I’ve had all kinds of pets over the years — from cats, to goldfish, and everything in between. My first pet as a kid was an orange-and-white guinea pig named Rodney (who turned out to be a girl). No matter how many other animals I’ve loved since then, I’ve always come back to guinea pigs. They’re a little more interesting than your run-of-the-mill hamster (in my humble opinion), and have a hell of a lot of personality. Best of all, they make a great addition to apartments or rental homes where it might not be feasible to adopt non-caged pets like dogs or cats.
1. Having a guinea pig is like taking care of a miniature cow
Or a garbage disposal. Guinea pigs are grazers, and each pig eats up to a pound of hay weekly. I have four pigs, and go through two 10-pound boxes of hay every month. Holy cow!
My favorite part of my morning routine (okay, afternoon routine — hi, night owl here) is walking into the pig room and hearing demanding squeals as I make my way over to the hay bin.
So, why do they eat so much hay? Is that normal?
Pigs are rodents and their teeth never quit growing, just like hamsters and mice. Long-strand grass hays like timothy hay or orchard grass hay have high silica content. Silica is hard and it wears down your pig’s teeth during the grinding motion of chewing. A steady supply of timothy hay does way more for your pig’s dental health than a wooden toy carrot or any other chew toy you can grab at the pet store.
Also, pigs are pretty big foodies. Honestly, they never stop eating, unless it’s to poop or sleep. (And sometimes, pooping doesn’t even stop them. Why take a break when you can poop and eat at the same time?)
That being said…
2. You have someone to share your dinner with
Hay is important, but it isn’t the only part of a balanced guinea pig diet! Each guinea pig in your life should eat a cup of fresh vegetables every day. They can eat many of the same veggies that you do — just make sure that you offer them raw, and not cooked. Some staple veggies include:
- Romaine lettuce
- Mustard greens
- Boston leaf lettuce (this stuff is guinea pig crack!)
- Bell peppers (offer these every day, please — guinea pigs can’t synthesize their own vitamin C, and bell peppers are an awesome source of that)
3. They’re more apartment-friendly than dogs, and just as people-friendly
Guinea pigs are seriously outgoing little dudes, once they get to know you. When I enter the room where the cages are, there’s immediately four eager little faces poking through the cage bars at me, and four little voices clamoring for attention. Guinea pig cuddle time is at least as awesome as puppy cuddle time, and I would argue that it’s even better!
Guinea pigs do require a pretty decent amount of space — the minimum for a pair is about eight square feet (about 48″ x 24″). Plenty of people build open-concept cages out of household materials, which lets you build around your home’s footprint and create a guinea pig home that’s suited for your lifestyle and theirs.
And if you don’t live in an apartment, feel like building something crazy, and aren’t pressed for space? Feel free to go nuts. I built a SIX FOOT LONG cage for one of my pairs recently, and IT IS GLORIOUS.
Guinea pigs are great offbeat apartment pets, what are you tips for keeping them in apartments or small dwellings?