By Margo E. Purdy

     The animal known as a guinea pig to most people is called a cavy (pronounced K-V) by
     breeders and fanciers.  A female is called a sow and the male a boar. Because they
     don't require much room, have no odor, and seldom bite, cavies make ideal pets.


 When you take your cavy home your immediate needs will be a water bottle with a
ball tip  (16oz. size is ample) and pelleted food.  Other needs can be temporarily
  satisfied by using a sturdy cardboard box for a cage, shredded paper for bedding,
and a small dish for a feed crock.                                                                      


                             A cavy's basic diet consists of guinea pig pellets, which look like rabbit pellets   
                             but are higher in protein and have vitamin C.  (You can use unmedicated rabbit  
                             pellets with vitamin C provided through other sources; however, this is not
healthy over long periods.)  The most important thing to remember is to buy fresh 
guinea pig chow and store it cool and covered.  The vitamin C looses its potency
quickly--90 days from milling.  Many experts favor the practice of routine vitamin
C supplementation via the water or directly into the cavy.

 While pellets should be accessible at all times, fresh food should be given in
 small amounts once or twice a day, 4 to 7 days a week.  These "treats" have
           nutritional, digestive, and psychological benefits, although too much can cause
          diarrhea.  Cavies have individual tastes and may reject new foods at first,
          although almost any fruit or vegetable can be tried.  The following are some foods
          which are both popular and nutritious:

                                     Carrots               Grass (unsprayed)
                                                         Carrot tops          Parsley 
                                                         Spinach               Sweet Peppers
                                                         Melon                 Citrus Fruits

The lettuce family is not very nutritious, although Romaine, the best choice, is
often fed. Remove strings from celery or cut in small pieces.  Vegetables in the
cabbage family should be used with caution, as they can cause serious digestive
problems in some individuals.  all fresh food should be thoroughly rinsed.  Providing
a grass hay for your pet is important, but be sure it is free of thorns, molds or
contaminants. Do not feed unhulled sunflower seeds or other seeds to your cavy.

         Water should be given fresh daily, and both the water bottle and sturdy feed
         crock should be cleaned frequently.  Use a Q-tip to clean the sipper tube.


       Cavies are adaptable to many types of cages.  You may find that the best one for
       you and your pet is one which you make yourself. Because most cavies do not try to
       escape, the security of the cage may depend more upon what you wish to keep out
       rather than what you wish to keep in. Allowing 1.5 to 2 square feet per animal,
       the cage should be draft-free yet allow for ventilation. While the ideal cage
       temperature is between 65 and 75 degrees, lower temperatures (to 50) can be
       tolerated if the cavy can snuggle in hay bedding in a covered cage.  Heat,
       humidity, and direct sunlight are more of a problem, as cavies can overheat
       easily. A solid floor is necessary, as wire floors often cause foot injuries
       or foot pad infections.  A generous amount of bedding replaced before it begins
                           to smell, will provide a comfortable home.  There are many products available,
       and you will soon find one that suits you the best; however, do NOT use cedar
       shavings or TREATED (green color) pine shavings.  Shelves, ramps, or tunnels, as
       well as supervised time out of the cage make things more interesting for all.


       If maintained in a clean environment and given good nutrition, a cavy will have
       resistance to the many germs that we all encounter daily; however, as in any
       animal, this resistance can break down.  Signs that your pet is ill include:
       decreased water consumption, discharge from eyes or nose, abnormal droppings,
       change in appetite, dull ruffled coat, hunched posture, weight loss, or lack of
       activity. If you notice any of these signs, it is wise to consult an experienced
       breeder or veterinarian at once.  Do not expose a cavy to any person suspected of
       having strep throat.

       Occasionally cavies may exhibit unusual scratching and/or hair loss.  If fur
       mites or lice are the problem, powders, sprays, or shampoos with pyrethrins are
       safe for cavies.  If the condition persists in spite of your treatment, it may be
       due to skin mites or a fungus.  In this case do seek help from an experienced
       person - they can advise you about effective treatments for parasites using
       ivermectin or Revolution.  Fungal infections and certain types of mites are
       transmissible to other animals and to susceptible humans.

       Periodically a cavy's toenails will need to be trimmed. Pet nail clippers or
       small finger nail clippers are recommended.  If your pet is a long-haired breed,
       grooming and hair cuts are necessary for good health.  Should your cavy need a
       bath, either for cleanliness or to fight parasites, use a mild shampoo and dry
       with a towel and a hand hair dryer.

     When you first bring your cavy home, don't be surprised to find that it is very
     frightened.  While becoming accustomed to the new environment, it may remain
     motionless whenever you are in the room and be reluctant to eat or drink.  A cavy
     who is in good health can withstand this acclimation period, after which it will
     begin to eat well and become inquisitive.  Then, the more attention and handling
     your pet is given, the tamer it will become.

                                                   May be reprinted only with permission of author.

For a more detailed pet care guide visit: (LINK No LONGER Working)

Thanks to the NY State Cavy Fanciers.


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