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All About Caring for Your Guinea Pig

Updated on October 24, 2013

All about the Guinea Pig Introduction

The Guinea pig has become very popular in recent years, many people are owning them as pets. These furry little friends make a good pet for many kinds of families and child alike. As I've worked around animals for about three years I've come across many people who own a Guinea Pig and don't regret it. Many of them have more then one. Sometimes being a guinea pig owner can become a little bit of an obsession.

I have done my reading and education on Guinea Pigs and I thought what better way to have knowledge is to share the knowledge with others. Maybe you are just starting out as a Guinea pig owner and just don't know where to start, or maybe you've been told different things from different people about deciding on a pet.

This Hub is going to help you decide weather a Guinea Pig is right for you. Guinea Pigs are unique pets and require specific care. You should know about them and what to expect before owning one. I hope this article helps you in learning everything you need to know about them.

I'm just passing my knowledge and education on to others maybe you will be the one to gain from this article and become educated on the facts I will present to you. I hope this will give you better insight on the Guinea Pig you own now or to help you decide if a guinea pig is right for you.

Please enjoy my Hub and comment on the bottom if you like.

History:Guinea Pig history is very important!

Guinea pigs are also know as Cavies, if you go to a zoo and visit the small animal habitat you might see your Guinea pigs relative because they also live in the wild. They have 13 recognized breeds and have been domesticated for about 613 years. They originated from the highlands of Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru. While native American's used Guinea pigs in religious practices and for food, they where imported to Europe during the early 1500's AD. They believed Cavies where from new Guinea which gave them their name.

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The 16 Breeds of Guineas

First three are the smooth coated breed:

  • The shorthaired
  • American Crested
  • Ridgeback

The Long coated breeds

  • Silkie
  • Texel
  • Peruvian
  • Alpaca
  • Coronet
  • Merino
  • Lunkarya
  • Sheba

Rough Coated breeds

  • Abyssinian
  • Rex
  • Teddy

Hairless Breed

  • Skinny
  • Baldwin

Coloration of Guinea pigs

  • Self
  • Ticked
  • Pattern

Description of the Guinea Pig

Guinea pigs range from approximately 8 to 19 inches in length as a full grown adult. Their normal body temperature is between 102 degrees to 104 degrees. Their average lifespan is 5 to 6 years but they have been reported to live between 8 and 12 years. Their weight range from 30 to 35 ounces as adults. Guinea pigs eyes are on the sides of their head making it easy for them to see forward and behind but are unable to see directly in front.

Guinea pigs have 4 digit toes on front feet and 3 digit toes on their back feet. They have longer back legs with no tail. They have 20 teeth that are open rooted teeth which never stop growing which makes chew toys and hay very important. You will learn more about that later in the article. They have flat pads on both sides of their mouth that make it hard to examine their teeth.

The Foods they Eat

Main Diet
Examples
Feeding frequency
Hay
Timothy Hay or oat grass
Hay should always be Available
Prepared Diets
Pellet foods you get at pet stores
Daily
Fruits and Veggies
Dark Leafy greens, And Veggies such as Broccoli Carrots and squash
Every other day Veggies should 20% of their diet
During this Article you will read more about the foods they should eat and the food they should stay away from and why

How to bath a Guinea Pig (Don't bath them to much, either whenever they need to or every three months or so)

Special Guinea Pig Needs

A comfortable Temperature for your guinea pig is 65 degrees to 75 degrees with low relative humidity, 50% or lower. If the temperature in above 85 degrees the guinea pig could suffer a heat stroke. SO when your transporting your guinea Pig keep in mind they have a hard time regulating their body temperature and are very sensitive to the heat and the cold.

Watching your guinea pig while he's out of his cage is advised because they are so small that they could hurt themselves or even get hurt on household wires and /or cords and watch out for other small pets such as Cats and dogs or other animals. Certain animals carry diseases that don't effect themselves but can hurt your guinea pig because they are very sensitive to that to. And the other way around. Guinea pigs also can carry diseases that can harm other small pets. Watch them around plants, because many plants can be toxic to guinea pigs.

Guinea pigs sleep all night and are away all day which is called diurnal.

Guinea pigs are best kept in pairs because they are very social animals and enjoy the companionship of other guinea pigs. But make sure they are the same sex. Many pet stores will carry one sex but can make mistakes of the sex very easily. Make sure when your going in to buy a guinea pig your are educated on the sex as well. Remember the people that work at pet stores are trained but not professionals. Males should be introduced before housed together neutering them calms them down and prevents fights.

Guinea Pigs sensitivities are usual with the most common of antibiotics when giving oral or any other way. Be careful with the creams you use, make sure they don't have any antibiotics in the ingredients.

