Whether it’s work responsibilities for a day or two, a weekend away, or a week-long summer holiday, even the most responsible guinea pig owner needs to leave their cuddly cavy alone for an extended period. If you find yourself in this predicament, you’re probably wondering how long can a guinea pig be left alone?
With life slowly returning to normal after COVID, we’re being asked this question more frequently. This is why we’re focusing on this particular topic. Carry on reading to find out everything you need to know about leaving your guinea pig on its own, including how long is acceptable, how to prepare for when you are away and what you need to do if you’re going to be gone three days or more.
How Long Can You Leave a Guinea Pig Alone?
A guinea pig on its own is at risk of dehydration, starvation, injury, illness and loneliness, which is why it needs constant care and attention. Although some websites suggest that you can leave a cavy alone for a maximum of 24 hours, we recommend no more than 12.
5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Leave Your Guinea Pig Alone
We’ve already mentioned that guinea pigs shouldn’t be left alone for too long. In this section, we discuss the reasons why in a bit more detail.
1. Guinea pigs eat a lot
A healthy guinea pig gets through a lot of hay and pellets and needs a constant supply of both. It also needs access to fresh vegetables. Not only is a fibre-rich diet important for its digestive system and overall health, but it’s also essential for a piggy’s dental health. You see, because its teeth are constantly growing, chewing on the right foods helps keep its teeth short.
Worried about your guinea pig’s diet? This article gives you all the information you need about what foods to feed your cavy and what to avoid.
2. Guinea pigs also drink a lot
Without water, your guinea pig can quickly become dehydrated, which can lead to all sorts of long term health problems. No matter how many water bowls you place around the hutch, there is a good chance that they get knocked over. And while water bottles are a much better idea, they can also leak or become clogged.
3. Your guinea pig needs company
A cavy on its own can experience boredom, depression and loneliness, which can lead to behavioural problems as well as issues with its health. If you’re regularly away, we recommend keeping two guinea pigs or more together.
Find out everything you want to know about lonely guinea pigs here.
4. Guinea pigs can get sick quickly
Being so tiny and a prey animal, a guinea pig’s health can take a turn for the worst quickly and will need your intervention as a matter of urgency. Constant care and attention are essential so that you can identify signs your piggy isn’t well.
And it’s not just illness that poses a risk to your cavy. Getting into quarrels with each other or hurting themselves on something in the enclosure will also need urgent medical attention.
Keeping an eye on your piggy’s health is vital. This article explains how to carry out routine health checks and what action to take if something is wrong.
5. Changes in temperature pose a threat
If your guinea pig lives indoors, it must be protected from extreme temperature changes. Extreme cold and heat can play havoc with your cavy’s health, which is why you need to be on hand to make sure it’s comfortable and safe.
Outdoor guinea pigs, on the other hand, need protection from sudden weather changes. It’s not only a change in the temperature that can play havoc with your piggy’s health; it’s also being exposed to rain, snow and wind.
7 Tips To Keep Your Guinea Pig Safe When You’re Away
We know it’s not always possible to be with your guinea pigs around the clock. If you’re going to be away for over 12 hours, you need to plan and prepare to make sure everything is in place to keep your piggies as safe and comfortable as possible.
Here are our top 7 tips on how to care for your guinea pigs when you’re away from the house for the day.
1. Make sure there is enough food
Whether you’re away for a few hours or the entire day, your piggies need access to hay at all times. We recommend placing timothy hay throughout the enclosure as well as in hay racks. These handy little units are a great way to store more hay while keeping it dry.
On the subject of food, it’s crucial that you don’t leave fruit in the cage while you’re out. While absolutely delicious, most fruits are high in sugar, and too much can lead to all sorts of health issues, including diarrhoea.
2. Water bottles are a must
A healthy guinea pig is a well-hydrated guinea pig, so make sure there is plenty of water available. Water bowls, as already mentioned, can get tipped over quickly, which is why water bottles with a spout are a much better idea.
Place a few of these around the hutch and before you leave, check that the spouts are all working and that there are no leaks.
3. Check that your guinea pigs have enough space
Something to keep in mind is how much cavies enjoy their space. If you’re leaving yours on its own for an extended period, it must have enough room to explore and forage safely and comfortably.
