30 of Your Most Pining Guinea Pig Questions, Answered
Guinea pigs make great family pets if you're looking for a low-key, gentle animal. They're social creatures that enjoy human interaction but are also self-sufficient, as long as there is plenty of food and water in their cage. Easy to take care of, these rodents are lovable and friendly with children, making them ideal companions and wonderful starter pets for young people.
If you're looking to buy a guinea pig for your family, here's a list of questions you may have — and the answers that will help make your decision easier.
1. How big are guinea pigs?
The average adult guinea pig is 10 to 12 inches in length and weighs roughly 1.5 to 2.6 pounds. Much of their size depends on their breed, and males (boars) are generally larger and heavier than females (sows).
The largest guinea pig breed is the Rex, which can get up to 17-inches long. Two of the smallest breeds are the Texel and the American guinea pig.
2. What is the lifespan of a guinea pig?
The average lifespan is five to eight years, which is longer than other rodents such as gerbils, hamsters, rats or mice.
However, some guinea pigs can live 10 years or longer if they're healthy and living somewhat of a pampered lifestyle.
3. Where do guinea pigs come from, and how do they live in the wild?
The natural habitat of the guinea pig is the mountains of South America, where they roam the grassy plains, rocky areas and the edges of the surrounding forests. They prefer to co-exist in family groups of three to 10.
In the wild, guinea pigs enjoy burrowing underground, which explains why the domestic ones love to play in tunnels and hiding spaces. At home, they make adorable, somewhat unusual pets that are easy to care for.
4. How much does a guinea pig cost?
They cost between $10 to $40 in the U.S., depending on the breed and where you purchase the animal. You will also need to factor in the cost of the cage, weekly food and bedding.
But before shopping at a pet store for a guinea pig, consider looking at animal shelters to adopt one of these sweet rodents.
5. What is the gestational time for pregnant guinea pigs, and how many babies can they have at one time?
The gestational time for a guinea pig is 59 to 72 days. Mothers can give birth to between one and six babies, but the average is three babies (known as Cavies). The babies grow quickly, doubling their size by eight weeks, and you can tell the sex of the cavy after three weeks.
They are adults at six months and will stop growing by 14 months. After five years, they are considered seniors.
6. How big of a cage does a guinea pig need?
The perfect cage should have several "rooms” for sleeping, eating and drinking; a play area; and a toilet area. Rather than buying a spacious vertical cage designed for rodents that jump, guinea pigs prefer cages with more floor space. Ramps are fine, but flat surfaces to safely run, play and explore are best.
If you intend to raise only one pet, the cage should measure 30 inches by 36 inches, while two guinea pigs need something closer to 30 inches by 50 inches, and three or more would require a cage that’s at least 30 inches by 62 inches.
7. What is the best pet food for a guinea pig?
Guinea pigs require fiber for their digestion, so be sure to have plenty of high-quality meadow hay in their cage at all times. Chewing the hay also helps to promote good dental health. Like many rodents, guinea pigs' teeth continuously grow.
They also need specially formulated pellets that contain the proper amount of Vitamin C and other essential nutrients. Finally, make sure that their water bottle is always filled with fresh, clean water.
8. Can guinea pigs have fruit as a treat?
Yes, in moderation. Fruit has a high sugar content, but small, bite-sized portions are fine each day and will provide some much-needed Vitamin C. Remember to thoroughly clean all fresh fruit before giving it to your pet and serve it at room temperature.
Fruits safe for guinea pigs include apples, pears, cucumbers, oranges, papayas, kiwi, peaches, blueberries and strawberries.
9. What raw vegetables can guinea pigs eat?
Several kinds, but only serve 1 cup per day. Clean the produce first to avoid any residual pesticides, and only introduce one new vegetable at a time.
Safe veggies for guinea pigs include red or green bell peppers, broccoli spears, kale, spinach, artichokes, carrots, peas, tomatoes (remove stem and leaves), romaine lettuce (not iceberg lettuce) and any other dark green vegetables.
10. How many different types and colors of guinea pigs are there?
There are numerous breeds of guinea pigs in various sizes, shapes and colors. The American is the most common and easiest to take care of. The oldest is the Abyssinian, and they're the best breed for a show, due to the unusual swirls in their coats.
Peruvians have long, straight hair; Texels have ultra curly hair; and the Baldwin has no hair!
11. How smart are guinea pigs?
As rodents go, they are pretty smart. They understand certain gestures, respond to familiar sounds and can even learn a few simple tricks.
The smartest guinea pig is the Crested (English and/or White), which is also the rarest of the breed.
12. Can guinea pigs take baths?
You shouldn't bathe a guinea pig unless it is absolutely necessary. Frequent bathing can strip the oils from their skin and hair. They're clean animals that groom themselves, but if you must bathe them, use a diluted version of hypoallergenic shampoo that is safe and gentle on pets.
Always check with your vet first before deciding on the right shampoo.
13. Do guinea pigs like to be petted, and if so, where?
Each guinea pig has a personal preference for where it wants to be pet. You should pet them slowly in the same direction as their fur and only very gently under the chin. Avoid the feet and belly area.
