What are guinea pigs? What makes them such great pets? How long do they live? What do they like to do? Are there different types of guinea pigs? What do the words "cavy", "sow" and "boar" mean? These are just some of the questions you'll find the answers to in this article. Let's start!
But before we dig deeper into the lives of guinea pigs, let's sort out some guinea pig-words that will pop up from now on;
- Cavy = a commonly used word for guinea pig (Cavies when multiple), which comes from their latin name Cavia Porcellus.
- Sow = female guinea pig
- Boar = male guinea pig
- Pup = baby guinea pig (a group of siblings is called a Litter)
The Guinea pig
Guinea pigs, a.k.a cavies, are a domesticated rodent species that origin from wild guinea pigs (Cavia aperea) in the Andean mountains in South America, where they became domesticated 5000 BC. It wasn't until the 1500s that they were brought into North America and the rest of the world, and rapidly became popular pets. Today, there are still 15 wild species of guinea pig living in South America, and they live under completely different circumstances. Some of them live in dens dug by other animals, and others live under the dense vegetation.
Cavies come in many different breeds, with varying hair type and color. The most common breed is the English Shorthair, also known as "the American". This breed is often found at pet stores, and has a short, smooth coat. Then there's the Abyssinian, which has a ruffled coat and comes in many different color variations.
If you like them with a little longer coat, there's always the Peruvian and the Texel breeds. Peruvians have a long, straight coat, while the Texel has a long and curly coat.
Then there's even a hairless breed called Skinny, which has become quite popular. Although there hasn't been any proof that they are more allergy-friendly.
If you want to read more about all of the different breeds, check out our article on this topic.
Guinea pigs weigh between 700 and 1200 grams, and are between 20 to 25 centimeters long.
They usually live four or five years, but can become as old as eight years.
Cavies are intelligent, active and incredibly social animals. They really know how to show their human(s) they love them, and tend to chit-chat in many different situations. On Wikipedia, you can listen to a bunch of the different sounds they make, and it's really cute!
Guinea pig pregnancies last for about 70 days, and then gives birth to approximately 3 pups. Unlike rabbits, rats and hamsters, guinea pigs are actually born with hair, claws and somewhat developed eyesight. They can eat solid food from the very beginning.
As their bodies can't produce C-vitamins, they require vegetables enriched with C-vitamin every day in order to fulfill their needs.
Guinea pigs as pets
Cavies have been popular pets since they were introduced to us in the 1500s, and it's not hard to understand why. For starters, they almost never bite or scratch you. They are calm-tempered, easy to care for, hygienic and as previously stated, super-social. They can learn to do different tricks if you offer some yummy treats, and like to explore their surroundings. But they often hesitate to escape, even if you'd accidentally left the cage door open. They can also be of great support when you're feeling a little down.