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Your Baby Guinea Pig: How To Care And Look After Them

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Tim Rhodes

Every baby guinea pig sure is cute; however, baby guinea pigs require a lot of attention and care.

Think you are up for the task?

Regardless of how you got the baby guinea pig, it’s extremely high-maintenance and can often die if the caretaker fails to take proper care of it.

Because of their cute, small and gentle appearance, most people rush to a pet store to buy a baby guinea pig.

But don’t let their small size fool you into thinking that they are easy to care for because they are not!

Guinea pigs are rodent species, called cavies, that are actually not that easy to take care of if you want to do it properly and provide them a healthy and happy life.

How Long Are Guinea Pigs Pregnant?

Guinea pigs are pregnant between 59 and 72 days. 

Usually, a guinea pig will deliver between one and six babies, with an average of 3.

However, abortions and stillbirths commonly occur among guinea pigs during their breeding lives.

Is Guinea Pig Pregnancy Safe for the Mother Guinea Pig?

You might think that pregnancy is easy for rodents, but that’s not true.

For guinea pigs, pregnancy can be very difficult.

On average, in about 20% of pregnancies, the mother dies while giving birth to her guinea pig babies.

Yes, 80% of guinea pig pregnancies end happily, with newborn babies running around, but many guinea pig mothers experience complications, which can be very costly to you and painful for her.

If you decide to breed your guinea pig, make sure she is young enough.

Female guinea pigs older than six months have their hip bones too close to allow easy birth.

Likewise, remember that you should separate the males as soon as they are three weeks old because they can procreate with their mothers at that time.

Yes, male guinea pigs reach sexual maturity that early in their life!

Also, separate brothers to prevent them from fighting against one another.

Finally, the mother guinea pig continues to be at risk for medical complications for days after giving birth, so make sure to observe her.

Keep a close eye on her for the next two to three weeks that she needs to wean her babies.

How Many Babies Do Guinea Pigs Have?

A guinea pig usually has between one and six babies, with an average of 3.

Guinea pig litters most commonly contain two, three, or four pups.

Rarely the mother gives birth to more than six babies at a time.

However, abortions and stillbirths often happen among guinea pigs during their breeding lives.

What Do Baby Guinea Pigs Look Like?

The individual size of a guinea pig is linked to litter size.

The more siblings there are in a litter, the smaller each of the babies is.

Usually, in litters of 2 to 4, baby guinea pigs weigh between 70 and 115g.

A baby guinea pig looks like an adult guinea pig, just much more fragile and smaller.

Guinea pigs come precocial to this world: they are born with their coat of fur, with eyes open wide.

They can move about, and they can hear.

Also, baby guinea pigs can chew, as they are born with all 20 teeth in their tiny mouths, so yes, baby guinea pigs can eat solid food right away.

Nonetheless, don’t feed baby guinea pigs with any solid food yet because they need their mother’s milk the most, especially during the first two weeks after they are born.

These teeth will continue to grow continuously throughout their lives.

Your job, among many other obligations you will have around your guinea pig pet, will be to provide your guinea pigs with foods and toys that will help them keep their teeth trimmed and prevent them from overgrowing. 

Besides, baby guinea pigs’ paws and heads are not proportional to their bodies.

How to Baby-Proof a Guinea Pig Cage?

Whether you adopted baby guinea pigs from a shelter or your guinea pig pet gave birth, the first thing you need to do is to make the cage baby-friendly.

Here’s how you’ll do that.

1. Get An Appropriately-Sized Cage

Guinea pups reach maturity quickly.

So, it’s better to start with a cage that accommodates their rapid growth.

If you are looking for accuracy then the cage should be around 7.5 square feet.

A cage of this size may appear too large for pups; however, your baby guinea pigs will be grateful for all the additional space.

Yet, as it’s recommended not to separate the mother from her baby guinea pigs, it’s better to have a much larger cage to provide your pets with all the comfort they need.

2. Secure the Escape Routes

Most of the cages are built with adult guinea pigs in mind which means that there are many opportunities for the pups to escape.

The last thing you want is your baby guinea pigs escaping through the space between the bars.

To ensure that this doesn’t happen, buy a cage with a deep bottom panel.

The added depth makes it difficult for the pups to escape because their minute sizes make them terrible climbers.

If you don’t want to spend extra money on a cage, you can secure the spaces between bars with cable ties.

3. Buy an Additional Water Bottle

You’ll need to adjust the height of the water bottle.

Although newborn baby guinea pigs feed on their mother’s milk, they still need water.

Since the pups are small, it is difficult for them to reach the sipper.

If you adjust the height to accommodate the baby guinea pigs, the mother will suffer since the sipper will be too low for her and vice versa.

Therefore, buy an additional water bottle to provide both the mother and the babies with easy access to clean drinking water.

How to Handle Baby Guinea Pigs?

Will the mother guinea pig reject her babies if someone touches them?

No, the mother will not reject her babies just because someone else touched them.

