Newbie Plan

mark birenbaum

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Hi.

I'm planning to get some guinea pigs soon (first time, although I had a rabbit long ago) because I have a 3 y/o who I think would like like them. I figure I'll pass my plan by folks here for suggestions.

My plan is:
  • Get two or three, and get them spayed.
  • Keep them in a 50sqft room in my basement, and just put a little gate of some kind up in front of the door.
    • The room is windowless, and the basement itself pretty dark, so they wouldn't get much natural light.
    • To avoid me forgetting to turn on/off the lights at night, I intend to not use the light in the room but instead hang a lamp on a timer. The lamp would be plugged in at the usual 18 inch high. If I make sure the cord goes straight up, do I need to give it any other protection?
  • The floor is currently a laminate floor, I plan to put cardboard down, with guinea pig fleece blankets on top.
  • Start with an initial three or so simple hidey holes and add more as the mood suits me.
  • Feeding them timothy hay and guinea pig pellets primarily.
  • Use a water bowl rather bottle (although I'd get a bottle as well as a backup for when I'm gone for a couple days)
  • I'm considering growing a few herbs in the room too and maybe wintering some plants. This might push up the humidity a bit, and if I do so, then most of the lighting would end up being grow lamps (i.e. fuschia)

Other questions:
  • In a situation like this, how long can I leave them unattended, i.e. can I go for a weekend without getting someone to check on them (I'm assuming yes). With my rabbit, I could get away with a week, as long as I left some extra water bottles, would guinea pigs be the same?
  • I work from home sometimes (lately, all the time) So letting them run around while I'm working would be nice, but it would be on a different floor.
    • How much do I need to worry about them chewing the furniture?
    • Is there a way to keep them from comfortable when I move them to the other floor (e.g. if I had some sort of sheltered travel cage teft both in their room and brought up stairs
    • Can I litter train them well enough that I could bring them to the main floor without them peeing on everything?
  • The basement (aside from their room) is carpeted, How practical/valuable would it be to let them run around that room while I'm down there (I might set up an office down there).
 

Piggies&buns

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To answer your points in order

Getting them spayed - it’s a major operation for sows and is usually only done for medical need ie ovarian or other reproductive tract problems. You don’t need to neuter/spay piggies if you are keeping them as a same sex pairing.
If you want boars then you can only have two. Boars can only live in pairs. If you want sows then you can have three. Character compatibility comes before anything though so regardless of how many piggies you get, you need to be prepared for potential fall outs and separations at all times.

The light – they need some natural light each day. A lamp in a dark basement won’t work for them.

Cardboard on the floor won’t work. They need something absorbent under fleece something that will wick the urine away and allow the fleece to stay dry, cardboard won’t do that. You’ll need something down to protect the floor, then an absorbent layer (something like puppy pads) for urine to wick down to, then the fleece on top.
Three hideys - you need at least one hidey per piggy and in such a big space, 3 hideys won’t be enough. The space is probably too large for them to feel safe so will not feel confident to run from one to next and will possibly just hide.
Food - hay is the most important source of food. Veg is the next important and Pellets is the least important. They need 50g of veg per day and just one tablespoon of pellets per day. Any more pellets than that and it can cause health problems.
Using a water bowl is fine but if will need to be refreshed and refilled during the day as it will be very likely to end up getting pooped in
They need a stable environment with a stable temperature. If the humidity is going to increase, then that could cause them problems.

No you cannot go away and not have anybody check on them. They cannot be left unattended - a few hours per day is fine (while at work for example, or out for the day), but they can’t be left for an extended period, overnight for example, without somebody checking on them. Piggies will need to be checked on at least once every day. They need hay filled frequently during the day (I have to refill hay for my two boys three to four times per day on a normal day. Definitely twice a day as an absolute minimum), wet bedding removed and the enclosure poop picked one to two times a day, fresh water to be added and health checks done. Piggies hide their illnesses and can go from being fine to being very poorly within a matter of hours. Bloat for example can kill within a very short amount of time.
Rabbits should not be left for a week without being checked on either. They also require daily checks for health, hay refilled multiple times a day and fresh water given every day when the owner isn’t present.

They are rodents so will chew furniture, cables, anything they can get their teeth into.
It will all need to be either removed or access to it blocked. All wires covered etc. You could also provide an enclosed playpen that will be entirely safe.

If you let them run on the carpet it will get peed and pooped on, possibly chewed.
They can’t be litter trained.

You should also be aware that most guinea pigs don’t like being picked up, touched or stroked. Some are fine with it, some only tolerate it and some just absolutely hate it. They aren’t a cuddly pet so if you are thinking your child will be and sit and hold a piggy, then you may be disappointed.

They are however fantastic little creatures but do require a fair bit of work, vet care for example can be expensive as they are classed as exotic animals. You just need to be aware that they aren’t an easy pet by any means.
I have rabbits as well as piggies and I can honestly say that the guinea pigs are a lot more high maintenance.

Quick Information Bundle For Wannabe Owners
 
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