter Treatment. Although there are products that are designed to be sprayed on top of bedding, I haven’t personally used them and can’t vouch for their effectiveness or their safety.

Whitney


Q: Dear Whitney,

I’m trying to find different snacks that I can feed to my guinea pigs during playtime. I see yogurt drops in the pet stores and I’m wondering if they’re something I could try.

Thanks, Katie

A: Dear Katie,

Most commercial treats sold for guinea pigs are equivalent to junk food for humans. These treats are often full of fat and sugar and, in the case of yogurt drops, excess calcium. Giving these treats on a regular basis fills them up with empty calories, leaving less room for the basic, nutritious foods that they need on a daily basis.

Feeding too many commercial treats becomes detrimental to a pig’s health, and the results aren’t limited to being overweight. Products containing excess calcium — such as those with dairy ingredients — lead to the development of stones and crystals that, in turn, lead to dangerous blockages. The dairy-based treats, in particular, must be avoided, as dairy is not something guinea pigs need or should have. I personally know two families where guinea pigs developed difficult cases of GI stasis as a result of being overfed yogurt drops; once cured, the families and the pigs went through short but difficult “retraining periods” in which the pigs were broken off their junk-food habits and switched to healthy diets.

There are many options for healthy snacks:

Occasional bits of apple or halved and seedless grapes are easy to hand feed, as are chunks of fresh melon (e.g., honeydew, cantaloupe, Crenshaw, seedless watermelon) and seedless orange wedges (Clementine oranges are a favorite with my brood).

Get veggies that you wouldn’t feed on a regular basis because they’re more expensive: Belgian endive, radicchio, frisee, curly endive (a.k.a. chicory), yellow or orange sweet bell peppers, and packaged baby romaine or spring mix. (These same ingredients can add life to your own salads.)

During the spring and summer, fresh grass — untouched by pesticides, lawn-growth enhancers, and the bathroom trips of the family dog — is also a great treat.

Feed a different kind of hay than what is always on hand in the cage, such as orchard grass hay, mountain grass hay, bluegrass hay, and others.

You can find a list of favorite guinea pig foods at www.guinealynx.com/fave.html, which will suggest some additional options.

Good luck! Whitney


Q: Dear Whitney,

The guinea pigs I recently bought from a neighborhood store have lice…I think. How can I be sure it’s lice, and then how do I get rid of it?

Thanks, Pam

A: Dear Pam,

While lice will be all through your pigs’ fur, they and their eggs consistently set up a densely populated camp between and around the ears. On first look, you’ll think it’s dandruff. When you look closer, you’ll see milky-white eggs attached to individual hairs; the adults are tiny, flat, round, translucent milky white, and moving. Finding eggs is enough to know you have a problem.

Visit your vet, so she/he can rule out additional health issues as a result of the lice. For the lice itself, there are several treatments:
• Ivermectin shots
• Topical selamectin
• Carbaryl powder (found in Zodiac Flea & Tick Powder for cats and dogs ages 12 weeks and older)

Owners and vets attest that carbaryl powder kills lice quicker than anything else, though some vets will use ivermectin and carbaryl powder in combination.

What you can do:
1. Trim the guinea pigs’ hair, or ask your vet office to do it with their clippers. Clip short-haired guinea pigs around their ears, and long-haired guinea pigs all over. This is a major first strike against lice, and you’ll see a change in your pigs once so many “itchies” are gone.
2. Bathe the pigs with baby shampoo or shampoo for rabbits and guinea pigs (like Bunny Magic). Get one pig bathed and then dry before starting the second. (Provide extra protection against drafts and cold, especially for the first 24 hours.)
3. Protecting their eyes, nose, mouth, and ear canals gently spread the carbaryl powder through their fur. Use your fingertip to get the powder between and around their ears. Don’t apply it around their eyes or along with their noses; there’s too much chance it will get in their eyes or nasal passages.
4. Change the bedding, and wash the cage and hidey-house (if plastic). Lice, theoretically, can’t live without a host, so you don’t have to sterilize the cage. But it’s good to do a routine cage cleaning when you give the pigs a bath or another dusting of carbaryl powder.
5. Between baths, as your pigs’ fur starts to grow in, run a metal flea comb through their hair (wiping with a wet cloth after each stroke) to catch any lice that haven’t been killed yet and to remove dead lice eggs.
6. Wash the toys, tunnels, and blankets/towels/snuggle sacks in your pigs’ play area.