Touching or handling the baby guinea pig right after birth won’t cause their mother to love them any less.

If anything, it will only teach the mother to trust her human caretakers even more.

Don’t forget to wear gloves, especially if the baby guinea pigs are only a couple of hours old.

Baby guinea pigs might be carriers of various bacteria that can not only spread to other guinea pigs but can also make their way to humans.

Unless you are completely sure of the germ-free status of the younglings, it’s better to approach them with caution.

How to Identify the Gender of Newborn Guinea Pigs?

You can search the internet and read many articles that will provide advice on how to identify the gender of a newborn guinea pig.

However, if you’re a novice, like most guinea pigs’ owners out there, we recommend asking an expert.

Identifying gender is an important step since guinea pigs become sexually active within three weeks of age.

That is the main reason we recommend asking a vet or an experienced guinea pig breeder.

While female guinea pigs can stay together and with their mother, you don’t want to keep brothers together.

Not only that male guinea pigs can easily start a fight but they can impregnate their mothers as soon as they are three weeks old.

Therefore, don’t keep young male guinea pigs above three weeks old with their mothers.

Finally, if you keep the two genders together, you risk constant fights and unwanted pregnancies.

Do Guinea Pigs Eat Their Babies?

A guinea pig mother will nurse the pups until they’re ready to fend for themselves.

However, a guinea pig mother sometimes eats her babies.

Witnessing such a scene could lead to heartbreak; however, mothers don’t practice cannibalism out of anywhere.

There are always some logical explanations behind every move.

The birth of a guinea pig is instantly followed by vigorous licking on the mother’s behalf.

This is an attention-grabbing technique.

The lack of action pushes the mother to use her teeth which damages the delicate skin of the baby.

Another reason for cannibalism is due to malnourishment.

Unlike humans, guinea pigs don’t lose weight when they are malnourished.

Often they maintain their chubby-like appearance while lacking essential nutrients.

A poor diet can be an attributing factor.

When a mother is malnourished, she’ll make up for the lack of vitamins by eating her babies.

It’s a gruesome process but you can easily avoid it by listening to experienced breeders and heeding their advice.

You can also ask for help from your trusted vet.

What Are the Dietary Needs of Guinea Pig Babies?

For young pups, nursing is extremely important.

Although they can start taking solid foods right after opening their eyes, they still require their mother’s milk.

The nursing period lasts for around two to three weeks.

In case you have adopted your guinea pig pet before it has turned three weeks, maybe when it’s only a few days old, you can still take care of the pups by feeding them water mixed with evaporated milk.

Soak pellets in water and feed the softened mush to your guinea pigs for the first couple of days.

You can also use a feeding tube or a syringe to fulfill the dietary needs of your pups.

All of this may seem like a lot of work; however, you’ll only do this for a couple of days since the pups usually start nibbling on solid food quite early.

How To Take Care of Baby Guinea Pigs?

Your guinea pig pets, with proper nutrition and care, will live for about six to seven years.

Let’s see how to care for baby guinea pigs throughout their lives.

Socializing Is Important

Guinea pigs are social animals, so picking up the pups and keeping them away from the litter, even for a couple of minutes, could be damaging for the guinea pig family.

The family could disassociate from the pup(s), label them as strangers, and condemn them to loneliness.

All the drama aside, pups need to be within their community for as long as possible to develop a feeling of trust.

The best you can do for baby guinea pigs is to keep the entire litter together for around two weeks.

Similarly, you can create same-sex groups and socialize your pups based on their gender.

After that, it’s better to separate the pups from the litter.

Entertainment and Exercises

Despite their small size, young guinea pigs are like a miniature bundle of pure energy.

There’s even a specific term for this frenzied state which is ‘popcorning.’

This term captures the true essence of a young pup’s activity in the form of bumping, jumping, and whatnot.

Guinea pigs do need a lot of space to run around.

So, you may need to invest in an outdoor hutch that promotes natural grazing habits.

If the outdoor atmosphere is not possible, you can provide them with enough indoor space where they can roam around freely.

When doing this, just make sure that there aren’t any gaps or holes through which the younglings can make a daring escape.

Comfortable Environment

As long as you provide your guinea pigs with a safe and quiet space, they’ll be happy.

Guinea pigs are extremely sensitive to loud noises and will usually hide if someone disturbs their peace.

To avoid accidents, it’s better to provide your litter with individual bedding where they can retreat in case of any distressing situation.

Also, keep their hutch away from direct sunlight.

Make them waterproof and damp-proof as baby guinea pigs are sensitive to any weather extremes.

During the wintertime, supply the hutches with extra beddings to keep the baby guinea pigs warm and cozy.

For the bedding, avoid any fluffy material as it can trap and injure guinea pigs’ limbs.

The ideal filling is hay since it’s at the top of the food pyramid for the guinea pigs.

You can also stuff the beddings with wood shavings but avoid the cedar shavings at all costs since they can give birth to health issues.

