We raise Texels and curly coated Guinea Pigs but before you click here to read more about Texels and Curlies it is important to first learn about and to understand the history and basic care requirements of all Guinea Pigs

A bit about Guinea Pigs

Classification

Classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Rodentia

Suborder: Hystricomorpha

Infraorder: Hystricognathi

Parvorder: Caviomorpha

Family: Caviidae

Subfamily: Caviinae

Genus: Cavia

Species: C. porcellus

Binomial Name: Cavia porcellus

Common Name: Cavy, Guinea Pig or Cuy (Coy)

Common Name: Cavy, Guinea Pig or Cuy (Coy)

There are quite a few theories so we do not know for certain how the Guinea Pig got its’ name. Some people believe that the domestication of the “Guinea Pig “began with the “Andean” people” who kept cavies (coy) as a primary food source. European sailors brought these animals to Europe via slave ships and because cavies were usually seen eating and because of their body structure resembles that of wild boar and when cooked they taste a bit like pork, they referred to them as pigs. Although they not even closely related to pigs, even its species name, C. porcellus, means "little pig" in Latin. When they arrived in Britain they were raised and sold to the elite, for one Guinea each, which was a hefty price in that era. Hence a slang term Guinea Pig was often used to describe a cavy and the name “Guinea-Pig” is still a commonly used to identify a cavy, in many places around the world.


Natural Distribution: Conservation Status in the Wild: The pet Guinea Pig (C. porcellus) is a selectively bred hybrid that does not naturally occur in the wild. They are believed to be hybrids of C. aperea, C. fulgida and C. tschudii. Morphology suggests that they are more closely related to C. tschudii. Per IUCN all three-wild species are of least concern and wild populations are stable. The wild cavy species range from the Andean highlands from Columbia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia.


Physical Description: Guinea pigs are tailless rodents and although they do have tail vertebrae, they do not have a tail. They are considered to be fairly large for being a rodent. They have a large head for their size and a very stout neck. Like other species of cavies, the one distinguishing feature that the domestic Guinea Pig has is the identifiable four toes in the front and three toes on the rear feet. Their body type has evolved to fit their natural grazing habits and they are commonly referred as the cow of the rodent world. While they can very quickly they prefer not to climb or jump. While they can climb and jump when they need to do to their body structure they are very poor (clumsy) climbers and jumpers and can easily injure themselves.

Guinea Pigs are very clean animals but because of their body structure they spend very little time grooming themselves. Instead they prefer to be groomed by other Guinea Pigs and they willing return the favour by spending hours grooming other herd members.


EYES: They have large round eyes but they do no see very well as we humans do but being that their eyes are placed high up and more on the sides of on their faces they can see approximately 340 degrees which is almost all the way around them.


Ears: they have small ears that are located closer to the top sides of their skulls. The structure of the guinea pig ear and hearing abilities are similar to that of humans, Guinea pigs also display the Preyer reflex the outer ear moves in response to a whistle and high pitched sounds.


Teeth: Guinea pigs have 20 teeth, 4 incisors and the rest inside their mouth. Their teeth continue growing throughout their lives which are typically worn down when the chew on tough grass and twigs that they find in the wild. They typically are not aggressive chewers but that is why it's so important for them to constantly given somethings to gnaw on, so that they wear their teeth down, when kept in captivity. Fruit tree branches work well.


Adult Weight: There is no difference in the standard size of either sex. Both the male and female Guinea Pig usually weigh around 700 to 1200 grams (1.5 – 2.5 pounds). Some breeds such as the “Cuy” cavy can get up to 6 pounds (2.7 kg), but a Cuy is the type of Guinea Pig that is most often raised as food as they are not considered as a good social pet. They are sometimes kept by collectors & hobbyists as display animals as Cuy cavies usually don’t have the friendly personality that is typical of the more common pet Guinea Pigs.


Adult Size/Length: Both male and female pet Guinea Pigs usually measure approximately 20 to 25 cm (8 to 10 inches).