It takes up to a month (3 to 4 treatments about 7 to 10 days apart) to kill a lice infestation. Lice are species-specific, so the lice on your pigs won’t spread to humans or other animals. You must ensure that the lice on both pigs are gone – or you’ll have to repeat the whole cycle.

Good luck, Whitney


Q: Hi Whitney,

My friend has a rabbit and she says it’s fine for my guinea pig to play with her rabbit. I thought I read somewhere it’s not okay. Is it okay?

Thanks, Emily

A: Dear Emily:

I wouldn’t recommend it, no. For all that rabbits and guinea pigs have in common, that would suggest they’d make good playmates or cagemates, they are not a good match in the final equation. As playmates, the chief concern is those powerful back legs that rabbits have. Whether kicking up their heels in enthusiastic play, or in agitation to warn off a guinea pig who isn’t respecting a rabbit’s boundaries, a strong swift kick by those furry back feet can do serious damage to a guinea pig. Depending on where a rabbit’s feet land on a guinea pig’s body, and how hard they do so, the injuries inflicted can include:

  • scratched corneas — can lead to sight-impairing permanent scarring and/or slow-healing ulcerous infections. With competent veterinary treatment and proper support at home, these injuries can be overcome. Guinea pigs instinctively learn to “see around” the scars.
  • eye damage — an injury so severe it creates the need to remove the eye or, more likely, euthanize the guinea pig. While this kind of surgery is technically possible, it offers no guarantees and opens the risk of life-threatening or ultimately fatal infection. This kind of injury exposes a guinea pig to just about the greatest pain it can experience, and the added trauma of surgery and stress of healing only increases that pain — even when accompanied by pain medication and antibiotics.
  • head trauma/brain injury — an injury that creates neurological problems that seriously impair normal function and behavior; veterinarians invariably recommend euthanasia.
  • broken bones — may or may not be something that can heal (depending on the bone that’s broken), when accompanied by pain medication, but generally doesn’t offer an optimistic prognosis.
  • spinal cord injury — an injury that leads to great pain or some degree of paralysis; veterinarians inevitably recommend euthanasia.

Many guinea pigs and rabbit experts strongly endorse the separation of these species — sharing a “back fence” between two side-by-side cages is okay, sharing space is not. When both camps say that one swift kick by a rabbit’s back feet can too often kill a guinea pig, it’s not a matter of extreme, histrionic, overly cautious over-reaction. It’s a statement of fact. If death isn’t instant, it’s inevitable (within a matter of hours or a couple of days) because some injuries are so severe that the only humane course of action is euthanasia.

If you’re thinking your guinea pig could use a friend, and your friend is thinking her bunny could use a buddy, you both would better serve the needs of your respective pets by contacting specialty rescues and finding new pals within their own species.

Hope this helps,

Whitney


Q: Dear Whitney,

Are there any communicable diseases that guinea pigs can acquire from their human family members? My beautiful Annie came down with a fatal upper respiratory infection shortly after I was diagnosed. I hope I didn’t pass it onto her! I can’t seem to get any information on this topic and would greatly appreciate your help!

Thanks so much, Joanne

A: Dear Joanne,
My condolences for the loss of your beloved Annie. The loss of a pet not only brings grief and sadness, but it also brings self-doubt and second-guessing as we humans wonder if there was something we missed, something we could have done differently. The doubt can be as hard to deal with as the grief.

