Bathing

Guinea pigs should have a bath now and again to keep them clean and smelling great. Bathing also helps to reduce fungal and bacterial skin ailments and keeps their fur shiny and healthy. You can also use bathing to neutralise personal guinea pig smells when creating new pairs or groups.

How often should I bathe them?

I would personally not bathe a guinea pig more than once/twice a month at the very most (unless medical treatment is being carried out using medicated products), as over-bathing can strip the skin of its natural oils and contribute to dry and fungal skin problems.
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Ongoing Care

Cage Cleaning

Depending on what sort of enclosure you are keeping your rats in, you may need to clean anywhere from once a week up to a few times a week. If you notice your rat’s cage becoming dirty and smelly, it’s time to clean it out! Don’t let your rat live in its own filth, as an ammonia build up from soiled bedding can cause your rat to develop respiratory problems. Take out any uneaten and perishable foods after your rats are done, such as chicken bones or veges, as these can start rotting in the cage.
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Hutches and Cages

Happy guinea pigs have plenty of space to move and their housing should be spacious and interesting for them. Hutches are great for outdoor use and there are lots of exciting cage options for that spoiled house pet. Pampered guinea pigs also need space for all their toys and hidey holes!

Spacious Housing and Ideal Sizes

It is important that guinea pigs have spacious housing for a number of good reasons.

  • Boars require space to exercise to keep their muscles strong to help prevent abdominal prolapse of their important male parts.
  • Regular exercise keeps weight under control.
  • Space to run around in greatly reduces boredom and depression.

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Preparing for Owning Rats

The cage.

There are really two main types of good housing available for your rats. One is the ‘bird cage’ type and the other is the ‘aquarium’ type. Specialised rat cages in either of these forms should be readily available from your local pet store. Obviously larger pet stores will have a larger selection of cages to choose from. Whichever type of cage you choose, make sure there is enough room for the number of rats you will be buying. Rats need room to move around just like we do. A couple of things need to be taken into consideration when deciding on which type of cage to choose from.

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Buying Your Rats

Do you have preferred colours?

There are many varieties of colours and markings in rats. In fact there are so many that an entire section has been devoted to them on this website. Click here if you wish to jump directly there. Only the colours and markings available in Australia at this time have been covered. If you are after a specific colour or marking, then it is wise to enquire around ratteries in your area as they are likely to have well bred animals in a variety of colours/markings.
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Grooming

Grooming

The importance of grooming

Guinea pigs, like most other hairy creatures, moult just before the hottest time of the year and grooming them during this time will help them to shed unwanted hair and keep them cool. Guinea pigs also lose a small amount of hair all year round and so weekly grooming helps to keep the coat fresh and free of old hairs.

Grooming also plays an important part in maintaining the grease gland. All guinea pigs have a grease gland on their bottoms, and if the grease isn’t regularly cleaned away it can start to cake on into a greasy scab which will then need to be painstakingly removed with a degreaser (such as a mild washing up liquid or Swarfega) and a flea comb.

This is more of a problem in boars because they create more grease than sows do. Please read my guide to cleaning a grease gland to keep it clean and fresh.
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Australian Colours and Markings Guide

This is a guide to the types of rats you can get in Australia currently. This guide is NOT to be taken as any official standards or showing guide, rather it is an informal guide that most pet rat owners can look at to determine what their rats are. Photos will be added soon, but please be aware that due to lighting conditions and the contrast of your monitor, the real colour may not look much like the photo.
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Native Australian Rodents

Yes you read that correctly… Australia -does- have native rats. While Rattus rattus (Roof Rat) and Rattus norvegicus (Norway rat) are the ones most people know about, they are -not- native Australian rats. They were introduced to Australia and are considered feral pests. Many of Australia’s native rats are on the endangered list which is a crying shame. The introduction of non-aboriginal humans and other non-native animals has reduced some of these species to nearly extinct.

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First Time Owners

Guinea pigs could be the pet for you if….

