Sunday, 25 May 2014

Bath time for Snowy

Amongst our many pets are three guinea pigs. In inclement weather they live in a 2 storey hutch in the shed. When the ground is dry, they have a moveable playpen on the lawn with a little shelter in it, and a sturdy roof to protect them from predators (or over-friendly small children.)

The guineas are about 2 1/2 year old girls called Snowy, Pippin and Tosh (short for Mackintosh). Their mothers were part of a group of 9 guinea pigs found abandoned under a shed and taken in by the now-defunct Bramley Cavies Rescue. As that was a mixed group, all the females were pregnant. (Rodents; such notorious breeders. What can you do?)  The sows were in a bad way and once their babies were born it took a long time to get them in suitably robust health to be rehomed.

These days those babies are fat healthy guinea pigs. However, a winter more inside than out had left them with long nails in need of trimming. Snowy was not terribly snow-like; she was more the colour of grubby slush. Her habit of flipping the outside shelter upside down, having a wee then flipping it back over herself had done nothing positive to her aroma either. It was definitely time for a bath.

NB - I only bath them on really warm sunny days so they won't catch chills as they dry off. As you can see from the cloudless sky in the photos, we had some truly spectacular weather so I took the opportunity.  I was game but my pets were considerably less so.

Have you ever bathed a small animal that wasn't keen? By which I mean very, very un-keen indeed? It's a wriggly, slippery process that involves nearly as much water on the person as on the pet. Having a number of bath-averse pets, I've learnt to do it on scruffy old clothes with m hair tied back before having a shower myself.

I tend to wash guineas in a very deep bucket (so the pig can't hop out) with only a little water in the bottom. Judging by the fuss they make, my pets prefer water only a little more than lukewarm. This can be a challenge, as I get everything set up outside before catching the bath-bound beastie and if the bath-ee proves elusive, I can end up with water cooler than planned. To offset that I usually have a jug of very hot water I can top up with, but it's still a little hit and miss.

I dilute some small animal shampoo in water and pour it in small amounts over the animal while rubbing it in gently. Then I use an old measuring cup to rinse her in clean water before scooping her up in a scruffy old towel to be dried as thoroughly as I can.

While she's in the towel I bring one foot out at a time and clip the nails carefully. The front nails can grow a bit spirally and it's important to keep them in a decent state.

As pet care goes, guinea pigs are pretty darned easy. You don't have to walk them, their food isn't smelly or disgusting, their run is pretty easy to clean out in about 10 minutes. They make lovely little noises chatting to one another and they are very sweet natured.

The downside is they are very shy and generally prefer to be left alone rather than played with. However, bold Snowy will tussle with a chicken over a dandelion leaf and win. Not one of the three is intimidated by our cats as they pretend to be fierce predators.  Secure in their roofed playground, the guineas know Ferris Mewler and Isaac Mewton are all mouth and no trousers. That metal mesh roof is pretty darned sturdy.

Update - In the gap between writing and posting this blog, Toshi died. I have no idea why. She'd been running about as usual the day before, seemed healthy and was behaving normally. Whether moving the hutch outside for the summer followed by a massive thunderstorm that scared her to heart attack or it was the fox coming to have a look - or some undetected illness - we just don't know.  Poor wee Toshi. Snowy, Pippin and the rest of us will miss her.

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