YOUR PET CAVY
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.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED:
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 Carrot tops Parsley
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)
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 to smell, will provide a comfortable home. There are many products available,
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
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:
Thanks to the NY State Cavy Fanciers.