Jeepers Squeakers! March 2018

Dear Readers,

Welcome to the first newsletter of 2018! Given that all our readers are guinea pig lovers, we bet you’re pleased to see the back of the snow and the start of the lush spring grass! It’s definitely good news for all the piggies out there, who are looking forward to more time outside and all the guinea pig frolicking that spring can bring. There are things to remember, though, as we come into the warmer months. So we’ll start off with an article from Jo Lockett on spring grass, which can lead to problems if they eat too much too soon. We’ll then move to look at the short-term fostering carried out by our volunteers, and we will be throwing some fun facts at you in Val’s ‘Did you know?’ article. So, for all this and more (including info on upcoming events), read on and enjoy.

Spring grass, by Jo Lockett

20180326-newsletter-spring-grassNow the weather has improved and the lawn will soon be growing, please be aware that nutrient-rich spring grass can cause problems initially if your piggies aren’t used to it.

Many people won’t put them out during autumn and winter. At April Lodge, we let ours choose and we give them the option to graze most of the year round – unless it’s freezing, snowing, frosty or pouring with rain, which it has been for the last few months! Nine times out of ten, they can be seen skipping for joy, but if they don’t come out of their carriers, then we know they aren’t interested and we bring them back into the warm.

But when the weather warms up and you start thinking about putting your little treasures outside for some grazing time, bear in mind that they won’t be used to it if you’ve kept them inside for several months.

Spring grass is very rich once it starts growing prolifically. You could start early by bringing in some snipped grass for a few weeks before you plan to put them out. Just a small handful a day will get them used to it again. Then restrict them to some scrubby/sparse grass to start off with and just for half an hour, gradually increasing time and lushness as they become re-accustomed.

Short-term fostering, by Jo Lockett

20180326-newsletter-boot-campShort-term fostering is only ever done by regular, local volunteers with lots of experience. As long as we refuse to fall in love with any(!) and hand them back when asked to, the rewards are great.

I’ve been short-term fostering for two years and approximately 60 guinea pigs have come to me to be cared for, nurtured and handled in that time. Some for a few weeks, some for several months, of all ages, shapes, hair types and temperaments, but they can usually be categorised under one of five headings:

  • Difficult and require ‘finishing’: Cocoa and Bubbles; Rio and Sweetie; Carla; Perry.
  • Boot camp, need to lose weight: Pepper and Saucy; Chompy and Luna.
  • Lonely and scared singles: Poppet; Marmalade; Marnie; Nigel; Poppy.
  • No room at the inn: Sable, Pogle and Mouse; Butter; Daisy and (yet another) Poppy.
  • Babies (for early handling): Tiffany and Tallulah; Meryl; Gracie; Darwin, Rufus and Gabriel (and Angel, their mum)

Many people ask – but how can you not want to keep them? Sometimes it’s difficult, especially when you fall in love with one or two, but we do our utmost to ensure they go to great new homes and I always think of the next deserving ones waiting round the corner.

Weight: Remember the 30/60/90 rule, by Jo Lockett

20180326-newsletter-weight-30-60-90It’s vital you weigh your piggies regularly. Make it a weekly ritual and keep a log. Like many animals, guinea pigs hide illness very well, but weight loss can be an indication of an underlying health problem that could require veterinary attention.

Often it’s diet. Too much veg and not enough hay – 80% of their diet should be hay. You may think they are surrounded by the stuff, but they sleep in it, wee/poop in it and eat it. All our piggies get a daily handful of fresh hay, whether they are due to be cleaned out or not.

Always weigh them at the same time of day for as much consistency as possible, and, as a rough guide, use the 30/60/90 rule:

  • A 30g fluctuation is nothing to worry about and can be normal (emptying of a full bladder for example).
  • A 60g loss needs to be monitored closely; begin daily weighing and monitor diet and health.
  • A 90g loss is significant and requires investigation by a vet. It could be a dental problem that needs treatment or a sign of something else more sinister.

A continuing downwards trend in weight should always be investigated by a vet.

Did you know? By Val Savage

20180326-newsletter-did-you-know_1Water bottles – Filling the bottle to the top creates a vacuum and therefore prevents it dripping.

Bald patch behind ears – This is normal. It is more pronounced in certain breeds.

Teeth – They grow throughout their life, so loads of quality hay (which is abrasive) is essential to keeping the teeth levelled down.

