The guinea pig (also commonly called the Cavy after its scientific name, Cavia porcellus) is a species of rodent belonging to the family Caviidae and the genus Cavia. Despite their common name, these animals are not pigs, nor do they come from Guinea. They originated in the Andes. Their docile nature, their responsiveness to handling and feeding, and the relative ease of caring for them, continue to make the guinea pig a popular pet.
Guinea pigs are hardy and affectionate and make great companions. However, people often think of them as "low-maintenance" pets, when in reality, they require a lot of care and attention. Guinea pigs can be quite vocal and will often greet you with whistles and shrieks.
Guinea pigs communicate and interact with each other, through behavior and sound. They can also show their feelings towards us humans. Often movement accompanies the sound they are making. As well as looking gorgeous and extremely cute, a guinea pig’s behavior matches their cute looks, most of the time.
History of Guinea Pigs
The Guinea Pig has its origins in the high mountains of South America. Natives of modern day Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador domesticated the Guinea Pig for use as food. To this day, Guinea Pigs are still raised for food in certain areas of South America.
In the 1600s Spanish sailors were the first to adopt Guinea Pigs as pets and brought them back to Europe from South America. Since that time, Guinea Pigs have been bred to produce a wide variety of types of Guinea Pigs.
These small furry creatures came to be known as “pigs” because of the squeaking noises they make – Guinea Pigs are not related to pigs. The name “Guinea” is believed to have been derived from the route that was traveled to bring these furry animals to Europe – by way of Guinea. Many other cultures throughout the world have also adopted a derivation of the “pig” name for these animals. The scientific name for the Guinea Pig is Cavia porcellus – translated in Latin to mean “little pig.”
How to Determine the Sex of a Guinea Pig
Guinea pigs can multiply rapidly, even at a young age. It is essential to determine a guinea pig's gender to eliminate the chance of an unwanted litter. Even very young sows may be carrying babies when purchased from a pet store. By learning to tell the sex of guinea pigs, you make an informed choice when bringing one into your home.
Warning, graphic images of guinea pigs sexual part! Hehe
One or Two? Females or Males?
Guinea pigs are social creatures and enjoy the company of other animals, especially other guinea pigs. Males generally don't get along, however, unless they're neutered. Two females will usually do fine together, as will a male and female. Be sure to have the male neutered, otherwise you'll soon have unwanted litters.
A pair of guinea pigs is a better option than just one. There are a number of issues to weigh on both sides of the one or two guinea pigs question. Bottom line, the decision for just one is usually the result of what is best for you. The decision for two is usually the result of what is best for the guinea pig. We usually go with what is best for the guinea pigs. If you cannot provide the best possible life for the animals, then perhaps you should consider an animal that would be happier living within your constraints. That may sound tough, but it's worth thinking about.
Guinea pigs have a keen sense of sight. They also have the ability to recognize all the colors of the spectrum. Their hearing is even better than their vision, and they can quickly learn to respond to a specific sound. Guinea pigs don't use their claws to carry food to their mouth, but put their front feet on the food to hold it still. Young guinea pigs love to jump, so you might want to build them a little obstacle course for exercise.
Behavior & Health
Guinea pigs are easily stressed and require careful handling. Always let your guinea pig know you're there by allowing it to sniff your hand. To pick up your guinea pig, slowly place one hand under its chest, just behind the front legs, and gently cup your other hand under its hindquarters. Once you have a firm but gentle grip, lift it up and immediately pull it close to your chest or lap so it doesn't thrash around. Guinea pigs feel most secure
when they're held close to your body and when their feet are supported. Since guinea pigs aren't very agile, a fall could result in serious injury. Guinea pigs love to have their heads scratched and will frequently make a "chattering" sound similar to a cat's purr to show their appreciation. The more you handle your guinea pig, the friendlier and tamer it will be.
A well-cared-for guinea pig may live four to seven years. Male guinea pigs can weigh between two to four pounds, females slightly less. Guinea pigs are sexually mature between five and eight weeks of age. Guinea pigs groom themselves with their front teeth, tongue and back claws, but they still require frequent brushing and combing to stay clean and tangle free, particularly the long-haired breeds. Use a soft baby brush or toothbrush. Because your guinea pig's teeth grow continuously, it's essential that you provide it with hard things to gnaw on to prevent its teeth from growing too long. Hard wood, untreated wicker and hard bread crusts are some suggested items. It's also possible for your guinea pig's nails to overgrow, causing discomfort and increasing your risk of being scratched. Ask your veterinarian to show you how to trim your guinea pig's nails.
Guinea pig nails should be trimmed as often as necessary and may not ever need to be trimmed depending on what type of surface your pet is accustomed to. Guinea pigs that spend a lot of time on hard, semi-rough surfaces will naturally wear down their claws to an acceptable length. If your guinea pig mostly lives on soft surfaces, the claws will grow longer into a sharp tip. Using commercially available cat clippers, clip the end of the claws – do not cut the claws too short to avoid injury.
Just like other members of the rodent family, the guinea pig’s front two teeth – the incisors – will grow throughout its entire life. Because these teeth are always growing, if they are not worn down naturally or clipped occasionally they will curve into the mouth preventing proper eating resulting in starvation. To care for your guinea pig’s teeth, make sure to provide your pet safe toys to gnaw on such as commercially available chew sticks, tree branches or wood blocks. The natural chewing action will wear down the front teeth to a healthy, acceptable length.
If the teeth become too long and are in need of clipping, take your pet into the local veterinarian to have the clipping done. Additionally, if you notice that the teeth are chipped, consult with your veterinarian.
Guinea pigs are fastidious groomers and generally will keep their fur clean by themselves. If you choose to brush your pet’s fur, use a stiff pet brush by applying moderate pressure to remove loose hair and to remove any mats. As you brush, inspect the ears and skin for any signs of mites, fleas or any other kind of skin irritation or abrasion.
Most guinea pigs do not like the water – in fact, the panic induced by a bath can result in unhealthy stress and potential injury. Guinea pigs should not be bathed unless they absolutely need it – for medical reasons, such as fleas, or if they happen to get extremely dirty, mud or sewage. Always use luke warm water to bath them to avoid stress. A baby shampoo may be used to bath them or specially made guinea pig shampoos. TAKE NOTE THAT GUINEA PIGS DO NOT NEED SAND BATHS.. They are not hamsters and the sand baths can cause respiratory problems and lung failure.
This post has been edited by Jaroque: Jun 22 2012, 03:01 AM