Any dwelling that suits a rabbit will work perfectly for your guinea pig. Remember that when buying or making a dwelling that it be as roomy and durable as possible, is resistant to water and dampness, and is constructed in a fashion that makes it easy to clean.
Guinea pigs are susceptible to illness arising from wet conditions so ensure that the outside dwelling is protected from rain.
Sawdust from untreated wood is a good ground material as it absorbs waste. Not as good but still suitable, wood shavings are a less absorbent choice. Straw is lacklustre; it contains hardly any feeding benefits and the sharp fronds can accidentally damage ears and eyes. A messy though snug alternative is shredded paper. A more desirable but expensive option, granulated paper provides an even, padded covering.
The best ground material of all is, without a doubt, hay. It provides ample softness, warmth, and is a rich food source. Hay needs to be fresh and free of mould. Place handfuls of hay throughout the dwelling, including the sleeping area, and replace old hay regularly, at least twice a week.
All guinea pigs are herbivorous and as such enjoy eating a wide variety of vegetable matter. So in their feeding habits, guinea pigs have much in common with rabbits. The main diet can be split between dry foods (oats, bran, maize, wheat) and soft foods (plants, vegetables, fruits). Good dry foods include bread, toast, plain biscuits, crakers, pastry and commercially available guinea pig pellets. As for soft foods, suitable types include oranges, apples, strawberries, tomatoes, berries, broccoli, celery, potatoes, grasses, hay, dandelion, clover and chickweed. Be careful not to inadvertantly choose any poisonous plants.
Select heavy dishes, one each for dry and soft foods, that won''t tip over easily.
Water should be supplied from an automatic dispenser. This is usually an inverted bottle with a tube protruding from it. Check the dispenser during extremely cold weather as the ball mechanism might become frozen, blocking the water''s release.
A brief, daily cleaning of the dwelling is recommended to avoid contamination. Remove uneaten foods and clean all feeding dishes. A full clean and wash of the area should occur once a week to minimise all bacterial and parasitic threats. Rinse with plenty of water afterward to remove any traces of disinfectant or other cleaning chemicals.
The sudden onset of any unusual behaviour or lack of appetite may be serious; always consult a vet first if you are unsure.
Disease is often spread by handling; so attentive owners should get into the habit of washing their hands afterward as a preventitive measure.
Good hygiene also extends to the cleanliness of the pet itself. Regular brushing, for long-haired breeds, and the occasional bath in warm water will maintain the animal''s appearance and well being.
A guinea pig will be able to ward off most minor ailments if it is robust and healthy. The key to prolonged health and fitness starts with the availability of fresh, nutritious food. Never leave decaying food in a hutch or dwelling, and always thoroughly wash all vegetable matter beforehand.
Regular inspection is a good idea. Treat any cuts or abrasions immediately with the correct ointment or powder. Contact a registered vet straight away should any of the following be apparent: runny nose, weeping eyes, breathing difficulty, lethargy, skin rashes, or evidence of blood in any excrement.
In a collection of guinea pigs, should one become sick, isolate it from the others without hesitation until the problem is diagnosed and treated, thus preventing an epidemic from spreading throughout the entire living area.