Guinea Pig Care

Healthy guinea pigs can live until they are 8 or 9 years old. 

Cages:   7.5 square feet minimum for 1-2 guinea pigs. Bigger is better. Some piggies may need more space to get along. Must be kept indoors in an area where they will get lots of interaction. Keep the cage away from the window if the sun will be beaming through it.  Basements and garages are not appropriate locations for a cage. See “Cages” (  for details and links about the cages.

Diet: Guinea pigs need a diet that is consists of unlimited hay (70-80% of their diet) along with pellets and fresh vegetables. .
Hay (timothy or other grass hay):  Guinea pigs need to have hay available 24 hours a day. They need hay to wear down their teeth, which grow their whole lives.  They need to constantly eat hay to aid in their digestion and to pass the food. Adult guinea pigs can have timothy or grass hay.  Pregnant and nursing guinea pigs and guinea pigs under the age of 6-12 months should have alfalfa hay offered in addition to grass or timothy hay because it has more calcium.  The extra calcium in alfalfa can contribute to bladder stones so it's not recommended for adults. Do NOT feed any hay that is moldy.
Guinea pig pellets:
        Best choices are :
                        Oxbow Cavy Cuisine              (for 6 months and older)          
                        Oxbow Cavy Performance     (for under 6 months)             
                        KMSHayloft timothy or alfalfa pellets -                             Available at

