Questions for your Pig Sitter…

With holiday time approaching and the need to leave your guinea pigs with a pet sitter, here are some points to consider when choosing a Pig Sitter. Pig Sitters often get booked up well in advance, leaving your guinea pigs’ holiday until the last minute often means there is nowhere available.

What is included in the price of your guineas’ stay?

  • Good meadow hay for eating must be freely available.
  • A guinea pig friendly bedding must be used. Dusty beddings can cause respiratory problems and shavings will make the skin more prone to fungal infection.Cages must be regularly  cleaned (a complete change twice weekly)  with an approved disinfectant and dirty/wet  bedding/hay removed daily. In addition hay and bedding must be topped up as removed.
  • Water bottles must be topped up daily, in hard water areas filtered water (using a Brita jug) is advisable. The same bottles should be returned to the same cage daily. Is there evidence that this is done, i.e. marked water bottles/colour coded bottles?
  • Daily inspection for any problems including monitoring of the guinea pigs in their cage. Problems can be detected simply by watching for ‘out of the ordinary’ behaviour whilst guinea is in their natural setting. Smaller establishments may be more able to provide quality monitoring.
  • Security when there is no one on the premises should be considered. Are guinea pigs left outside unsupervised in their runs?  Is the shed locked? Are they people ‘on site’ all the time?
Vet Visits
The Animal Welfare Act applies to boarding facilities too! Therefore veterinary treatment must be sought if it is suspected that your guinea pig is unwell. Which vet does your pig sitter use? Are they guinea pig competent, why and how? If it is not your usual vet it is probably wise to check  them out for yourself as well. Consider what will happen should your guinea pig die while you are away. It is easier to make the decision now than when you are distressed.
  • Will you want to be notified if your guinea pig dies?
  • Does your pig sitter know about letting the other guinea pig(s) acknowledge the death?
  • Leave your vet’s contact details so that any medical records can be sent if needed.
  • What will happen if your guinea pig needs treatment and you cannot be contacted?
Skin Care
Skin problems are one of the most common in guinea pigs yet are easy to treat when caught early.
  • Is your Pig Sitter aware of the difference between parasitic and fungal conditions, more importantly, perhaps, is their vet?
  • What products will they use should your guinea pig develop a skin problem while you are away? There are some harsh ones being used unnecessarily.
  • If your guinea is having a regular routine bath and manicure what shampoo etc is used? Many Pig Sitters use Gorgeous Guineas‘ products, the only handmade skincare products made specifically for guinea pigs by a qualified aromatherapist (human).


  • Is heating/air conditioning provided? Is there a thermometer nearby or thermostatically controlled heating?
  • Can you bring familiar items from your guinea pigs’ cage for them? If not what provision is made instead?
  • Do the guinea pigs go outside on warm days for some fresh air and sunshine? Runs should be allocated to certain cages and if possible areas of grass which are then rotated so they do not become overgrazed. Where only a small number of guinea pigs are boarded this should be easily possible. Ensure that your Pig Sitter is aware of how to treat bloat and heatstroke, both emergency conditions that need prompt action as well as calling a vet.
  • In addition to a continuous supply of good hay guinea pigs need fresh food twice daily. If your guinea pigs are used to  a particular diet (e.g. Ratewatchers), is your Pig Sitter willing to feed it?
  • How often is fresh food fed, how much and what exactly?
  • How often is water changed? If bottles are filled up more often than daily it is likely they are not big enough, any less than daily is not good enough.
  • Is Readigrass/Just Grass or similar fed? One handful daily between two guinea pigs is fine.
  • Can you bring some extra hay for your guinea pig, e.g. Timothy Hay?

  • What bedding is used? Shavings and dusty beddings are bad for guinea pigs’ respiratory tract and skin.
  • If the bedding is a veterinary bedding/fleece is adequate provision for foraging given?
  • How often is the bedding ‘spot cleaned’?
  • How often is the bedding changed completely?


The Animal Welfare Act recommends that the accomodation for 2 guinea pigs should be 4 foot by 2 foot or 120cm by 60cm minimum, expect your Pig Sitter to comply with this.

  • In warmer weather an outdoor run is desirable.Grazing grass is very beneficial for guinea pig dentition- more so than eating picked grass.
  • There should be solid partitions between cages as opposed to mesh. Partitions of mesh allow airborne conditions viruses etc to spread more easily, not to mention parasites.
  • The accomodation should be light and airy, with good height to allow for ventilation.
  • The cage/hutch should be inside a shed/outhouse where the temperature can be controlled and in one similar to your own. If you don’t heat your shed in the winter heated accomodation is obviously out of the question or your guinea pigs will suffer from the temperature change.

Special needs
Some guinea pigs have on going needs that must be considered when choosing a place for them to stay. These can range from Impaction to Dental Issues. Check before you book your guinea pigs in that these needs can be met. A reputable Pig Sitter will be able to meet these needs, what would happen if your guinea pigs developed them while you were away? Is your Pig Sitter aware of how to correctly syringe feed a guinea pig?

Animal Welfare Act
Boarding establishments should seek to comply with the 5 Freedoms as recommended to DEFRA by the RSPCA. To find out how these apply to guinea pigs see Guinea Pig Welfare. A reputable Pig Sitter will remind you of your obligations regarding the Act, if for example, you have a single guinea pig.
How to make your guineas’ stay more like ‘home from home’:
With your Pig Sitter’s permission, take along a few items that are familiar to your guinea, including favourite hays that will also help pass the time.
  • Bowls, ‘toys’, blankets/fleece.
  • Rescue Remedy to put in their water if they become distressed. See this Gorgeous Guineas’ document for more information.
  • Enough of their usual dry food to last the duration of their stay.
  • Special hays such as Timothy/Oat and any containers they put in, i.e Bags of Fun or hay racks.
  • A list of the food they are used to eating.
  • For health reasons, if they need grooming, their own brush.
  • For your guinea pigs’ well being be sure to give your Pig Sitter your vet’s contact details in case records are needed.

It is best for all if a contract is signed and both parties have a copy. This can be referred to at a later date if necessary. This could contain your home details, holiday contact details, length of time guinea pigs are boarded for, your guinea pigs’ details and vet contact details. If there is anything else you feel necessary (such as your wishes should your guinea pig die), ask for this to be added in.
The final decision about who looks after your guinea pigs is yours, you will also have to live with any consequences of your choice.

November 8, 2009   Posted in: Planet Guinea