Pictures and information on the 16 breeds of Guinea Pigs

The Guinea Pig Breeds

Their have been many Guinea pig breeds since they have been domesticated in 5000 BC. Guinea Pig breeds range widely from various of appearances and purposes. From show breeds with long hair to the ones used in model organisms by science.

With the exporting of Guinea Pig to Europe in the 15th century, The goal in breeding the pigs became focused on appealing pets. Although there are many breeds of guinea pigs only a handful are found on the show tables as pets.

All cavies have some shared appearances such as head profile should be round, Large eyes and smooth ears. With a strong compact body. Coat color varies. As long as the breeder is breeding the animal correctly these characteristics should be appearing on the breeding of the guinea pig.


Smooth Coated Breeds

Here is a list of three short smooth haired breeds, The coat should be short full and consistent to short length, when brushing their coat the coat will go back to normal state. Both crested and non crested smooth coat breeds are bred with all sorts of color patterns and color variations

Underneath is a list of three Smooth coated Breeds

Short-Haired Guinea Pig

The short-Haired Guinea pig is also known as the American or English. Derived from its name it has short hair and resembles mostly to the Cavie species, Relatives and it's ancestors in the Cavies Genus

American Crested Guinea Pig

Th american crested mostly referred to as crested is very similar to the American short-haired but having a single rosette of hair on their forehead. Usually the single patch of hair on their forehead is a different color then the rest of the guinea Pig, usually the crest is white and no other white should be present on the animal. The American crested resembles the English crested.

Ridgeback

The ridgeback has short hair throughout his body and a line of long hair along his spine. The ridgeback should run from the neck to the rump. The ridgeback as well as the non ridge back are carrier of a genetics disease called tuffy feet with hair growing the wrong way on their hind feet, which is upward.

Some times Ridgebacks will have Rosette on their body which is considered a fault

Long Coated Breed

Long coat breeds show consistency of long hair and is categorized in two different divisions: clipped and unclipped, The unclipped cavies usually are that of the young cavies and the young adults. The clipped cavies are that of the onces that that owner clips their hair and when doing so the hair doesn't grow back so it stays permanently.

Long coated breeds are harder the keep groomed and take more time to do so the smooth coated. The color quality is secondary to the long coat but not generally ignored.

Here are 8 Long coated cavies

Silkie

The Silkie cavie should never have any rosette on the body at all or shouldn't have any long hair growing towards the face.The coat should not have a part, When viewing the silkie from above the coat should have a teardrop shape it is acceptable to have a longer coat in the rear then the rest of the body.

Texel

The Texel should have short lock curls the curls should be tight like corkscrews and should be covering the whole body. including the stomach. This breed was officially recognized in 1998 by the ACBA

Peruvian

Resembling a silkie with it's smooth coat but with a characterized difference of the portion of its coat on its head and neck growing forward on the body The results are called "forelocking"

Alpaca

Although they resemble the Peruvian, the on difference is that the coat on the Alpaca is curly instead of straight

Coronet

This Cavie resembles the Silkie Cavie with the long coat but has a crest on its forehead like a American crested Cavie, The hair should be symmetrical with a a tight centre and shouldn't be sticky

Merino (English Merino)

This one resembles the Coronet but with a curly coat

Lunkarya

Lunkarya

This Breed group has three different breed variations, The Lunkarya Peruvian (with forelocks), Lunkarya Sheltie(Long hair growing forward), and the Lunkarya Coronet (Crest on forehead). It has a rough, long curly coat. The Coat should be very dense and full.

Sheba (Sheba Mini Yak)

This breed was developed in the 1970s by Wynne Eecen who was from Sydney of new south Wales. Because of their look they have been referred to as "Bad hair Day" Cavy. These Cavies have been recognized as the breed from Australia

Rough Coated Breeds

Three breeds of Rough Coat Cavies

Abyssinian

This rough coated cavie has eight rosette on his body, the rosette are well formed and tight without hairs sticking out. The rosettes should be located on cetain parts of the body. one on each shoulder, four across the back, one on each of the hips and two on the rump. This breed also comes with varies of colors and patterns

Rex

With short rough fur all over its body that stands up like fuzz, the hair should be uniformed with length and texture all over the body. The hair shouldn't be no more the 1/2 inch in length but its preferred to be shorter then 1/2 inches

Teddy Bear

The Teddy bear Guinea pig resembles the Rex but it's the result in separate genetic factors. All characteristics are similar to the Rex.

Hairless Breeds

There are two known Hairless breeds

Skinny Pig

This breed was created in the laboratory, when born this skinny pig is born with little to no fur. So have fur on there face and feet.

