One Product All Guinea Pigs Must Have -- and One They Should Not

Keep Your Piggies Safe and Healthy

Guinea pig
Ineke Kamps / Getty Images

Guinea pigs need certain basics to ensure their health and happiness at home. There are also certain products you should never buy your guinea pig. Here's one must-have and an item that's downright dangerous to your pet.

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    Timothy Hay

    If you're not experienced with guinea pigs, you might think that a pellet labeled as a complete diet is all your new little piggy needs. Unfortunately, if you only feed pellets, you leave out a critical part of your pet's diet.

    All adult guinea pigs need an unlimited amount of good quality timothy hay. Not only is the hay a food, it also makes your pet chew much more than simply eating pellets can accomplish. This wears down the animal's constantly growing teeth and helps prevent...MORE dental problems.

    If you have a pregnant or nursing guinea pig or a baby under a year old, feed alfalfa hay. Give all other piggies timothy since alfalfa is too rich for a regular diet and can cause health problems.

    You don't need to buy a fancy type of timothy hay with herbs, dried fruit or vegetables added. Those additions are on a par with human junk food. They have little if any nutritional value and the fruit is high in sugar. Get fresh, plain, good quality hay and feed your guinea pig vitamin-rich fresh vegetables separately.

    Timothy hay also gives you many opportunities to enrich your guinea pig, and you can feed it in a variety of ways. Try stuffing it into cardboard tubes saved from toilet paper rolls or fill up a small paper bag. Or clear a spot in the cages and let each of guinea pig have a pile of hay in which to play.

    You can also try a hay ball, but take off the roller frame that comes with it because that can be dangerous for piggies.

    Remember that guinea pigs, like humans, can't manufacture their own vitamin C. Choose a pellet enriched with this important vitamin, and check the date on the bag to make sure the food is fresh. Vitamin C degrades quickly, so your guinea pig's main source should come from fresh vegetables and fruits provided daily. Otherwise, your pet risks developing scurvy.

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    Bad: Exercise Balls and Wheels

    Guinea pig exercise ball

    Movies like "G-Force" feature guinea pigs in balls and wheels, leading people to think, "Wouldn't it be cute to buy one of those for my pet?" Unfortunately, that would be a huge mistake.

    Exercise balls and wheels are appropriate for some pocket pets like rats, mice, gerbils and hamsters, but they should never, ever be used for guinea pigs. This is true even if the product is specifically labeled or marketed for guinea pigs.

    Piggies have a different anatomy and they can badly...MORE injure their backs with an exercise ball or wheel. Also, a ball is too enclosed and doesn't provide enough air circulation which can lead to heat stroke -- the condition is often fatal for guinea pigs.

    If you want your guinea pig to safely get enough exercise, buy the largest possible cage and give your pet floor time in a safe area.

    Lap time is also an important part of a guinea pig's day. Although not all piggies are cuddly, many love time out of their cage to sit on their owners' laps. Always hold your guinea pig in a towel to protect yourself from potty accidents.