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What to Do When You Inherit the Class Pets: Make a Natural Guinea Pig Run

What to Do When You Inherit the Class Pets: Make a Natural Guinea Pig Run

Many elementary school classrooms are tempted to keep pets in the classrooms to provide some experiential learning for the students. Guinea pigs are a common choice. Come December or June, however, the school will be closed for weeks or months at a time, and someone has to care for those pets. Teachers sometimes step in, but often a class parent is called upon to help, and sometimes that vacation visit turns into forever. What should you do if you inherit the class pets?

Learn the basics of guinea pig care

The first thing to know is that if the class has two guinea pigs, you should be kind enough to take them both. Guinea pigs are social animals and are happiest when housed with another guinea pig of the same gender. Each guinea pig does best with eight square feet of cage space, however, so two guinea pigs mean a rather large cage. Make sure that the one you’re given for the guinea pigs has solid flooring, as guinea pigs can’t stand up to wire mesh underfoot.

Your guinea pigs will, no doubt, come from school with some instructions and supplies. Make sure you change the paper bedding weekly and clear out old food and waste daily. Change the water in the hanging bottle daily as well, and give that bottle a good cleaning with hot soapy water weekly. Provide plenty of cardboard and untreated wood for them to gnaw on.
Grass hay and guinea pig pellets should make up the bulk of your new pets’ food, with some fresh food to supplement their diet. They can be picky, but many like vegetables such as carrot shavings, kale stems, and celery leaves. Fruit is a favorite, but before you give them all of your strawberry hulls and orange sections, know that you should limit fruit to prevent obesity. Make sure your guinea pigs get Vitamin C either from the fresh food or through supplementation in their water, because their bodies don’t store this vitamin naturally.

A guinea pig project that’s well worth the effort

Your new pets probably came to your hand-tamed. They spent time getting acclimated to a classroom and to children’s handling. This makes your job easier. Once hand-tamed, one thing guinea pigs benefit from is the occasional excursion out of the cage for a run. They need the exercise, and they are not natural wheel animals like gerbils and hamsters. But they tend to gnaw whatever they run across, and you don’t want that to be your best shoes or the power cord to the television! How can you meet your guinea pigs’ needs and keep your home intact?
Consider constructing a guinea pig run. Make the top and sides of metal mesh on a wood frame so you can see the guinea pigs, with a trap door or two in the top for getting them in and out. Give it a solid floor for indoor use, but attach the floor to the rest of the box in such a way that you can take the top and sides outside and let your pets run in the grass, leaves, and sticks in temperate weather. When you’re using the run inside, you’ll have to get creative to make it interesting for them. Add some leaves for burrowing and rustling in, twigs for chewing, and cardboard boxes or tubes as convenient hiding places – maybe even a tiny guinea pig wading pond in a shallow plastic container!

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