Saturday, October 15, 2011

Cleaning Colonel Snuggles

Dear Reader, you hear about chickens and cooking a lot from the TUF.  and there will be more on those topics coming soon, though i've clearly been a bit delinquent lately.  but i believe that it is time i address a topic dear to my heart, tangential to the business of TUF philosophy and food: the care and husbandry of the singular Colonel Snuggles.

he is a member of the species Cavia porcellus, the guinea pigs.  his kind originated in high mountain meadows in the shadows of the formidable Andes, providing a source of both food and companionship for native peoples.  his ancestor charmed queen elizabeth I, enjoying the royal lifestyle and lavish vegetarian menus cavies desire and deserve. his close wild relative is the largest rodent in the world, the aquatic and adorable capybara.  it's possible i'm biased.  i LOVE guinea pigs.  specifically Colonel Snuggles.

the Colonel lives in our living room in a perpetually open-door house designed for a rabbit, so it is a veritable guinea pig mansion.  it is a split-level affair, with two hammocks and a tshirt-covered ledge comprising the upper level, and the traditional bedding (care-fresh recycled woodpulp mixed with natural lavender compostable granules) below.  he fully participates in most family room activities, is cordial with our other pets, and gets dedicated couch/lap time most days.  he has a special ball full of timothy hay and a bowl of the finest guinea pig pellets for his gastronomic enjoyment, and his day is not complete unless he partakes of a fresh spinach and baby lettuce mix salad.  though a strict vegan, he maintains a portly composition at a solid 2 pounds.  his impressive size is enhanced by his dense and fluffified fur.  he is, in short, Absolutely Precious.  And absolutely spoiled rotten.

though guinea pigs are practically perfect in every way, like all of us they have some less than delicate habits and tendencies.  for instance, cavies are coprophages--rather than chewing a bovinian cud, they create special poops that they re-eat to facilitate the digestion of all that dietary roughage.  yup, special poops.  and, the boars (that's what you call male guinea pigs) really like to mark their territory by peeing in a spot and then d-r-a-g-g-i-n-g their substantial bellies through it, ensuring more complete scent coverage on both the area and themselves.  the Colonel is a boar, and is no exception.  luckily, through multi-level caviomansion technology and regular attendance to bedding cleanliness, Colonel Snuggles generally maintains high levels of snuggleability. but occasionally...say, every couple months or so...a bath is in order.

there is another aspect to the little darling boars.  they produce...well, a musk.  grease, really.  from a grease gland, a strange sticky dot where their tail should be on their fluffy butts.  unfortunately, the Colonel's grease gland was becoming unbecoming.  and everyone needs a toe-nail trim every once in awhile!  so, today Colonel Snuggles had a guinea pig full-service spa treatment.

*A NOTE: guinea pigs do not enjoy spa days especially.  they do enjoy being kept clean and fresh in fresh and clean environments. but, if you have a traumatized guinea pig or one whose health is compromised in any way, or one who just seems really opposed to any of the following caviogrooming activities, i don't recommend continuing them.  the Colonel is a highly tolerant and forgiving guinea pig, and i am honored to have his trust.  but he certainly complains sometimes when receiving full-service spa care, and if yours screams bloody murder or goes terrified-catatonic, please cease and desist! END OF NOTE*

i assembled the necessary items: many towels of different sizes, a dye-free fragrance-free all natural puppy/kitten shampoo, sharp high-quality tiny toenail trimmers, a soft slicker brush, and some gojo.  yeah, the stuff car mechanics use to get heavy duty grease off their hands.  for the grease gland.  (it's a good thing these dirty boars are so adorable!!) i then included an as-yet unsuspicious Colonel.

to facilitate nail trimming and reduce squirmage, i practice a technique called 'burritoing' with a clean dishtowel.  (if he didn't suspect something out of the ordinary was happening before, he does now...)

the best way to trim anyone's nails is to be very conservative, shaving the very tips off at first and ever so gradually easing toward the quick.  Colonel Snuggles has light colored nails, so it's pretty easy to see where his quick begins.

way too long!
much better!

the trimming of the toenails is really the most stressful part on both human and cavy.  next was the cleaning of the grease gland with gojo creme--a technique i had read about, but had not yet tried.  it worked like a charm! i used paper towels to dab tiny amounts of gojo onto his grease gland and the surrounding fluff, and after working it in for mere moments, the grease wiped off easily.
dirty grease gland

fresh clean grease gland!

soapy suds

and then, of course, the final spa treatment: the bath.  i do his bath in the kitchen sink, dish towel on the sink floor to make him feel more secure, water warm but not near hot.  the bath is definitely not his favorite, but he suffers through it for the drying off afterwards!

after a thorough wet-down, lather up, and rinse off (with EXTREMELY GENTLE shampoo!), it's time to start the drying process.  i have read that some caviobathers employ a hairdryer for this.  i don't own one, so i just use multiple towels and the air.  he has never caught a chill, though i've heard that guinea pigs are prone to them.  he loves to shake and groom himself dry, and i help by providing warm towels, fresh from the dryer!  guinea pig spa!
the indignant post-bath Colonel.
almost dry, but not totally for hours

cleaned house!
it's not a bad idea to hand-launder your guinea pig while you machine-launder other things, like hammocks or other dirty cage accoutrements.  guinea pigs LOVE to be home in a freshly cleaned mansion that they can proceed to freshly pee-mark to their hearts' content.
clean hammocks installed

so as the Colonel spends some time under a warm towel in his post-spa beerbox, i set up his caviomansion.  he's almost ready to get back to the normal day of munching, petting and napping.
warm towel treatment
frantic after-bath groom session

back to normal!
so there you have the rundown of the Colonel's approximately quarterly spa session, a regimen i highly recommend for spoiled, patient guinea pigs everywhere. for some video evidence of the Colonel's adorability...

here is a post bath shake off, which he also employs after receiving multiple nose-kisses.
here he demonstrates his appreciation for a good petting session.

anyway, Dear Reader, thank you for accompanying Colonel Snuggles on his journey from stinky boar to decidedly unstinky fluffy flufferness.  more traditional TUF stuff to come.  as always...stay tuned!


  1. This makes me miss my childhood girl so much. I think my son will be ready for his first guinea pig very soon.

  2. This is really great info! I'm totally going to check out gojo now-I've always been worried, but it seemed to work out great for you guys! :)