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Guinea Pig advice please for 'foster carer'!

(9 Posts)
pannetone Wed 28-Oct-15 20:47:30

We are currently looking after the school guinea pig over half term (as we have done before - 10 year old DD is a big fan) and I could do with some advice. He is nearly 5 years old and about a month ago lost his similar aged cage mate. I think because of that - and because the school dog was annoying him, the school took him out of his outside hutch and he now lives in an indoor cage in a spare classroom. Now for lots of questions!

1. Is there anything in particular the GP needs now he is on his own? (though I know a new cage mate isn't an option). I mean more human company/interaction, more cage 'activities', somewhere warmer to sleep now he has no mate to cuddle up with?

2. Not sure he has the right cage bedding. He has newspaper layers and then shredded paper and straw. But after even a quick read online it seems he should have hay - for bedding and eating?

3. Food - some of the sites seem to suggest GPs need specific GP food - I think what he has is maybe a 'generic' muesli that is for rabbits and GPs. And do GPs need leafy greens every day? We have just been feeding carrots and celery - and a bit of hand picked grass.

4. Warmth - the GP is in our (unused for car) garage - but just in the 'indoor cage'. We have made him a cardboard house (which he tends to turn over and can't turn it back again...) and cover the cage with a blanket at night. Is this enough - once i've got him some hay?

5. Big question! Would the elderly GP be happier living in his 'proper' cage in our garage over the winter OR is the current arrangement when the GP does lots of weekend away trips and stays in his indoor cage (probably mostly in garages) fine?


Palomb Wed 28-Oct-15 20:59:40

I feel quite sorry for your foster pig sad I'll answer your questions in order

1. Yes to all of your suggestions. He needs all of those things. He must be really lonely sad

2. The bedding situation isnt great. People use all sorts of different things but newspaper isn't good because of the ink - I bed he's chewing it up because of the lack of hay? I bed mine on wood pellet cat litter and shavings with straw in the house. Guinea pigs need hay available all the time for their teeth and mental wellbeing. Celery isn't great as its stringy. Any other green veg should be fine

3. You are right. Guineans need proper Guinea food which has extra vitamin C. They also need fresh vegetables every day . Ime broccoli is the best but anything green is usually appreciated! Try some parsley and he'll love you for ever. Guineas do not make their own vitamin C so it has so be supplemented.

4. Your pig is an old boy. I won't worry about he feeling the cold. You can buy microwave plates on Amazon to go in the sleepy bit.

6. He would most certainly be happier in one house grin it must be terrifying to be shipped around every weekend to new places. Tbh I'd say it was verging on cruel. He's an animal, not a class bear.

Fluffy24 Wed 28-Oct-15 21:13:29

I think it might be time for him to retire and live with you FT!

They really should have company, probably better not to introduced an adult make but a baby should be OK.

They should have hay.

They need food with added vitamin C - if it's for rabbits and guinea pigs it should be fine, but just rabbit food less so - though if they get a really good varied diet with lots of veggies (and fresh grass you pull for him) it's less likely to be an issue.

Put the cage on something insulated (a bit of solid wall insulation ideal) because an indoor cage on a cold concrete garage door will lose lots of heat that way - with a blanket over the top that would be fine.

70isaLimitNotaTarget Wed 28-Oct-15 21:42:45

5 is sort of middle aged/elderly (there's no way of predicting how long they'll live for)

WRT the food - you can only change gradually. So if you want to swap his dry food for something else (they should have guinea nuggets) then start with a 10% new and increase the newgrinld slowly

Hay -yes. They eat it, they need hay, even with grass.
I give mine soft barley straw as a base in their haybox , then hay as a top layer . Hay does get flattened more.
I use newspaper - mine don't chew it, but they pee loads. I use woodbased catlitter (suitable for rodents) under it and change the paper/straw/hay daily.
Boar pairs don't tend to snuggle. Ours shared the haybox but different corners (you can tell by the pooh nests) or different houses if that was their want.

The most important thing for him temperature wise is it's fairly constant (so not a warm house to cold garage)
The Snugglepads are nice, you can pop it in the hay , cover with the blanket and he'll be snug. But he must be protected from damp.

Give him a cardboard box (no staples or tape) with a door cut out that he can potter into. Maybe a tunnel?
Food / fresh veg - there is a huge variety they can eat (and it helps their teeth to chew). Just introduce a small amount of new veg and not too much fruit (I feel another Pig Food Thread coming up )

Make sure he gets enough daylight too.

Can he be in the house with you all? It would be better for him to have noise and company now he's alone.

