Guinea pigs are great animals. They are cute and friendly when you keep them as pets. Moreso, their little ones-also known as pups-are a sight to behold.
These little creatures have bigger ears and legs than their bodies, making them look unique and wonderful. As such, they should be handled with utmost care.
It doesn’t matter whether you bought them from a local breeder or they were just given birth by their mother within your home. What is important is how you will look after them as they grow and develop.
Baby guinea pigs are indeed one of the cutest infant animals you will ever come across. They are born ready to face the world as it is since they come fully furry with their eyes open.
They are even ready to have solid food from day one. This doesn’t mean they should be left on their own. Instead, they need your care from the moment they are born.
Caring for Baby Guinea Pigs
Taking care of your baby guinea pigs is not a walk in the park. It is a tricky affair in addition to being demanding. You should not take it lightly. This is because there are a few important points to consider before taking up this task.
To begin with, you need to be sure that the mother guinea pig is not feeding the pups. It is unlikely to find the mother not taking good care of the little guinea pigs unless you are certain that she is dead.
In general, mother guinea pigs don’t constantly tend to the needs of their babies. They just feed their pups only a few times a day and leave them on their own. This does not imply that the mother is ignoring her babies.
Take a look at each baby to assess their progress. Those that are well taken care of will have round tummies, stay active and bright all day long, and even make some little noises to show that they are happy.
On the other hand, neglected pups will be cold, have sunken bellies, and look lethargic. If you notice these changes you can take the initiative of monitoring their weight daily to be sure that they are gaining weight appropriately.
Handling Baby Guinea Pigs
Before you can handle your little guinea pigs, make sure to wash your hands well. Washing your hands helps to get rid of bacteria and bad smells that can possibly stress the pups.
Once they are clean, dry your hands using some clean, fresh hay or wipe them on the mother guinea pigs’ fur to make them have the scent they are used to.
Feeding and Keeping Baby Guinea Pigs Warm
It is recommended to start assisting the baby guinea pigs with natural feeding before resorting to bottle or syringe feeding. Hold the mother guinea pig in your arms gently before putting each baby to suckle from her nipples as a way of promoting self-feeding.
If the babies don’t suckle from the nipples properly or the mother becomes uncooperative, you can turn to assist feeding as part of their care. Their diet should be well-balanced with essential nutrients to keep them healthy.
While doing so, ensure that your baby guinea pigs are warm and comfortable by keeping them in a carry cage or a small box. You can provide heat to two or more babies before allowing them to keep the rest of the pups warm.
If you are dealing with only one baby guinea pig, use a heat pack or warm water bottle wrapped in a towel to act as an excellent source of heat for this little pet.
Weaning Baby Guinea Pigs
Young guinea pigs suckle their mothers up to the age of 3 to 6 weeks. From there, the mother decreases the frequency of feeding gradually until the little guinea pigs lose interest. The same case should apply when assist feeding them.
Baby guinea pigs are known to start nibbling solid food when they are just a few days old. But this does not allow you to start their weaning process this early. What you need to do is to continue providing them with the feeding formula until they attain the right age to be weaned.
Feeding them formula is recommended because it helps control the growth of harmful pathogens. Most of the pathogens are in the form of bacteria and baby guinea pigs introduce them into their system through assist feeding.
The weaning process, however, should be done in stages. At the age of 5 to 6 weeks, you should start diluting the formula using clean drinking water. At least 25% for water and 75% for the formula is a good ratio to get started.
You can gradually reduce the percentage of the formula milk as the babies grow until they lose interest and start eating other types of food.
At the age of 8 weeks, you can transfer your little guinea pigs to a new home. This is only possible after you are pretty sure that they are completely weaned and feeding on solid foods on their own.
By week 12 to 14 you can sterilize the male guinea pigs. The same procedure should be done on females aged between 16 and 20 weeks. Most importantly, make sure to keep apart male and female baby guinea pigs aged between 6 and 8 weeks to prevent early pregnancy cases.
Do Baby Guinea Pigs Need Vaccine?
The astounding answer is yes! Baby guinea pigs need vaccination. Vets recommend that most pets including guinea pigs should get vaccinated regularly.
These vaccinations are important because they protect your small pets against contracting nasty illnesses and diseases from other pets.
Sadly, there are no vaccinations for guinea pigs in most countries across the globe. If your country doesn’t offer vaccinations for guinea pigs, you can just provide a good diet to keep them healthy and strong.
Their diet must contain nutrients such as vitamin C and minerals. Weekly health checks can also help them stay healthy and live longer.
Can Baby Guinea Pigs Survive Without Mother?
Yes, they can. But only if they get good care. If the mother guinea pig dies leaving her pups behind, you may use a foster guinea pig mother to raise them if at all possible. Otherwise, you need to apply hand raising as the alternative option for their survival.
Bear in mind that humans are not the best option or a reliable substitute for guinea pig mothers. Again raising orphaned baby guinea pigs can be stressful and unrewarding if you are not prepared to commit yourself.
Do Guinea Pigs Eat Their Babies?
Yes, guinea pigs are likely to eat their newborn pups. This can be frustrating and upsetting especially if you were looking forward to breeding more guinea pigs.
But this trait does not just pop up for no reason. Instead, it is a biological trait and it comes about for two major reasons:
1.Due to the inexperience of the mother guinea pig when trying to clean her young ones. The mother may accidentally injure her young pup with her teeth immediately after birth. In the process, she ends up feeding on the injured ones.
2.Malnoushment is another reason why the mother guinea pig can eat her newborn. This is the case, especially when she’s severely malnourished or her diet lacks vital nutrients such as vitamins.
Can You Touch and Hold Baby Guinea Pig?
Yes! You can touch and even hold baby guinea pigs. Before you do that, make sure your hands are clean and dry. If possible, touch the mother guinea pigs to have your hands scented for pups to feel comfortable.
Try to be as gentle as possible since young guinea pigs are squeaky and jumpy when they feel threatened.
Also, don’t handle them so often because it may disrupt the bond between them and their mother. At worse, handling baby guinea pigs can make their mother hate or reject them.
When touching them, hold one hand behind their bottom and one under their tummy before lifting them close to your body.
When Do You Separate Babies from Their Mom?
You can separate baby guinea pigs from their mother when they are 3 to 6 weeks old. This is the age they become sexually mature.
It is also the time you need to separate males from females to avoid unwanted pregnancies.
How Many Guinea Pigs in a Litter?
A litter of guinea pigs can have 1 to 8 pups at once. The most common litter consists of 2 to 4 baby guinea pigs. One female can produce up to 5 litters in a year
Caring about your young guinea pigs is one of the most fulfilling tasks if you are a committed pet owner. Keep in mind that these are animals just like other domestic animals that require some basic needs to survive.
That said, you must ensure that your little guinea pigs have access to a nutritionally balanced diet to keep them healthy and happy. Apart from that, provide shelter in the form of cages to protect them from predators and harsh weather conditions.
Most significantly, ensure that they are vaccinated against common diseases that may negatively impact their growth and development.