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I can’t overstate how important grass is in the diet of guinea pigs. Grass was, after all, the natural and the major part of their diet in the wild and their digestive systems are geared up for it. Though vets advise that, in cases of diarrhoea, the guinea pigs should be taken off all vegetable matter, I withdraw all other green food, particularly the darker greens such as cabbage, but I continue with grass. Grass keeps up the supply of vitamin C but, being fibrous, is also helpful as a bulking agent. As a general food, the fibrous quality of grass gives the teeth plenty of work to do.
Boars have a grease gland at the base of their rumps, which sometimes seems to over produce, making the coat on the rear end very greasy. Apart from making them unpleasant to handle, this grease can attract parasites so it is a good policy to keep this over-production under control.
Many people hold their hands up in horror when I tell them what I use, which is one of the grease solvent products that are formulated for motor mechanics’ hands, such as Swarfega of Debs. In the fifteen years that I have used these products, which are extremely effective, I have never had any adverse reactions in the guinea pigs. Just apply a good dollop and massage well, and then shampoo the guinea pig all over in your regular shampoo. Sometimes a second application is required which can be washed off in plain warm water.
This is a vital part in guinea pig behaviour, which is just as important as an aid to social cohesion as it is a straight forward grooming exercise. It is certainly important that owners take note of this and learn just how individuals enjoy this. Some like it around the snout, some under their chins, most around their ears and on the tops of their heads. There are some who definitely do not like it on their heads, or after a short time find it irritating and throw their heads back violently, so when this happens, respect their wishes and stop.
I think that this ‘getting to know you’ grooming behaviour is as important for humans to learn as it is for guinea pigs. It certainly tames them down far more quickly, as all handling does.
These are relatively rare but occasionally you will come across one who is not at all sociable either with its own kind or humankind. Needless to say, it is worth trying to win it over but if after a few months it remains stubbornly independent then respect its wishes not to be handled. If it is also constantly aggressive to other guinea pigs then the co-habitation rule must be broken and you should let it live on its own.
I get very annoyed when people dismiss these kinds of animals as being nasty and unfriendly. Let’s face it, we can’t always be ‘terribly nice’ and they should learn to respect animals such as this for simply doing their own thing.