If a guinea pig does not like its handling, it may nip or vocalize its displeasure.
14. Are guinea pigs allowed to eat dandelions?
Yes, dandelions are perfectly safe for guinea pigs and even humans to eat. They are high in calcium, so only feed in moderation (three to four times per week).
Beware: Dandelions can turn your pet's urine orange or even red.
15. Do guinea pigs bite?
Yes, if they are mishandled or afraid. They are prey animals, so you need to develop trust with your pet first and before handling them.
They will give signals if they are pleased or annoyed by your touch.
16. Do guinea pigs need shots or regular visits to a vet?
They do not need vaccines, but it is recommended that you take your pet once a year to an exotic pet vet for a routine checkup.
17. Why do guinea pigs poop so much?
They poop quite a bit compared to other animals, but a lot depends on their diet, exercise and weight. There is no specific time for pooping — they do it all day long and can easily drop 100 poops a day!
Normal poops are oval-shaped and medium brown in color. Abnormal feces appear dry, runny, clumped or bloody. If this occurs, take your pet to the vet.
18. Are guinea pigs blind?
No, but their eyesight is not the best. However, they are not color blind.
Their eyes are positioned on either side of their face, which means they have a 340-degree field of vision!
19. Do guinea pigs hibernate?
No, they do not hibernate, so do not keep them in temperatures below 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
They do, however, sleep deeply and can play "dead" if they fear for their lives.
20. What foods are dangerous to a guinea pig?
Certain foods can be toxic to guinea pigs or cause uncomfortable bloating and gas. Some foods can also cause a choking hazard. Avoid foods high in sugars and fats, and always consult with your vet if you have questions about your pet's dietary needs.
You should never give a guinea pig onions, mushrooms, garlic, chocolate, seeds, potatoes, nuts, iceberg lettuce, avocados, corn kernels, meat, bread, dairy products, peanut butter, cabbage, rhubarb and bok choy.
21. Are guinea pigs nocturnal?
They are primarily diurnal, which means they tend to be more active during the day (especially at dawn and dusk) and sleep at night.
Their sleep cycle consists of smaller naps throughout the day, sleeping up to six to eight hours per day.
22. Do guinea pigs make good single pets, or are they happier with a mate?
It's OK to own just one guinea pig, but they are sociable animals that prefer to have a companion. If this is not possible, you will need to interact quite a bit with your pet to prevent them from becoming lonely or bored.
Two males living together may fight, so it is best to pair two females together or a male-female combo (as long as one of the animals has been neutered).
23. How do I know if my guinea pig is sick?
The most common health issues guinea pigs face are problems with their breathing and digestive system. As a result, they can become ill very quickly!
Signs that your pet is sick (and in need of medical attention) include sudden weight loss, dental problems, drooling, sores, diarrhea, discharge from the nose or eyes, a hunched posture, lack of appetite, lethargy, a belly that is unusually skinny or abnormally large, a change in poops or difficulty breathing.
24. Can a guinea pig recognize their name?
Yes, but not as quickly as a cat or dog. They can be trained to recognize their name if they are taught consistently and with plenty of patience.
They can also recognize and respond to familiar faces, voices and certain sounds (like opening a food bag).
25. Do guinea pigs need regular nail trimmings like other pets?
Yes. Trim their nails using small animal or human clippers. Be careful not to cut the quick where the blood vessels are located.
If you start trimming sessions early in your pet's life, they will grow accustomed to having it done and will maintain healthy nails.
26. Can guinea pigs go outside?
Of course, they can, but it is not advisable. Too many outdoor plants, flowers and grass may be toxic to your pet, especially if any plants have been treated with pesticides. If you must take your guinea pig outside, make sure to supervise him 24/7.
If you allow your pet to roam around the house, they will still need to be supervised to avoid them chewing on any indoor plants that may be toxic as well.
27. Is a guinea pig safe around other household pets?
Even if your cat or dog is super friendly or docile, the guinea pig is a prey animal and will be spooked around other pets. As long as your guinea pig is housed in a cage that is out of reach from other animals, it will be fine.
But if you decide to let your pet roam the house, never leave them unattended around other pets, especially cats that may unintentionally hurt your guinea pig with their claws.
28. Should I cover my pet's cage at night for sleep?
No, you should not completely cover a guinea pig's cage — it can affect their breathing if they don't have proper ventilation.
Only cover a portion of the cage if you must.
29. Do I need to give my guinea pig supplements?
Guinea pigs need plenty of Vitamin C in their diet.
Therefore, you should provide your pet with either a tablet or liquid form of Vitamin C daily.
30. Are guinea pigs affectionate?
Yes! They enjoy the company of humans and will actually give their owner "kisses" as a sign of affection. These kisses come in the form of a gentle nibbling (without using their teeth) on your lips.
As long as you treat your guinea pig right and give them a lot of attention, you will be rewarded with their love and affection. It won't be nearly as close of a relationship as one might have with a dog, but there's a lot more potential for connection than there would be with a reptile or amphibian.