Guinea pigs are a domesticated species of rodent that originate from South America.
They are crepuscular animals, often social, and seek affection from their owner. They can make a chirping, bubbling, rumbling, chattering, shrieking, and chirping noises.
They have been a popular household pet since the 16th century, thanks to their docile nature, friendly responsiveness to handling and feeding, and relative ease of care.
Guinea Pig Facts for Kids
- Guinea Pigs are domesticated rodents
- Guinea Pigs are Herbivores
- The average life span is 5 to 8 years
- They grow up to 10 inches long
- They eat their own poo
- They like to explore new places
- Rather than sleeping for long periods, they take lots of short naps.
They eat grass, hay, and pellets and will also eat alfalfa. Although alfalfa may cause obesity, it is also a good source of protein, amino acids, and fiber.
Their natural diet is grass, and they must supplement their diet by eating their feces. The guinea pig shares this behavior with rabbits, and they must also consume their feces to replenish vitamins, fiber, and bacteria.
Some plants (e.g., garlic and onion) are poisonous to guinea pigs, as well as ivy and oak tree leaves.
Guinea pigs are large for rodents, weighing up to 3 kilograms (6.6 lb) when fully grown, and can live up to 8 years.
In the 1990s, a minority scientific opinion proposed that guinea pigs, chinchillas, and degus were not rodents. However, subsequent research restored the previous classification.
They “social groom” each other and learn complex paths to food, and can accurately remember a learned path for months. They startle easily and can perform a move similar to the ferret’s war dance.
Like many rodents, guinea pigs groom themselves and others. Some groups establish dominance through biting, piloerection, aggressive noises, head thrusts, and leaping attacks.
They can see a wider angle and in partial color, have a well-developed sense of hearing, smell, and touch, and can have a different biological rhythm than wild pigs.
Housing and breeding guinea pigs
They need large open-air cages in which to romp and frolic and a diet of 1/8 cup of grass-based guinea-pig pellets and one cup of vegetables. They like to be held in hand.
Domestic guinea pigs are usually housed in cages with solid bottoms, but larger cages can be constructed using wire grid panels and plastic sheeting.
Guinea pigs are messy creatures, kicking bedding and feces into their food bowls and urinating on cage surfaces. Male guinea pigs may urinate and drag their bodies across the floor of the cage to mark their territory.
They thrive in groups of 2 or more; guinea pigs will often bond with other guinea pigs. Boars can sometimes live together, provided their cage has enough space and they are introduced at an early age.
They may suffer from respiratory tract infections, diarrhea, scurvy, abscesses, mange mites, and “running lice.”
Hay and straw dust can become lodged in guinea pigs’ eyes causing excessive blinking, tearing, and in some cases, an opaque film over the eye due to corneal ulcer.
They are prey animals that mask pain and signs of illness. Antibiotics kill off the intestinal flora and cause diarrhea or death.
They do not bite or scratch if handled correctly early in life, and they are timid explorers that will not attempt an escape unless an opportunity presents itself.