I found nothing on the Veterinary Information Network about upper respiratory infections “jumping species,” and my own vet confirmed that it’s highly unlikely that Annie caught anything from you. URIs in guinea pigs are bacterial infections that can appear suddenly and move quickly; they can turn fatal if symptoms go undetected or treatment isn’t started in time (see http://www.guinealynx.com/uri.html for a list of symptoms).

When veterinary treatment is obtained and antibiotics are administered, it is possible to beat a URI. At our rescue facility, some of the pigs that have come to us from poor conditions have come down with URIs. Cindy (the rescue’s owner) and the vets at Pieper Olson in Middletown have been successful at conquering many URIs. And we never stop learning — while symptoms may be the same, every case is unique and it sharpens our understanding of specific health conditions.

The thing to remember about guinea pigs is that they hide illness as long as they can — it’s part of their survival instinct. In the wild, if members of the colony sense illness, the sick guinea pig will be abandoned. This instinct makes our job challenging because we have to watch closely and learn to read subtle changes in their behavior; the more daily interaction we have with them (with any pet, actually), the better able we are to catch these subtle changes. Otherwise, by the time we do see actually pronounced symptoms, a problem has been brewing for days.

In the case of you and Annie, it’s a coincidence that you both got sick around the same time. The best thing you can do is honor her spirit by remembering the good times you had together and, like all pet owners, remember the learning points from the experience and draw on them in the future. It’s the best way I know how to cope with the loss of a beloved companion.

Whitney


Q: Dear Whitney,

I’ve given my guinea pig chew sticks as well as a salt wheel and a cardboard tube, but he’d rather chew on his plastic ladder. Is there any danger in him chewing the plastic? What might be missing from his diet to make him want to chew the plastic? What can I do to stop him from chewing through his ladder to get to his food?

Thanks, Katie

A: Dear Katie,

The plastic toys that manufacturers make for well-known gnawers like guinea pigs and rabbits are supposed to be non-toxic. Still, eating plastic is not a behavior to prolong. I can think of several reasons for his behavior.

• If the ladder is blocking his food, or is just in the way of how he’d like to get to his food, the food should be moved elsewhere in the cage.

• He’s bored. Adding tunnels (such as Chubes) to his cage might get him to explore and run around a bit more. If he’s alone a lot, getting him a (male) buddy would do wonders for him. Guinea pigs are communal and they’re happiest when they live with other pigs.

• He needs more to gnaw on to keep his teeth in check. Guinea pigs need unlimited timothy hay on a daily basis for digestive and dental health. I’ve noticed that guinea pigs with constant access to hay chew less on other things. For some recommendations, check out our list at www.squidoo.com/guineapigs. You want hay that’s described with words like “soft,” “leafy,” “lots of leaves and little stalk,” “2nd cut,” or “3rd cut.”

It’s hit or miss with guinea pigs and chew toys. At the rescue, we haven’t seen many guinea pigs show much interest in them, however, in some of the online forums, I’ve met owners whose guinea pigs love chew sticks. I recommend taking the money you are spending on chew toys and salt wheels (which are a gimmick anyway) and putting it toward good hay instead.

Whitney


Q: Dear Whitney,

I have a Guinea Pig that I’ve had for about two months. He has lately gotten into the habit of running in circles around the bottom of his cage, and sometimes I feel like he might give himself a heart attack because he gets so worked up. Is this normal Guinea Pig behavior? Am I doing something wrong or not giving enough attention/food/water/etc.?

Thanks, Katie

A: Dear Katie,

It’s not uncommon for Guinea Pigs to engage in these running fits in their cages to burn off some energy. The younger ones will do it more often than older ones, but a six-year-old pig is as likely to have these bursts of energy as a six-week-old pig.

If he’s doing it frequently, it’s likely that he could use more exercise/playtime on a regular basis. Out-of-cage playtime in a safe, enclosed play area does Guinea Pigs a world of good and needs to be a part of their daily routine. These excursions to a play space that gives them more room to run, and a change of scenery and toys, offer both physical and psychological benefits for your pig’s well-being.

