Guinea pigs are generally an inexpensive animal to buy, but you need to consider all of the related costs of first getting your pet and then paying for their upkeep.
- buying more than one guinea pig
- a habitat and nesting materials
- food and water containers
- hay, vitamin C-enriched pellet food, and fresh food
- grooming supplies
- environmental enrichment
- and veterinary costs.
The Cost Of Owning A Guinea Pig
The guinea pig is a very popular small pet from the rodent family. Unlike many rodents, they are naturally active during the day and very sociable.
When calculating the cost of acquiring a guinea pig, there are a few extra factors to consider.
Guinea pigs are social animals, so you need to have at least two and females enjoy living in a small group.
Also, guinea pigs require a habitat that allows them to move around and carry out different activities like sleeping, foraging for food, exploring, and keeping an eye on activities in the home.
There will be routine ongoing costs such as food, bedding substrate, cleaning materials, treats, toys, and other items for the habitat.
These ongoing costs need to be calculated for the life of your pets, which is five to six years or longer.
Small pets also need preventive health care visits to a veterinarian just like dogs and cats, and they may become ill or injured and require extra care.
If you travel for any reason, you need to have someone provide care for your guinea pigs. In some cases, this might require a paid pet sitter.
The Cost Of Buying A Guinea Pig
It is important to limit the ongoing cost for your guinea pigs by buying healthy animals that will not require any extra care that you are not prepared for.
Your first consideration is which of the thirteen recognized breeds are available, and which you would like to adopt. They can be divided into those with short coats:
- Abyssinian Satin
- Teddy Satin
—and those with long coats:
- Peruvian Satin
- Silkie Satin
While not a recognized breed, there are also hairless guinea pigs referred to as “skinny pigs.”
You are most likely to come across the American guinea pig, which has a coat that lies flat and smooth, or the Abyssinian, which has hair that sticks up in different directions. Both come in a range of coat colors and patterns.
Guinea pigs of these types are likely to cost you $10-40 each in a retail store (US).
Animals bought directly from a breeder can be found for a similar price of $10-50. Breeders are more likely to have other breeds, as well. Some tend to be more expensive, at up to $80 for pets and more for show-standard guineas.
Guinea pigs are widely available in adoption and rescue. It is a good idea to adopt through a reputable rescue who will provide veterinary screening and care and have information about the animal’s particular needs.
In this setting, fees vary and are used to support the activities of the rescue.
How Much Does A Guinea Pig’s Cage Cost?
You may be tempted to house your guineas in something small, with the intention of upgrading their home later. However, we recommend that, even if starting with a baby guinea pig, you opt for a full-sized habitat that they can use throughout their life.
Just ensure the bars are close enough together that they cannot slip through.
There are a lot of different options for providing a secure habitat that meets your pets’ needs. Let’s discuss a few of them.
The most popular is a fully enclosed wire cage. This cage should be wide, but need not be very tall as guinea pigs are not inclined to climb or jump and like to be at ground level.
A cage with a deep tray on the bottom will prevent bedding and nesting material escaping. This tray should be easy to remove and clean.
Cages made for guinea pigs are often a bit small. As a minimum, your guinea pig should be able to rear up, turn around, and run a few steps without banging into anything. Guinea pigs have a habit of happy hopping, called “popcorning.”
A good option is the Living World XL cage, which gives ample room to move but is easy to take apart and clean. Note how the top can be opened to easily reach your pet, and that the shelter area is at ground level and roomy enough for a pair or small group of guinea pigs.
This kind of cage will cost you around $150, but is a very good investment for your pet. It includes the shelter and food and water dishes.
Because guinea pigs are not great climbers or jumpers, you can also use an open-topped pen. However, this may not be a good idea in a household where the guinea pigs are not in a separate room and share their space with other pets or small children.
In general, a fully secure enclosure is better for peace of mind.
Some people keep guinea pigs in large aquariums or other solid-sided enclosures. This should be avoided as they do better in humidity levels of 50-60%. In solid-sided habitats, the humidity often becomes too high.
How Much Does Bedding Cost?
Inside the habitat, the guinea pigs must be provided with a place to hide when frightened. If the cage does not have a built-in nest box, one will need to be added.
The bottom of the habitat should be covered in loose, soft bedding made from either paper or non-toxic wood chips. You need a product that quickly absorbs urine.
The main cause of odor with small animal is when feces are in contact with urine, as this harbors bacteria that produce stinky ammonia gas. If your bedding quickly absorbs urine, this minimizes any odor. A paper product like Carefresh retails for about $15 and lasts up to a month.
There are many safe woodchip products also, but they can be more easily confused with unsafe products made from resinous woods like cedar. Guinea pigs live down close to their bedding. Products like cedar can irritate their nose and lungs and cause serious illness.
Bedding is made from small pieces of material. Your guinea pigs will enjoy having something larger material inside their next box. There are many suitable options and their availability varies by region. Consider straw, coconut fiber, corn husks, or paper towels.
How Much Do Guinea Pig Toys Cost?
Guinea pigs also need safe objects to chew on to avoid their sharp front teeth from growing too long.
Purchase products made specifically for rodents or rabbits and marketed by a reputable manufacturer and/or retailer who will ensure they are safe and non-toxic.
You should also use mild, pet-safe cleaners on the enclosure and permanent furniture and rinse them well before putting them back with the animals.
Depending on your choices, the initial furnishing for the enclosure may cost between $50 and $150.
Bedding material, nesting material, and chews will need to be replaced regularly to avoid odor. Expect a recurring monthly cost of $20-30.
How Much Does Guinea Pig Food Cost?
Make sure you feed your cavy a diet made for guinea pigs with the levels of vitamin C that they require.
A good complete diet such as Vitasmart costs about $10 per bag.
You can supplement this diet with timothy hay and fresh produce.
Other Guinea Pig Expenses!
Guinea pig claws may become overgrown. It is a good idea to get a small animal nail trimmer ($10) and train your guinea pigs to cooperate with having their nails trimmed.
Depending on their coat type you may need a grooming brush or mitt ($10).
When you first adopt your guinea pigs, find a veterinarian with guinea pig expertise. Visit them immediately after adoption and then, at a minimum, on an annual basis.
This will help establish that you have healthy piggies to start out, and if they become ill or injured later you will have a vet who is already familiar with your guinea pigs.
Guinea Pig Cost Sheet
Adding all of these factors together, we get an estimated budget for adopting a guinea pig.
Keep in mind, these are only approximate figures and will vary based on location and other factors.
Set up cost:
- Cage ($150)
- Cage furnishings ($50)
- Bedding ($15)
- Nesting material ($10)
- Food ($10)
- Toys and treats ($20)
- Cleaners and sundry items ($20)
- Guinea pigs ($30 each, so about $60)
- Veterinary visit ($75)
Total set up cost will be around $430. You can also expect a regular monthly cost averaging around $20-40.
It’s wise to count the cost of adopting an animal before you actually commit, so make sure that you can care for your new pet’s needs.
References and Resources
- Hutchinson, E., Avery, A., and VandeWoude, S. (2005). Environmental enrichment for laboratory rodents. ILAR Journal, 46(2), 148-161.
- Matthews, L. R., and Ladewig, J. (1994). Environmental requirements of pigs measured by behavioural demand functions. Animal behaviour, 47(3), 713-719.