Also, make sure there are areas where it can sleep, find shelter, and hideaway. And remove any objects that could result in an injury. Remember to never leave your cavy unattended in an outdoor run or indoor enclosure!
4. Prevent fights from breaking out
If you’ve recently welcomed a new guinea pig into the herd, ensure they all get along before leaving them alone for too long. Fights can break out quickly, leaving guinea pigs hurt, stressed out and anxious.
5. Keep the temperature consistent
Guinea pigs thrive in temperatures between 18 and 24°C. Anything colder than this leaves them at risk of developing bronchial issues, while warmer temperatures expose them to heatstroke and dehydration.
To keep your piggies as comfortable as possible while you’re away, it’s worth investing in ice pods and self-heating blankets. These hutch essentials help your pets regulate their temperatures, regardless of how cold, or hot, it gets.
6. Toys will keep boredom at bay
Whether you’re at home or away, a guinea pig needs as much physical and mental stimulation as possible. Boredom busters help keep your pet active while also stopping destructive behaviour, such as chewing its cage and getting into fights with hutch mates.
7. Get a surveillance camera to keep an eye on things when you’re away
If you’re leaving your guinea pigs alone for a day or two, you may want to invest in a surveillance camera to keep an eye on things. There are some great options available that link to your phone, allowing you to supervise your piggies, albeit from afar.
If you notice something amiss or that water and food supplies are running low, you can call in a family member or neighbour to quickly help out.
How To Care For Your Guinea Pigs If You’re Away From Home For 24 Hours Or More
Although some websites suggest that it’s okay to leave your guinea pigs alone for a weekend, we recommend that you don’t. Should work or family commitments come up that need you to be away from your piggies for 24 hours or more, you need to plan accordingly.
Before you leave your cavy alone, you must follow our 7 tips mentioned above to make sure it’s fed, has enough water and all the other essentials. However, there are a few more things to think about.
Ask a family member or neighbour
Ask a family member, housemate or neighbour to keep an eye on your guinea pig while you’re away. This will include making sure there is plenty of food and water available at all times and that there are no apparent injuries.
A guinea pig first aid kit is essential, and remember to leave a contact number for your vet in case of an emergency.
Get a piggy sitter
If there is no one within the family to care for your cavies while you’re away, you could always hire a piggy sitter. These paid pet sitters will pop in once or twice a day to check that everything is okay. Some will even stay in your home while you’re away to take care of your pets.
Check your piggy into a boarding kennel
A boarding kennel is another option if you’re going to be away from home for more than a weekend. They provide around the clock care for pets, and you have peace of mind knowing that your piggy isn’t on its own.
Ask your vet about boarding care
If all else fails, you could ask your local vet about their boarding facilities. While this may cost a little more, knowing your piggy is being looked after by professionals that can offer immediate care is worth every penny.
Checklist When Leaving Your Guinea Pig Alone
Before you leave for your summer holiday, you must make sure your guinea pigs are happy, healthy and comfortable.
Our checklist will help you prepare.
- Do a thorough health check before you go. Trim nails, make sure teeth are short and give them a bath if necessary.
- Stock up on timothy hay and pellets.
- Make sure water bottle spouts are working and that there are no leaks.
- If need be, divide feuding piggies or place them in separate enclosures.
- Label any medicines and leave detailed instructions on how to as much detail as possible on how to administer them, how much needs to be given and what times of the day.
- Check that the hutch is secure and that all exit and access points are closed. Repair any weak points to stop your piggies from escaping and stop potential predators from getting in.
- Leave lists for the pet sitter, family member or neighbour. Even if they have experience with guinea pigs, yours will be used to a particular routine with you. Make it as detailed as possible, and remember to include meal times, floor or run time and special treats.
This checklist will come in handy for your pet sitter. Remember to print it out and keep it in an easy to find spot.
To finish off
Guinea pigs should never be left alone for more than 12 hours at a time. If you’re going to be away for an extended period, your piggies must have everything they need to keep them healthy and comfortable, including lots of food, water and toys. Ask a friend or neighbour to keep an eye on things or get a professional pet sitter in.
While out of sight may be out of mind, your guinea pig’s health is your responsibility and should be a top priority when you’re away.
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