Guinea Pig Facts

Tadashi

Tadashi

01 Feb 2020

A trio of Guinea Pigs

So you want to keep guinea pigs as pets? Then here are some guinea pig facts to help you get ready for them.

  1. Guinea pigs can live for up to 8 years with good and loving care.
  2. Adult guinea pigs weigh on average between 700 and 1200 grams.
  3. Guinea pigs are born in litters of up to 8 pups.
  4. There are 13 breeds of guinea pigs available as pets.
  5. Besides the domesticated species, there are 5 other species of guinea pigs in the wild.
  1. Guinea pigs were first domesticated in 5000 BC in South America.
  2. Traders brought guinea pigs to Europe after the Spanish conquest of South America in the 1500s.
  3. The upper classes of Europe saw guinea pigs as exotic pets before the modern era.
  4. Queen Elizabeth I of England kept guinea pigs as pets.
  5. Guinea pigs are herbivores, with a preferred diet of grass and legumes.
  6. Guinea pigs thrive best in groups of two or more.
  7. Female guinea pigs are usually grouped with each other.
  8. Another common combination of guinea pigs is one neutered male with one or more females.
  9. Male guinea pigs can live in groups with each other but are less stressed when grouped with a female.
  10. Guinea pigs are not usually comfortable grouped with other species.
  1. Guinea pigs are a staple food in South America.
  2. Guinea pigs are poor climbers.
  3. ‘Stampeding’ guinea pigs are actually running in random directions to confuse potential predators.
  4. Guinea pigs are good swimmers.
  5. Guinea pigs do not burrow on their own and instead use the burrows of other animals.
Table of Contents

Hairless guinea pigs aren’t completely hairless.

From their name, you probably think Hairless guinea pigs don’t have any fur at all. They do still have a little bit of fur. There are two varieties, the Skinny and the Baldwin. The Skinny’s fur is on their feet and face. The Baldwin is born with a full coat of fur, but shed them during adulthood, leaving only patches around their feet.

Out of all guinea pig breeds, the American guinea pig is the most common.

This American Guinea Pig has brown and white fur.
Photo by Kurre92 from Wikipedia

You can find the American guinea pig in more than 20 colors, from simple ones like black and red to exotic ones. Examples of exotic colors include golden solid, silver solid, and even tortoiseshell. The American guinea pig is sweet and docile, making it a good pet for first-time pet owners.

Despite the name, Abyssinian guinea pigs aren’t actually from Abyssinia.

One of the little-known guinea pig facts: Abyssinian guinea pigs aren’t from Abyssinia at all. Why the breed received that name isn’t known either.

Guinea pigs eat their own feces.

Have you ever wondered, “What do guinea pigs eat?” Well, the answer just might surprise you: Guinea pigs eat their poop. They defecate soft pellets called cecotropes. Eating these cecotropes allows a guinea pig to recycle B vitamins and fiber. Aside from their poop, the guinea pig diet consists of hay, pellets, and small amounts of fresh vegetables and fruit.

Guinea pig sounds can mean many different things.

Your guinea pig is never going to talk, but you can still tell how it feels from its sounds. Whistling shows excitement, usually at your presence or in anticipation of food. Purring shows enjoyment, such as when petted or held. In contrast, chattering is a sign of warning from your guinea pig. Your guinea pig squealing is a sign of pain or distress.

Guinea pigs indirectly inspired the Tribbles of Star Trek.

Captain Kirk surrounded by Tribbles in “The Trouble with Tribbles”.
Photo by MeTV Staff from MeTV

The Tribbles appear in the 1967 episode “The Trouble with Tribbles” of Star Trek. They were faceless, fur-covered, and non-mobile animals which you can hold in one hand. Their role in the episode was based on the role of guinea pigs in the novel Pigs is Pigs.

The oldest guinea pig lived for 14 years.

Guinea pigs usually only live for 8 years. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, one guinea pig was able to live for almost twice that long.

Texel guinea pigs were first born in Britain.

This Texel Guinea Pig has curly brown and white fur.
Photo by Shannon Cutts from Squeaks and Nibbles

The Texel guinea pig is famous for its long and curly fur. An exception is around its face, where the Texel’s fur is shorter and coarser.

Silkie guinea pigs look like they have a teardrop shape when seen from above.

This Silkie Guinea Pig has the breed’s characteristic swept-back fur.
Photo by Nicole Taylor from Squeaks and Nibbles

A Silkie guinea pig has a long and smooth coat that flows back along its body. The fur is also longer to the rear compared to the rest of the body.

Peruvian guinea pigs are like Silkie guinea pigs.

This Peruvian Guinea Pig has its black, white, and brown fur.
Photo by Amanda Hess from Squeaks and Nibbles

Unlike a Silkie, a Peruvian guinea pig’s fur on its neck and head grow forward instead. This is why a Peruvian guinea pig has its characteristic ‘forelock’.

