Ask the Cavies Back Issues

Ask the Cavies
June - December 1997


Ninth Edition

07 June 97

Audrey Vesota ( Since it's spring I would like to take my guinea pigs outside to eat grass. How warm should it be outside? And what kinds of plants should my guinea pigs stay away from?

Wheeker: I love spring and summer since we always get time outside. It should be comfortably warm, not too windy and not too hot either. We usually get to go out in the late afternoon when most of the lawn is in the shade. Also, our mama makes sure that we are safe in a pen she made since there are dogs and cats in the area. Back when it was Sundae, Truffles, and I, we just sat in a pen mama made with her legs ... but when Chesapeake came around, that area was way too small for us since Chesapeake would rather run around than just sit and eat grass.

You need to stay away from plants that are fertilized or ones that may have been used as a dog or cat bathroom. These aren't good for us to eat. Also, if you don't know if a plant is okay to eat, keep your cavy away from it. It's better to be safe than sorry.

Abby ( I'm scared because they'll have to go [to the vet] in their traveling box. Last time, they were squeaking and squeeling and making the box jump around. I wish there were some other way to transport them.

Wheeker: Papa got us a small cat carrier and puts a couple towels on the bottom. Three of us fits very comfortably in it. It is very cozy and we feel secure in it ... and we can hide under the towels when papa hits a big bump in the road.

updatedLynne ( would like to add some advice. I have some advice for the person who can't get their guinea to travel in the car. What I do is I have a big, thick canvas bag that I put a little basket in. The basket is a shell so that if the bag is bumped the guinea is not hurt. Line the bottom of the bag with a rag and put the guinea pig in. Mine likes this very much. Plus it's like a lightweight carrier. Then I take a little piece of carrot (or what ever your guinea's favorite treat is and give it to the guinea right when you are putting it in the car. This makes it so that every time it goes for a ride it knows it is getting a treat for going.

This is really going to sound silly so I figured I would put this in so people can have a really good laugh. I was a bit paranoid about taking Rusticana (my guinea) in the car. So I bought an infant car car seat. And he just loves to ride in it. I have pictures. He stays in it when I put him in and when it's dinner time I just bring the carrier to the table and he eats dinner with the family. I know this is strange, but hey I am a strange person. Have a nice day.

Wheeker: Thanks for your input. Maybe mama can get a bag for me, too. And maybe some of food on trips, too. We never get snacks on the road. How about sharing some of those pictures?

Crystal ( Help, my guinea pig is going bald and I don't know what to do.

Wheeker: Baldness can be caused by many conditions. A few of them are lice, mites, or fungi. You can guess as to what is causing the problem and finding over the counter remedies to try, but if you guess wrong, your cavy might experience more stress from your treatment (and that can make the problem worse). What my mama and papa would do is take us to the vet and have him give us tests and prescribe a treatment.

Sue ( We have had our guinea pig for two years. Lately, she has had more difficulty moving around. I discovered she has vit C deficiency. The problem is that she is a very fussy eater and we spoil her. Her diet mainly consists of romaine lettuce, cucumber and a seed chew stick she likes. The vet gave her a vitamin c shot. Now I have to figure out a way to get enough vitamin c in her every day. I've tried vitamin c tablets, both chewable and regular. No, it doesn't work. Also, oranges, grapefruit, tomatoes, limes. She will eat cantelope, but very much of it gives her diarrhea. Today, I am going to give her some vitamin c crystals mixed with water with an eye dropper. Do you have any suggestions?

Wheeker: One thing I can't pass up is parsley. I love parsley. Have you tried that? It's high in vitamin C. Also, you can find a good list of vitamin C foods on the Guinea Pig FAQ. I don't like kale, but that's another one you can try. Also, collard greens, endive, escarole (basically most dark leaf vegetables). We don't like fruits, but we love vegetables. Also, there have been times when mama has given powdered vitamin C mixed with water with an eyedropper. It works well, and it tastes good. If you do it this way, a little bit a couple times a day is better than giving a bunch at one time.

updatedDale and the Mad Scramblers! ( would like to add another suggestion. If your little girl likes cucumber do what I do: I crush a Vitamin C chewable tablet up and sprinkle it on a cucumber slice that I just cut. I then rub the powder into the slice so it mixes with the meat and juices. My gang loves this as a treat! I take a 500 mg tablet for seven slices (about 70 mg per pig). If you can get the powdered Vit C you could use that. The trick is to get the Vitamin C up over 20 mg. That's double the minimum required. Of course, like people, Cavies will discharge the excess Vitamin C, so don't panic if you see some very bright yellow or orange spots, it just means you're giving her more than she needs, which is just what you want to do.

Wheeker: Thanks for your input. I wonder if it will work with apples. I like apples. Anyway, the Mad Scramblers have a real nice site at: Go by and say that Wheeker sent you. You'll be glad you did.

Larissa Kozisek ( The problem I'm having with Cinnamon is I can't get her to calm down. She's five weeks old and that probably has somthing to do with it, but I'm worried she might get too stressed out. She's always really nervous, and the only way I can get her to stop squeeking for her mommy and acting jittery when I'm holding her is to feed her, and then she's still nervous. What can I do to calm her down?

