What is a guinea pig?

What is a guinea pig photograph describing a guinea pig

The guinea pig (or domestic guinea pig) is a member of the rodent family, specifically the Cavildae family (Cavia genus). They are also known as cavy or domestic cavy. They actually originate from the Andes in South America despite their common name suggesting they are from Guinea in Africa.

Where are guinea pigs from?

Spanish sailors travelling from South America in the 16th century brought guinea pigs to Europe and they were really expensive to purchase. This meant that only the wealthy could afford them. Thankfully guinea pigs are much more affordable now and can be purchased from a wide range of pet stores across the UK, Europe and the US.

Guinea pigs have been rising in popularity over the last decade thanks to their friendly and gentle nature making them the perfect pet for all ages. In some parts of the world, there are organisations dedicated to the specialized breeding of specific breeds with varying coat colours and textures.

Below is some useful information about Guinea Pigs. Click on the links or use the menu at the top of this site to learn more.

Amazing Guinea Pig Facts.

can you have a clever guinea pig
  • A full-grown guinea pig weighs between 700 – 1,200g (1.5 – 2.6 lbs) and is typically 20 – 25cm in length
  • Guinea pigs typically live between 4-8 years. The oldest guinea pig was 14 years and 10.5 months old! Life span can be affected by their living conditions and nutrition.
  • All breeds are usually a similar size and the temperament is more or less the same between breeds. There are ten types of domesticated guinea pig breeds.
  • Guinea pig litters range from one to six babies. The young of a guinea pig is referred to as pups.  Newborn pups are well developed in relation to hair, teeth and claws. They are born with partial eyesight and are immediately mobile. They also begin to eat solid food immediately whilst also continuing to suckle.

Guinea Pig Behaviour

guinea pigs cuddling together showing normal guinea pig beahviour

Guinea pigs are timid creatures and when scared they freeze or run for cover. They are poor climbers but are able to jump small obstacles. Their strongest problem-solving strategy is motion.

Guinea pigs jump when they are happy which is referred to as “popcorning.”

Guinea pigs are very chatty! They talk to each other all the time and once settled into their new home with you, will start talking to you too. They make a variety of sounds (whistling and purring) You can learn more about that in our behaviour and sounds section.

Guinea Pig Nutrition

guinea pig eating baby spinach to showcase guinea pig nutrition

A guinea pigs main food is hay. They can also eat endless amounts of grass. Guinea pigs are unable to make their own vitamin C like humans so its important to incorporate it into their diet or to buy a good quality guinea pig dry mix that contains vitamins.

You can learn more about what to feed your guinea pigs in our feeding section.

Guinea pig home comforts

Wilda cavies have been identified in the 20th century and are thought to have been domestic and have been reintroduced to the wild. Studies have shown they live on grassland in groups of several females (sow) and one male (boar) Their young also form part of this group. They take shelter in the abandoned nests and burrows of other animals although do not actively make these homes themselves.

Domestically guinea pigs live in cages and in smaller groups usually consisting of two sows or boars. Their cages are lined with various types of bedding such as hay, shredded paper or corn on the cob type materials.

You can learn more in our housing section.

Guinea pigs are social creatures

two guinea pigs touching noses to show how social guinea pigs are.

Guinea pigs are social creatures and it is recommended that you purchase more than one guinea pig when buying.

Previously it was believed that guinea pigs and rabbits cohabited well together however now this opinion has become divided with research suggesting rabbits tend to bully the smaller guinea pigs.

Evidence shows that some larger animals (such as dogs and cats) can be trained to tolerate guinea pigs with some showing genuine affection towards them. You can learn more in our behaviour and sounds section.

Grooming and handling your guinea pigs

guinea pig grooming set

The amount of time spent on grooming your guinea pig is determined by the type of breed it is (find out what breed your guinea pig is here) Long-haired guinea pigs need to be groomed daily whilst shorter breeds can be groomed weekly.

Guinea pigs should be handled correctly from a young age. This results in happy adult guinea pigs who are happy to be handled and carried. They also seldom bite or scratch. Well handled guinea pigs will often whistle with joy on the owner’s approach!

You can learn more in our grooming and handling section.

Guinea pig health issues

Guinea pigs suffer from common ailments such as vitamin C deficiency (Scurvy), abscesses due to infections, respiratory problems and diarrhoea. They are also more prone to broken bones due to their delicate skeleton.

A well-cared-for guinea pig that eats a balanced diet is more likely to be fit and healthy giving you fewer health issues to worry about. Guinea pigs suffer from extreme temperature fluctuations as they don’t like to be too hot or too cold. There are easy and simple ways to protect your guinea pigs from such extreme temperature variations and you will find many helpful articles about in our health section.

Most importantly – have fun with your guinea pig!

Its an amazing time having guinea pigs as pets. They are loving and affectionate. They each have their own little personalities and can be rather amusing!  If you have any questions please get in touch and comment below!

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