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Guinea Pigs as Pets

Introduction to Choosing a Guinea Pig

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Guinea Pig photo

Guinea Pig

Lianne McLeod

Names and Terms

  • Latin name: Cavia porcellus
  • Also called cavies (singular is cavy).
  • Females are called sows, males called boars, and babies called pups.
  • Hairless varieties also available, sometimes called "skinny" pigs.
Appearance
  • Approximately 10 inches long, and 2-3 pounds.
  • Rounded stout body, no visible tail (a few tail vertebrae can be felt under the skin).
  • Variety of breeds with different coat types and color patterns. The most commonly found breeds are the American (short smooth hair coat), Abyssinian (short coat with "swirls" called rosettes) and the Peruvian (long haired). A wide variety of colors are seen.
Before You Decide on Guinea Pigs
  • Guinea pigs are social animals, and you should consider keeping a same sex pair so they have company. A pair of females is a good choice; a pair of males may be fine but may fight.
  • They are a long-term commitment, with an expected life span of around 5-7 years, although up to 10 isn't unusual.
  • They need a large cage (but fortunately it is easy to meet their needs with a home made cage).
  • While usually quiet they can call out quite loudly, and can be active both day and night.
  • They may be nervous at first but rarely bite and generally become very tame with frequent handling.
  • Usually good family pets (but make sure children handle them gently).
Finding a Guinea Pig
  • Pet stores: only if the store/staff are knowledgeable about guinea pigs, keep them in appropriate, clean housing with a good diet, and handle the guinea pigs regularly. Look for stores that house males and females separately, to avoid a surprise litter.
  • Breeders (caviary): best option if looking for a show quality pig or a specific type, but also good for finding pet quality pigs. A good breeder will make sure the babies are socialized well and handled from an early age.
  • Shelters: guinea pigs often end up in shelters or rescues and this is a great place to give a guinea pig a second chance at life. Guinea pigs from shelters might be a little more skittish at first if they were not handled much when young, but most will settle down in their new homes once a routine is established.
  • Whichever source is chosen, make sure the guinea pig appears in good health and condition, and is well socialized and easy to handle.
Choosing a Guinea Pig
  • Try to avoid guinea pigs that are panicky when handled, especially if they do not relax quickly, and also those that are overly quiet and calm (may be ill).
  • The guinea pig should be alert and active.
  • Avoid guinea pigs that are overly skinny or grossly overweight. The body should be firm and rounded.
  • The nose, eyes, ears, and rear end should be clean and free from discharge.
  • The coat should be full and soft.
  • Check the skin for flakes or redness, and be on the lookout for any signs of parasites such as lice.

Caring for Guinea Pigs

Also see the Guinea Pig Photo Gallery and Names for Guinea Pigs

Related Video
Guinea Pig Feeding and Diet

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