Wheeker: All babies like to be with their mamas. You need to be patient. Just hold her for short periods of time at first. Then lengthen the amount of time as she gets used to it. Talk with her quietly and pet her gently. Soon she will learn you are a friend.

Chips and Blacki ( We would like to our mama to buy a new cage but the problem is she doesn't know where to buy a cage. She went to almost every pet shop and still can't find a suitable cage for us! We are growin bigger and bigger! It is a tight squeeze in this old cage! Help us!

Wheeker: Make one! You can see the one that mama made for Sundae and I in last year's archives. Also, Seagull has a very nice setup at his site.
Alyx ( >My name is Alyx and I'm going to be getting a guinea pig for my birthday. I was wondering if it's better to get a girl or a boy or if one would be more cuddly than the other? Are there any advantages of one over the other? Thank you for answering my questions. I love all of the different guinea pig web sites!!

Wheeker: We are all equally cuddly. It may be easier to add another friend later if you get all girls. Although there are times when girls fight, it is more likely that two boys will fight. Other than that, we are all wonderful.

If you or your cavies would like to participate or you have questions that can be answered by Wheeker, Truffles, Chesapeake, or Aurora, e-mail them at:

Please contribute your questions and comments, otherwise, this column could get very boring -- we promise to respond to all, as best as we can ! By the way, contributors will be acknowledged on our thanks page.


Tenth Edition

16 Dec 97

Mama's been taking her laptop to school and using it to write tons of papers for graduate school, so I haven't gotten to get on it for months ... and look at all my mail! Anyway, for time sake and since lots of you asked the same questions, I'll just give answers rather than include all your letters.

Claudia and Penny asked about Handling Cavies.

Wheeker: Mama and papa hold and cuddle us every day. We didn't like it much at first, but everyone but Truffles likes it now. It can take some time for us to get used to being held. I sort of remember how afraid I was when I came to live with mama and papa, but Sundae let me know that they really were nice people and I started to trust them more as I got to know them.

Claudia and Penny asked about Run Away Cavies.

Wheeker: Active cavies are healthy cavies. If you see us running and jumping, that means we're healthy and happy. Some of us like to run away when someone's trying to pick us up because it's a real fun game. After all, it looks real funny when these big gigantic hands are following after you and don't come close to catching you.

Tribble, Marie, Geoff, and Brad asked about Introducing New Friends.

Wheeker: First of all, make sure you have a large enough home for your cavies to live together. Each should get about 2 square feet each. Then it will be large enough so your cavies will probably be able to live together as long as their personalities don't clash. We get along fine here, but sometimes the younguns get on my nerves. Also, make sure you keep the newcomers by themselves for around a month to make sure they aren't sick or have icky things like lice or mites. Mama's real good at finding lice on piggies ... and it all started with me.

What mama does to introduce new ones is she gives all of us a bath and then puts us on the floor. She sits with us and watches to make sure we accept the newcomer, then we all go home. I don't know what she would do if we didn't get along since we've always gotten along. I suppose she would keep the newcomer in a different place. So, if you're thinking about getting a friend for your cavy, be ready to keep them separate if they don't get along.

Claudia asked about Sleeping.

Wheeker: Some of us like to keep our eyes open while resting. We like to stay alert. Others, like Aurora, close their eyes and won't wake up for anything unless you jump on top of them.

Gaileen and Geoff asked about our Heat cycle.

Wheeker: A cavy's heat cycle is approximately fifteen days. It can cause behavior changes ... I kind of like to chase everyone else around. Sundae always got kind of moody. And Aurora seems to cry more than usual.

Claudia and Cassidy asked about Hay.

Wheeker: We need hay in our diet because it provides fiber and lets us eat all day without getting fat. At our house, we get as much timothy hay as we want every day. And we get some oat hay and alfalfa hay. Any grass hay is good (like bermuda or orchard grass). Oat hay is good in small amounts, but it is a little fattening. Alfalfa is good for an occasional treat, but it has too many calories and too much calcium to be an everyday hay.

We should also have foods rich in vitamin C (such as parsley or kale) daily. You can experiment with other veggies and fruits (We think that persimmons are pretty good ... and we love peaches).

Kevin asked about Cedar Bedding.

Wheeker: Cedar can cause many problems including respiratory and kidney problems. For more information see the Safe Pet Bedding FAQ. and Cal asked about Toys.

Wheeker: We like paper towel rolls ... and oatmeal cannisters. And a mound of hay is fun to run through.

Claudia and Cal asked about Baths.

Wheeker: They don't need baths as long as you keep their cage clean. However, if you have slight allergies, it can help decrease symptoms. That's one reason mama bathes us alot since papa has allergies.

Claudia asked about Cutting Toenails.

Wheeker: Mama cuts our toenails twice a month. All she does is turn us on our backs and cuts them with nail clippers. It doesn't hurt at all. Some people put brick in cages to trim down toenails, but we don't like walking on them cuz they hurt our feet. There is a site with a list of ways on cutting toenails out there, but I can't find it again. If anyone knows it, let me know.

