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- Small Mammals
Keeping Guinea Pigs
Guinea Pigs or Cavies as they are also known, originated in South America where the Incas referred to them as 'cui', thought to mean little pig. Traders took the Guinea Pigs to Holland and from there they spread to all parts of the world. Guinea Pigs are normally divided into three coat types: short hair- covering a range of colours and markings, rough coats and longhairs. The average Guinea Pig can be tamed quite quickly and can be easily handled. The more handling the better, preferably daily. Guinea Pigs don't bite, but they will scratch if mishandled.
Guinea Pigs like a variety of foods, but rabbit or guinea pig pellets are acceptable as a staple diet. They are vegetarians and will eat a wide range of foods, including most vegetables. Any of the following is acceptable, cabbage, apples, carrots, parsley, celery and cucumber. But their diet is not limited to these foods. Food that they must avoid are rhubarb leaves and oxalis, they can cause paralysis or even kill them. Potatoes are best avoided as well as sweets foods. Guinea Pigs live for about five years.
Long Haired breed require grooming every couple of days, so a smooth coated breed is probably best for a beginner to start out with. A wide tooth comb is the best grooming tool, but care should be taken as their hair can fall out or break at skin level. Guinea Pigs live happily on their own or in pairs. A hutch should be about two foot by three foot with an area at one end that is enclosed. Straw or rice hulls make ideal bedding and should be cleaned out weekly as well as any old food.
Guinea Pigs make excellent pets for children, they don't bite or kick and can lugged around inside or outside. They also have no problem living in flats as long as a grass substitute is provided. Older people often find Guinea Pigs as wonderful pets as they are small and quite enough enough to nurse on ones lap and don't require too much upkeep.
The Guinea Pigs only apparent form of defence if attacked is to let its coat 'drop'. In other words, if a dog grabs a mouthful the Guinea Pig's hair will drop out of its body without damge and it will escape with just a bald patch.