Thursday, February 13, 2014

How to Care for Your Guinea Pig when Going Out Of Town

Sometimes, humans have obligations that require them to leave home. Maybe their friends or families need them to attend a wedding, or maybe their jobs need them to go on a business trip somewhere. If you're a human and you are required to be elsewhere for an extended period of time, make sure you have a plan for your guinea pigs. Here are your main options:

1. Find a good pet sitter (or two). Try to pick someone you know to be reliable; someone with previous guinea pig experience would be great. They should be able to come at least once a day; we recommend having two visits per day if at all possible, however. It's possible that it might be more convenient to have one pet sitter in the morning and one in the evening, depending on their schedules. Make sure you have extra house keys made for your sitters. We also recommend having one additional key copy made, which you can either give to a designated backup pet sitter, or hide somewhere near your front door (if you feel safe doing so). You should write out a detailed care sheet with the following information for your pet sitter(s) with the following information:
  • The amount of food your guinea pigs should receive and when. 
    • Make sure it's clear that guinea pigs can have unlimited hay, but should not have unlimited access to fruit, vegetables or pellets.
    • You can make things easier for your sitter by putting a measuring cup in your pellets and putting our daily veggies in Tupperware containers in your refrigerator. 
    • Keep hay, pellets, and other necessities out in the open so your sitter doesn't have to look for them. Tupperware containers should be kept in the most visible position when you open your refrigerator: on the top shelf in the center. 
    • If you have other pets besides guinea pigs, make sure it is clear to the sitter which pet foods are for which pet. You don't want your piggies being fed food that isn't meant for them.
    • You can put labels on everything if you want to make sure there is no confusion ("Feed 1/8 cup of these pellets every morning", "This is hamster food, not guinea pig food!", etc.).
  • A reminder to refill the water bottle. 
    • Specify which water your sitter should use if you have filtered water (e.g. a Brita filter). 
    • Give instructions for how to hook the water bottle onto the side of the cage if it's not obvious. The kind we currently have has a U-shaped hook that goes behind the bottle outside the cage with the nozzle sticking in through the bars; one of our pet sitters tried to put the bottle back on the inside of the cage, and couldn't figure out why the hook wouldn't hold it. 
  • Instructions for floor time (optional, but preferable).
    • Make sure there is nothing on or near the floor (wires, unsafe plants, etc.) that your piggies can chew own while the pet sitter gives them floor time. 
  • Cleaning instructions.
    • If you're only going to be gone a short time, this may not be necessary.
    • Keep in mind this requires significantly more work on the part of your pet sitter than just feeding us, especially if you're using fleece. Make sure your sitter doesn't mind the extra time and inconvenience if a cage cleaning will be required of them. You may want to thank them appropriately for the extra work (pay them, take them out to dinner, etc.).
  • Reminder of what the right temperature for your guinea pig is (generally 65°-75°F) if it's summer or winter, and you're concerned your piggies might get too hot or too cold.
  • A way to contact you. This will most likely be your cell phone number and/or email address. Encourage your sitter to contact you if he or she has any questions.
  • The name and number of your vet, and your preferred animal hospital if vet is closed. You can let your sitter know that you'll cover any expenses that arise, or you can leave an envelope with cash for emergencies. 
2. Bring your guinea pigs to stay with another human. Unless they happen to have guinea pigs themselves, you'll probably need to bring over your cage, food and other supplies. The same considerations generally apply as with option #1.

3. You can hire a professional pet sitter. Guinea Pig Zone has a list of Pig Sitters, though unfortunately it currently only has 5 entries so far. If none of them happen to be near you, you have a few other options:
Before you entrust your guinea pigs to a stranger, make sure you do your homework. Google the pet sitter, look for them on Yelp and Angie's List, and anything else you can think to make sure they're going to be responsible.

4. You can leave your guinea pig with an animal boarding facility.
As with option #3, you should always do your homework on boarding facilities before entrusting them with your guinea pig.

5. You can bring your guinea pigs with you. Traveling is stressful to guinea pigs, however, so you shouldn't consider this option unless you'll be gone for at least five days. If you're going to use this option, make sure you have decent travel cages for your piggies. We're fans of the All Living Things Small Animal Carrier (Large size). Line the carrier with a towel to absorb waste. Maintain a proper temperature in the car. If possible, bring cozies or something familiar from home. Make sure you give us food and water regularly during the ride. Set up our cage ASAP upon arrival.

Human, you're not going anywhere, are you?


  1. When our humans go away, it's only for one or two nights, so they just give us lots of extra hay and food and water and veggies, and we stay home on our own. We don't mind! (They gave another human an extra key to come in and feed us and stuff in case of emergency.)

    1. One or two nights is probably fine, but we would consider two to be the limit. Another idea to consider: you can set up a webcam to monitor your piggies while you're away. You'll have peace of mind that way, and you'll probably know sooner if there's any sort of emergency that your backup human should know about. :-)

  2. Great post! You've covered so many details, and I appreciate all the good links to resources. xo Jennifer

  3. Thank you! Our humans are sending us to a boarding/spa/vet for guinea pigs when they go away!! (We think. That's what we've heard.)
    Ashley & Wendy