Do guinea pigs belong to the pig family? Do guinea pigs make good pets?
These questions are common for almost all those who are looking for or planning to have a guinea pig as their pet.
Is there a guinea connection?
To begin with, these little ones do not belong to the pig family but are rather rodents with their scientific name Cavia porcellus (In Latin) which translates to little pig. They are sometimes also referred to as ‘Cavies’. They are known as Meerschweinchen in Germany literally meaning “little sea pigs”. Male guinea pigs are called boars, females are called sows, and baby guinea pigs are known as pups.
Their slightly-pig like shape, tendency to spend more time on eating, and occasionally grunting for food like pigs are characteristics similar to that of pigs. These furballs can be found in a wide variety of breeds with different colors, patterns, and textures.
Guinea pigs are fun and active pets, but they need time to adjust to new situations and socialize.
They have an extensive vocabulary and communicate by vocalizing various sounds that have different meanings. One of the unique behaviors they express is "popcorning," wherein they jump and twirl in the air when they are thrilled. The behavior is most commonly seen in young guinea pigs, but older animals may also exhibit it.
They are known for being one of the most “talkative" animals. Interestingly, these chatterboxes communicate using a variety of sounds depending on their mood, including purring, squealing, squeaking, chirping, whistling, and whining.
Life span and behaviors
They can live up to 8 years, and in some cases, even longer if properly cared for. This is significantly longer than the lifespans of many other small pets, such as hamsters, mice, and rats, all of which survive only a few years.
They prefer to have a routine, set for sleeping, playing, and feeding.
These little ones like to hide in objects but will quickly pop out once they get aware of someone being near their habitat.
In order to maintain their teeth as they grow, they need to chew on hay, chew sticks, and mineral chews along with toys and treats else they have a possibility of developing dental problems as they grow.
Most guinea pigs have four toes on each of their front paws, and three on each back paw. But these little creatures can be polydactyl, which means they could develop more than 14 toes.
Prefer short naps
Guinea pigs are primarily active in the morning and evening, they like to eat and explore their surroundings. Guinea pigs spend their days eating, grooming, and exploring their cage when they are awake. They don’t need to sleep for long periods as they prefer to have short naps throughout the day and night.
As herbivores, guinea pigs love fresh fruits and vegetables, such as kale, mustard greens, bell peppers, carrots, bananas, apples, and blueberries. Although most pet guinea pigs enjoy a diet consisting mostly of processed pellets.
Social and self-grooming
Similar to rodents, guinea pigs participate in social grooming and regularly self-groom. As responsible pet parents, one must groom them regularly wherein short-haired breeds require once-a-week brushing while the long-haired breeds necessitate daily grooming.
In order to maintain good health, a balanced diet is a must for them. The main fixture of a healthy diet is fresh grass hay, which provides fiber and something hard and crunchy to keep their teeth a manageable length. Guinea pigs also require specially formulated pellets that contain vitamin C. Just like humans, guinea pigs cannot formulate their own vitamin C and must get it from their diet or supplements.
Guinea pigs also have a remarkably wide field of vision, which is a significant advantage for prey animals. With an estimated 340 degrees of vision, guinea pigs only have a small 20° blind spot, which is directly behind their head. This characteristic allows them to observe nearly everything going on around them.
Surprisingly, guinea pigs can swim, it’s a survival skill they evolved to help them escape predators or get out of any water they may have fallen into. In fact, some guinea pigs have been observed swimming for up to five hours at a time. However, they don’t usually enjoy it, so it’s probably best to keep them out of the water.
The indications of a healthy guinea pig are listed below
Whereas, indications of an unhealthy guinea pig are listed below
Handle with extreme care
Guinea Pigs very rarely struggle when you pick them up, however, you have to handle them very carefully. The best way to pick them up is to place your hand under their hindquarters and the other hand supporting their chest and abdomen. Then just gently place the piggy onto your chest and it will settle calmly, usually nibbling your ear or snuggling under your chin.
These are some of the reasons why guinea pigs make wonderful, ideal, lovable pets that are easy to keep and will surely give you a lot of joy in return.