I have a list of products and suggestions for creating a safe play area at http://www.squidoo.com/guineapigconnection, which can help you devise something fun for him and practical for your living space. In the play area I have set up for my pigs, they have an entirely different set of toys, tunnels, and hidey houses than they have in their cage; every couple of weeks, I exchange one item for something else from the “toy box” to keep things fresh.

You also might want to reconsider the size of his cage, to give him more living (and running) space. The cubes and coroplast (C&C) cages let you build different sizes of cages, in one and two-level configurations. You can find more information on these cages at http://www.guineapigcages.com/. You can purchase the cages from Sue, and also can purchase them from The Critter Connection rescue in Durham.

From what you’ve described, you’re not doing anything wrong. You just have a happy, active Guinea Pig.

Hope this helps, Whitney


Q: Dear Whitney,

I have a guinea pig who is about a year old. I went to a pet store and they said if I got another guinea pig I would have to keep them in separate cages. Is it true that they will fight if I have them in the same cage? Or can I let them get used to each other before I put them together?

Thanks so much, Nina

A: Dear Nina,

You can get a roommate for her (either a neutered male or another female), and you have the right idea about letting them get used to each other before you put them in the same space. Your guinea pig — as a communal animal — will be happier with a roommate, but you also need to respect her position in your home as Queen Pig. No one would want a stranger to suddenly move into their home without warning, and guinea pigs are no exception. Giving your girl and whoever you bring home time to sniff each other through side-by-side cages and play areas over the course of a couple of weeks, and introducing them on neutral territory, will help ease the introductions.

Despite the misconceptions about this species, these small critters have big personalities with very definite likes and dislikes. An introduction can be love at first sight, hate at first sight, or something in between where they warm up to each other. Getting a rescue pig can make this process a little easier because the caregivers know the personalities of the pigs in their charge. For example, Cindy at The Critter Connection (www.ctguineapigrescue.org) will ask adopters questions about the personality and temperament of the guinea pig they have and can then make several suggestions about which rescue pigs might mesh well with them.

There is a bit of art, psychology, and luck involved with introducing and bonding guinea pigs, and one of the best write-ups on the subject can be found at www.cavyspirit.com/sociallife.htm. I recommend reading this page before you move ahead with plans to bring a second guinea pig home; understanding the ins and outs will increase your chances of success.

Good luck! Whitney


Q: Whitney,

My daughter and I have been considering getting a guinea pig and we are trying to figure out if it would be better to get a rescue or a baby. My daughter is 10 and we have been discussing this for quite some time. She and I are aware of the responsibilities and commitment and we have been doing a lot of research, but I still can’t decide between baby and adult.

Thank you, Betty-Anne

A: Betty-Anne,
It’s a question of what is the best fit for a household. Guinea pigs of any age are curious, playful, engaging, and social. Some behaviors are just more dominant at certain ages than others, and temperaments and personalities vary widely.

Typically, baby guinea pigs are audacious, high-spirited, and fearless. They’re extremely active and aren’t always willing to cuddle; they have a big world to discover and snuggle time cramps their style. They can be unpredictable and aren’t afraid to break free and go exploring. This makes them a challenge for experienced, adult-sized hands to hold — and inexperienced, child-sized hands are no match for them. (Until the babies are older and bigger, you will have to be around when your daughter holds and carries them.) In short, it’s like having a toddler around.

Older guinea pigs are a little more docile, are big enough for little hands to hold safely, and are not as easily spooked by every little noise as babies are. They’re more cautious and, as such, will be less likely to bolt. (Keep in mind that occasionally you find a guinea pig who will always be a “wild child”.) If you and your daughter are wanting cuddle-bugs who will, say, hang out with you while you watch TV or stare at your daughter lovingly while she reads to them, older guinea pigs will fit in nicely.