Natural Habitat & Environment Conditions: Guinea Pigs are not rainforest dwellers. They prefer less humidity. Herds are naturally found living in the drier Andean highlands living in the mountainous regions that have many types of terrains. Guinea Pigs prefer areas with lots of ground cover such as lightly forested or brushy areas, scrublands, savannahs, and grasslands. Although they are not known to dig they do make homes out of abandoned animal burrows and dens. They prefer temperate regions that typically have spring and summerlike temperatures year-round. Temperatures are usually a little more stable in these regions that typically range between 60 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit (15 to 22 degrees Celsius). Temperature fluctuations are common and are known to swing rapidly. Sometimes it can get much warmer during they day and colder at night, which can cause Guinea Pigs to suffer a great deal of stress and can put their health at risk.


Diet: They need fresh water available always. Their natural diet would consist of a variety of vegetation such as grasses, tough leafy greens, seeds, tubers and occasionally, a few fruits.


Personality / Social Structure: In the wild, population growth is controlled by predation, food availability, weather. Usually a wild herd consists of many sows (females) and a boar (male) and many pups (babies).

Guinea Pigs are a prey animal and a food source for many types of predators therefore they are quite shy and skittish. They need to be constantly on guard and always ready to flee from danger in an instance.

They are herd animals that prefer to live in and thrive best when they live in extended social groups where they can depend on and rely on one another for companionship and their personal safety. They are more at ease knowing that other herd members are on the lookout for danger. The more eyes the better. Wild Guinea Pigs typically live in large loosely structured herds. These larger herds are comprised of several smaller groups (harems) of 1 male to a few females. These smaller groups have their place within a larger herd and although they are somewhat territorial members of a certain group typically do not follow a strict hierarchy and all members are usually considered equal. A harem is usually lead and co-ordinated by an older matriarch. In the wild, Guinea Pigs seldom choose to go into physical combat with each other without notice. Instead they prefer to stand their ground by posturing and making noise first. If their warnings are not taken seriously they will fight until one retreats.

Although, guinea pigs do form bonds and they can be protective of one another in a group, they do not automatically except new animals in to their herd. New animals are required to live on the outskirts of the group until they gain the confidence and respect of other group members. Becoming accepted as a member of a group usually happens slowly but once they achieve group status they are accepted as equals.


Sleeping Habits and Activity Level: Surprisingly, these little creatures are actually quite active in the wild. They enjoy burrowing in make-shift tunnels and paths in long grasses and shrubs. • • Guinea pigs are awake for about 20 hours of the day and don’t need to sleep for long periods at one time. They prefer to take lots of short naps throughout the day and night. They are naturally crepuscular, meaning that they prefer to be more active primarily during twilight; the period immediately after the sun comes up and before the sun goes completely down. Guinea pigs don't sweat like humans do and therefore they try to avoid direct sunlight as they can get heat stroke easily. During the day they prefer to rest, hoping to avoid mid-day sun and the intense heat of the day. This is probably why that in the wild, they may not be very noticeable during the daylight hours. However, when they are housed indoors, in a stress-free environment, out of direct sunlight they tend to be a bit more adaptable and quickly adjust to a diurnal lifestyle. Some scheduled bright light is required as it helps regulate their internal body clock but long term exposure to direct sunlight without some shade must be avoided.


Average Life Expectancy: Wild cavies, mostly due to predation, seldom live to more than 2 or 3 years of age. They are considered “fairly” long-lived for a rodent. It has been regularly documented that they can live up to 8+ years but typically most live between 5-7 years in captivity We have had a couple that have lived 9 years and the oldest recorded guinea pig lived to 15 - which is documented in the Guinness Book of Records-but that is extremely rare. Guinea Pigs that do not receive an adequate diet, supplemented with Vitamin rich foods get sickly and thus they die earlier than need be so, keeping that in mind, that it lowers the average overall life expectancy to closer to 5 years.


Intelligence: Guinea pigs have good spatial memory and can remember escape routes, pathways to food sources, and the can recognize faces, sounds and voices and different shapes and movements of people and other animals, for a long time.


Communication & Vocalization: Guinea Pigs can make lots of different noises and use certain sounds to express themselves to communicate with other herd members and to people that they are familiar with. In a sense they actually have their own language which includes squealing, chirping, rumbling, purring and chirping sounds as well they communicate by using a lot of body language and posturing to signal their approval, disapproval and status.

When guinea pigs are seen stretching out regularly it is a sign that they are relaxed and content.