Hay – They can eat their own bodyweight in hay daily, so good quality, clean hay is

Nose strip – Often caused by fungal spores. Daktarin cream, washing and drying can be
used 2–3 times daily. If the strip is thin and not getting any bigger, it can be left alone.

Hayseed or a poke in the eye – This usually results in an eye that looks like a bulging bluish/white cataract. Any foreign body should be removed, followed by a course of antibiotic eye drops.

Bathing – In a calm situation, this is a good bonding process, talking gently as you get the job done!

The bonding process – Feed your piggy titbits but don’t always pick him up. Make a fuss of him by scratching his nose, around his ears and/or under his chin. If you want to go all the way, wet your index finger and imitate his mum washing just inside his ears for a direct trip back to the litter.

V-shape on the back – This often indicates mange. When he turns around to scratch his back, his teeth create the V-shape. Ivermectin and, in some cases, a course of antiparasitic bathing will rectify this problem, if caught in time.

Grease gland – This is where the tail used to be, and it sometimes oozes thick dark grease that sticks to the hair and skin, sometimes forming a large hard patch. The only way to remove it is to rub in a teaspoonful of Swarfega (mechanics use it to clean their hands), leave it on for five minutes, then gently lift the grease off with a flea comb. Then shampoo, and rinse and dry.

Open foot sores – Pododermatitis, otherwise known as Bumblefoot, is caused by the Staph bacteria and is one of the most difficult conditions to remedy. A guinea pig-savvy vet may be able to help. You could try washing the affected foot in Epsom salts but the foot needs to be rinsed with water and dried after to avoid salt in the eye from a scratching rear claw, using towels and/or vetbed and Gorgeous Guineas F & M ointment. There are times when the only way to prevent the bacteria travelling further up the leg is by amputation.

Outside nails – These are usually on the front where they can curl under. It is essential they are regularly trimmed to prevent the nail from piercing the footpad.

Boar genitals – There is sometimes a build-up of smegma on the penis. If so, it can be cleaned with a cotton bud and mineral oil. In extreme cases, the penis is unable to retract and is therefore open to infection as guinea pigs are so close to the ground.

Boar impaction – In between the penis and the rectum, there is a cavity known as the perineal sac. A buildup of pellets can cause an impaction, which is sometimes seen in older boars. If it is not attended to, it will grow to the size of a tennis ball and cause discomfort and stress. An impaction can be regularly removed using a cotton bud and mineral oil.

Sows – Unless neutered (which is a fairly invasive op consisting of a full hysterectomy), ovarian cysts can develop. Other symptoms are bi-lateral hair loss, feeling hot, and crusty nipples. An alternative is a course of HCG hormone injections, which can address all symptoms, including reducing the size of the ovarian cysts. Large cysts can be problematic as they can push against the bladder, causing further issues.

Long-haired guinea pigs – All guinea pigs should be groomed and kept knot and matt-free. Cut or gently tease out the knots and matts. Use a wide-toothed comb and keep him trimmed and clean around the rear end. Knots in the groin area are often overlooked.

Clicky breathing – This could be caused by a number of problems but environmental issues should be addressed first. Often the remedy is better airflow. Other causes may be the use of room sprays, scented candles, Shake n Vac or fumes of any description, including the smell of crop sprays on adjoining farmland, dusty hay and the use of wood-shavings or, even worse, sawdust.

Dry ears – Some piggies are prone to dry ears. A wipe round with mineral oil on a makeup pad will make him feel a lot more comfortable.

Exercise time – We see many guinea pigs with health issues due to lack of exercise. We cannot stress strongly enough how important it is to provide your guinea pigs with physical and mental stimulation, which can be achieved by putting them into a SECURE grass run (as big as possible) with a floored nest box or transport box with the door off.


Sitting around in a cage can cause perineal impactions in boars (a compacted collection of poops in the perineal sac, which can grow to the size of a tennis ball!); heart, respiratory and circulation abnormalities; and pododermitits (bumblefoot, see above), which is often due to poor circulation.

Guinea pigs are essentially a wild animal that rely on you to provide this essential part of care as long as he is SAFE from predators. Even if he is out for an hour, it’s better than nothing. If he’s not interested, he will stay in his box, but give him time to make a decision. It may be that it’s been so long since he’s been out that he’s forgotten what it’s like! The chances are he will be delighted to do what is natural.

The addition of toys, arches, tunnels AND a companion will add to his mental stimulation. Putting him out before you feed him his veg will encourage him to move
around more. The grass can be wet if he has a nest box. It can be a little windy, as you will find that, the closer to the ground you get, the less windy it is. What they seem to hate is squally rain and, of course, snow and ice.

