How to bathe your cavy, the less mess method

23 Jul

Cavies are generally pretty finicky about their personal hygiene, but sometimes, even the cleanest critters need a little extra help. Unfortunately, cavies aren’t always the most cooperative about bath time.

In recent months I’ve figured out a method I have found pretty effective at removing mess from my cavies without spreading that mess all over my bathroom, Dr. Seuss style. I just bathed one of my cavies last night, so I thought I’d share my new technique with you.

Note: While intended for and demonstrated by long-haired cavies, this technique should transfer nicely to short-hairs as well. Also note that start to finish, this process takes one to three hours. I would not recommend starting at 10 p.m.

What you’ll need:


Your guinea pig.

Your guinea pig’s comb.

An old towel.

Shampoo. Cavy hair is structurally identical to human hair, so if you have nothing else on hand, your own shampoo will suffice, just be sure to keep any and all soap away from your cavy’s eyes. If the thought of sharing shampoo with your cavy bothers you, there are a few cavy-specific shampoos on the market. Mane-and-Tail also works well, as does tearless baby shampoo.

Conditioner (optional). See above.

A jar, large cup, pitcher, or any similar container adequate for transporting water.

A shallow plastic bin. You can see what I mean in the picture above. Anything similar should work fine. And this doesn’t have to be expensive — I bought mine at the dollar store.

You’ll also need a hair dryer with variable temperature settings for later.

Once you’ve gathered all the necessary materials, fill the bin with a few inches of warm water. The water level should not exceed the height of your cavy. Pay close attention to the temperature of the water–it should be warm, not hot or cold. Cavies overheat easily, but they also quickly develop pneumonia if chilled.

Before you get your cavy wet, be sure to comb any tangles out of its hair. Wetting down knots only seems to make them worse, so I find it best to avoid knots entirely.


Once your cavy is ready and the bath drawn, you can take the whole operation anywhere you like. I set up shop in my caviary, where I’ve laid a tarp down to keep the carpet clean. But you could move anywhere with a water proof floor. You could even go outside if the weather is agreeable.

The bath itself is a pretty simple procedure. Be sure to lower your cavy into the bath feet first — he will appreciate that.


Wet his hair down, then work the soap through his hair, moving in the direction of the hairs’ growth.


To rinse your cavy, fill a jar, cup or pitcher with water and gently pour it over your cavy’s back. If the water level in the bin gets too high, use the jar to remove the extra water. Note: NEVER submerge your cavy’s head in water.

Rinse your cavy thoroughly. If any soap remains on his hair, your cavy may take the liberty of chewing it off for you. When your cavy is satisfactorily clean, lift him out of the bin, carefully wring as much water from his hair as possible, and wrap him in a towel.


While your cavy dries for a minute, go ahead and empty the bin into a drain, or go outside and water some dry grass with the bathwater. Rinse the bin and store it away for later use.

Even if your cavy is short-haired, you should never let it air dry. A wet cavy is a cavy at risk of pneumonia. Also, wet cavies attract dirt like magnets.


Unwrap your cavy, comb out his hair and start blow drying, using warm air that is neither hot or cold. For long-haired cavies, it helps to go at it one section at a time. If your cavy’s hair curls (and isn’t supposed to) you can use the flat edge of the comb to help straighten it.


Take your time and be patient. This entire process can take an hour or more. If at any point your cavy gets frazzled or you find yourself getting frustrated, take a quick time-out and let your cavy relax for a minute. With patience and persistence, your cavy will look handsome as ever before too long.


Special thanks to Marshall for being especially patient during his bath last night.


2 Responses to “How to bathe your cavy, the less mess method”

  1. Kiana Lin July 23, 2013 at 5:26 pm #

    So cute~ 🙂 Especially when wrapped up in a towel, Marshall looks cuddly and adorable.

  2. Val July 23, 2013 at 5:36 pm #

    If you have a long-haired you intend to give a fur trim, it’s easier to do the big stuff before, less to wash. I had three crested at one point, two of them male. I didn’t show. It was easier to keep them trimmed. One or two tangled baths made me decide that dry cutting before was better, finishing wet just worked better.

    If you can wrangle a friend to dry while you wash the next pig, it also helps.

    Working on the post of my set’s bath — we have a laundry sink. 🙂

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