Baldwin

Baldwin pigs are born with fur and lose their fur as they get older. The hair sheds out throughout their aging until little hair is left on there feet. These baldwin guinea pigs where created through a spontaneous mutation from the parents of crested Guinea pigs.

Housing for Guinea Pigs

Housing Your Guinea Pig

Housing your guinea pig a single guinea pig in a 7 square feet cage is required, so if your adding guineas to your cage add an additional 2 to 4 square feet for each guinea pig joining the cage. Rabbits cage spreed diseases so make sure you don't house a rabbit and a guina pig together. If you are using a used cage from someone else make sure its disinfected too. Wire mesh cages on the floor are dangerous for the pigs feet. The wholes on the floors can cause injuries to the feet. The only bedding that is safe to use is Aspine, paper shavings, carefresh and any other soft bedding. Other bedding such as Pine shavings can cause upper respiratory infections which are lung infections and if not treated the pig could die. If your pig is sneezing this could be a sign of infection. You should talk to your vet. It's recommended you use the best quality bedding.

Diet and Nutrition

  • Always feed your Guinea pig Timothy Hay (They don't have the ability to produce Vitamin C on their own And it's very important for their diet so they don't get scurvys
  • Scurvy's is a Vitamin C Deficiency in Guinea pigs interferes with the bodies ability to manufacture collagen -- an important component of bone and tissue formation leading the guinea pig to having blood clots as well as problems with the skin and joints
  • Feed the guinea pigs Fruits and Veggies such as Carrots or Kiwi also provides the needed nutrients
  • Alfalfa Hay is good for Pregnant pigs and Young pigs, but switch the hay to Timothy as soon as they become adults
  • Never feed them Ice Burg lettuce, There is NO nutrients in the food and can get them very sick if that's ALL you feed them. It's better to not feed them not Iceberg lettuce because it have no real value
  • Make sure the feed you provide to them is High quality and has no animal by-product in the ingredients
  • Fresh water at all times. Keep it mind the water can get dirty easily
  • Provide Various of foods for young guinea pigs so they wont be pick as they get older. They tend to imprint on foods as young and once they are adults its hard to switch the food.
  • Don't feed them Beetroot leaves are Poisonous and can cause heart disease
  • No Dairy or meat products, no garlic, Chillis or onions, and please no cat or dog food.

Health, Exercise and Grooming

Exercise

Make your Guinea pig exercise When designing his/her cage make it so that the water bottle and the food bowl are separated from each other so he has to move to get to both. Make the food bowl high enough so he would have to work for his food, but not to high. a second floor is allowed in the cage as long as the ramp has guards on the side so the guinea pig doesn't fall and the floor of the ramp is plaster so he would injure his feet. A second floor can help them to exercise. As well as letting them out of their cage often and letting them play on the floor. Young guinea pigs are recommended to be a guinea pigpen, if you can't get a pen you can make one with books and pillows because they wont climb or jump. Older Guinea pigs are able to be in an open room but still should be watched.

Health

Make sure you handle your guinea pig often so that you can detect anything that might be wrong with your guinea pig Handling him will give you the opportunity to check to see if he has any physical bruising or scares. As well as checking to see if he has any visual signs of illnesses. Some signs of illness are: Not eating, losing weight, hunchback, strange walk or limp, being skinny or to large, trouble breath, lose of energy or not responsive to anything. Taking your guinea pig to an annual check up from their vet. Common problems with their health are with their lungs or the digestive system. Dental problems are common signs are drooling or swelling wich are signs of overgrown teeth. Redness in the ears are common as well as sore feet or broken nails. If you see any of these signs vet care is needed.

Grooming

Brush your guinea pig daily will help with bonding as well as making sure he is being properly groomed. Make sure you clip his nails frequently so they will be accustomed to having their nails clipped. It is important for their grooming so that they wont get their nails caught on anything or they wont have overgrown nails which are also very uncomfortable and can be dangerous for them causing infections. Long haired guinea pigs are recommended to be brushed more then the smooth coated pigs to prevent mating. Bath your guinea pig only seldomly giving them a bath only when needed.

Breeding and Newborns

Breeding is not recommended for the owners because its hard to find homes for new guinea pigs. If you decide to breed your guinea pig be careful not to breed the guinea pigs at a young age because it can shorten the lifespan of young Guinea Pigs and breeding them after 8 months can be very dangerous causing the guinea pig to have a C-section which the success rate for the surgery is very low. Spay and neutering is also very dangerous for guinea pigs. Not many vets are familiar with this procedure although neutering a male is safer then spaying a female but also highly expensive. Preventing pregnancy is safer when you house them separately rather then surgery.