Our guinea pig clinic, chemist and grooming facility offers routine procedures, non-prescription medications, de-matting, trimming, bathing and spa treatments.


20180326-newsletter-fundraisingTash King, one of our supporters and volunteers, will be raising money for us and our piggies by abseiling down the ArcelorMittal Orbit in Stratford. It’s the UK’s tallest sculpture at 80 metres high!

We’re really thrilled that Tash is taking on this challenge in aid of April Lodge. If you’d like to support her, please visit her JustGiving page:

Upcoming events

CANCELLED – Chilli and Quiz Night at Woodnesborough Football Club

20180326-newsletter-open-dayUnfortunately our quiz night that was due to take place on 28th April at Woodnesborough Football Club has been cancelled.

April Lodge Open Day

Sunday 5th August from 10am. Not to be missed! More details to follow.

Can you help?

20180326-newsletter-newspapersJust before we go, we’d like to ask for your assistance. We really need newspapers to line our hutches. As the freebies have gone, our supplies have gone too. We use about 300 newspapers a week to keep our piggies fresh at cleaning out times.

Eastry neighbours are doing their best to drop off old papers and we have a volunteer who brings as many as possible from a local hospital, but we are still short. If you have newspapers to spare, please do bring them in. Thank you!

Until next time…

Thanks for reading! This edition of Jeepers Squeakers was put together by Lizzie Sabin with contributions from Val Savage and Jo Lockett. The next edition of Jeepers Squeakers is due out in June. Please contact us if you have anything to say, would like any issues addressed, or would like an article placed.

Jeepers Squeakers! December 2017

Dear Readers,

We can’t believe it has been three whole months since we updated you – and that this is the last newsletter of 2017! Winter has thoroughly set in and we have loads to update you on. We’re pleased to report that we raised a whopping £1,200 at our annual race night, which we held in October. Thanks to all of you that attended. The money raised from events like this is so vital to the ongoing running of the charity and the care we give the guinea pigs that come to us. Next up, we have a December raffle, which we will give you information on at the end of this newsletter. Please do pop in and buy some tickets!

Before we get into full swing, we’d like to say a huge thank you to The Debs Foundation, who gave us a wonderful early Christmas surprise by donating £1,000 for a much-needed, sturdy washer dryer for our shelter, so that we can cope with all the washing (mainly of towels and vetbed) that we constantly have to do. This was desperately needed and we’re extremely grateful.

So, coming up, we’re going to tell you about the global guinea pig Secret Santa, we’re going to give you hints and tips on how to collect piggy urine samples, and we’ll tell you how to keep your guineas safe and warm this winter. All this and more to follow!

Guinea pig Secret Santa!

guinea pig with santa hatguinea pig secret santa project logoWe are very excited to be part of the great guinea pig Secret Santa project again this year. This is a global initiative whereby complete strangers (yes, really!) put together parcels of Secret Santa presents for deserving piggies in shelters across the world. It’s a truly lovely idea at Christmas, especially for older or sick piggies that may not get rehomed.

April Lodge Guinea Pig Rescue has been asked to put forward deserving piggies for several years, and so we have done so again for 2017. In fact, all 15 of the residents in our Guinea Pig Retirement Home in Herne Bay will be getting gifts, along with some of the piggies here in the shelter. They will be receiving their gifts soon! If you would like more information, you can check out the initiative’s Facebook page.

Urinary Tract Infections: Information from Val Savage, Founder of April Lodge

hunched-up guinea pigGuinea pigs are fairly prone to this condition, seeing as they are so close to the ground. You can help by ensuring they are kept in clean conditions and by looking out for a guinea pig that hunches his back when he urinates (see picture below) and listening out for the accompanying, sometimes loud, squeaks of pain.

Getting the guinea pig on clean towels or vetbed will help to keep him dry underneath and will also tell you if he has a more advanced case, with blood in his urine; this often indicates cystitis. To give your guinea pig instant (although temporary) relief, you can syringe in human cystitis powders, mixed as they would be for a human being.

You may then wish to take a urine sample to the vet for analysis/dipping. This will save you money, as if the vet has to take the sample then it will cost extra. The test may tell you if the sample contains a named bacteria, blood, crystals, bladder sludge, etc. A competent vet can adequately deal with this, although he or she may wish to obtain a definitive diagnosis via an x-ray. We can give the names and contact details of guinea pig-savvy vets, should you need them.

