everal questions are frequently raised on the GPDD that probably need to be addressed. While this is not to take the place of the Official Guinea Pig FAQ, it will take the form of questions and answers. Basically, this will be the "newbie list" of questions that aren't critical, just interesting.
My pig has a bald spot!Bald spots behind the ears and on the inside of the front paw are very common. Sometimes the bald spot behind the ear can be quite noticeable, especially on Abyssinians (Manda Mae's bald spots are about the size of a dime). These spots are perfectly normal and are not a sign of disease. They do, however provide ready access to skin to check for dryness, dandruff, lice, mites etc. so inspect them often. They also make a wonderful place to give your piggie a kiss!
What do the sounds mean?Seagull has a page on various sounds and their meaning. Check it out. Another site, that has actual sound files on it, is located in England. The major sounds are the "wheek" which simply means, "bring me food, I'm starving!" even if the little beastie has been fed in the last 30 seconds! The whiny sound is one of discomfort, pay attention to that one and check your animal for problems. A kind of chuckle, whether in the cage or on the lap, means contentment. A low be-doop kind of sound, especially when walking about, means everything seems to be fine, other pigs can come out and play. A chattering of the teeth, especially when accompanied by hackles raised is a sign of impending combat, remove all tender flesh from the vicinity of the pig's mouth, he will bite! A low rumble, when accompanied by a rump sway, often referred to as rumblestrut means one of two things, "hey baby, want to get together?" or "I am the BOSS pig, get out of my way!" Here the context is important! A female can do the rumblestrut as well as a male, she will do it to display dominance and it does not necessarily mean that you have gotten the wrong gender.
Does my cavy need additional vitamin c?A good quality pelleted feed should provide adequate vitamin c for good health. However, there are many ways that the quality of the feed can be degraded. Sunlight, heat and long time periods since production all cause the vitamin c content to deteriorate. In addition, a variety of foods, especially dark green leafy veggies provide a nice variation in their diet, this keeps them from getting bored! Good sources of vitamin c are dark green lettuce (do not feed cavies iceberg lettuce, it has almost no nutritional value!), red and green bell peppers, broccoli florets, carrots and cucumbers. Seagull has a table of the serving size for 10mg of vitamin c, a cavy needs about 20mg/day for good health.
Some people provide vitamin c dissolved in water to their herd. This water should be allowed to stand for a day to clear out the chlorine which causes very quick degradation of the vitamin c in the water. Sunlight also causes the vitamin c to break down. Personally, I believe that a good mix of vitamin c rich veggies is more than adequate for the little darlings vitamin c needs, and using a water soluable source is a waste of money. But that's just my opinion!
How much room does my cavy need?Each animal should have a minimum of two square feet in the cage. If you are also providing little houses or huts, there should be one for each animal. This minimum space requirement assumes that the animal will have access to a larger area for exercise; a room with few exits and few hazards (electrical cords, heaters, etc.) and that is easy to clean up, makes an idea exercise area.
Does the cage have to have a solid floor?Absolutely! A cavy is known as a "toe-walker" so it doesn't use the large pads on its feet for walking. It is very easy for a toe or whole foot to get caught in the fine mesh of a wire floor. If the cavy then gets startled or attempts to escape too vigorously, it will damage its foot or leg.
Will my cavy need a friend?Cavies are very social, they like the company of others. In the case of another cavy you have several options:
If you must see the "miracle of birth," then be prepared to either keep them all or ensure that you have good homes for all of them. The female cavy comes into heat every 16-18 days and takes about 65 days to deliver; she is than fertile within an hour of having her litter. You could have five litters in a year, and most likely kill the female in the process.
- Another cavy of the same sex, females usually get along very well;
- males either must grow up together or you have to introduce a very young male to a much older male for them to get along;
- opposite sex pairs have the added concern of making additional cavies: my read on this is to have the male neutered by a competent veterinarian before they move in together. That way they can live together without contributing to the overpopulation problem.
How do I care for the babiesIf you decide to have pups, or you get a surprise from your pet shop cavy, do not panic! Mother cavies are very good at taking care of their young. Seagull has several pages on how to handle young sows or difficult pregnancies, but you probably won't need the help. Pups can be handled almost immediately, allow the mother time to get them cleaned up and dry; then you should be able to handle them. The pups will be weaned at about four weeks, you'll know when to remove them when mom stops allowing them to nurse. If a young boar starts acting macho and tries to mount his mother, move him out immediately! Very close inbreeding can lead to a lot of problems. At about 5-6 weeks you can send the pups to their new homes.
The "runt" of the litter may require additional attention from you and the mother. Sometimes you may remove the other pups to give the runt unlimited access to mother's milk, you can also give the runt extra treats such as lettuce, pepper, cucumber, etc. so that he gets a chance to grow more rapidly than the others. Proper care for the runt, watching that it gets fed and cared for, will ensure all the babies survive. Some of the best pigs started life as runts.
Will my cavy get along with other animals?The usual problem with other animals, especially dogs and cats, is that their hunting instincts seem to go into action around cavies. Since they tend to chase anything that runs and cavies tend to run from anything that they perceive as a hunter, this can be very difficult. An older, well trained, dog can frequently handle the change. A puppy can sometimes be introduced and made to think that the cavies are simply different kinds of dogs from them (like the two legged ones that feed him). Cats tend to ignore adult cavies, the problem is that a baby silver agouti looks very much like an adult rat!
Cavies think everything bigger than them is a hunter, that's why they tend to be so shy around humans initially and why they will hide if you move suddenly or make a sudden loud noise (like a cough or sneeze).Part of the difficulty in "taming" a cavy is this instinctive tendency to hide. Rabbits seem to get along moderately well with cavies, although some have had very bad experiences there too. The large hind legs of a rabbit could do very serious damage to the fine bones of a cavy; whether inflicted accidentally or intentionally. The basic rule is, evaluate your other animals' personalities and supervise very closely.
How old do cavies get to be?Many cavies can live to a ripe old age of ten years, however, the average seems to be in the five to seven year range. One of the things that helps extend their lives is to be ever vigilent. By their nature, cavies try to hide the fact of their sickness until it is almost too late; so if you have one that you "instinctively" feel is not quite right - take him to the vet! Many cavies can seem perfectly healthy while suffering from scurvy, ear mites, lice and other problems. You, as the owner, need to watch for signs of illness that the animal tries to hide. Mary Barr weighs her animals on a regular basis, many books recommend the same; you may not be able to see the weight loss, but the scale should show it. This is one of the first signs that an animal is in trouble.
Is there anything cuter than a cavy?Yes, two cavies.
Is there anything cuter than two cavies?Yes, baby cavies!
Is there anything cuter than a baby cavy?Nothing on this great earth!
Page maintained by Dale L. Sigler. Copyright © 1997. Updated: 10/27/98