One more note: My Vet, a long time Cavy keeper and healer and very knowledgeable in Cavidom I might add, has approved my Instructable...That definitely makes me feel good about it.
(Pictured is one of my assistants < a silkie Teddy white but not albino piggie> helping me with this Instructable: this pretty little girl is Snuggles and she will be doing the typing / proofreading).
Step 1: Some Basics
A few generalized things to note:
They are small, so they lose body heat faster then we do. Keep the temperature within the proper range for the animal (between 65o & 75o if possible). Catching colds is a dangerous thing for these little guys.
Another thing about being so small: what seems diluted to us may be very concentrated to them. Be careful with anything new introduced to their diet. Please avoid things that have been prepared in any way (cooked, or factory mixed in any way), or sprayed, or fertilized. They ARE vegetarians so they are accustomed to veggies and fruits. Some cavies will become picky however. Avoid "root / tuber" vegetables. Do NOT make major changes to their diet (different brands of pellets, etc.) abruptly. Mix in the brand you are changing to, a little at a time until you are giving them (within a week or more) all of the new brand. Avoid HARTZ, as it is reported that their foods set around for long periods of time, and vitamin C has a fairly SHORT shelf life. Also, because they need Vitamin C, do not use Rabbit pellets.
In addition to the hay and pellets, a variety of fresh vegetables, particularly leafy green vegetables should be offered daily. Avoid Iceberg (head lettuce) as it has very little nutritional value. Good choices include kale, spinach, turnip greens, parsley and dandelion greens, all of which provide vitamin C. Carrots, carrot tops, and just about any other fruit or vegetable can also be fed. Leafy greens should make up the bulk of the vegetable supplementation, and fruits and other vegetable can be offered in moderation.
Water: it is best to use Distilled water, or at least low mineral spring water, mostly because the concentrations of chlorine & fluorine in tap, can be harmful (and if the tap is also hard water, the non-organic minerals are not at all good either).
BEDDING / HOUSING:
Do not use cedar shavings; period. It causes many a small animal to have rashes and raw spots, and it causes severe respiratory problems in cavies. The recycled paper based product is best, although my Vet has also informed me that Aspen bedding is ok.
Also, with 2 or more cavies per cage, it is probably going to be necessary to clean the cage about twice a week (every 3 to 5 days).
Some small animals (for instance: rabbits) do not mind 'wire mesh' floors of their pens (allowing excrement to drop through and not dirty their floor); but cavies do not like them; they have VERY sensitive feet. Please give them a solid floor to stand on.
There are pluses and minus' to the arguments between aquarium or ventilated cage (wire sides only)'
On the one side is the lack of ventilation in the aquarium.
On the other side is that the drafts are cut down (cavies CAN be sensitive to a drafty environment). I haven't found one to be superior to another.
Cavies, like many small rodents, have a history. With cavies and mice and rats, the history may be somewhat spotted: that is, they may be sons and daughters from a lineage bred in labs for certain purposes. This is sad, but it means that these rodents are not always going to be simple to take care of. I personally have had 3 that developed cancer, one of them was ovarian cancer; several got kidney & bladder stones, two had horrible, yet benign cysts; and two had severe seizures (similar to epilepsy). The latest one died overnight, not having suffered anything before hand *shrug*; he was getting a bit old however (they live between 5 & 7 years on the average, and Shadow was 6 +) .
Cavies love to be held and paid attention to (despite their 'complaints' when trying to catch them), they seem to thrive on the attention. The more given, the more love will be given back. They can be and become very timid, unless handled regularly. As seen in the picture of Snuggles peering out of the cage, some just have an outgoing personality (that is Marshmallow; or Marshi in the background).