Initially, your guinea pig will need to be registered at your chosen veterinary surgery. You also need to check if they are ok for you to bring in a urine sample and at what time. This brings us to getting the sample itself. You will need to place the piggy in a super-cIean small plastic crate, with the end propped up on a book or two. We advise scalding the crate with almost boiling water to clean it, but being careful not to melt the plastic!

So, place the guinea pig in the crate with nothing else in situ (not even food or hay). You will need a sterile (unused) 1ml syringe to draw up the urine once it has pooled at one end of the box. The gradient must not be too steep, or you are sure to get poops mixed in with the urine, which is not the desired effect.

Once the urine is drawn up into the syringe, wind some selotape around the open end to prevent it from leaking out, or you can stay one step ahead by purchasing 1ml syringe stoppers online.

The initial treatment would usually consist of 0.5mls of Co-Trimoxazole twice daily, along with 0.2mls of Metacam once daily for 14 days. These are prescription-only medications, so you will need to see the vet.

Do note that keeping your guinea pig indoors and near you will lead to more prompt diagnosis and treatment.

More railway babies!

railway baby Tallulah railway baby TiffanyYet again, we have rescued some guinea pigs found down on the train tracks. Why people think that throwing unwanted pets off a moving train or dumping them on the tracks is acceptable is beyond us. But we’re pleased to say that we were able to rescue these two, thanks to our regular rescuer in the railway network who spent his birthday catching them. Thank you!

Both are girls, and have been named Tiffany and Tallulah. We guess that they were 8 to 10 weeks when they came in – both were underweight. They have settled in fast though and, with regular handling and a good diet, they’re getting used to humans and putting on weight. We will find them a lovely home soon I am sure.

Winter! Cold weather and predators…

We may have got past the perils of fireworks night for guinea pigs, but winter has more hurdles in store for us yet when it comes to guinea pig care. Here, our lovely volunteer Jo gives us some winter care tips and fills us in on the predators we need to keep in mind at this time of the year… Thanks Jo!

Keeping your piggies safe from winter predators, by Jo Lockett

We always ask that our adopters bring guinea pigs inside or into a sheltered building in winter. They’ll be safer and warmer if inside and you’ll be able to interact with them more, rather than trekking outside in the cold and rain to see and feed them. Being inside also means you can pick up on any strange noises, which may indicate a health problem.

But, IF you keep your piggies outside, be aware of predators. They’ll get hungrier in winter and guinea pigs make tasty snacks!

fox in broad daylightFoxes: Guinea pigs are very vulnerable to attacks by foxes, especially overnight. Once Mr Fox knows there is a guinea pig or two to be had, he will be back night after night. He is normally relentless in his quest to capture and kill. We often get unwanted hutches donated to us that show the teeth and claw marks of foxes as they have tried repeatedly to get to the guinea pigs. Cheaply made hutches are easily broken into. Even if he has visited but not managed to get to his prey, the guinea pigs will often die of a trauma-related heart attack.

A fox will dig, scratch, jump on top of the hutch, try to chew his way in, push the hutch over (especially two-tier hutches with an open base) and, in fact, do anything he can to get to his prey. If you leave your hutch on grass, he will either knock it over or dig underneath or through the wood to gain access. The hungrier he is, the worse it gets. He is quite adept in sliding open latches and, if he fails, he will be back night after night. This is the same for a pregnant vixen in winter, who will take any measures to get to a source of food. The fox pictured here was seen out in broad daylight by one of our volunteers!

Rats: Rats are experts at gaining access; they can chew through wooden floors and slip into the smallest gaps. They often attack adult guinea pigs, sometimes killing them. They always attack and kill baby guinea pigs.

Mice: Mice can easily squeeze through the smallest holes to get to the food and warmth. But, be warned – mouse urine is toxic to guinea pigs.

Birds: We know of a lady that kept her guinea pigs in hutches in an aviary with no roof. One morning, she let them out into the aviary and popped indoors, and, when she came back, one was missing. It then transpired that a hawk had been around for a few days prior to the attack. Other birds with an interest are magpies and seagulls.

Cats: Most cats will get bored after the initial arrival of guinea pigs brings out the ‘hunter’ in them. The wire mesh on the run should not be big enough for the cats to get their paws through. However, if access is made, the guinea pigs will be in trouble. A cat with the capacity to do it can capture and kill a rabbit, so a guinea pig will be easy pickings!

