Originally from South America, sailors brought these rodents to England where they were mistakenly called “pigs” and sold in markets for 1 guinea (about a dollar).
Today, guinea pigs are one of the most popular pets because of their social, gentile nature. Although they are pretty hardy, they do need special care when moving, says Kevin Fitzgerald, DVM, of VCA Alameda East Veterinary Hospital, Denver, Colorado, who provided the following guidelines.
Temperature: The Biggest Concern
When moving your guinea pig, you must be careful with temperature. Guinea pigs are sensitive to drafts and need to stay warm. Ideally, the temperature should be 75-89 degrees. Never above 90 degrees or below 20 degrees. In air-conditioned planes or cars, place a towel in the carrier to make the environment warmer. To cool down a guinea pig, use an ice pack. Wrap the ice pack in a towel to prevent your pet from getting too cold.
Use a Thermometer
When traveling, use a thermometer to ensure your pig’s carrier is between 75-89 degrees.
The Danger of Water Bowls
Because guinea pigs are susceptible to the cold, never place a water dish in their traveling container. The dish could spill, causing them to catch cold. Instead, use a water bottle (if possible) or stop and give them water. Guinea pigs must be watered at least every two hours.
Give Them Snacks
Your pet will probably be too stressed to eat very much, but you should provide them with snacks in their carrier. At least every two hours, stop to offer them their regular food and water.
Choose the Right Container
Good ventilation is essential for guinea pigs. They should travel in a large airy container, rather than a small closed box. You should be able to look into the cage, so you can watch your pet during the trip. An ideal container would be a pet taxi for rodents that is at least 2 feet long, 1 foot high and a foot and a half wide.
Provide a Hide Box
Travel is very stressful for pets and guinea pigs are no exception. Providing them with a “hide box” can help them cope with the stress.
Newspaper is the best cage lining for travel. It’s cheap and readily cleanable.
Providing Vitamin C on the Trip
Like people, guinea pigs can’t make their own vitamin C, so they need a vitamin C supplement. Feed your pet his/her regular food, which should contain a vitamin C supplement, during the trip. If you provide them with a vitamin C supplement in their drinking water, give them this when you water them at least every two hours.
If Your Pet Gets Sick During Travel
Before you begin your trip, you should always identify animal hospitals and 24 hour emergency clinics on your route in case of an emergency. Click here to find AAHA hospitals. Check the availability of your veterinarian for consultation. Bring a copy of your pet’s medical records or find out if you can access online records.
Health Certificate Required When Crossing State Lines
If your move involves crossing state lines, your pet must have a health certificate issued within 10 days of your trip. Authorities could ask to see the certificate if you’re stopped.
Always call your airlines first. Airlines usually require a health certificate issued within 10 days of travel, as well as a current vaccination certificate. Other restrictions may apply. Ideally, you should place the carrier under the seat in front of you, so you can watch your pet. Never check a guinea pig in the baggage area.
Boat, Bus or Train Travel
Greyhound Bus and Amtrak only allow service animals. Call individual boating lines to find out their requirements.
Sharing a Cage
The stress of travel can bring out destructive aggressive behavior especially with adult males.
Ideally, guinea pigs should travel in separate containers.
Never Move a Sick Guinea Pig
It is never a good idea to travel with a sick pet. Instead, ask a friend to keep it until he/she is well, or ask your veterinarian where you can safely board your pet.
Settling into Your New Home
When you arrive at your new home, move your pet to his/her permanent cage. Keep your pig in the cage for a day or two – without taking him/her out – so your pet can imprint on the smell of your new home. Later, let your pet explore at his/her leisure. Extra toys and treats can help ease your pig’s transition.