Baby guinea pigs are born with hair all over their body. Their eyes open after two days from their birth They are able to eat the pellets provided for the mother soon after they are born. The Males can mate after 3 months of age and the females can mate after 2 months of age. Although the Guinea are able to eat solid foods they will nurse from the mother for the next 3 weeks of life.

Health and Sickness

Health problems among Guinea Pigs housed alone are usually from old age. Viruses and infections are common in Guinea pigs housed together, but intestinal problems are not common in guinea pigs. Tumors are rare in young Guinea pigs but are more common in guinea pigs over the age of five. A proper diet, clean water and high quality bedding as well as Vitamin C in their diet will lower the risk of common illnesses, viruses and infections. The proper care will keep your guinea pig alive much longer and can live for up to 8 to 12 years. Although handling him often is good for you and the Guinea because they are social creatures, Handling them to much can stress them out because they are also very shy animals they can get very scared from loud noises keeping them away from any loud noises like the TV can help them from being stressed out. They rarely bit but they will let you know when they went to be alone. Once they start showing signs of stress let them be. But all in all these animals are very friendly and loving creatures.

Dehydration is a sign of illness as well, diarrhea can cause dehydration be sure to have them with water at all times, If you notice dark urine hard poop or skin tenting be sure to tlk to your vet.

Facts about the Guinea pigs

  • Guinea pigs sleep with their eyes open, when they don't feel comfortable with their surroundings
  • Happy Guinea pigs may jump straight up and don this is called "Popcorning" It's very cute.
  • Guinea pigs from the wild are called Cavies and when in groups they are called herds. Guinea pigs are very social animals and love to be around other guineas
  • They enjoy the social contact with the family that owns them because they are social.
  • They love to be petted and will fall asleep in your lap
  • Guinea pigs can develop a social relationship with people and other small animals, although be careful to interact them with other small animals because of the diseases they both can carry
  • Guinea pigs like to have something in their cage that they can hide in or under. It makes them feel secure.
  • Guinea pigs are up for about 20 hours a day and sleep for a short period of time.
  • They will make noises when they see someone they recognize and are familiar with.
  • Guinea pigs have a good spatial memory and can remember learned pathways to food sources for many months
  • In the wild guinea pigs live in large groups as many as 5 to 10 individuals
  • Guinea pigs have a sensitive spine, falling from a high enough place can hurt the guinea pig and may even cause death. They are unable to twist in the air like a cat to land on their feet.


Thank you for reading my article I hope you enjoyed the information and i hope you learned from it. please comment on my article below

Another way to help you learn about guineas

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    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      Cute photos, and it's very obvious you not only love guinea pigs but have done your research and know a lot about them! I enjoyed reading this hub, as I had little exposure to guinea pigs previously. Thanks for sharing the information with us.

    • hawaiianodysseus profile image

      Hawaiian Odysseus 3 years ago from Southeast Washington state

      Excellent research and fine reader-friendly presentation, Lena! We've had two guinea pigs, and they were such a joy. Our only regret was that they have such short life spans. Precious little animals! Thanks for sharing!

      Aloha!

      ~Joe

    • Megan R Rose profile image

      Megan Rose 3 years ago

      I love this hub. It's exactly what I needed to see about 3 years ago when I got my Sonic. :)

      Also, I recently just added onto my own C&C cage. They're such a pain to put together though. I'm actually opening a cage business in the next 1-2 years. Be on the lookout!

    • profile image

      neave white 3 years ago

      absolutely amazing just what I needed as I am getting a new baby guinea pig in a day and just wanted to double check on everything :) thankyou

      And also I am not trying to be rude but you have made 2 spelling mistakes in the "health and sickness" part of your hub they are "bite" and "talk" just thought I would let u know so u can make your hub EVEN BETTER :) xx

    • profile image

      Madeline watt 2 years ago

      I can't figure out what my guinea pig is. Her name is Cocoa. I thought she was a Abyssinian but she does not have 8 rosette on her. She has about 6 but not all of them are very visible. Can you help me figure out what she is or tell me if she is a mix breed and if she is which ones are they. She has two colors on her white that goes crossed her shoulders and around her tummy and a line that goes over her head and stops on her nose. And red ish brown ish on the rest of her body. Her hair goes toward her head and it popes up on her head like a Mohock sort of. She has 4 rosette on her bun and 2 Hidden under her Shoulder. That is the best I can do I would send a pic of her but I can please help me figure out what breed she is thank you. Sorry for the long comment.

    • profile image

      Madeline watt 2 years ago

      I also forgot To put in Cocoas hair texture. It is soft not curly it is about an inch long. Her hair is not like the Rex or the teddy it is more like the America crested. Thank you

    • profile image

      Olivia 3 months ago

      Is it ok to put my guinea pig on a harness and let him walk around my yard?

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