Sometimes when they are happy, guinea pigs are seen jumping straight up and down in the air which is referred by hobbyists as "pop-corning" - you'll often see carefree youngsters do this when they are playing.


Life in Captivity

"Some of this is a bit repetitious because domesticated Guinea Pigs are not too much different than their wild ancestors"  BUT...

To a certain degree, domesticated guinea pigs have lost some of their wild behavioural traits. These changes are occurring and still developing mostly because of selective breeding but as much as conscientious Guinea Pig breeders are attempting to produce calm healthy pets, the modern-day pet Guinea Pig still has many of the same traits seen in their wild ancestors. Most still instinctually want to flee whenever they experience unfamiliar circumstances or when ever they feel even a little bit threatened. It is important to socialize a pet Guinea Pig often. They need to become familiar with the home environment and get used to different sounds, smells and new people on a regular basis.


In captivity Guinea Pigs still prefer and need constant companionship to thrive happily. Ideally, they should be raised together with other Guinea Pigs throughout their life. When you are deciding on getting Guinea Pigs to keep as pets, if you do not want unexpected surprises or are not interested in breeding then same sex pairs and trios are the best choice. If you are set on a mixed group but really do not want babies, you can talk to your veterinarian about spaying and neutering. It is also very important to understand that baby Guinea Pigs can reproduce and be impregnated while they are still nursing thus keeping all males in a group is the only way to know for certain that more babies are not on their way.


If you have recently acquired a single pet or if you are wanting to enhance the quality of life of an older Guinea Pig that has been living alone, you may want to seriously consider getting another guinea pig or two as companions. Sometimes newly introduced animals form bonds immediately but sometimes they need to be kept in separate cages for a while. The cages should be kept in the same room. This set-up still offers a certain degree of companionship and enhances the quality of life for each other. They will communicate to each other and with time, they will learn to rely on one another. Eventually, with your supervision, they can be let out of the cages and allowed to roam together for short periods of time. This gives them the opportunity to become accustomed to each other slowly. When they are first being introduced and until such time that the caregiver is certain that they have accepted one another they must never be left unsupervised. Initially, it may take a bit of time for them to become totally familiar with each other as they first need to establish their own personal boundaries. Therefore, it is suggested that the amount of bonding / play time they spend together outside of their cages should be increased slowly and done a few times and as often as needed or for as long as it takes for you to be confident enough to leave them together unattended in one cage.


Once they bond to each other cage mates usually get along quite well, indefinitely. Of course, as with all roommates they will have minor disagreements. When this happens, they do little more than argue over food or space and use a vocal repertoire of squeals, low pitched squeaks and grunts. If these squabbles escalate to full blown fights you may need to intervene. Sometimes females can get a bit more intolerant and grumpy with her cage mates. Typically, this is little more than a power struggle and usually only occurs when she is maturing and wants to become the dominant leader (matriarch) or when she wants to breed, is pregnant or is nursing babies.


In a breeding set-up the herd is usually led by a matriarch, but all herd members keep an eye on the babies. They will all communicate with the babies guiding them to food, water sources shelter or signalling to them that are on the move but usually none of them not even their mothers are very protective of the babies. Sometimes babies will adopt another male or female Guinea Pig and they will form a strong bond with him or her, sort of like an adopted parent. Babies may stay close to that particular animal choosing only to go back to mom for a quick feeding before it quickly returns to the parental figure that it has adopted. 


A male versus a female: Males and females make equally good pets. Both genders require constant companionship and usually prefer living life with cage mates. If they have been raised together you will seldom experience any negative behaviour issues. If new animals are being introduced to a single pet or to an existing herd, it is sometimes easier to introduce females to one another as they tend to be more gracious when accepting new group members. This is because they have evolved in the wild to live in harems consisting of one breeding male to a multitude of females. The females usually cohabitate with few issues while males without harems are usually forced out of the breeding herd and are forced to live on the edge of the herd where they act as sentinels who are constantly on the lookout for predators. This system works as it offers extra protection to the mothers and their babies. Single males bond with each other and form tight knit micro-herds of their own. These groups of males are commonly referred to as bachelor herds.

Females will periodically, strut and chatter their teeth to express dominance over one another. This is usually a little more evident during the breeding season, when a female is more likely to experience and exhibit hormonal mood swings.