All in all, whatever material you choose for the bedding, always ensure that it’s dust-free.

Keep Guinea Pigs Healthy

You can easily tell a healthy and a sick guinea pig baby apart.

Healthy ones are active, alert with a good shiny coat.

One of the most common problems ailing the guinea community is bumblefoot.

This happens when a bacterial infection affects one of the limbs and makes it swell up.

The reasons could be many but a leading cause of bumblefoot is unclean bedding.

The lack of cleanliness or the presence of dust in the hutch can also contribute to eye problems, matted coats, and mange.

You need to look for dental problems as well since too many sweet treats can damage the enamel.

To deal with everything, you should invest in good bedding material.

Also, keep the hutch clean and regularly groom the coats to avoid matting.

How to Train Baby Guinea Pigs?

Litter training

Guinea pigs should be trained to perform basic actions such as litter training.

It may seem like an impossible task, however, with little patience, you can instill some basic training and make them smarter than the rest.

Treats in abundance are bad but for training, you’ll need to use treats to reward the litter whenever they show little progress.

To make baby guinea pigs use the litter box, you need to mix new bedding with the older one to keep the smell intact.

The lingering smell will act as trail guinea pigs will follow whenever they face nature’s call.

Once a pup accomplishes this task, you need to reward this behavior immediately.

In anticipation of rewards, the baby cavies will slowly make it a habit of using the litter box whenever needed.

But, be careful with this strategy since too many treats can have an adverse reaction on your guinea litter.

Come When Called

You can also train your baby cavies to come when called.

It may seem difficult; however, it’s one of the easiest tricks in the book!

Before you start the training, you need to ensure that the pups are familiar with the surroundings and are comfortable around you.

The first step is to put your guinea pig at a distance and hold out a treat.

Once they notice the treat, call them to you by any desired name.

It will take a lot of training sessions before they start responding to their names.

How to Bathe a Baby Guinea Pig?

Bathing a guinea pig is a big deal.

You cannot use regular soap or shampoos for cleaning purposes.

Also, regular bathing is a big no-no when it comes to the pups since they have natural oils and you’ll just be washing the oils away.

This could lead to over-drying or other skin-related issues.

Since baby cavies are quite gentle and fragile, you need to create a checklist and follow the guidelines for a better experience.

Preparation

To start the process, you’ll need to buy a specialized guinea pig shampoo.

Then, you’ll need a large-sized towel.

Also, don’t forget a small plastic cup, you will need this to gently pour water on the pups.

Washing Time

Don’t immediately jump to the washing part.

Since you’re dealing with new pups, you’ll need to introduce them to water.

For this purpose, gently place the pups into the water and give them all the time they need to adjust to their new environment.

Start by gently pouring water over their bodies and avoid the face and neck area.

Using a tiny amount of shampoo, lather up your guinea pigs and wash it all off in a gentle manner.

If you sense your pups are getting nervous, you need to calm their nerves by offering treats.

Drying

Using a large towel, pat the guinea pigs dry.

You can also gently rub their bodies with a towel to get rid of the moisture.

We don’t recommend using a hairdryer, since they can get really hot pretty quickly.

Once satisfied with your progress, you can transfer the guinea pigs back into their cages for the natural drying process.

While doing this, just make sure their cages are clean.

Otherwise, it will defeat the entire purpose of bathing.

How to Clean a Guinea Pig Cage?

Cleaning the cages is an important step since the lack of them can lead to multiple health problems.

Vets recommend cleaning the cages daily.

It might seem like an additional burden but hey, it’s just a small responsibility of ensuring the healthy growth of your pups.

Start by removing all the bedding.

Take a small dustpan and remove dirty hays, droppings, and any other trash, you can also use a small vacuum to accomplish this step.

Once you have removed all the dirty bits, take a damp cloth and run it across the surface.

While you’re at it, you can also deal with dried-up soiled sections with the damp rag.

Then, take any non-hazardous cleaning spray and use it to thoroughly clean the surface.

Don’t go overboard with this step since it could irritate the delicate litter.

After this, replace the bedding with cleaner ones, load up their food and change the water.

Trust us; this process will make your baby cavies one happy litter!

Are Baby Guinea Pigs Good Pets?

Now, coming to the final question: are baby guinea pigs good pets?

The answer depends on you!

Guinea pigs make great pets.

Before getting a litter or adult guinea pig, you need to keep in mind that they can live for up to seven or eight years.

Much longer than your child’s interest!

To counter such situations, it’s better to involve an adult from the start.

If the child loses interest, there will still be someone taking care of the aging guinea pigs.

Also, involving an adult should be the standard behavior since kids may have trouble with supervising or cleaning the pups/sows.

Final Thoughts

Raising a litter isn’t an easy task.

You need to make many adjustments to ensure that your guinea pigs lead healthy, happy, and fulfilled life.

Raising baby guinea pigs is a demanding and challenging task but with adequate information, you can easily accomplish it all.

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