Dogs: The default reaction in many breeds of dog is to kill guinea pigs, especially in terrier-type breeds. Dogs should be supervised around guinea pigs at all times and not given the option of doing any harm.

Why adopt from us? A piece by Jo Lockett

Most of our pigs were bought from pet stores and became unwanted because the kids lost interest, they can’t handle them, or the owners realised that guinea pigs need more looking after than they had anticipated. So we have a duty of care to give these little ones the best second chance they can get.

Adopting from us may not be as simple as just popping into your local pet store one afternoon and coming home with some piggies. But we do offer much more…

  • We offer advice at every step of the way and, if you need to buy equipment, we can usually advise on better and cheaper options than pet stores.
  • We offer FREE hands-on sessions for all adopters, where we advise on diet, health concerns and handling, and can answer any questions you may have.
  • All our unwanted piggies have spent time in our quarantine section to be bathed, fattened up (usually required!), health-checked, wormed, handled and made ready for adoption.
  • We provide a FREE quarterly welfare check for all guinea pigs adopted from us, which includes worming, nail clipping, microscopic slides to check for parasites, ears/eyes checks, boy/girl bits cleaned and a weigh-in, along with any other advice you may need. We usually spend 10–15 minutes on each pig and give them a thorough check – and we do this across the rest of their lives.
  • We will always be available to answer queries or concerns you may have once you have taken the piggies home.

Take a look at our guinea pigs available for adoption.

Enter our raffle!

Our massive Christmas raffle is in full swing! It’s just £1 for a strip of five tickets, and there are truly fabulous prizes to be won.

first prize christmas hamper1st prize (pictured) is a HUGE hamper of goodies – biscuits, chutneys, sweets, nuts and more.

2nd prize is a smaller hamper of similar treats.

3rd prize is a selection of piggy presents.

There are also some runner-up prizes to choose from.

We’d like to say a huge thank you to our wonderful supporter, Angela Lane, for putting these prizes together and donating them to us. It’s all in a good cause, so pop in to get your tickets! Or, if you can’t make it into the shelter, just post us a cheque or cash for the tickets, along with a stamped and addressed envelope, and we will send your tickets back to you. We will draw the winning ones on December 17th, and we are able to deliver prizes in Herne Bay, Maidstone, Gravesend, Deal, Dover, Wingham and Canterbury.

Our shelves are stocked!

guinea pig items in our shopOur shop is full to bursting at the moment with new stock and, in particular, stuff to keep your piggies warm this winter. We have foodie treats, microwaveable heat pads, shampoos, aromatherapy oil soaks, medicines and a great selection of washable cuddle mats, caves, sofas and igloos. All piggies love curling up in these to keep cosy in winter!

Also, we have just had a delivery of cosy nests, waterproof cuddle mats, large sofas and large cosy tunnels. So why not pop in and treat your piggy this Christmas?

2018 fundraising!

That’s right, we already have events in the offing for 2018! First up is our Chilli Quiz Night, which will be held on Saturday 28th April at Woodensborough Football Club. There is easy parking, a bar, a raffle and quiz prizes, as well as a scrumptious meal. Tickets are £10 each, and teams can be made of up to 10 people. We will bring you more information in the next newsletter and on Facebook, but do save the date now!

Then there’s our famous Annual Open Day and Fun Show on Sunday 5th August, from 10am until 3pm. Again, we will give you more information in due course, but get that date in your diary now! We look forward to seeing you there.

Until next time…

Thanks for reading! This edition of Jeepers Squeakers was put together by Lizzie Sabin with contributions from Val Savage and Jo Lockett. The next edition of Jeepers Squeakers is due out in March. Please contact us if you have anything to say, would like any issues addressed, or would like an article placed.

Jeepers Squeakers! September 2017

Dear Readers,

We have no idea how it’s already September! Time has probably flown by because we’ve had so much on here at April Lodge. We had a hugely successful Open Day and Fun Show in August, raising over £3,000, and we have had our very own baby guinea pigs born here in the lodge. We’ll tell you more about both the Open Day and the babies below (warning: cute pictures alert!). We have also had our busiest time of the year – at one point in August we had over 100 piggies in the charity, and many more out on foster with our volunteers.

