Care Guide for House Rabbits and Guinea Pigs

A cozy illustration of a living room turned into a safe and playful habitat for house rabbits and guinea pigs, showing various care elements like hideouts, water bottles, hay feeders, and toys, with a warm and inviting atmosphere.

Care Guide for House Rabbits and Guinea Pigs


House rabbits and guinea pigs have become increasingly popular as pets, known for their gentle nature and engaging personalities. Although they can make wonderful companions, they each have specific needs that must be met to ensure they live a happy and healthy life. This comprehensive guide will explore the essential aspects of care for these adorable creatures, covering their diet, habitat, health, and social needs.

Dietary Needs

Both rabbits and guinea pigs require a diet that is high in fiber to maintain their digestive health and prevent obesity. A diet primarily consisting of hay, fresh vegetables, and a moderate amount of pellets is recommended. However, there are key differences in their dietary requirements that are crucial to their health.


Rabbits need unlimited access to high-quality hay, such as Timothy, Meadow, or Orchard grass. Fresh vegetables like lettuce, spinach, and carrots can be given daily, but in moderation due to their high sugar content. Additionally, a small number of pellets formulated for rabbits can supplement their diet, providing essential nutrients not found in hay and vegetables alone. Water should be available at all times, preferably in a hanging bottle to avoid contamination.

Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs, unlike rabbits, cannot synthesize their own vitamin C and thus require a diet that supplements this vital nutrient. This can be provided through vitamin C-rich vegetables like bell peppers, broccoli, and kale. Like rabbits, they also need unlimited access to hay and a controlled amount of pellets specifically formulated for guinea pigs. Water should be readily available at all times.

Habitat Requirements

The living environment of house rabbits and guinea pigs can greatly influence their health and happiness. Both animals require a well-ventilated, clean space that protects them from extreme temperatures. However, their housing needs differ significantly in terms of space, security, and setup.


Rabbits are active animals that require ample space to roam, play, and exercise. A rabbit’s cage should be at least four times the size of the rabbit, with additional time allotted for exercise outside of the cage each day in a rabbit-proofed area. The enclosure should have a solid bottom to prevent injuries to their feet and be equipped with a hideaway spot for them to retreat to when they feel the need for privacy.

Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs, being smaller, do not require as much vertical space but still need ample room to move around. Their cage should be at least 7.5 square feet for one, with additional space for each additional guinea pig. The cage should have a solid floor covered with bedding, such as paper or aspen shavings, to absorb moisture and odors. A hidey-house is also important for their sense of security.

Health and Grooming

Rabbits and guinea pigs both require regular grooming and health checks to keep them in optimal condition. Their care routines share similarities but also possess species-specific needs that are essential for their wellbeing.


Rabbits need to be brushed regularly, especially if they have long fur, to prevent matting and hairballs. Their nails should be trimmed monthly, and their ears checked for signs of infection. Dental health is paramount for rabbits, as their teeth continuously grow and can cause problems if not properly maintained. Providing wooden chew toys can help keep their teeth trimmed.

Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs also require regular brushing, more so for long-haired breeds, and nail trimming. Their smaller size can make handling them for grooming a delicate task, so patience and care are necessary. Dental health is equally important for guinea pigs for the same reasons as rabbits. They also benefit from chew toys to prevent overgrown teeth.

Social Needs

Rabbits and guinea pigs are social animals that thrive on companionship, whether with their own kind or with their human families. Ensuring they have the right amount of interaction and stimulation is crucial for their emotional wellbeing.


Rabbits can form deep bonds with their owners and can be very interactive pets. They enjoy playing with toys and can even learn tricks. If considering getting more than one rabbit, it’s important to introduce them slowly to ensure compatibility. Neutering or spaying is also recommended to prevent territorial marking and aggression.

Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs are known for their vocalizations as a way of communicating not only with each other but also with their human caretakers. They appreciate a social environment and benefit from living with other guinea pigs, though it’s important to match sexes appropriately or ensure neutering to prevent breeding. Regular, gentle handling can help build trust between guinea pigs and their owners.


Can rabbits and guinea pigs live together?

While it might seem like a good idea to house rabbits and guinea pigs together due to their similar size and dietary needs, it is not recommended. Rabbits can be carriers of bacteria (Bordetella and Pasteurella) that are harmless to them but potentially fatal to guinea pigs. Furthermore, their communication styles and social needs differ, meaning they may not interact beneficially. Ideally, each species should live with their own kind for companionship.

What fresh foods can I feed my rabbit and guinea pig?

Both rabbits and guinea pigs enjoy a variety of fresh vegetables and fruits. High-fiber leafy greens like romaine lettuce, kale, and spinach are great for both. However, fruits and some starchy vegetables like carrots should be given in moderation due to their high sugar content. For guinea pigs, include vitamin C-rich foods like bell peppers, small amounts of citrus fruits, and strawberries to meet their specific nutritional needs.

How can I rabbit-proof my house?

Rabbit-proofing your home is crucial to prevent injuries and protect your belongings. Cover electrical cords with protective casings or move them out of reach, as rabbits tend to chew on them. Remove toxic plants and block off access to small spaces where rabbits could get stuck. Providing plenty of chew toys and designated digging areas can also help satisfy their natural behaviors and keep them from destroying furniture.

Do guinea pigs need vaccinations?

Unlike dogs and cats, guinea pigs do not require routine vaccinations. However, it is vital to maintain regular health checks with a veterinarian experienced in small pets to catch and treat any health issues early. Good hygiene, a well-balanced diet, and a clean living environment are the best preventative measures to keep guinea pigs healthy.

How do I introduce new foods to my rabbit or guinea pig’s diet?

Introducing new foods to your rabbit or guinea pig should be done gradually to avoid upsetting their sensitive digestive systems. Start by offering a small amount of the new food and observe them for any signs of digestive discomfort or allergic reactions over the next 24 hours. If there are no adverse effects, you can slowly increase the quantity over several days. Always ensure that fresh water is available, especially when introducing drier foods like pellets.

Can my rabbit or guinea pig live outside?

While both rabbits and guinea pigs can enjoy outdoor time, it is generally safer for them to live indoors where they are protected from extreme weather, predators, and diseases. If you provide an outdoor enclosure, it should be secure, shaded, and have a sheltered area where they can hide. Remember, outdoor playtime should always be supervised.

How can I tell if my rabbit or guinea pig is sick?

Signs that your rabbit or guinea pig may be sick include changes in eating or bathroom habits, lethargy, sneezing or coughing, runny eyes or nose, and unexplained weight loss or gain. Any abnormal behavior or physical changes should be taken seriously, and a vet consultation should be arranged as soon as possible. Early intervention can be crucial to their health and well-being.

What is the best way to handle my guinea pig?

When handling your guinea pig, always approach them calmly and talk softly to avoid startling them. Place one hand under their chest just behind the front legs, and gently scoop their bottom with your other hand. Hold them close to your body to make them feel secure. Never grab a guinea pig by the back end or pick them up by the scruff of their neck.

Ensuring the health and happiness of house rabbits and guinea pigs involves understanding and meeting their unique needs. By providing a balanced diet, suitable habitat, regular health checks, and lots of love and attention, these delightful creatures can make joyful and affectionate companions for many years.


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