Plain green guinea pig pellets are the best for your guinea pigs. Look at the pellet bag and read the ingredients. If the first ingredient is not Timothy Hay or a grass hay (or Alfalfa hay for young piggies), then it is no good. Guinea pigs older than 6 months old need timothy hay based pellets, while guinea pigs younger than 6 months need alfalfa hay based pellets.  Corn is just a cheap filler and does not belong in guinea pig food.
Avoid the pellets that have seeds, nuts, dried fruit, sugar, corn syrup or dyed pieces. Guinea pigs can choke on seeds in husks. Most guinea pig feeds have vitamin C in them, which guinea pigs need. Rabbit pellets do not have vitamin C and so are not a good substitute. Most of the vitamin C in guinea pig food will degrade 3 months after the milling date so it's best to not buy more food that you can use within 3 months of the milling date (not the date you open the package). The milling date should be on the label. Oxbow makes a high-quality pellet with a more stabilized form of Vitamin C which lasts longer than three months.  Their Cavy Cuisine pellet is good for adult guinea pigs (timothy hay based) and their Cavy Performance pellet is good for pregnant, nursing and guinea pigs under the age of 12 months. For Other Living Things, Andy’s Pet Shop, The Petite Pet, Pet Place, An-Jan Feeds, San Mateo Feed and most Pet Food Express stores carry Oxbow products. You can order pellets and hay of a very high quality online at KMSHayloft . The vitamin C in KMSHayloft pellets is good for 6 months past the milling date.
Vegetables: Guinea pigs need about a cup or two of dark green leafy vegetables daily. Favorites are romaine, green leaf and red leaf lettuce (iceburg is worthless), cilantro, Italian Parsley, dandelion greens and others. Red bell peppers have a lot of vitamin C, which is good.  Don't let your piggies talk you into unlimited veggies! We had one guinea pig come into our shelter in very poor health (almost died) because she had convinced her previous owners she needed veggies all the time. 
Healthy Vegetables:  Dandelion greens ( a favorite for many), cilantro, parsley, romaine, wheatgrass, green or red peppers, red leaf lettuce, green leaf lettuce, corn husks, corn silks (I’ve been known to raid husks and silks left behind in the produce department), kale, spinach    
FORBIDDEN FOODS: Animal or dairy, meats, rabbit pellets, chocolate, dried fruit, avocado, potatoes, onions, raw beans, nuts and seed. 
AVOID OR LIMIT: Foods that contain beet pulp, corn products, rice or bran flour, vegetable fiber as these are just fillers. Don’t use foods that have sweeteners (corn syrup, etc) .  Iceberg lettuce is useless.
Vitamin C: Guinea pigs can't make their own so they need to get it from their diet. They can get scurvy without it. They need around 10-30 mg daily. A good guinea pig food should have it in it (see “Guinea Pig Pellets” section above). You can also supplement with a chewable vitamin C (cut into pieces because they don't need the whole tablet) but I’ve never never been able to get a guinea pig to eat these. Some people put vitamin C in the water. Most recommend against this because it may alter the amount of water your guinea pig drinks. Vitamin C in the water also degrades within 24 hours so needs to be replenished.  Don't get multi-vitamins for your piggy. Vitamin C is the only one they need. You can print out charts that have the vitamin C content of various fruits and vegetable from this website:
Fruit: Fruit should be fed very sparingly as too much can lead to diabetes. A slice of orange (good vitamin c) a few times a week is fine. Carrots need to be limited to 3 baby carrots or so PER WEEK since they have a lot of sugar too. Guinea pigs love watermelon rinds, agrapes
Water: Like all animals, guinea pigs need access to water at all times. I always buy the 32 oz water bottles instead of the smaller size. Aside from the extra dollar it costs to buy, there are no downsides and if you happen to be delayed getting home because of some emergency, at least your piggy will have water. My guinea pigs never liked the "Critter Canteen" brand. I don't know why but they wouldn't drink out of those. I've had the most luck with the Oasis and Lixit brand of water bottles.
Temperature Range: Guinea pigs do best between 65-75 degrees. They are very prone to heat stroke and shouldn't be kept in direct sunlight. Guinea pigs will die from high heat. On hot days (anything higher than mid-80’s), place frozen water bottles in their cages - they often lay right next to them to cool off. They really need to be sheltered from bad weather too and do best indoors.   They are a very social animal and do great if they can share your home with you.
Bedding (Carefresh, kiln-dried pine, aspen, fleece & towels): There are a lot of bedding products available. Carefresh is a good product but a bit pricey (especially if you have a dozen or more guinea pigs at a time like I do!) I use Kiln-dried pine shavings. You have to use “kiln-dried” because of the volatile oils in non-kiln-dried shavings. Don't use cedar shavings. If you have room to store a large bale of shavings from a feed store (not a pet food store), you can save a ton of money. I buy the horse-size bale. It costs about $8 for the size that would cover an entire horse stall. For $6-7 at a pet store, you can get a very small package that might last one cage change. Many people are switching to towels and fleece, with the towels being the bottom layer and fleece the upper layer. It does require frequent cleaning of poops though and extra laundry. 
CORN-based bedding is NOT recommended as it may become moldy.
Hidey Huts:   Being prey animals, guinea pigs like something to hide in. Commercial huts like Igloos, plastic stools, wooden houses, fiddlesticks etc all work fine.  In hot weather you may need to remove Igloos (aka PIgloos) so the piggies don’t overheat.  Cardboard boxes, oatmeal boxes, paper bags, soda boxes etc can also be used. Guinea pigs seem to enjoy variety. In winter, guinea pig sleeping bags can help keep them warm.  Many guinea pigs enjoy low-slung hammocks such as ones marketed for ferrets.
Scale: We highly recommend purchasing a scale for your piggies. You can get a postal scale or baby scale that weight up to 5 pounds. You'll need something that measure to the ounce or gram.  Being prey animals, guinea pigs are very good at hiding illnesses.  They will often have a weight loss before showing any symptoms that should alert you that you should seek veterinary care. A 80-100 gram (1/5 to 1/4 of a pound)  weight loss is a sign you need to get your piggy to the vet. You can buy a scale on-line here:
Guinea Pig Scale  - just scroll down a ways until you find the scales.  If the link to buy a scale isn’t working, go to
Nail Trimmers: You'll want to purchase either cat claw clippers (scissor type) or have human finger nail clippers on hand.  Guinea pigs need to have their nails trimmed every 4-6 weeks. You can bring your guinea pigs to most of our events for a free nail trim.
Playtime/Floortime: Many guinea pigs enjoy a daily, hour floor-time. Make sure there are no electric wires, toxic items, heavy furniture that they could get stuck under etc. Many other piggies enjoy hanging out on the couch being couch-potatoes with their humans. A note of warning: If your piggy has been sitting quietly on your lap and all of a sudden he starts to get fidgety, put him down - he probably has to pee!
Warning Signs of Illness (as excerpted from “Cavy Health Record Book”)
Leaving your piggy unprotected outside: Hawks can and will pick up piggies that are left outside with no protection overhead.  We even had a hawk try to reach through a bird cage that was located right outside our bedroom door. 
-Running balls and wheels - Rats and hamsters may do well in these but these hurt guinea pig’s backs!
-Most treats sold at pet stores - yogurt drops, multi-vitamins, seed treats
-”Gourmet” food - contains seeds which can present a choking hazard
-Pellets with colored bits in it - These too are bad for piggies;-Cages with wire bottoms, which are hard on their feet.
-Pet store cages (with the exception of the Midwest Guinea Habitat). Pet store cages are too small.

For lots of great Information: see and Cavy Spirit.  One particularly good thread on guinea pig care is here:
This is a great website for detailed information about guinea pig care. A lot of what I've listed here is information I read on the website.  There is a whole lot more information on this website than I can list here. I recommend taking a look.