Buying things for your guinea pig is fun and there are many temptations when visiting the pet shop. We naturally expect items that are labelled for guinea pigs in the shops and online to be suitable for our piggy friends. However, this is all too often not the case!
To help you make the right choices and avoid the items that are bad for them we have compiled a list of things you should never buy your guinea pig.
If you want to find some great toys for your guinea pigs which are safe and they'll love, take a look at the toys and boredom breakers we've tried out on our own guinea pigs and recommend for you.
1. Hamster Wheels or Balls
Many people put guinea pigs in the same "small pet" category and think what is good for a hamster or a rat is good for a guinea pig. This is definitely not the case and what is good for a hamster is often very bad for a guinea pig. Hamster wheels and balls fall into this category.
While a hamster wheel is not only great fun but good exercise for a hamster, rat or other small animal, it is incredibly dangerous for a guinea pig. They are not meant to move their bodies in the position required for these toys and, because they have incredibly delicate bones and a very fragile spine, the unnatural back-bending position they are forced into by using these toys can break their back and cause serious injury. These injuries can be fatal so please never buy a hamster wheel or ball for your guinea pig.
2. Metal Framed Hay Balls
The metal framed hay balls that you can fill with hay to feed your pet can cause serious harm to guinea pigs.
There have been many stories of guinea pigs getting stuck or trapped in them and sustaining terrible injuries. If a guinea pig gets stuck in one of these, wire cutters are usually needed to rescue the guinea pig and it is not always a good outcome.
If you’re looking for a way to feed hay to your piggies, a hay manger is the best option but even some of these are not great. We recommend the good quality wooden ones such as the Small Pet Select hay feeders.
3. Leashes or Harnesses
The idea of taking your guinea pig for a walk is admittedly one that can be appealing to children. However, making your guinea pig wear a harness and taking them for a walk on a leash is an incredibly dangerous thing to do. There are several reasons for this.
- As mentioned above, a guinea pig is a delicate creature. Your guinea pig is at great risk of incurring a spinal injury if you make them wear a harness. Imagine what might happen if he gets scared and tries to run to find cover (which is what guinea pigs naturally do) and can't move because he is restrained by the harness. It wouldn't take much for your pet to incur a serious injury in this situation.
- A guinea pig is a nervous creature. Taking a guinea pig for a walk in public is a very bad idea as the noise will scare him and he may be in danger of being attacked by a cat or dog.
- Guinea pigs aren't supposed to be taken for walks. They won't like it and need to be able to move freely.
Please don't think that because these are for sale in pet shops and online and there is a picture of a cute guinea pig on the packaging that they are ok. They are not and should never be used on them. Find out more about the dangers of leashes and harnesses here.
4. Rabbit Food (or food for other small pets)
If you have a rabbit, you might think that you can save money or save having to buy two separate packets of dried food by giving this to your guinea pig.
However, guinea pigs and rabbits have very different dietary needs and they must be fed the special guinea pig pellets rather than those for rabbits or any other pets. One of the most important elements of the dried food is added vitamin C. Rabbits don't need this so it isn't added to their food, however, guinea pigs need this on a daily basis as their bodies don't store it and it needs regular replenishing. You will also find dried food for other pets will contain ingredients that are not good for guinea pigs so stick to good quality pellets that are designed with guinea pigs in mind. Check out the pellets we recommend...
5. Small Cages
Cages in pet shops and online are often labelled for guinea pigs even when they are much too small. . The RSPCA recommends a minimum cage size of 120cm x 60cm for two guinea pigs. If we were kept in a tiny room for the whole of our lives we would be pretty sad and depressed. It is the same for your guinea pigs. They are intelligent animals and need plenty of space to exercise and need space to play - please take a look at the cages we recommend...
6. Cedar or Non-Kiln-Dried Pine Bedding
Many people who are getting guinea pigs for the first time don't realise how important it is to choose suitable bedding specifically for these pets. Guinea pigs have highly sensitive respiratory systems and are very prone to respiratory diseases. Cedar and non-kiln-dried pine based bedding should not be used because they both naturally contain odours that are toxic for guinea pigs so using this kind of bedding will make your pets ill. The best options are paper-based bedding, other wood pulp based bedding, kiln dried wood bedding or fleece liners. Find out more about the best bedding for your guinea pigs...
7. Certain Treats sold as Guinea Pig Treats
You would think that if a treat was marked as a guinea pig treat that it would be ok. This is often not the case. Guinea pigs should not have anything with dairy, sugar or animal based products. They are actually much happier if given a piece of carrot or lettuce or other piece of fresh veg or small mouthful of fruit. One of our guinea pigs favourite treats are pea flakes but these should be fed sparingly. You can buy these from Erin's Ark Pet Shop here... Bear in mind that fresh vegetables, guinea pig pellets and hay should be given daily. A guinea pig's daily dietary requirements can be found here...
8. Salt Licks / Mineral stones
Salt licks or mineral stones are sold for guinea pigs in pet shops such as Pets at Home as well as online stores. Described as 100% natural and a way of supplementing their diet with minerals, they sound like a good thing, however, too much salt is bad for them and it is not recommended you buy these for your pets. Make sure your guinea pigs get a good balanced diet and they should get all the vitamins and minerals they need.
If you've had any experience with any of these things or anything else that has been bad for your guinea pig we would love to hear from you so we can add it to this page to help educate others and save guinea pigs from injuries or illnesses that occur from these products.