Among the new pets (or exotic pets), a prominent place deserves the guinea pig. Also known as guinea pig or Peruvian guinea pig, it is a rodent native to South America, also very widespread in our homes. However, before taking a guinea pig, it is good to get to know this species better as it needs special management and care.
Scientific classification of the Guinea pig
This is the scientific classification of the guinea pig:
- Dominio: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Animals
- Sottoregno: Eumetazoa
- branch: Bilateria
- Superphylum: Deuterostomy
- Phylum: Chordata
- Subphylum: Vertebrata
- Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
- Superclasse: Tetrapoda
- (clade): Amniota
- Class: Mammalia
- Subclass: Theria
- Infraclasse: Eutheria
- (clade): Boreoeutheria
- Superordine: Euarchontoglires
- (clade): Glires
- Order: Rodentia
- Sottordine: Hystricomorpha
- Infraordine: Hystricognathi
- Parvordine: Caviomorpha
- Superfamily: Cavioidea
- Family: Caviidae
- Subfamily: Caviinae
- Genus: Guinea pig
- Species: Cavia porcellus
Main varieties of the guinea pig
There are several variety of Peruvian guinea pigs, some short-haired and some long-haired. The most commonly used are:
- English Merino
- Short hair
- Sheba or Sheba Mini Yak
- Silkie o Sheltie
- US Teddy
Where does she live?
Guinea pigs are native to the Spirit, in the area of Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. In nature, they live in flat grassy areas. They prefer areas with tall grass, in dry and semi-arid climates, with temperate days that are not too hot and cold nights.
Guinea pig: appearance and color of the coat
Appearance and main anatomical features
The guinea pig has a squat body, almost devoid of neck and with short legs. The ears are small and the eyes dark.
The guinea pig’s teeth are continuously growing. This means that to file them he needs to eat hay as much as he wants and vegetables every day. This means that the guinea pig, like the rabbit, is an unsuitable animal for those allergic to grasses.
Coat color and types of Peruvian guinea pigs
For what concern coat, there are different types of guinea pigs:
- short-haired or English: the hair is smooth, straight and short, maximum 4 cm long
- with semi-long or Abyssinian hair: short hairs form rosettes
- long or Peruvian: the hairs are smooth and long, reaching even 15 cm
As colors they can be one-color, two-color or three-color. Black, white and brown ones are very common, but there are also gray ones. Then there are the naked or hairless guinea pigs.
From laughter self-colored guinea pigs we have:
the two-colored guinea pigs they can be:
- silver, that is, black and white
- golden, i.e. black and red brown
- gray, i.e. gray and yellow
- cinnamon, i.e. ivory and brownish
- salmon, i.e. lilac and ivory
- black and white
the multicolored guinea pigs or non self they can be:
- tricolor, i.e. black, white and brown or red, black and brown
- tortoise, that is, red, black and yellow
- Dutch, i.e. golden, black, chocolate and white
- roan, i.e. white with red or black
- Dalmatian, that is, white with either black or blue or gray
- harlequin, that is, black, red and white
Size and weight of the guinea pig
Come weight, the males of the guinea pigs can weigh 1,250 grams, with a length of about 20 cm.
The males of the guinea pigs become fertile as early as 2 months of life, while the females at 5-7 weeks. Never mate the female before 3 months and never after 7 months if you have not already given birth before: in this case the bones of the pelvis ossify thus preventing delivery and causing dystocia, with the risk of life for the mother and the little ones.
The duration of pregnancy of the guinea pig is 63 days (59-72). As early as 2-15 days after giving birth, she can return to heat. From each birth, 1-6 babies are born, with an average of 3. The weight of the puppies at birth is 85-95 grams. The young are precocious: they are born already equipped with hair, with open eyes and are able to walk. Within days of birth they begin to taste the solid foods given to the mother, even if they are weaned at 2-4 weeks.
What character do guinea pigs have?