This month, we’ll also tell you about what it’s like to be a volunteer here at April Lodge, we’ll talk about the benefits of a balanced routine, and you’ll read our lonely hearts column and about the importance of introducing new guinea pigs to each other carefully. All this and more below…

April Lodge has babies!

pinky-and-babiesWhile we don’t ever breed guinea pigs, we do sometimes have pregnant sows come in. This happened earlier this year when Pinky came in. Pinky was one of our railway babies, who had been left in a carrier bag in Hove train station. On arrival, we paired her with Puzzle, a neutered boar, so she had a companion. Puzzle had been found in a park, being used as dog bait! So Pinky and Puzzle really needed some tlc! But the drama wasn’t going to end there. It soon became clear that Pinky was pregnant, as she suddenly piled on loads of weight. Usually, weight gain is a sign of good care, food and lovely hay, but hers just kept going up and up. At only around eight weeks herself, Pinky was very young to be pregnant, but she gave birth just fine, and on the afternoon of June 29th her two babies joined us. Named Cinnamon and Parsley, both mum and babies went on short‐term foster with our volunteer Flo so that they could be handled daily. We have now paired Cinnamon (a boar) with an older boar called Danny, and they’re ready and waiting for adoption. And Parsley (a sow) has been paired as well and has already found a loving home.


Things are always very busy here and we couldn’t do what we do without the support of our wonderful volunteers. We have a huge range of people, from all walks of life and of all ages. Flo is our youngest volunteer (at 15) and we won’t tell you how old our oldest is!

If you’d be interested in volunteering, we’d love to hear from you. It’s hard work, but you get to meet some wonderful people and cuddle some lovely piggies. Jo Lockett, one of our most regular volunteers, has written up this on the morning in the life of a volunteer. We hope you enjoy it.

A morning in the life of a volunteer

9am: Volunteers arrive and Val decides who’s going where. There are two main areas: the main part, which houses healthy guinea pigs ready for new homes and perhaps some that are on holiday; then there’s the quarantine area next door, which houses newly admitted pigs that need health monitoring, calming down or to recover from operations (usually castrated boars). In addition, there’s the clinic, the reception area and a small shop. We usually need one person in the quarantine section and at least two people in the main part, especially if there’s a full morning of clinic appointments.

volunteer topping up hay9–9.45: We move the outside runs to a fresh patch of grass and check there are no gaps or broken lids. Guinea pigs do a good job of keeping grass short, so runs can’t simply be left in one spot every day. We also don’t like the boys to get the smell of girls if they have been in that run the day before (as it can make them aggressive and excitable).

We check the boards in each building, as these tell us which pigs are going out, which need medicating and give us any other particular instructions for the day. Unfortunately, with so many pigs in the shelter and only limited runs, we have to put them on a rota for outside time, which works out at them going out once every three days.

Carriers are lined with newspaper and we use these in the runs as a shelter for the pigs to hop in and out of. Those lucky ones going out are given a check to make sure there are no health concerns that might otherwise go unnoticed. They get a brush through so we can check for skin problems or even if they need a haircut or bath. Any medicine required is given before they go out.

9.45–10.45: Once out grazing, their cages are completely emptied, sprayed with disinfectant and left to air dry for as long as possible. Their water bottles are removed and thoroughly cleaned out, as are their food bowls. While two volunteers are doing this mucky task, the third will chop the veg for the day for all piggies into a giant bowl – usually enough for 50 or 60 pigs. At maximum capacity, we have been known to chop for over 100! Everything is kept separate in the bowl, rather than tossed together. This makes picking out the correct rations easier, rather than simply grabbing a handful.

It’s feeding time!

As we feed all the others, we ensure that the pigs are all alive and well. Dried food is topped up or replaced and we check for signs of diarrhoea (mucky poo marks on the side of the dish are an indication of this). Each pig gets four items of veg a day, and we’re careful to check specific instructions on their hutches in case we need to give less veg or avoid certain foods. Finally, their water bottles are emptied and refilled with fresh water.

10.45–11.15: Some may need their cages tidying or beds replacing every day, especially if they are recovering from operations or have medical problems. And we usually have several that need a cuddle every day to get them used to being handled. These are the terrified ones that have hardly ever been held for one reason or another. It’s amazing how a frequent and regular touch can turn these animals round until they no longer run desperately to escape from humans.

We usually have a list of pigs needing baths so aim to squeeze these in between greeting people for clinic appointments, answering the phone, selling goods from our small shop and endlessly sweeping up.

volunteers drinking tea11.15–11.45: All cleaned out hutches are wiped dry of any remaining disinfectant and re‐made with a good layer of newspaper and lots of hay. Their freshly scrubbed water bottles and dried food dishes are replaced and their daily veg ration put in ready for them. At 11.45, they are brought back inside for breakfast in their nice clean hutches, usually followed by a good sleep.