Teddy guinea pigs come in two varieties: the harsh coat and the plush coat.

This Teddy Guinea Pig has brown fur with dark bands.
Photo by Alison Page from Squeaks and Nibbles

You can tell the variety of a Teddy guinea pig from the texture of their fur. The harsh coat has a coarse texture to their fur, while the plush coat’s fur has a softer texture.

Himalayan guinea pigs have white fur with colored points.

The two Himalayan Guinea Pigs show the breed’s colored points on their ears, feet, and faces.
Photo by The Guinea Pig Herd (Zoebabies) from YouTube

You can find those points around the face, ears, and feet of the guinea pig. Himalayan guinea pigs are born solid white, with the colored points appearing in a few weeks.

A guinea pig appears in the Chronicles of Narnia.

In The Magician’s Nephew, Andrew Ketterly experimented on guinea pigs. One of them reached Narnia after an experiment with a magic ring.

A talking guinea pig appears in the film Dr. Dolittle.

Did you know the character Rodney in the 1998 film Dr. Dolittle is a guinea pig? American comedian and actor Chris Rock gave Rodney his voice.

A guinea pig appears in the American cartoon series South Park.

The South Park character Craig Tucker owns a guinea pig as a pet. The guinea pig’s name is Stripe.

The movie G-Force has a group of super-intelligent guinea pigs as its main characters.

Did you know that guinea pigs are the main characters of the 2009 film G-Force? In the film, they are specially-trained and equipped anti-terrorism agents for the FBI.

The biggest litter of guinea pigs numbered 17 pups.

On average, guinea pig litters number between 1 to 6 pups. And the bigger the litter, the higher the risk of stillbirth becomes. But according to the Guinness’ Book of World Records, the largest litter of guinea pigs had 17 pups.

A pregnant guinea pig will take around two months to give birth.

A guinea pig’s pregnancy lasts between 59 to 72 days. The long pregnancy and the large size of pups make pregnant females look like eggplants.

Guinea pigs have been to space before.

The first guinea pigs in space went to space on Korabl-Sputnik 4 in 1961. Launched by the Soviet Union, mice, frogs, and a dog went with them to space. They returned to the Earth in that same year.

Guinea pigs can either live in large cages, or in large rooms dedicated to them.

You could once buy cages for guinea pigs with either solid or wire mesh floors. Wire mesh floors are now discouraged, though. This happened after experts found they irritated guinea pigs’ feet.

Your guinea pigs need Vitamin C like you do.

Your guinea pig needs at least 10 mg of Vitamin C a day to stay healthy. If it gets pregnant, your guinea pig will need 20 mg of Vitamin C every day. It’s best that this Vitamin C comes from fruits and vegetables in the guinea pig’s diet.

guinea pigs eating carrots
Photo by Bonnie Kittle on Unsplash

Guinea pig meat tastes like duck meat.

Guinea pigs have been the staple meat in South America for thousands of years. They are also eaten in other parts of the world since the Spanish conquest. A single guinea pig is enough to fill a single person.

Bulbs are poisonous to guinea pigs.

One of the important guinea pig facts is that bulbs and plants that grow from them are poisonous to guinea pigs. Some examples of bulbs include tulips and onions. Eating them will cause illness or even death for the guinea pig.

Keeping a lone guinea pig as a pet is illegal in Switzerland.

Another one of the important guinea pig facts is that guinea pigs are social creatures and thrive in groups. This is why in Switzerland, it is illegal to have only one guinea pig as a pet.

Guinea pigs jump when they are happy.

Your guinea pig may hop into the air if it gets very happy and excited. Experts call that ‘popcorning’.

Guinea pigs bite to establish dominance over each other.

Like dogs, a guinea pig will bite another guinea pig’s ear to establish its dominance in the group. A guinea pig chewing on another guinea pig’s fur is another means to establish dominance.

Rabbits and guinea pigs can live together as pets of the same family.

Rabbits and guinea pigs do not compete with or grow hostile to each other. But, their dietary needs are different. Guinea pigs get malnourished if they are fed the same food as rabbits. Cross-species infections are also a danger that the owner should take note of.

Guinea pigs mark their territory.

Guinea pigs tend to spread their feces and urine around their cages or rooms to mark territory. This requires frequent and regular cleaning of their cages or rooms.

Guinea pigs are prey animals.

It is important to remember that larger animals and predatory birds may see guinea pigs as prey. These include other pets like cats and dogs, or even common birds like owls. You will need to supervise when in their presence or outdoors to avoid accidents.

Guinea pigs do not usually run away.

Here’s a comforting nugget among guinea pig facts: guinea pigs are timid animals. Even when their cage or room is open, they are unlikely to leave. They will only explore when in familiar territory, or to greet someone familiar like their owner.

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