Despite our best wishes, we can't be with our guinea pigs all the time. Typically, they can't tag along when it's time to go to work, to dinner with friends, or on vacation. Leaving them alone is unavoidable but, according to the experts, exactly how long can you leave your guinea pig alone?
How Long Can You Leave A Guinea Pig?
When it's time to work overtime or go out on a weekend getaway with friends, two questions are guaranteed to pop up in the minds of new cavy owners.
First, can you leave your guinea pigs alone? Yes, you can leave your cavies alone!
Guinea pigs are not so dependent on you that they’ll need your presence at all hours of the day. Leaving them alone for some time won't suddenly cause them to develop serious health conditions or get into accidents.
The next question asked is how long can you leave them alone?
Generally, 12 hours is safe but leaving them for up to 24 hours is also possible, as long as they have proper food and water supply and they’re not alone for longer than that. They should never completely unsupervised for longer than 24 hours.
It doesn’t sound like a lot of time but that's because domesticated guinea pigs cannot be entirely independent anymore since a keeper has been caring for them for most of their life. In simple terms, they've gotten used to a lifestyle and that lifestyle is you.
Your presence, or any human presence, gives them the nutrition and safe habitat they need to live well. Humans provide them with everything from hay and pellets, proper room temperature, and even a clean space.
However, this day-long interval doesn't mean that cavy owners can never go on vacation or take a last-minute trip out of town. It just means that anything pushing past 24 hours will need some prior planning for the welfare of your furry friends.
Since the experts recommend only leaving them alone for 12–24 hours, what can go wrong if you leave them alone longer and without a plan?
What Can Go Wrong?
Several things can go wrong when guinea pigs are left unsupervised for more than 12 to 24 hours at a time. These situations are not guaranteed to happen but they are well within the realm of possibility, especially when whoever you trusted to care for them doesn't live up to the task.
Leaky water bottles are probably one of the most common issues encountered by guinea pig owners. It's something we all face regularly, especially when the water bottles are not of good quality.
A leak directly affects its water source and living conditions. As you may know, guinea pigs are crepuscular creatures, meaning and they’re active all day and burn through energy quickly. They need constant hydration and regular feeding times. Lacking a sufficient water source could put them in danger.
This also causes a spill that can affect its habitat. If you're lucky, the spill is contained in an area your guinea pigs don't stay in often and won’t reach any further. However, the more common scenario is that the spill reaches their bedding. This makes their sleeping space damp and could affect their body temperature which could make them fall ill.
Escaping their cage is another possibility, especially with hyperactive cavies. An escape could be an adorable experience when you witness it in person but it could be disastrous without supervision because of their poor depth perception and curious nature.
Guinea pigs have difficulty understanding how far or how close dangers are if they even know that an object or action is dangerous in the urban setting! Simply climbing a desk or table and falling off could damage their delicate spines, or even nibbling on something they're not supposed to could have dangerous consequences.
Running out of food and water is another possibility, even if you leave out enough food that could normally last them for three days. Guinea pigs eat a lot of food and they could go through many days worth of pellets, hay, and water quickly. This could cause aggression in them which they can take out on you or their companions, or could force them to consume things they shouldn't and wouldn’t normally eat.
Guinea pig droppings and urine is another source of danger since guinea pigs need clean surroundings. Leaving their droppings with them could soil their fur and bedding, and subsequently invite unwanted pests and parasites into their space. The gas released by their excrement could also build up and be dangerous for their respiratory health.
No owner wants any of these to happen and should ensure that the worst-case scenarios are avoided. So how does a responsible cavy owner leave them alone?
The Best Way To Leave Them Alone
Leaving them along for some time means that you have much to plan. Whether you’ll be gone for 12 hours, 24 hours, or longer, some precautions should be taken and set in place.
If you're planning to be gone for only 12 hours or less, simply leaving them a good amount of food and water stock will be good. Leaving them for this amount of time is perfectly safe, so long as you've left them in good condition.
If you’re planning for leaving them unsupervised closer to 24 hours, the same guidelines apply but on a larger scale. Make sure to leave them in a clean cage with a generous stock of food. Their rooms should likewise be set up in the proper temperature, with all kinds of danger far out of their reach. Once you get back to them, it’s important to check up on them right away and to clean any messes, and restock their supply.
Anything longer than 24 hours will require someone to visit them and replenish their supplies. You can ask a reliable friend to do this or employ a pet sitting service, perhaps one initiated by your vet. Someone needs to check up on your cavies every 12 to 24 hours to feed them and make sure that everything is ok.
This person will need to leave out more drinking water, pellets, and hay, and the best cavy sitters will even clean up any spills or droppings, although the service might come with an extra charge. Remember that guinea pigs consume around 300 ml of water every day and that one cavy goes through a pound of hay in two days. They’ll also need a lot of vegetables, especially for their supply of Vitamin C. This means lots of refills and even more left behind!
This person also needs to interact and play with them to make sure they receive the exercise they need and that they’re in good condition. The playtime is also to satisfy their need for human interaction and affection. Not doing so can be bad for their mental health and could cause them stress.
For new guinea pig owners, and for those still contemplating if they should get one, it's a great relief to hear that guinea pigs can be left on their own for an entire day.
That said, cavies will still need hands-on care while their keepers are gone. They must be left in good hands with the proper supplies to ensure their health. They need lots of water, hay, food pellets, and green vegetables. They’ll also need exercise and a well-cleaned cage, with some supervision every 12 to 24 hours.
Without this, your guinea pigs could put themselves in tough predicaments that could require treatment. It’s important to remember that while guinea pigs will be part of your life for half a decade, you are there their entire life.
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