Guinea Pig: its origins, characteristics and everything you need for its habitat

beige and white guinea pig on green grass surrounded by small flowers
06 September 2020 Pets4Company

It is not actually a pig nor did it come from India! Get to know the guinea pig that will steal your heart (and your vegetables)!

A Little About Its Origin

Guinea pigs, also known as cavy, are intelligent, friendly and curious pets. Contrary to what their name suggests, are not related to domestic pigs nor are they from India! Their origin goes back to South America, more specifically to the Andes. Studies suggest that the Guinea Pigs would be the domesticated descendants of cavia aparea or Préa, a large South American rodent, and that they would integrate the diet of indigenous peoples. It is believed that its name may have its origins in shipping routes since the American continent was known as “the West Indies”.

beige guinea pig lying on a carpet in sepia tones

Characteristics and Behaviors

  • Guinea pigs have varied fur. So we can find guinea pigs from short (such as English, Abyssinian and rex) to long (like sheltie, coronet, Peruvian, among others) hair.
  • Longhaired piglets need to be brushed daily and sometimes have the hair trimed a little to keep it clean and healthy. Due to the tangle, the piglet's hygiene and even the health of its skin can be compromised.
  • It has an average life expectancy of 5 to 8 years and there are some rare cases of piglets that will have reached the age of 10 or more.
  • When choosing a guinea pig you should pay attention to the eyes, if they are shiny and free from secretions, if the coat is clean and cared for, if there are no signs of diarrhea, if it is active and not shows signs of discomfort / pain or something that might indicate that the pig is not healthy.
  • Guinea Pigs are colony animals so they should not be kept alone since they may develop psychological and behavioral problems. So we must keep our piggy accompanied by another of the same sex so that unwanted litters do not occur.
  • Bearers of endless energy, need time and space to do their daily exercise. The owner of a piggy must not forget that he must avoid exposure to electrical wires and other devices or objects that they may bite and do damage. After all, they are rodents and love to gnawl.
  • Guinea pigs' teeth are constantly growing. A balance diet is fundamental for the wear of the teeth. Some wooden toys without toxic components may help to wear the incisor teeth while the hay will help to wear the molars.
  • It is possible to determine the sex of the guinea pig with the naked eye. Holding the piglet on its back, carefully move the hair away from the genitals so you can see better. If the sexual organ looks like a "Y"  we are most certantly looking at a female. If on the contrary it resembles an "i" it will be a male .

gray guinea pig on white background

Habitat: Necessary Items

  • The cage must be horizontal to avoid falls that can injure your piglet. It should have space for your piggy to move around since most of its day will be spent inside the cage. The minimum recommended will be 100x60 cm for each piglet, without bars on the bottom so that they can move around without injuring themselves. Some owners choose to use large fences instead of regular cages.
  • Some little pigs learn to use an appropriate toilet so in these cases we can restrict the absorbent material to the toilet area. Otherwise we must cover the entire bottom of the cage with the absorbent or a washable cloth like fleece.
  • Some of the essential items include: water bottle (preferably glass), food bowl in ceramic or similar (heavy so as not to turn and that cannot be gnawed), hay dispenser, absorbent material (bedding), WC and one or more hiding places .
  • In addition to feed and hay, piglets also feed on a wide variety of vegetables. The feed should preferably be pelleted. It is through food that piglets acquire the vitamin C they so badly need and are unable to produce.

beige and black guinea pig surrounded by green grass

Other considerations before purchasing a piggy

Finally, before purchasing a piggy as a pet, ask yourself if you will have the time and resources to care for it and meet all your needs. Remember that at any time you may have to go to a veterinarian either as a matter of routine or in the event of an emergency. Always try to have contact with an exotic veterinarian in your area.

Make sure you can get the right feed at all times and that you have access to fresh vegetables for your piglet .

That said, we hope you enjoy the company of these charismatic friends!

beige and white guinea pig sitting on the lap of a girl dressed in blue jeans and trousers