  • You are vegetarian or dislike handling meat products

Guinea pigs are herbivores which means they only eat hay, plants, fruit and vegetables. Your fruit and vegetable leftovers also (mostly) won’t go to waste because guinea pigs can eat a huge variety of different fruits and vegetables, which has the added bonus of combining your food bills with theirs!

  • You’re not mobile enough or don’t want to walk a pet

Although they require a certain amount of exercise, guinea pigs don’t require you to walk them like dogs do.

Their exercise can be taken in a run in the garden, in a large indoor pen, or supervised in a room inside the house. All you have to do is put them down for their play time and then catch them again! If they already live in a large cage (the recommended minimum size is 2ft x 4ft for two guinea pigs with room for expansion), then they will be getting plenty of exercise in their own home.
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Meet My Rats and Mice

Note: I used to be a small-time breeder of rats but due to quite severe allergies to rat dander, especially in Summer, I’ve had to rehome most of them which was very depressing. I’ve got a small but growing population of mice now, and their dander/litter/hair doesn’t manage to get all over the house so they are manageable. I will begin breeding a few mouse litters in a while, but will only ever have one litter on the go at a time so that my allergies don’t object too much.

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Should I Buy Rats?

Do I have the time to properly care for two or more rats?

Luckily pet rats don’t take as much time out of your life as say a dog or a cat, but still a fair amount of time is needed each day for cage maintenance, playing with them, checking on their well-being etc. If your life is so busy that you cant own cats or dogs, then unless you have at least -some- time each morning or evening to see to your rats, its no good getting one in the assumption that they are ‘low maintenance’ pets.
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Database of Recommended Vets

Finding a good vet for your rats is a time consuming and nerve wracking experience. Unfortunately I have heard too many horror stories about vets who just dont care about rodents and treat them awfully or know next to nothing about them. Hopefully with your help I can compile this database of vets within Australia to help all rat owners find good vets with minimal worry. If you know of or go to a vet whom you think is good enough to reccommend to other rat owners, email me with their contact details and I will add it to this database.
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Nail Clipping

Anatomy of the nail

Guinea pigs have four toes on the front foot and three on the rear foot, giving you a total of fourteen nails to care for per pig! Nails on the front are generally smaller and sharper, while the nails on the rear are thicker and usually grow somewhat faster than those on the front.

The nail is a boney structure consisting of a tip with no blood or nerve endings and a small reserve of blood, also known as the “quick”, that sits just below the tip and runs into the paw. This is clearly visible in a guinea pig with white nails as they are almost transparent. Guinea pigs with black nails are slightly more difficult to trim as you can’t clearly see the quick.
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Saying Goodbye

A sad fact of life…

It’s inevitable that your beloved pets’ lives are going to come to an end, and for some people, the end of their rat’s life is a devastating blow. It is little comfort to know that everyone who owns pets has to go through this rough time of life, but it does mean that a large support basis exists. In the online world email lists, forums and chat programs all provide places for rat owners to communicate their joy, worries and finally their deep upset. The support in these communities can be phenomenal. More on contacting rat groups online is available here.
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Breeding Rats

Why do you want to breed rats?

Think carefully about breeding your rats. Why do you want to breed them? It can be hard to find homes for up to 15 or more rats and you could easily be left with many offspring who have grown up too much for people to want to buy. Before you decide to breed, try and figure out whether you have an outlet for the babies. Pet shops can be a good outlet, but BE CAREFUL. Many pet shops don’t care who buys the rats, and will sell to people who can’t/won’t care for them properly, or to snake owners as food. If you want to sell them privately, you will probably need to line up homes long before the litter is born, or failing that, advertise a heck of a lot. Bringing new rats into the world is no joke, it’s not something one should do without a lot of thought.
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Recognising and Traeting Illnesses

What sort of illnesses do rats get?

Rats have mercifully few problems here in Australia. We do not have some of the nastier bugs that are in such places as the UK and USA. However our rats can still get sick from a few things, and it pays to be able to recognise any problems before they have a chance to do a lot of damage to your rats. Below are a list of problems rats can get, and what to do about them.
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