Males will almost always display signs of territorial dominance over other new males in a breeding colony and are slower to accept new males to the herd. Males that are exclusively housed and raised together with only males usually get along fine living together. However, it will likely take a while for any male Guinea Pig to get used to a new male cage mate. When they are first introduced to one another, arguments and power struggles are inevitable. It is very important that their caregiver is watching over them as they need to be monitored and/or separated if these fights escalate and become serious battles.

As previously mentioned, Guinea Pigs living together, like any room mate, no matter what the sexes are will have the occasional squabble and tell each other off. Usually these squabbles are short-lived but if not and they are too aggressive or fights start to escalate they need to be separated. All Guinea Pigs desire the companionship of another Guinea Pig. They need to communicate with each other and to live life they way they evolved in nature. They are highly social animals that depend on each other for their own survival. Ideally this companionship can be accomplished as cage mates but if squabbles escalate your Guinea Pigs may need to live side by side in their own separate cage where they can have their own space but will still be able to talk to one another.

Before introducing new animals to a single cage, it is better to do it while they are out of the cage. If Guinea Pigs do not get along, it may take numerous attempts at introducing them and you may need to be a bit creative with how their habitat is set up.

Special things to consider: Being that in nature they are highly social with members of their own species they should always be housed in pairs or small groups. Choosing same sex pairs to keep as pets is best, especially if you do not want them to raise a family. Guinea Pigs breed at a very young age and can become pregnant by their siblings before weaning, often when they are only 3 – 4 weeks of age. Getting two or more males and no females is the only real guarantee that baby Guinea Pigs are not on their way. If they are a bit older, you can also choose to have your pet neutered.

Guinea Pigs are not usually aggressive chewers but being that their teeth grow continuously throughout their lives, they do need hard food, hay, twigs, toys or pumice to gnaw on to help keep their teeth from over growing and causing dental problems.


Enclosure: An open-air wire cage with ½" (finger width) bar spacing is ideal. The cage should be at least 36″ x 20″ x 36″ and is only suitable for one or two Guinea Pigs. While Guinea Pigs can climb and jump they prefer not to. Therefore, providing a topless enclosure may be an option if the cage is tall/ high enough.


Must have Accessories: Suitable cage, sleeping den, chew proof water bottle or non-tip bowl for water, dry clean bedding, good quality food and a food dish /dispenser, exercise wheel, and a gnawing block. 


Environmental Enrichment Activities (Exercise/Toys): Provide a cage large enough to accommodate hiding spots and tubes. Guinea Pigs are natural ground dwellers so they don’t need to have a multiple level cage. But, by offering a second level that is not too high enables the Guinea Pigs more space and it offers each individual animal a bit of extra room to get away from its cage mate once a while. A second level also makes them feel a bit more secure as it offers them a spot where they could go to hide whenever they feel threatened or startled. And they offer a place for a designated sentry to use as his or her look out point. Additional levels should not be higher then 5 – 7” as Guinea Pigs have a natural fear of heights. They prefer not to have to climb or jump unless they have to.


Giving your Guinea Pigs simple puzzles to keep them thinking is important for mental stimulation. Stuffing hay or treats into a pet safe cardboard tube can certainly help keep them busy and entertained for a while. Offering them a safe exercise area outside of their pen is essential. When setting up their exercise pen make sure it is safe and escape proof. The pens need to be secure and weighty. A Guinea Pigs’ bulky body has evolved to enable it to plow through long thick grasses, scrub and brush found in their natural habitat. Make sure that the fence/pen that you use for exercise is weighed down so that it won’t tip over which could cause the animal to escape or might cause injury.


Guinea Pigs are rodents. It is essential that you offer things that are safe for them to chew and gnaw on. As with all rodents, their teeth continuously grow and they need to chew so that their teeth are constantly being filed down.


Temperature: Guinea Pigs are sensitive to extreme temperature fluctuations. Never place your pets’ cage close to a heat vent or an open window where they are exposed to a draft. The drafts caused by a heat vent or open window can be deadly and can lead to pneumonia. The sunshine coming in from an open window can cause the cage to heat up and cause heat stress. An ideal ambient room temperature is somewhere around 18 °C to 23 °C which is what temperature most of us humans like too. 