Who actually owns him? He might not appreciate going round different houses now. Are you thinking of taking him on long term?
You could be a "Failed Fosterer" wink

70isaLimitNotaTarget Wed 28-Oct-15 21:43:56

Random grin on line 4 , no idea why?

pannetone Wed 28-Oct-15 23:03:57

Thanks Palomb Fluffy and 70 for all that helpful advice.

The indoor cage is up on an old dining table(!) in the garage, so at least it is off the floor. To be clear it is one of those cages with a 'litter tray' type plastic base and a wire top which clips to it. No internal house or compartment. Do you think the cage should also be on a piece of solid wall insulation stuff as the night temp drops? I was concerned an elderly GP would feel the cold more but maybe he is used to it.

I will get GP some hay but i could still do with an idea of the depth of the different layers! (I only have hamster and gerbil experience!) I like your technique 70 of putting cat litter ( does it come in big bags if it's suitable for rodents?) as a first layer, then changing the paper/straw/hay daily. The poo and pee does go everywhere - no chance of doing a 'spot' clean.

I will introduce more green veggies and parsley is on my list! Again, can you give me an idea of quantity for a not-especially-big adult GP. The food thread is helpful - can it also have a section of which fruit and veg are unsuitable, as well as the likes and dislikes?

I would happily 'adopt' (I think GP is nominally owned by the Head who got him as a rescue) but he would have to live in the garage. I initially let DD have cuddling time in the house over the weekend but asthmatic DH started reacting in a manner out of proportion to the size of the allergy source even after GP was back in the garage sad. But in the week the GP probably gets more interaction at school - much of it from DD. There again I don't know how reasonable it is for the GP to have to manage car journeys each weekend and holiday.

70isaLimitNotaTarget Thu 29-Oct-15 09:03:37

There's not that much that is unsuitable for piggies as in "Should Never Eat" but there are lots that should only be given in moderation. <New list needs done I reckon>> wink

Allergies are a nightmare- my DD gets a rash but no breathing problems , from our previous boar (Rex) and our present boar (Teddy) but she's fine with a friends Teddy (or I wouldn't have got a coarse coat) but she's "Meh, rash". it doesn't affect her as a asthmatic allergy would (poor DH)

The cat litter we use is from The Range, big yellow bags, it has on the bag "Suitable for rabbits/rodents" and I've seen rabbits cages with this bedding but they are tidy and litter trained, unlike hogs.
We have 2 sows and a boar. The sows pee loads.
Newspaper takes 90% then I pick the grubby bits of litter.

Easiest way to insulate the cage outside is put it on a piece of cardboard under the cage. I wedge cardboard round the back of the haybox for ours.
You can easily change it or add if you need to.

A layer of cardboard in the base of the cage too? No staples or tape though.

It is a tough decision with Piggie. If he was mine, I would get him a new mate (we matched an adult with a baby, ) then you have a never ending cycle of pigs (We said our girls were last, but we are really pleased we got GP6 boar)
At school , he'll get all the noise and chat.
If you take him for weekends, he'll cope with the journey I;m sure, and he'll get to know his house at yours.
But it depends on your DH, if he can cope.

My pigs come in for winter nights (in Nov) and I am constantly sweeping up hay <<sigh>> which can be as much an allergen as the pig fur.

70isaLimitNotaTarget Thu 29-Oct-15 09:08:17

Hay should be (as a guide) the weight of the pig to eat. To bed in, easpecially in colder weather, they need more. They flatten it.
I use 2"-3" of the litter.
Newspaper at least 4-5 sheets thick, more in their Pee Area.

Food- they have a selection of shallow metal dog bowls ( to make sharing more equal). Your pig won't have to fight for his food, so he might eat slower.
Mine never drink ever. So they get their fluid from food.
I give 5-6 fresh foods, try to vary the colour (yellow pepper/orange cabbage/red chicory, selection of greens/herbs)

pannetone Thu 29-Oct-15 09:49:56

Thanks 70. As it turns out I am seeing a GP owning friend today so will talk pigs with her - though hers are permanently indoor (very cossetted) pigs.

I'm pretty sure the school won't get GP a mate - i don't think they want a never ending cycle of GPs - the logistics of having a GP have proved tricky for weekends and holidays. I think they want to focus on the head's dog providing 'pet therapy' - it is a very small special school.

I'll speak to the school after half term and maybe GP can have his outdoor cage here in the garage for weekends and holidays. I suppose the GP is used to travelling and I can get used to collecting him each week!

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