Guinea Pigs As Pets

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Guinea Pigs As Pets

Guinea pig facts you need to know Which breed? Handling your guinea pig One or two? Male or female? Guinea Pigs are inquisitive, loveable little animals that enjoy being handled – making them ideal pets for children. They originate from the grasslands and lower slopes of the Andes in South America (Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia) and were kept by the Incas.  In South America today groups of guinea pigs are often kept in people’s homes and kitchens.  They were brought to Europe by Spanish and English traders in the 1500s and Queen Elizabeth I had a guinea pig as a pet -  which no doubt helped their popularity.   Guinea pigs can be long or short haired and come in a variety of colours.  On average a pet guinea pig lives between 4 – 6 years, but if they are well-loved and looked after they can live for longer. Guinea pig facts you need to know Guinea pigs must be kept out of extreme heat or cold. Temperatures above 26°C can cause heat stroke and below 15°C can cause them to become chilled so it is best to move your pet guinea pig indoors in the winter. Guinea pigs are very active and like to explore although they are not very agile and are poor climbers.  In the wild guinea pigs have a territory that can cover 1500 square metres so its important that they have plenty of space to run about in to keep them fit, healthy and happy.  They are very good at remembering pathways to food sources and while they dont dig or make burrows they use shelters in the dense grasses or burrows that other animals have made. Guinea pigs are always on the alert for predators and are naturally timid and startle easily. They will either freeze in place or run for cover when they sense danger.   Your pet guinea pig will need a safe and secure hutch to hide away from things that scare them like dogs, cats or ferrets.  Guinea pigs  are active up to 20 hours per day and sleep only for short periods so your guinea pig hutch needs to be in a quiet spot so your guinea pig can sleep peacefully. Guinea pigs do not like to be wet or cold so your pet guinea pigs hutch needs to be draught free, cosy, waterproof and free of damp.  Guinea pigs that live in wet, draughty and dirty conditions suffer and become ill. Guinea pigs are highly sociable and live in large family colonies in the wild. Pet guinea pigs can get very lonely and stressed if they are left in their hutch by themselves for long periods of time.  They will need a companion or lots of your love and attention to keep them happy. Guinea pigs are very talkative!  They have a wide variety of sounds that mean different things. When they are excited they will “wheek” noisily and often do this to greet you.  They can also purr by grinding their teeth. Guinea pigs are inquisitive and intelligent and can get bored easily so give your pet guinea pig lots of exercise, toys and activities to keep them busy. Long haired breeds of guinea pig such as the Peruvian or Sheltie will need daily grooming as their fur can become dirty, tangled and matted if not looked after.  Guinea pigs need Vitamin C in their diet. View our Guinea Pig Products section for our range of guinea pig hutches, runs, toys and grooming accessories BackTo Top Which breed? There are over 40 different breeds of guinea pig recognised by the British Cavy Council and they come in a variety of colours and lengths of coat.  Different colours and patterns of guinea pigs are Black, Chocolate, Cream, Lilac, Red,  Beige, Buff, Saffron, Slate, White, Tortoiseshell, Brindle, Belted, Bi-colour, Tricolour, Roan (Roans have a mix of white hairs with other colours spread throughout their coat), Dalmatian, Himalayan (similar to Siamese cats Himalayans have a white body with dark markings on the nose, ears and feet), Agouti (Agoutis have a different colour on the tips of the fur to that of the roots) and Argente (similar to Agoutis but with gold tips to their fur). Guinea Pig breeds can basically be categorised into 6 different coat types:  Smooth, Satin, Crested, Abyssinian, Rex and Long haired.  Fully grown guinea pigs weigh between 700g – 1.2kg and measure between 20 - 25cm in length. Smooth Guinea Pigs are the most common type of guinea pig and have short smooth fur. They have a soft undercoat with a coarser outer layer.   Satin Guinea Pigs are similar to smooth coated guinea pigs but their coats are softer, shinier and thicker.  The satin like appearance of their coats is actually caused by hollow hair shafts that catch the light. Crested Guinea Pigs have a tuft of fur on the tops of their heads which radiates out from a centre point.  They are sometimes known as Crowned Guinea Pigs. Abyssinian Guinea Pigs have whorls of rosettes in their coats where the hair radiates out from a central point giving them a tufty appearance.  Their fur is coarse and they also have a little moustache of raised fur over their noses.   Rex Guinea Pigs have a curly coat that is coarse and stands upright from their bodies.  The fur on their heads is much shorter than that on their bodies.  The Teddy breed of guinea pig has a similar rexoid-type coat but is not curly and is softer to the touch than Rex coats. Long haired Guinea Pigs   have fur that is long, silky and flowing – sometimes as long as 50cm!  Grooming is essential to keep their coats tangle free and clean, and some breeds such as Peruvians, Silkies, Shelties, Merinos and Coronets are often trimmed regularly to keep their fur under control. Breeds such as the Texel and Alpaca have long, thick and curly fur and their coats will need a lot of attention. View our Guinea Pig Breed Guide to learn more View our Guinea Pig Health Advice to find out more on grooming your guinea pig Health Some guinea pigs are prone to genetic diseases or abnormalities due to inbreeding.  Recent research has suggested that Satin guinea pigs can suffer from bone problems.  You should never mate a Roan guinea pig with another Roan or a Dalmatian guinea pig with another Dalmatian as their genes can result in  babies with congenital eye disorders, dental problems, deafness and problems with the digestive system.   Call Vet Clinic at Petstop for a consultation. Visit our Guinea Pig Health Advice to learn more Visit our Guinea Pig Breeds section for more details on guinea pig breeds BackTo Top Handling your guinea pig Guinea pigs are naturally nervous and excitable so spend time letting your guinea pig get to know you.  Guinea pigs enjoy human company and once they have become used to you they make loving pets.   When you pick your guinea pig up use both hands, place your thumb across their shoulders with your fingers wrapped gently around the ribs; place your other hand beneath the hindquarters for support. Guinea pigs can get very frightened by sudden movements or loud noises and will scratch or bite in panic.  Be gentle and slow in your movements and you will soon gain your guinea pigs trust and affection. BackTo Top One or two? If you are able it is always best to have two guinea pigs rather than one.  Guinea pigs need company and are happiest when they are in a group.  Its not recommended that you keep rabbits as companions for guinea pigs as rabbits can hurt guinea pigs if they kick out or jump on them.  Rabbits and guinea pigs also have different means of communicating and different dietary requirements.   Dried guinea pig food contains Vitamin C, but dried rabbit food does not.  If you do have a single guinea pig make sure you spend lots of time with them and youll end up with a friend.  BackTo Top Male or female? Two female guinea pigs (sows) are the ideal match as males (boars) can become territorial if they are not neutered and also scent mark.    Sows can become pregnant at 2 months of age and boars become sexually mature at 2 months.   Boars can be neutered at 3 months or older.  It is not common to spay sows as the operation is more complicated so its best to seek advice from your vet if you are considering spaying. Call Vet Clinic at Petstop for a consultation.  BackTo Top