We then do final tidying, sweeping, clearing the kitchen and disinfecting surfaces. At some stage in the morning, we may try and squeeze a cuppa in, but flicking the kettle on is usually the signal for several visitors to all turn up at once! So drinking on the go is usually the order of the day.

The advantages of a balanced routine

There are no hard and fast rules, but there is no doubt that a balanced routine will lead to satisfied guinea pigs that know roughly what’s happening and when, therefore avoiding disappointment, frustration and possibly aggression.

If every time the guinea pigs hear you come down the stairs or open the fridge door they follow this with loud squeaking to which you respond immediately by giving them veg, you really are playing into their paws. You will soon see that you have, in fact, created this scenario, because the guinea pigs know that these familiar morning sounds and actions, followed by their demanding shrieks, always equal a heap of veggies from you – and now they expect it on demand… every time they shout for it. You can’t blame them as it’s all about association.

To get them into your way of thinking, for a start stop feeding them every time you come down the stairs or open the fridge door. First thing in the morning, I can go to my fridge as many times as I like, but my pigs Bagel and Chuckles who live next to the fridge don’t associate these sounds with getting veggies. I feed them when I’m ready and I make sure my first few visits to the fridge are nothing to do with them.

When I’m ready, I use the same tone of voice each time, saying “breakfast boys” two or three times. I want them to know it’s my idea and not theirs. Bagel and Chuckles then scuttle over to me to see what’s on the menu, which is far nicer than being bullied into doing the job! My pigs now know just what’s happening and roughly when… and, more importantly, what’s not happening and when!

Using your voice is key. My pigs know that when a front‐opening carry box arrives in their c&c cage with the door open, with me chanting “You’re going in the run, get in”, this means that a splendid time stuffing their faces in a grass run is imminent and they therefore happily hop into their carry box. It can work the other way too, as in: “In you get, we’re going in”. By this time, they are usually tired and want to get into the box and back into their cage anyway, knowing there is a fresh heap of lush hay waiting for them.

This is an impossible situation when in the shelter, where 60 guinea pigs are simulating the dawn chorus as they hear the veg trolley coming their way. So, ok, they lack breakfast etiquette somewhat, but they still have the potential to be less demanding once they have one‐to‐one care. Bagel and Chuckles are ex‐rescue pigs prior to me having them on long‐term foster, so there’s hope for all of them!

Lonely hearts

Indulge us here…
Here is the ad that Nigel would write in the newspaper:

nigelAn eligible gentleman, Nigel, seeks a guinea pig friend. A guinea of certain years, Nigel is very shy, somewhat lonely, and has lovely luscious locks. He enjoys fine vegetarian dining, cuddles on occasion, and trips to the lawn (as long as he has a tunnel to hide in). Would like to meet a fellow piggy, preferably female, to share his hutch with. Nigel comes to life when near other piggies, and just wants one to call his own. Can offer strolls on the lawn and cuddles in hay. Apply at April Lodge.

Luckily, we have just the piggy to match his needs! Lovely little Poppy has come in recently and is soon to be paired with Nigel (who, by the way, has been neutered). Guinea pigs are social animals and don’t like to live alone. In Switzerland, it’s even illegal to own just one guinea pig! This leads us on very nicely to our guinea pig matching service, MatchPig, which Nigel and Poppy will soon be using.


Our MatchPig service does pretty much what it says on the tin – but you would be surprised at how complex matching guinea pigs can be! It certainly shouldn’t be tried at home. MatchPig was set up alongside April Lodge Guinea Pig Rescue because of the sheer volume of enquiries asking for help to find a guinea pig companion and pair them successfully. This is not viable for a charity that relies on volunteers to care for up to 80 guinea pigs a day. Hence, MatchPig became a dedicated introduction service to help concerned owners, their bereaved pigs and the singles in the charity.

Guinea pig behaviour is often misinterpreted anyway, but, during an introduction, this behaviour and the accompanying noises can seem even more odd and sometimes look pretty rough. This is often when owners attempting an introduction themselves misread the signs or lose their nerve and intervene. A number of times, we have had to pick up the pieces and start the process all over again. Yet there are only so many times an introduction can be attempted before it’s game over. Alternatively, there is the time to know when it will never work and the fine line to tread between possible and never is why introductions on neutral territory with a behavioural expert make all the difference.

