Guinea pigs are rodents from South America, originally domesticated by the Incas of Peru roughly 7,000 years ago. Their relatives are Cavy Porcellus, found in Brazil and Cavy Boliviensis, located in the high Andes, and Cavy Cutleri which lives in Peru. Scientists now believe these cavy companion were possibly domesticated from an extinct wild species that lived in northern and western South America. Domestication efforts have come a long way since the Incas. You can find guinea pigs everywhere from the family couch to training camps!
Did you know these cool facts about guinea pigs?
- Guinea pigs are neither pigs, nor from Guinea. They’re not even from New Guinea!
- Wild cavies live in social groups called “herds.”
- Guinea pigs are very social animals and they love to play
- They are excellent swimmers
- Guinea pigs are cousins of the chinchilla
- The name for the guinea pig is “cavy”, which comes from its scientific name, Cavia Porcellus. porcellus is Latin for “little pig”.
- In the U.S. in 2007, approximately 847,000 households had guinea pigs, and there was an estimated population of 1,362,000 guinea pigs in these homes combined
- In the U.K. in 2012, it was estimated that there were 1,000,000 companion guinea pigs
- Average life span is 5 – 6 years. They have been known to live as long as 10 years. The oldest guinea pig is in the Guinness Book of World Records for having lived fifteen years!
- Guinea pigs have thirteen distinct sounds to communicate with each other
- Guinea pigs have distinct personalities
- Happy, healthy guinea pigs sometimes jump up vertically and kick in the air. This is known as “popcorning” because it looks similar to popping corn.
- Guinea pigs are precocial; they are born with eyes open and fully covered in fur.
- They do not have a tail, but they do have tail vertebrae
- Guinea pigs can be litter box trained
- Guinea pigs can learn complex paths to food, and can remember a learned path for months.
- Guinea pig training camps are the latest training innovation! Guinea pigs are learning to safely detect gun powder and tobacco
Want to sharpen your dog/cat training skills? Learn more about this Cavy Training Camp here!
So I think we can agree that guinea pigs are pretty darn cute and have fascinating abilities, but there are some important needs that must be addressed. Cavy Care is not something to take lightly. Guinea pigs are more complex and require more care than most people realize. Here are a few things that you need to consider:
- Guinea pigs should be spayed or neutered, and they reach sexual maturity very fast. A male reaches sexual maturity at 3-5 weeks and females in 4 weeks!
- Guinea pigs are very social animals. They require daily quality time and interaction with their human family.
- Because of they are highly social, they do better when housed with another guinea pig buddy. They should be kept in pairs or, preferably groups, unless there is a specific medical condition that requires isolation. Lone guinea pigs are more likely to suffer from stress and depression.
- They have 20 teeth that continue to grow throughout their lifetime
- Their nails require regular trimming
- They have 340˚ field of vision, but have poor depth perception, and see only a few colors
- They eat 6% of their body weight daily!
- Guinea pigs have what are known as “open rooted” teeth, which means the teeth grow constantly throughout their lives. They need unlimited access to foods, especially grass hays, to help grind down their teeth in order to keep them at the proper length and alignment.
- Guinea pigs are unable to manufacture Vitamin C within their bodies; therefore, this vitamin must be supplemented. My previous post discusses how you can do it.
- They share an unusual behavior with rabbits: coprophagy – eating their poop. However, this is normal behavior and is needed to remain healthy. Learn more here.
- They require more space than most people give them. Check out the Ideal Guinea Pig Enclosure.
- They need regular exercise outside of their enclosure! Learn more here.
- Learn the 5 Most Common Guinea Pig Mistakes: Diets, housing and where to get a cavy companion HERE.
- If you are curious to learn your guinea pig’s age in human years, you can learn how here.
Before you fall in love with the idea of getting a guinea pig, before you give in to your child’s plea for one, do your homework first to make sure you are fully prepared!
This blog is dedicated to Gus, our family guinea pig of many years. We loved you, buddy. Thank you for being in our lives, and for the companionship that you gave all of us, including your furry friend, Penny the beagle.