Claudia asked about Mites or Lice.

Wheeker: You'll know if your cavies have lice or mites if they scratch alot or lose hair. You can also take them to the vet. It's a good idea to take them to the vet for a check up to make sure they are healthy.

Geoff asked about Traveling.

Wheeker: We can travel by plane. You just need to make sure the airline allows cavies and has a clean bill of health from a vet. There may be other requirements, so contact the airline beforehand so you make your plans. The Department of Agriculture has a nice brochure called Traveling With Your Pet that gives many more details. To get one, write to USDA-APHIS-Animal Care, 4700 River Road, Riverdale, MD 20737.


Eleventh Edition

31 Dec 97

Bridget Wu ( We got Tiramisu Saturday. Looks like his left eye is a bit watery, blinks a lot and seems smaller. Store people said this morning it should clear up in couple days, or they can give us another one, but after 2 days he's like family and we can't just dump him ... daddy also says how come his left ear is pink with white hair instead of brown like the rest of his body, maybe that's another sign of sickness, is it?

Wheeker: Watery eyes don't just clear up in a couple days, they are generally the sign of illness. I'm glad you want to be a responsible pet owner, and this means that Tiramisu probably needs to go to the vet and get medicine. Sometimes pet stores allow you to bring back a sick cavy and give you another one, but won't treat the little one's illness and it dies. We really hope your little one feels better soon.

As for his ears, often cavies' ears or skin on other parts of their bodies are different colors. My skin is all brown and Aurora's is all pink, but Chessie and Truffles have both. Truffles even has brown and white toenails. It's just something that makes us all unique.

Amanda ( I have a 13 week old female guinea pig named Spatches. When I first got her, she was really nice and cuddly. I guinea pig-proofed my bed room and the living room, then let her run around in those rooms. She really enjoyed it. After a week or so, she got more nippy and less cuddly. Then she started eating a chair. My sister moved the chair away so she wouldn't get into any more trouble. Right after that, she peed on her flute case. She is trained to pee in her shavings, so we didn't expect this from her. I put her in her cage for a while. When Spatches came out next, my sister was lying on the floor. Spatches came up to her being friendly. My sister moved her head back in fear of being nipped on the nose. Spatches peed right where her head was. I think that she might be seeking revenge. She hadn't had an accident for about 2 weeks, and both of these happened on the same day. She nips, jumps, and runs likenuts whenever we try to pick her up. So instead of picking her up we stick a box in her cage with a door cut in the side, she crawls in the box, then sit the box on the floor or on my lap. Whenever I hold her she tries to run away. This is not at all how she acted when we first got her.

Wheeker: Spatches sounds like she's just settling down. She probably didn't do those things before because she was just too scared to do anything. When we acted like that, mama just kept picking us up and letting us know that she loved us. She's always gentle with us. Sometimes Chessie gets a little nippy, but mama knows she doesn't mean it and just cuddles her even more. We all love it when mama does that and we trust that she won't hurt us.

John (jlewris@IDT.NET): I have 2 very special pigs. Skinny Pig is 1 yr. old female. I had a custom cage built for her, 3 ft. by 4 ft. I hold her all the time, kiss her and give her lots of loving. I am bringing my daughter up to do the same, love and respect all animals. The problem is with Chesnut. A three month old male I bought from a pet store because he looked so pathetic. He had a respiratory infection. I gave him sulfa by mouth and his nasal secretions dried up. He loves to be held and cuddled. Then I noticed his urine was brownish. I had it analyzed and he had some blood cells and crystals. Had him X-rayed but they didn't find any stones. Could it be excess Vit. C? I give him about 80 mg. in a tablet every day. Now I have found a black crusty patch on his back. No loss of hair and he dosen't scratch. Will take him back to the vet this week. He is getting nice and big now. Loves his veggies and hay. Both piggies cough sometimes.

Wheeker: Mama's never heard of excess vitamin C causing anything. And he may have needed the extra C when he was sick. He might not have stones now, but he may be prone to them or may have had a urninary tract infection. We hope he's okay and send him healing wheeks and cyber parsley.

Vhalling ( Is there any special care for new guinea pig babies? Three babies were born yesterday and we are not sure if they can be handled, etc.

Wheeker: We don't know much about babies, but we've heard that you can handle them right away. Just be sure not to hold them too long. They need to be with their mama and probably need to eat more often than older cavies.

Jonathan Franklin ( I used to have two guinea pigs. Just today, we lost one due to one of the many cats roaming around our neighbourhood. We figured out how to keep the cats out, but my main concern is will this in any way effect the other guinea pig? (they were both brothers and knew each other since birth.)

Wheeker: We are sorry for your loss. I know how you feel. My best buddy, Sundae, passed away in March. I still miss her dearly, but my three other friends have helped out alot. Mama got both Chesapeake and Aurora after Sundae passed away. They don't replace my big buddy, but they sure do make life unlonely.

Copyright 1997 M. E. Barr.


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