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Rabbits and guinea pigs should never be housed together. Though there are times when no harm will come to a guinea pig from this kind of cohabitation it is more often the case that the guinea pig is injured by the rabbit either by it trying to mate with it, this includes female rabbits, or they are kicked by the rabbit’s habit of kicking out with its powerful back legs.
The Americans have a much more appropriate name for this breed of guinea, which is a Teddy. Their short crinkly coats are just like a child’s teddy bear’s coat. They have become one of the favourite breeds over the past few years and I have about ten in my own stock.
This is a smooth coated breed which has the same kind of coat as a Roan breed of horse. The hair of the coat can be of various colours but are equally mixed with white hairs.
Many runts, under-weight baby guinea pigs (the average weight is 2.8oz or 80g), can manage on their own. Indeed there are some that seem to have an extra zest for survival and despite their diminished stature they manage to barge their way through the clamour to get at their mother’s milk. However, there are many that need a little help from their friends, which means their owners. This means supplementary feeding and doing everything for the babies that their mother does. There are many differing opinions about the kind of milk to give baby guinea pigs and whichever is chosen, the golden rule it to check to see if there is any sign of loose droppings an hour or so after feeding and if there is, to stop and switch from the product that is being used. The product I use is the made up baby milk formulated for human beings. It is usually sold in small cartoons so wastage is avoided. This kind of milk can be purchased in most chemists.
The never-to-be-broken golden rule is to never syringe feed a very young baby. There is far more danger of milk finding its way down into the lungs if a syringe is used because the babies tend to suck very hard and they seem to be able to suck more milk out of a syringe, and at a higher rate, than from their mother’s teats. Use a tea spoon, which should be put to the baby’s mouth while it is standing on a towel and always be ready to angle back each time the baby lunges forward too eagerly, which can lead to the nose going into the mix. Milk in the nostrils can also find its way into the lungs.
The milk should be warmed up very slightly, for the mother’s milk obviously comes out at body temperature. I usually put the milk in an eggcup, which I pop in the microwave oven for about six seconds. If you have no microwave then standing the container with the milk in a cup with some hot water for a minute or so will be effective.
I find that feeding little and often is the preferred routine for most runts. If, after a couple of days the runts are not picking at their dry feed or nibbling at their hay, it is important to lace the milk with some roughage in the shape of some ground down bread crumbs, and one friend of mine used crushed Farley’s Rusks with excellent results.
No matter how careful you are, sometimes some milk can get into the lungs; it can even happen to babies who are sucking normally from their mother. The good news is that if instant action is taken, the problem can be very effectively dealt with, and the even better news is that as soon as the milk gets down there a distinct click which will be heard each time the baby takes a breath. I find the best way of up ending the baby is to hold it, head down against my left shoulder with my right hand. It will very quickly get quite stressed and begin to struggle and it usually isn’t very long before it starts coughing and spluttering, which is the object of the exercise for it will be coughing up the milk.
It will be noticed that mother guinea pigs, and most animals that are nursing their young will, from time to time, vigorously lick the baby’s genital area. This is to stimulate them to defecate and this duty must be performed by owners! However, fear not, a cotton bud dipped in warm water is a very effective substitute for the guinea pig tongue! It only needs to be done two or three times a day and not at each feeding.
Single runts should always be left with their mothers, sisters and brothers if they are not too weak, as the company of their kin is an important stimulation. In large litters, it is not at all unusual to have two runts and in these cases I always take them out and house them separately. With a companion to snuggle up to and, as they get stronger, play with, they tend to thrive very well.
As soon as you are confident that the runts are strong enough to cope with the rough and tumble of litter life, put them back in with their mother. I have yet to see a mother reject a baby that has been fostered to an owner for a week or so.