Light: Guinea Pigs require an equal balance of daylight and night-time darkness to thrive at their best. Avoid putting your Guinea Pig’s cage in direct sunlight. Guinea Pigs kept in a darker dimly lit room in the home should be provided with addition bright but indirect light for several hours per day. Being that they are typically most active at daybreak and nightfall the change in lighting actually stimulates their internal clocks.

Humidity: They thrive best when the humidity level is between 40% to 60%.(Less than 30% and over 70% are not well tolerated)


Nutritional Requirements


Water: Not all types of animals consume a large quantity of water everyday, but none-the-less, they all need to have access to clean drinking water whenever they need it. Therefore, all animals must have access to fresh clean water ALWAYS!


Feeding: Young Guinea Pigs should be free fed a mix of a premium quality Guinea Pig pellets, some fresh fruits and vegetables and a protein rich alfalfa hay until they are approximately 6 months old. After 6 months, your Guinea Pig will likely start eating 3-4 tablespoons of pellets each day preferring to eat more hay and fresh safe vegetables. A premium quality, chemical free (pesticide free, herbicide free, fertiliser free and preferably organic) blend of hay, consisting primarily of timothy hay blended with a bit of alfalfa and meadow grass must be offered unlimited for the remainder of their lives. Fresh leafy greens and a limited supply of fruits should be offered everyday.


Vitamins, Supplements & Treats:  Like humans Guinea Pigs lack the ability to synthesize vitamin C and must get a lot in their diet to avoid scurvy. A Guinea Pig’s diet which is primarily hay can be supplemented with treats such as rolled oats, fresh seed and a small amount of root vegetables and leafy greens that are high in vitamin C and a very small amount or fresh berries and fruit. Because of the sugar content on fruits, they should never be offered dried and should be kept to a minimal quantity, only to be used as a training treat. Home baked biscuits that are made with equal amounts of Quinoa, Amaranth, Rice and Oat flour mixed with an egg are easy to make and they are enjoyed by Guinea Pigs. You can make a batch and when it cools just break it up or crumble it and freeze it for future use.


A varied diet is always best! The fresher the better. A constant supply of hay or fresh grasses is always best. Occasionally offering them root vegetables like carrots and sweet potato are always appreciated. Since Guinea Pigs, like humans, are not able to synthesise their own vitamin C, some leafy greens a limited amount of fresh fruit is required daily. There are supplements that can be added to their food or water that are available but nothing beats, dark leafy greens, a fresh organic apple or some berries.


Socialization & Handling: Before you start training your Guinea Pig you must give it time to learn that it can trust you. Guinea Pigs are naturally skittish when they first arrive in a new home. They have naturally evolved as a ‘flee first’ type animal but they can learn to recognise their owners. They mostly rely on their sense of sound and smell to identify you as a friend. When collecting your Guinea Pig, hoping to spend time with it out of its’ cage, first try tempting it with treats. When it starts to trust you, you can start picking it up but never grab it quickly. Doing so will stress the animal and it could start to fear you. Guinea Pigs do not like staying still but will learn quickly how to relax when sitting on your lap. The best way to hold your Guinea Pig is to cradle it. Have the animal on one arm with your hand under the front legs, use your other arm to hold the animal close to your body so they feel that they won’t fall. They are not likely the type of pet to lay still and have its belly rubbed for very long when it has the opportunity to roam but they will learn to enjoy being out of its cage, sitting on your lap or wandering around in the same room you are in where it will be exploring everything in the room. 


Grooming: Guinea Pigs do not require a lot of bathing. Unless they are extremely soiled, once or twice a month is usually enough. Occasionally giving them a rinse to help remove some of the dust that has accumulated from their bedding, would help them feel more comfortable. Always thoroughly dry off your pet anytime that you have given it a rinse or actual bath. Never allow them to get chilled. Guinea Pigs usually do require some attention paid to their feet and regularly need to have their nails trimmed. For the most part the quick is very visible (the part that is pink). Many people are comfortable with doing this but if you are nervous about injuring your animal always seek the help of a professional. All breeds need some brushing to help them shed loose fur but long haired breeds require daily combing and brushing to keep their coats in condition, free from mats and tangles and to remove debris.


