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Holding
Bathing
Nail clipping
Hair cuts
Combing & brushing the hair
Professional groomers

Holding

Grooming is one of those times you need to take your cavies out of the cage. So how do you do that? When you reach into the cage, more often than not the furball is going to run away from you. That's quite normal. Try chasing it to the corner so its butt is facing you. Scoop one hand under its butt & then move that hand forward so the cavy's whole body is lying on your hand. Then place your free hand on the cavy's back to support it.

Do not squeeze too hard 'cos you don't want to hurt it. But make sure you're ready 'cos they sometimes have a tendency to struggle & may fall from your hand. Hold the cavy close to your body. Not only does this make them feel a bit more secure, it is easier for you to control it as well. Try not to walk long distance with them in your hands.

When you take the cavy out of the cage, I feel it doesn't matter whether it comes out head first or butt first. But when you're putting it back in the cage, I feel that its better to go in butt first. By placing the cavy in the cage butt first, the tend not to struggle. I believe this is 'cos they can't see where they are going & before they know it, they're already back in the cage. If put in head first, they can see the cage entrance. Most of them will be anxious to return home & struggle like mad. They may injure themselves in the process, especially so if the cage has the door on top instead of at the side. By the way, this is one reason why I do NOT recommend cages with a door on top!

The picture above is a good example of how a cavy should be held. Like I said above, never squeeze too hard. I'd rather let the furball escape & then run after it, rather than squeezing it to death in the process of restraining it! If your cavy does escape, refer to my "General Advice" page for what I think may work.

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Bathing

Some people say to bathe cavies once a month while others say not at all unless they fall into mud or something yucky. I bathe my cavies once every 2 months & I feel that you should not bathe them more than once a month. I've even seen special powders which you sprinkle on the cavy's fur, leave for a while & brush off. Avoid using those dry shampoos 'cos the chemicals may irritate the cavy's sensitive eyes or respitory system. Its also less clean compared to a conventional bath. There's an example of that below.

Johnson's "no tears" Baby Shampoo can be used, although some claim it is too strong. Personally I think its okay, but if you can afford it, get specially formulated shampoo for small animals. Another alternative is shampoo for bunnies (pictured below).

Always bathe 1 cavy at a time. I don't recommend leaving it on the floor of the bath area 'cos you'll have a tough time catching it if the furball runs. You can put it in the sink but make sure it doesn't get its foot caught in the sink's drainage holes. You can also use a small tub but make sure you watch the water level. You wouldn't want your cavy drowning! I use a tray with hollow sides (pictured below). The water drains out very fast & there's no danger of drowning.

Ensure the water is not too hot or cold. Constantly warm water is a must. You can either pour warm water from a mug or use the shower head. Just make sure not to turn the water on full blast if you shower it. To minimise shock, wet your cavy's butt first. Slowly move towards the body & wet the whole body accept the head. Depending on the strength of the shampoo, 1 to 2 teaspoons of it should suffice. Start from the butt again & massage till the whole body (accept the head) is lathered.

Avoid the eyes, ears & nose & remember to rinse well. After it is soap free, remember to dry the cavy well. Be careful not to rub or press too hard when wiping it with a towel. As for the hair dryer, set it to low heat & don't put it too near the cavy. Use a hair dryer which is smaller & less noisy. Brush the cavy's fur with your hand while blowing with hair dryer. Not only will this help the fur dry faster but it will get rid off loose fur too. If your cavy has long fur, you can start combing when the fur is almost dry. Always comb slowly in case you encounter hair clumps.

Don't leave the cavies under direct sunlight to "dry" & keep them away from gusts of cold wind. Since most cavies hate water, it'll probably be quite jittery after that ordeal, so leave it alone & try not to disturb it after returning it to it's cage. Make sure you plan before hand. It's always advisable to wash the cage before bathing the cavy. It's really pointless returning a clean cavy to a dirty cage. And please don't choose a rainy or cold day to bathe them!

Do not bathe them too often as bathing removes the natural oils & leaves their skin dry. Dry skin tends to be itchy & when they scratch like crazy, they're going to end up with raw patches which could very well lead to other skin problems. A bathe with Johnson's baby shampoo or special small animal shampoo once a month is more than enough. Anything more often than that is overdoing it.

