Guinea pigs make excellent house pets
Question: I have a rabbit. Would it be a good idea to also get a guinea pig?
Answer: Like rabbits, guinea pigs can make great house pets. They are docile, friendly, easy to handle, clean and quiet. They can be found in an array of colors and coats.
Despite their similarities, guinea pigs and rabbits are from different families (the former are from the Caviidae family and the latter from the Leporidae family). The origin of the name guinea pig is unknown; they are not pigs, nor do they come from Guinea. Some authorities believe the name might come from Guineamen, believed to be the first to bring the animals from South America to England. Others believe guinea was derived from the word coney, because in 1607 they were called pig coneys.
Q: Do guinea pigs have special dietary needs?
A: Guinea pigs require a high level of folic acid and vitamin C. Pellet food contains the essential vitamin, but it is best to further supplement the diet; popular choices are kale, cabbage or spinach. Fresh items should be thoroughly washed to avoid exposing your pet to pesticide residues or bacterial contamination.
Guinea pigs have sensitive digestive systems, and adjustments need to be made gradually. They tend to be creatures of habit -- they won't appreciate changes in meal presentation or changes in taste, odor, texture or form of the food itself. Avoid radical changes in food or water containers as well.
Heavy ceramic food crocks, resistant to tipping and chewing, are recommended. Fresh water should be readily available. Using a water bottle equipped with a "sipper" tube is the most accessible. Food containers should be washed daily. Water bottles should be rinsed thoroughly with water only; do not use soap.
Q: Can a rabbit and guinea pig live together as hutch mates?
A: Guinea pigs and rabbits need separate living quarters. Guinea pigs are susceptible to a respiratory disease from a bacteria that rabbits carry and can become ill during times of stress, as rabbits sometimes bully smaller rodents sharing territory.
The Hawaiian Humane Society welcomes questions by e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org
. Indicate "Pet Ohana" in the subject line. or, write "Pet Ohana," Hawaiian Humane Society, 2700 Waialae Ave., Honolulu 96826.