Shopping List

(Recommended Supplies)

Large cage

Hide house

Pine or Aspen shavings

Ceramic food dish

Water bottle

Guinea Pig food

Hay

Treats

Hay rack

Vitamin C supplement

Nail trimmers

Soft bristle brush

Chamois (towel)

Chew blocks

Toys


Health Care: Every live animal can get sick, diseased or suffer from injury. Illness can happen at any time and at any age. People often ask us if you can catch anything from your pet. Yes! While it is not that common, you can catch things from your pets and sometimes we can unknowingly transfer illness to our own pets! I can not stress enough that personal hygiene is probably the most important habit to get into. Before handling, after handling and while caring for any pet be sure to wash your hands and keep your pets’ environment clean!

Sometimes specific species are prone to certain diseases and afflictions more than other species. Cancer, bacteria, viruses, molds and funguses can negatively affect every living thing and sometimes these are things that we have no control over. Even under ideal conditions, there is not much that we can do to prevent these things from happening but whenever an animal shows signs of illness or injury it is important to take it to your veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis and treatment.

Preventative care usually makes a huge difference in the long-term health of your pet. Good nutrition, cleanliness, exercise and a regular veterinary check up are just a few things that we can do to help keep our pet healthy. 


Guinea Pigs are prone to digestive tract problems (G.I. tract). Things such as bloat, diarrhoea, and other intestinal parasites are sometimes a problem. Extreme diet changes, chewing on oily wood branches, fatty foods and algae are just a few things that can cause digestive issues. They are also prone to vitamin C deficiency (scurvy) and therefore the lack of vitamin C in their diet can cause this.

Parasites can be introduced to your Guinea Pigs through food and hay or by a dirty environment. But sometimes even the best cared for animal can still contract parasites through other pets, soil or food. If you think that you pet has parasites bring a stool sample to your vet who can prescribe treatment. Never self medicate your pet. 


Guinea Pigs can develop dental problems. Like other rodents, a Guinea Pig’s incisor teeth constantly grow. They need to chew things to help file their teeth down. If they are deprived things to chew they will inevitably develop tooth problems and could lead to surgery to fix any dental issues.

Excess moisture, humidity and dampness can cause skin diseases, funguses, and pneumonia. While this may not be a direct result of your pets’ environment always keep your Guinea Pig clean and dry. 

Reproduction / Breeding

Males are called Boars

Females are called Sows

Babies (genders not yet identified) are called Pups


Sexual Maturity: 

                        Males: 3 to 5 weeks of age

                        Females: 3 to 5 weeks of age


Suggested Breeding Age in Captivity: While Guinea Pigs can breed at three weeks of age early breeding should be avoided whenever possible. It is better to wait until they are 3 or 5 months and fully mature before they should be allowed to breed and raise a litter. Before breeding any animal, it is important that the animal is in shape, and in good breeding condition prior to introducing them for breeding. While females can successfully raise a litter when housed in a harem set-up and the group will be actively involved in watching over the babies this set-up does not usually produce the results that a breeder might look for in the babies. However, selectively breeding in separate cages is usually better for professional breeders. Choosing the parents of the potential future offspring is very important. Carefully considering the traits and lineage of the two animals that you believe to be the right male and female prior to pairing them together can be done in a separate open-air cage. This usually results in the offspring being closer to what you want to produce in your breeding program. Selective breeding also results in a better survival rate among the offspring and when cared for properly the babies tend to be far more social.


Estrous Cycle: Captive Guinea Pigs can breed year-round and are referred to as seasonally ‘polyestrous’ meaning they have multiple heat cycles within a breeding season. A heat cycle lasts usually 16 days in duration and cycles every 16 - 21 days.


Gestation Period: Pregnancy lasts 50-70 days (usually 70)


Average Litter Size: Although the litter size can vary between 1 and 6 but 3 is most common.


Weaning age: Baby Guinea Pigs are called pups and are able to run when they are only a few hours old. But hey can be weaned when they are 3 weeks old. Sometimes a single pup grows quickly and can be weaned a few days earlier.