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Nail clipping

Nail clipping is a necessity because the cavy's nails (claws?) can grow pretty long unless they have tons of space to run about. Some say leaving a brick in the cage will enable the cavy to wear down it's nails. I don't recommend this because the brick absorbs urine & can get tough to disinfect unless you're able to replace it frequently. Besides I don't see how the cavy will know that he's supposed to go up to the brick & start clawing it. It's not exactly a cat & scratching post relationship!

By the time it's time to visit Melissa, my cavies' nails would've just started to curl which is quite okay. You should never wait till the cavy's nails are too long before sending it for clipping. If the nails should break, its going to be painful for the poor dears. You should make sure the nails are filed down after cutting if not it tends to be very sharp & they make hurt themselves.

Once again, I strongly advice against clipping the cavy's nails by yourself unless you're an expert. Bring it to a vet or professional groomer. It costs more but at least you don't have to worry about clipping your furball's nails wrongly & watching it bleed!

However if you wish to clip nails yourself, always have corn flour or talcum powder (ordinary type not menthol or prickly heat) ready. If you accidentally cut too much of the nail & cut the quick, your cavy's nail will start bleeding. Apply a generous amount of flour or powder to stop the bleeding. You may have to do this more than once. I'd advice you to check on that nail the next day to ensure its okay & there's no infection.

It will be easier if your cavy's nails are white but some cavies have black coloured nails. This makes it difficult to see the quick. Shining a torch at the nail may help. The rule to remember is not to cut too much. It is better to cut a tiny bit of nail & do it every week. But some people may say that this is troublesome & choose to cut off as much nail as possible. I feel this is a bad idea 'cos the more nail you cut, the bigger the risk of cutting the quick.

Check their nails at least twice a month. Do not wait till it curls before you cut 'cos it will be more difficult for you to cut. Nails that are too long may also start to crack & that makes it even more difficult to remedy. Generally the hind legs' nails grow faster but don't neglect the front legs' nails too.

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Hair cuts

Short or rough haired cavies almost never need hair cuts. Only long and semi-long haired cavies need a trim. My cavies go to Melissa once every 2 months for a bath & nail cutting. Oreo is the only who needs a hair cut & usually when 2 months are up, her hair is messy enough to warrant a cut. If your barbering skills are good, feel free to give it a trim every month.

The most important thing is to make sure the fur isn't poking into the cavy's eye & the hair around it's butt isn't too long & starting to trap poop & pee (eew!). If your cavy is as wierd as Oreo & gets its hind legs stained with pee, it may be a good idea trimming the hair near the legs too. In this aspect, female cavies are easier to groom because unlike males, there's no danger of accidentally knicking his "family jewels"!

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Combing & brushing the hair

To prevent excessive shedding of hair, you need to brush your cavies regularly. Once every 2 days is recommended. Start with a comb with the teeth located very close to each other. I think this is also called a fine tooth comb. Comb the hair well & then switch to a comb with the teeth located further away from each other. Finish off by using a soft brush. I recommend using only the brush on their face, legs & tummy. Those areas are kind of sensitive & the comb may hurt.

Brushing & combing their hair is an important task that is often overlooked. Cavies often groom themselves by licking. There tends to be quite a bit of loose hair & when they lick themselves, they swallow the hair. This can result in a hairball forming in their stomach which requires an operation to remove. By brushing them regularly you remove most of the loose hair & they end up swallowing less of them. It would be ideal if you could brush them once every 2 days but the minimum would be once a week. This would be an excellent time for you to do a general check up to see if anything is wrong with them e.g. bald patch, torn ear, lice, etc.

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Professional groomers

Some of you may not wish to groom your cavies personally. You can try approaching professional groomers. However not all will groom cavies. So its better to call them to ask. I do not go to a groomer & I'm unable to recommend any. I am told that Simply Pets located at Bugis Village charges $15 to groom cavies. They are located at No 3 New Bugis Street, Store blk M3/M3A, S'pore 188868. You can contact them at 6744 9691. I've not gone to them before & don't know what they are like.

Some cavy breeders may groom too. Once again, do go to a responsible breeder who obviously loves cavies & not one who's clearly out to make a quick buck! My friend Melissa is a breeder who charges $5 for cutting cavy nails & bathing them & I think its a great bargain. Trimming their fur will set you back by another $1 only.

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