Animal-World’s Featured Pet for this week is: The American Guinea Pig!
The American Guinea Pig Cavia porcellus, or just Guinea Pig, is a popular small animal pet, for both adults and children. Guinea Pigs are another one of the pets that I had several of! I bred them for a time as well as had a few strictly for pets. I loved them! They are notorious for “not biting.” Meaning they very rarely bite (although they can!), which is a desirous trait, especially for a child’s pet.
Guinea Pigs are adorable, personable, and easy-to-care-for pets. They are easy to love and handle, are hardy, and can live 8 to 10 years in captivity. Most of them get along well with each other, as well. The American Guinea Pig is the most common breed of guinea pig, however there are several different varieties. They come in many sizes, colors and hair textures. Different hair styles include the silky coat, the rosette coat, and the skinny (hairless!) coat. Check out this Guinea Pig Care and Breeds page to learn more on the different types of guinea pigs.
I will start with some background on the American Guinea Pig. First, the name “guinea pig” is somewhat of a misnomer because they are not pigs, nor are they from Guinea! They are actually rodents! The American Guinea Pig was first noted as being domesticated around 5000 BC in the Andes Mountains and is the oldest known breed of guinea pig. In the sixteenth century different varieties started appearing as people began to selectively breed them. The American Guinea Pig is a short-hair variety and was initially called the English Guinea Pig. It became The American Guinea Pig in the 1960′s by the American Cavy Breeders Association.
Now onto their care and feeding. The majority of their diet should be vegetables, grains, and fruits. Guinea pig pellets, which can be purchased at most pet stores, are a good staple diet. Their bodies do not produce Vitamin C and so this vitamin must be provided by their diet. Many people mistakenly feed their guinea pig rabbit pellets – however do not make this mistake not because rabbit pellets do not have the nutrients necessary for guinea pigs. It is still a good idea to offer dark greens (kale, romaine lettuce, etc.) in addition to the pellets to ensure they are getting enough Vitamin C. Their teeth also grow constantly which dictates it necessary for them to be provided with pieces of wood or chew sticks from pet stores. Make sure to provide them with fresh clean water on a daily basis. American Guinea Pigs do not need to be groomed much at all compared to some of the other varieties, and that helps make their care that much easier.
Housing should be taken seriously as well. They need plenty of room to move about, plenty of ventilation inside their enclosure, and it should be easy to keep clean. Try to stay away from wood enclosures because they are much harder to clean and guinea pigs love to chew on wood. Guinea Pigs should be taken out of their cages for play time and interaction several times a week. When you pick them up to handle them make sure to support their whole body with your hands and not just their shoulders. This will help avoid injury. Most can also be housed together, as they are social creatures. You will, however, want to keep an eye on males to make sure they aren’t going to fight.
Health problems with guinea pigs are minimal and are generally caused directly be improper feeding and failure to keep their enclosures clean. Most of their ailments include respiratory infections, pneumonia, diarrhea, scurvy, and parasites.
Read more about American Guinea Pigs on Animal-World’s American Guinea Pig page!
Jasmine is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.