A bit of their history: There are quite a few theories so we do not know for certain how the Guinea Pig got its’ name. Some people believe that the domestication of the “Guinea Pig “began with the “Andean” people” who kept cavies (coy) as a primary food source. European sailors brought these animals to Europe via slave ships and because cavies were usually seen eating and because of their body structure resembles that of wild boar and when cooked they taste a bit like pork, they referred to them as pigs. Although they not even closely related to pigs, even its species name, C. porcellus, means "little pig" in Latin. When they arrived in Britain they were raised and sold to the elite, for one Guinea each, which was a hefty price in that era. Hence a slang term Guinea Pig was often used to describe a cavy and the name “Guinea-Pig” is still a commonly used to identify a cavy, in many places around the world.


Natural Distribution: Conservation Status in the Wild: The pet Guinea Pig (C. porcellus) is a selectively bred hybrid that does not naturally occur in the wild. They are believed to be hybrids of C. aperea, C. fulgida and C. tschudii. Morphology suggests that they are more closely related to C. tschudii. Per IUCN all three-wild species are of least concern and wild populations are stable. The wild cavy species range from the Andean highlands from Columbia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia.


Physical Description: Guinea pigs are tailless rodents and although they do have tail vertebrae, they do not have a tail. They are considered to be fairly large for being a rodent. They have a large head for their size and a very stout neck. Like other species of cavies, the one distinguishing feature that the domestic Guinea Pig has is the identifiable four toes in the front and three toes on the rear feet. Their body type has evolved to fit their natural grazing habits and they are commonly referred as the cow of the rodent world. While they can very quickly they prefer not to climb or jump. While they can climb and jump when they need to do to their body structure they are very poor (clumsy) climbers and jumpers and can easily injure themselves. 

Guinea Pigs are very clean animals but because of their body structure they spend very little time grooming themselves. Instead they prefer to be groomed by other Guinea Pigs and they willing return the favour by spending hours grooming other herd members. 


EYES: They have large round eyes but they do no see very well as we humans do but being that their eyes are placed high up and more on the sides of on their faces they can see approximately 340 degrees which is almost all the way around them.


Ears: they have small ears that are located closer to the top sides of their skulls. The structure of the guinea pig ear and hearing abilities are similar to that of humans, Guinea pigs also display the Preyer reflex the outer ear moves in response to a whistle and high pitched sounds.


Teeth: Guinea pigs have 20 teeth, 4 incisors and the rest inside their mouth. Their teeth continue growing throughout their lives which are typically worn down when the chew on tough grass and twigs that they find in the wild. They typically are not aggressive chewers but that is why it's so important for them to constantly given somethings to gnaw on, so that they wear their teeth down, when kept in captivity. Fruit tree branches work well.


Adult Weight: There is no difference in the standard size of either sex. Both the male and female Guinea Pig usually weigh around 700 to 1200 grams (1.5 – 2.5 pounds). Some breeds such as the “Cuy” cavy can get up to 6 pounds (2.7 kg), but a Cuy is the type of Guinea Pig that is most often raised as food as they are not considered as a good social pet. They are sometimes kept by collectors & hobbyists as display animals as Cuy cavies usually don’t have the friendly personality that is typical of the more common pet Guinea Pigs.


Adult Size/Length: Both male and female pet Guinea Pigs usually measure approximately 20 to 25 cm (8 to 10 inches).


Natural Habitat & Environment Conditions: Guinea Pigs are not rainforest dwellers. They prefer less humidity. Herds are naturally found living in the drier Andean highlands living in the mountainous regions that have many types of terrains. Guinea Pigs prefer areas with lots of ground cover such as lightly forested or brushy areas, scrublands, savannahs, and grasslands. Although they are not known to dig they do make homes out of abandoned animal burrows and dens. They prefer temperate regions that typically have spring and summerlike temperatures year-round. Temperatures are usually a little more stable in these regions that typically range between 60 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit (15 to 22 degrees Celsius). Temperature fluctuations are common and are known to swing rapidly. Sometimes it can get much warmer during they day and colder at night, which can cause Guinea Pigs to suffer a great deal of stress and can put their health at risk.


Diet: Their natural diet would consist of a variety of vegetation such as grasses, tough leafy greens, seeds, tubers and occasionally, a few fruits.


Personality / Social Structure: In the wild, population growth is controlled by predation, food availability, weather. Usually a wild herd consists of many sows (females) and a boar (male) and many pups (babies).

Guinea Pigs are a prey animal and a food source for many types of predators therefore they are quite shy and skittish. They need to be constantly on guard and always ready to flee from danger in an instance.