I encourage adoption because there are so many animals who do need a second chance at a good home. At rescues like The Critter Connection, Inc. in Durham (www.ctguineapigrescue.org), you can find both baby and adult guinea pigs waiting to find loving, adoptive homes.

Good luck! Whitney


Q: Hi Whitney!

During warm months I pick grass, clover, and dandelion greens from my pesticide-free lawn and wash and dry them before giving them to my guinea pigs. Some people put their guinea pigs outside on their lawn under a cage wire top and allow the pigs to help themselves. I tried this a few times with my pigs but they just cowered fearfully. Did I give up too easily, thereby depriving my pigs of learning about the outside world? Can guinea pigs catch mites or insect-borne diseases from hanging out on the lawn?

Thanks! Ellen in Colchester

A: Dear Ellen,

I’d say that if you gave them several chances and they never got past the fear, there’s no point pushing them past their comfort zone; it sounds like what you are doing (bringing the outdoors into them), is all the exposure they want. Some guinea pigs take immediately to being outdoors for short periods of time as long as their owners are right nearby. Some never take to the outdoors. My thought has been that outdoors setting off a primal (survival) instinct in them because there’s a cadre of new things hitting all five of their senses. It’s likely overwhelming and is bound to make them feel profoundly unsafe.

To your other question, guinea pigs have as much chance of picking up something from the grass as a dog or cat does. All manner of animal traffic — domestic and wildlife — passes through our yards. While the majority of cats and dogs have some sort of protection (e.g., collars, treatments) against fleas, mites, lice (which is species-specific), and ticks, wild animals do not. As with any domestic indoor animal, the more time guinea pigs spend outdoors, the more risk they’re exposed to for picking up something.

Hope this helps! Whitney


Q: Dear Whitney,

Despite the warm and sometimes humid weather this summer, and our frequent use of air conditioning, one of our guinea pigs doesn’t drink a lot of water. Should I be worried?

Concerned piggy owner

A: Dear Concerned piggy owner,

If this is a sudden or recent change in behavior (i.e., this guinea pig used to drink a fair amount of water daily and now isn’t), it would be wise to take him/her to your vet for a proper exam. If no problems are discovered, you’ll be out a few bucks for the visit and any lab tests but you’ll have peace of mind.

Your question leaves the impression that a) you have more than one guinea pig, and b) the water-drinking habits of your other guinea pig(s) don’t appear to be abnormal. So that rules out problems with the water bottle. In the interest of education, though, there are several reasons why a cage’s water bottle will interfere with animals’ drinking.

a) The bottle isn’t cleaned frequently and/or properly. A buildup of “backwash particles” (commonly from the food pellets that small animals eat) gunks up the drinking spout and the bottle. Regular rinsing of both with hot water and frequent cleaning with water bottlebrushes (available at most pet stores for $1.99 to $2.49) will prevent this buildup.
b) The bottle was washed with detergent and water, leaving a residue that puts an icky taste in the water. Water bottles should be washed or soaked in hot water only; hot water and a bottlebrush will more than adequately clean bottles.
c) The water isn’t changed frequently enough, causing the water and the inside of the bottle to get a little slimy (thus giving the water a bad taste).
d) The water bottle was filled with water that was too cold. Really cold water has a habit of jamming up, or “freezing,” the ball bearing in drinking spouts.
e) The rubber ring inside the bottle cover could be degrading. Some of the old bottles had black rings instead of clear ones; when they start degrading, they put an undesirable taste in the water. If your water bottle has a black ring in it, rinse the ring and dry it with a white cloth. If you see a black smudge on the towel, it’s time to replace the bottle.
f) If you have hard water, it could be leaving residue in the drinking spout; as this residue builds up, it interferes with the ball bearing in the spout. (Also, if you have hard water, there’s a good bet your animals don’t like drinking it any more than you do.)