Guinea pig matching is a huge topic, and we hardly have time to delve into it here, but if you want to know more about it, then contact or visit the MatchPig Facebook page for latest updates. Here, we will satisfy ourselves with telling you about two of our successful cases.

Munch and Joey

munch and joeyMunch, a bereaved boar of around five years, was looking for a companion. Luckily, Joey, another older and bereaved boar, was also looking for one! Munch was a little difficult to start with, but Joey took him under his wing and told him it was all going to be ok. Here they are a week after getting home. Munch is the white one and Joey the longer‐haired one.

TIP: We start off by putting them in the same run, but with a divider in. So, this way, they can see each other but they cannot get to each other.

Benji and Mackie

benji and mackieMackie was one of three guinea pigs found in a biscuit tin, and came into the charity when he was just a tiny baby. Benji came into the charity with another boar, but they’d been separated due to fighting with each other. Things went well when we introduced the two, so it was only three days before the divider was removed and they went in together. Their owner, Di, tells us that they adore each other and that it’s a match made in heaven.

Open Day


On Sunday 6 August, we held our annual Open Day and Fun Show, and we’re pleased to say that it was the best yet! Loads of visitors and their guinea pigs came along, and a great day was had by all. We took £3,160 in total and, after costs, made £2,689. This is an amazing amount, and so vital for the continued running of the charity. We have many expenses to accommodate, and this will go towards covering vet bills, food and hay, not to mention the two giant industrial bins of soiled bedding, poo and muck that have to be taken away at a cost of £184 a month.

Race night

Our popular Guinea Pig Race Night is happening again on Saturday 7 October at 7pm. Of course, we don’t use real guinea pigs! Tickets are £5 each, you can bring your own food and drink, and we will, of course, bet! The event is held at Manston Village Hall: CT12 5BA.

It’s 50p per bet and guinea pigs are auctioned at the beginning of each race. Bets placed on the winning guinea pig get cash prizes, with the amount depending on the tote. The owner of the winning guinea pig usually gets a win of £25–£60.
Tickets are available from April Lodge. We look forward to seeing you there!

Until next time…

Thanks for reading! This edition of Jeepers Squeakers was put together by Lizzie Sabin with contributions from Jo Lockett and Val Savage. The next edition of Jeepers Squeakers is due out in December. Please contact us if you have anything to say, would like any issues addressed, or would like an article placed.

The December 2016 issue of Jeepers Squeakers is out now!

Merry Christmas, from all at April Lodge!

Merry Christmas, from all at April Lodge!

Jeepers Squeakers! December edition

In our final newsletter of the year, read about our new extension – from a pile of rubble to the final coat of paint. Thank you to everyone who helped turn this into a reality!

Find out more about the benefits of being a long-term fostercarer for some of the older piggies in our care:

  1. The guinea pigs are FREE
  2. There are NO VET BILLS – ever. BUT….any treatment must be done with our vet. The charity pays for this
  3. Any medication required is FREE and provided by the charity
  4. FREE welfare checks every quarter or whenever there is a problem – for life
  5. You are entitled to HALF PRICE boarding fees
  6. You get 10% DISCOUNT on anything bought in our shop

Read the December issue of Jeepers Squeakers! online.

Make a donation, take part in one of our fundraising events, or organise your own! If you would like to help, email us at

The September issue of ‘Jeepers Squeakers!’ is out now!

September 2016

The September edition of our newsletter, Jeepers Squeakers! is out now. Read the September issue of Jeepers Squeakers! online.

Hug?Highlights in this issue include:

New building: After many months working with architects and planning, in July we got the go ahead and knock down the small, drafty and rather shabby part of the shelter which was originally a concrete panel garage. We plan to replace this 50 year old structure with a larger, better insulated (against summer heat as well as winter cold) building with more organised storage and altogether better facilities for the piggies in need.

Open Day and Fun Show: The sun shone, the crowds came, guinea pigs competed in the Fun Show and the Agility Arena and at last count you helped us raise over £3,000!

Volunteer profiles: Meet two of our amazing volunteers, Lorraine and Audra, and find out why they give up their time to help piggies in need.

Handling: Find out how to turn a furry ball of squeaking fury into a compliant, cuddly piggy, in just a few easy steps!

Find out more about our fundraising events coming up, including our Hallowe’en Race Night Saturday 29 October at

For more news and updates, follow us on Facebook at and we are now on Twitter @GuineaCharity!