They are herd animals that prefer to live in and thrive best when they live in extended social groups where they can depend on and rely on one another for companionship and their personal safety. They are more at ease knowing that other herd members are on the lookout for danger. The more eyes the better. Wild Guinea Pigs typically live in large loosely structured herds. These larger herds are comprised of several smaller groups (harems) of 1 male to a few females. These smaller groups have their place within a larger herd and although they are somewhat territorial members of a certain group typically do not follow a strict hierarchy and all members are usually considered equal. A harem is usually lead and co-ordinated by an older matriarch. In the wild, Guinea Pigs seldom choose to go into physical combat with each other without notice. Instead they prefer to stand their ground by posturing and making noise first. If their warnings are not taken seriously they will fight until one retreats.

Although, guinea pigs do form bonds and they can be protective of one another in a group, they do not automatically except new animals in to their herd. New animals are required to live on the outskirts of the group until they gain the confidence and respect of other group members. Becoming accepted as a member of a group usually happens slowly but once they achieve group status they are accepted as equals.


Sleeping Habits and Activity Level: Surprisingly, these little creatures are actually quite active in the wild. They enjoy burrowing in make-shift tunnels and paths in long grasses and shrubs. • • Guinea pigs are awake for about 20 hours of the day and don’t need to sleep for long periods at one time. They prefer to take lots of short naps throughout the day and night. They are naturally crepuscular, meaning that they prefer to be more active primarily during twilight; the period immediately after the sun comes up and before the sun goes completely down. Guinea pigs don't sweat like humans do and therefore they try to avoid direct sunlight as they can get heat stroke easily. During the day they prefer to rest, hoping to avoid mid-day sun and the intense heat of the day. This is probably why that in the wild, they may not be very noticeable during the daylight hours. However, when they are housed indoors,  in a stress-free environment, out of direct sunlight they tend to be a bit more adaptable and quickly adjust to a diurnal lifestyle. Some scheduled bright light is required as it helps regulate their internal body clock but long term exposure to direct sunlight without some shade must be avoided. 


Average Life Expectancy: Wild cavies, mostly due to predation, seldom live to more than 2 or 3 years of age. They are considered “fairly” long-lived for a rodent. It has been regularly documented that they can live up to 8+ years but typically most live between 5-7 years in captivity We have had a couple that have lived 9 years and the oldest recorded guinea pig lived to  15 - which is documented in the Guinness Book of Records-but that is extremely rare. Guinea Pigs that do not receive an adequate diet, supplemented with Vitamin rich foods get sickly and thus they die earlier than need be so, keeping that in mind, that it lowers the average overall life expectancy to closer to 5 years.


Intelligence: Guinea pigs have good spatial memory and can remember escape routes, pathways to food sources, and the can recognize faces, sounds and voices and different shapes and movements of people and other animals, for a long time.


Communication & Vocalization: Guinea Pigs can make lots of different noises and use certain sounds to express themselves to communicate with other herd members and to people that they are familiar with. In a sense they actually have their own language which includes squealing, chirping, rumbling, purring and chirping sounds as well they communicate by using a lot of body language and posturing to signal their approval, disapproval and status. 


When guinea pigs are seen stretching out regularly it is a sign that they are relaxed and content.

Sometimes when they are happy, guinea pigs are seen jumping straight up and down in the air which is referred by hobbyists as "pop-corning" - you'll often see carefree youngsters do this when they are playing.


Being that cavies have been kept in captivity for a long time, they have become extremely popular as pets. Now many distinct variations exist and there are quite a few recognized breeds (such as Peruvian, Texel, Abyssinian, American, Silky etc.).

There are many Guinea Pig / Cavy clubs, worldwide. Each club has a set standard for a selected breed and although each club recognizes a variety of types, not every club recognizes every variety (breed).

GUINEA PIG CLUBS

Being that cavies have been kept in captivity for a long time, they have become extremely popular as pets. Now many distinct variations exist and there are quite a few recognized breeds (such as Peruvian, Texel, Abyssinian, American, Silky etc.).

There are many Guinea Pig / Cavy clubs, worldwide. Each club has a set standard for a selected breed and although each club recognizes a variety of types, not every club recognizes every variety (breed).

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