Finally, some guinea pigs simply drink water as infrequently as camels. If your guinea pigs’ diet is rich in fruits and veggies, it could be that your guinea pig’s body is getting enough fluids from sources like romaine lettuce, sweet bell peppers, cucumbers, melon chunks, or the occasional grape. During warm weather, add extra fruits or vegetables to their diet throughout the day (don’t overfeed – you don’t want to flood their system). A guinea pig that won’t drink a lot of water can almost invariably be enticed by an extra piece of cucumber at breakfast or an extra piece of melon in the evening.

Whitney


Q: Hi Whitney,

We have a question about bedding. The person who we bought our guinea pig from recommended that we use wood pellets for bedding (for wood stoves). They actually do an excellent job with the odor and absorption, but are not soft at all and he cannot burrow in them. We tried using Carefresh Pet bedding and the cage started smelling bad very quickly (<1 week). We were planning to try a combination of both beddings, but thought you might have a better solution.
Thank you!

Eleanor Page

A: Eleanor,

I’m afraid you’ve received bad information. Wood pellets are not acceptable bedding for guinea pigs. Fortunately, you have lots of other good options that are safe, affordable, easier for your little guy to burrow through, and substantially more comfortable to walk on!

Pine and aspen bedding products are safe and good at odor control. They do bring a slight woody odor of their own and can be a bit dusty, and both factors may make them undesirable for people with dust or tree/wood allergies or sensitivity to odors. Carefresh and Kaytee Total Comfort are excellent products, do very well at odor control, are virtually odorless themselves, and are not as dusty as pine or aspen bedding.

If your guinea pig eats and drinks a lot, he’s naturally going to put out more waste, but any odor problems can be rectified by “spot cleaning” — checking daily for the messiest spots, cleaning them out, and replacing them with clean bedding — between your weekly full-cage cleaning.

Some owners comment that unneutered males sometimes have a stronger odor to them as they mature. If the odor seems especially strong, it wouldn’t hurt to have him checked by a vet who specializes in exotic animals to rule out developing problems with the urinary or digestive tract.
Thanks for writing!

Whitney


Q: Hi Whitney,

My daughter’s guinea pigs have grown picky about the vegetables we give them each day. They used to love romaine lettuce and carrots, but they seem less enthusiastic about them now. Any ideas?
Thanks,

Jessica

A: Hey there, Jessica,

They sound like guinea pigs who are bored with their food. No one likes to eat the exact same thing day after day, and guinea pigs are no exception. Fortunately, there’s a huge variety of fruits and vegetables that you can feed them, and most owners say that trying to provide variety in their pigs’ diets also helps put some variety in their own.

Mix up their daily diet by creating “mini salads” with a little of this and a little of that, changing it up a little each day by alternating ingredients. Use chunks of sweet bell pepper (red, orange, yellow, or green) or cucumber. Tear up leaves of romaine lettuce, red leaf lettuce, green leaf lettuce (no iceberg!), Swiss chard (including stems), curly endive (also called “chicory”), and escarole. Throw in sprigs of curly or flat-leaf parsley, or try a sprig of cilantro if you make homemade salsa. As a special treat once in a while, throw in a little Belgian endive or radicchio. Other foods that you can feed once in a while (but don’t overfeed!) are spinach, kale, and dandelion greens. During good weather toss in some fresh clean grass from your yard.

You also can try cherry tomatoes, grapes, or orange sections (cut them all in half) once in a while, along with occasional chunks of apple. Melon (honeydew, cantaloupe, watermelon, Crenshaw, Juan canary) is also a welcome treat. Visit Guinea Lynx (http://www.guinealynx.com/diet.html) for a full list of what products you can feed, what you can’t feed, what you need to provide in moderation, and so forth.

As you introduce new things into their diet, do so with moderation so their stomachs can adjust to the new selection. Know, too, that some trial and error will be in order; while some guinea pigs will eat anything, others are as finicky as cats and humans.

Whitney

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