Guinea Pigs can be gentle and affectionate pets, provided they are handled and cared for correctly. A number of things are important to remember.
Firstly, children should not be primary carer of a Guinea Pig. While it is wonderful for children to experience the joys and responsibility of pet ownership, an adult is required to oversee the care and ensure that everything is being done correctly.
Handling a Guinea Pig should be done carefully and considerately, with one hand placed underneath the animal to lift it, and the other supporting its hind legs and rear. They will become upset and may bite if roughly handled, and are easily hurt if dropped. Some Guinea Pigs may not like to be picked up initially, but a little convincing using some enticing snack and plenty of patience will normally get them used to being handled.
Please note that guinea pigs and rabbits should not be housed together – they are different species with different needs which are unable to communicate with each other. While we acknowledge that there may be the odd exceptions, often the end result is a bullied guinea pig which may go unnoticed to even the most caring owner. Both species will be infinitely happier with correctly introduced company of their own kind.
Guinea Pigs are very sociable little animals which enjoy company, but they are also prey animals and easily startled. Calm, quiet behaviour from you will help calm your Guinea Pig, and expect to give a new Guinea Pig time to become used to you.
Guinea Pigs are also fun little fellas. Its so enjoyable to watch your Guinea Pig run and play, and some Guinea Pigs even seem to give squeaks or chirrups of joy. It is vitally important to allow for this side of your pet’s personality – housing with plenty of room, boxes and tunnels to explore, and toys to play with all prevent him from becoming bored.
It’s also lovely for a Guinea Pig to have the company of another one of his kind. Guinea Pigs get along well together, encourage each other in play and exercise, and prevent boredom setting in. This is particularly important if you are out during the day and do not have a lot of time to devote to keeping your pet company. It is important to note, however, that as neutering and spaying is not recommended for Guinea Pigs, they should be kept in same-sex pairs or groups.
Introducing a pair of Guinea Pigs which you hope to keep together should be done carefully. This is best done in an open area, on neutral territory. Place the animals in the same (guinea pig safe) area, and keep a careful eye on them for an hour or so. If aggression or fighting occurs, separate the two immediately and try again at a later stage. If they appear to get along well, however, try moving both animals to a large, freshly cleaned cage. This is where a large housing area comes in handy – not cramming your Guinea Pigs in together increases the chance of happy pairing. Continue to watch them closely once in the cage to check that they are still happy with each others company. If no fighting or aggression is witnessed, it should be safe to leave your Guinea Pigs together.
Please also remember that your Guinea Pig is very small and fragile. A large number of injuries occur due to falling (off a table or similar), being dropped, or accidentally stepped on. It should go without saying, but handle your Guinea Pig very carefully, and know where he is at all times – if your attention is not fully on him, he should be safely in his cage.