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Whether you already have guinea pigs, or you just want to learn more about these super cute animals, here are 10 cool facts about guinea pigs you will love.
1. Guinea Pigs Are Active for Twenty Hours Per Day
Phew, these small but energetic animals are super active. They can stay awake for 20 hours a day.
As we will learn later guinea pigs love to play and run around, which makes space an important factor to consider. If you intend to keep guinea pigs as pets, be sure to provide them with enough space for their needs. According to the ASPCA, each guinea pig should have at least 4 square foot of space in their enclosure as a minimum, more is better. The cage should always be kept indoors, away from draughts and predators.
2. They Are Not From Guinea!
From the name, it’s easy to assume that these pets originate from Guinea, but this is not true. No one is quite sure why their name contains the word ‘guinea’ but it has nothing to do with where the animals came from.
Actually, the animals are known to originate from the Andes of South America and that’s where you will still find them today in huge numbers. If you do your homework, you might learn that the animals were first brought to South America by explorers through Guinea, and that’s one reason put forward as to why people thought Guinea was where they originated.
3. Guinea Pigs Are Highly Vocal Animals
Anyone who has lived with guinea pigs will tell you they are very talkative animals, and this is what makes them so endearing.
In a group, they will use a wide range of sounds to communicate and they have different sounds based on their moods. For instance, they can squeal, purr, chirp, squeak, whine, or even whistle. You really can’t predict what sound they will make next, although owners will probably be able to anticipate what sounds will be made when the guinea pig is excited about dinner time, or when they are feeling secure and content.
4. Cavies Are Herbivores
Guinea pigs should be fed species-specific pellets daily, and have access to fresh water and hay at all times. (Hay should make up 80% of their diet and is vital for gut and teeth health).
Just like humans, guinea pigs are not able to make Vitamin C and therefore you need to include this in their diet. Bite sized amounts of fruit and vegetables should be given to them every day, find out more here about what this should include.
There are also certain things you need to avoid, such as giving your guinea pigs grass clippings since that might upset their tummies. Also, be wary of giving them citrus fruits such as grapefruit, as this can cause sores on their lips.
5. Guinea Pigs Are Highly Sociable
If you find them in the wild, you will notice that guinea pigs live in groups. Therefore, it’s advisable to always keep guinea pigs in pairs or small groups. Females living together is likely to be the most harmonious grouping, if you want to keep males together then opt for litter mates.
Don’t mix males and females or you will soon have so many mini guinea pigs on your hands that matters will quickly get out of control! ☺ Pregnancy can also come with risks for guinea pigs, so should be avoided unless you are an expert.
Guinea pigs should be handled daily from when you first bring them home. This will get them used to their human companions. You can groom them, feed them veggies as treats, and even let them run around in a larger area, as long as they are supervised at all times and you have no other pets in the room. Because guinea pigs can be handled easily they make great pets for children. Check out our article on Guinea Pig Care for Kids.
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6. Don’t Let The Name Fool You!
From the name, it’s easy to assume that the animals have a close relationship with the pig. For instance, male guinea pigs are known as boars, and the female ones are called sows. However, that’s where the similarity with pigs ends, as guinea pigs are actually rodents.
The scientific name for the domestic guinea pig is Cavia porcellus, and many people refer to them simply as cavies. In Latin, the word porcellus means little pig. Maybe the name came about due to the little squeaking sounds they make.
7. They Show Us How They Feel
Did you know you can easily tell when guinea pigs are happy and when they’re not? A happy guinea pig will hop up and down repeatedly. Some owners refer to this behavior as popcorning. It’s a little like the way a rabbit will binky when they are happy.
Very occasionally a popcorn can also be a stress response. To find out more about why guinea pigs popcorn and what it means, a great resource is the Guinea Pig Hub.
8. Guinea Pigs Love to Explore
While guinea pigs don’t see as well as humans in terms of color and distance, what they do have is a wider angle of vision, at about 340 degrees. This means they are very aware of their surroundings, and love to explore them.
Make sure you add some guinea pig enrichment to your cavies’ home by adding houses, tunnels, and hammocks.
9. It’s Important Not to Let Your Guinea Pig Get Bored
Once you have enriched your guinea pig’s enclosure, it’s time to add some toys. The safest option is to choose wooden toys so your guinea pigs can gnaw on them freely. Plastic toys could be chewed and ingested.
You can hide food in tunnels and houses, or under toys. That way, your guinea pig will need to explore to find their treats, and this will keep them from getting bored.
10. Guinea Pigs and Rabbits Shouldn’t Be Kept Together
It used to be quite common for guinea pigs to be kept in the same enclosure as rabbits. This is definitely not a good idea. Rabbits are larger with powerful back legs and can easily injure guinea pigs. Also, rabbits and guinea pigs have distinct ways of communicating, different dietary needs, and can pass infections between them. If you are choosing pets either opt for rabbits or guinea pigs, but not both together. If the pet is for a child then our recommendation would be guinea pigs as they are easier to handle for smaller children.
While guinea pigs are known to be great pets, before bringing any animal home to share your life, it helps to do your homework. That way you will be well prepared and can give these great pets the happy and healthy life they deserve. We hope these ten cool facts about guinea pigs have given you a great head start.