Come character, the guinea pig it is a social animal that lives in small groups with a hierarchical structure. Usually the group is formed by a dominant male with attached harem, all other males banned. In captivity, it is better not to put males and females together to avoid reproductive problems. Technically, a small group of males can coexist peacefully together, as long as there are no females around.
In nature, the guinea pig is active early in the morning and at sunset. In captivity it tends to assume more human circadian rhythms. She is used to having long periods of activity interspersed with short naps.
Guinea pigs are not among the rodents more athletic: they can make very small jumps to overcome obstacles, but they don’t jump as much as other rodents. However, when they are happy, they tend to jump up and down with a movement called “popcorning” because the sound they make during this attitude is reminiscent of the crackling of popcorn. The guinea pig loves digging burrows and hide in them. With his own human, if well socialized, he is attentive and affectionate, greeting him with squeaks and whistles.
Being social animals, guinea pigs should never be kept alone. Never put males and females together if not sterilized and never put males together if there is a female in the house. Males can only coexist with each other if there are no females around. More females, on the other hand, can coexist with each other without any problem.
Diet and nutrition
Guinea pigs, like rabbits, chinchillas and prairie dogs, are narrow herbivorous animals. The guinea pig has more than one particularity regarding nutrition:
- as an adult he tends to eat only what he tasted as a child
- sometimes changing the type of bowl, he may refuse to eat: it is very habitual
- is among the animals unable to synthesize the C vitamin which must therefore be integrated into his diet
- the hay must always be left available: the guinea pig must be able to munch on it whenever he wants. For pellets, on the other hand, it is better to divide the ration into two meals a day. The same applies to fresh vegetables, taking care to remove the uneaten one before it wilts
Guinea pig food must always be provided fresh, but never cold from the fridge.
Food suitable for guinea pigs
Among the foods suitable for guinea pigs we find:
- polyphite meadow hay, not dusty
- cabbage, broccoli and savoy cabbage
- dandelion, field herbs (lawns not treated with pesticides or similar)
- carrots, fennel
- radicchio, undivided, Roman salad
- citrus fruits, apples
- pellets suitable for guinea pigs, grain free and rich in fiber
Foods not suitable for guinea pigs
These foods should not be present in the guinea pig’s diet:
- seeds, cereals, corn
- bread, bread sticks, rusks, crackers
- biscuits, sweets, candies, chocolate
- potatoes, green parts of tomatoes, potatoes and eggplant
- milk and derivatives
- pellets for rabbits
- food for dogs and cats
- cereal bars with honey
Main diseases of the guinea pig
Among the main ones diseases of the guinea pig remember:
- hypovitaminosis C
- dental malocclusion
- cystitis and stones
- tossiemia gravidica
- ovarian cysts
- cervical lymphadenitis
- mycosis or mange dermatitis
Guinea pig and management of its accommodation
Although it would be better to keep the guinea pigs free in a room specially dedicated to them (therefore where all dangers have been removed including power wires, gnawing objects, holes to slip into …), if it is not possible to organize a special space for them , it is advisable to have one very, very large cage because they have to do enough physical activity.
Better to opt for plexiglas, plastic or steel cages, which are easier to clean than wooden ones. The bottom they must not have a grid, otherwise the legs will become entangled and are at risk of fractures, but there must be abundant litter that must be changed often.
The litter it must be non-toxic and must not be ingested by the guinea pig. Better to use hay if unsure, never sawdust, straw or cat litter. As drinking troughs, use both the classic drop ones and bowls heavy enough not to be overturned. A small house must not be missing in the accommodation: it will be the guinea pig’s den.
The cage should not be exposed directly to the sun, in the middle of the draft or in noisy areas of the house. In addition, guinea pigs tolerate low temperatures well, but not high ones. Like rabbits, in fact, they could develop heatstroke already at temperatures above 18 degrees, especially in hot and humid environments.
When you decide to free her at home, always make sure that you have removed all possible and imaginable dangers, including potential predators such as dogs and ferrets.
Curiosities about the guinea pig
Here are some small ones curiosities about the guinea pig:
- There is the giant guinea pig? Not really: the guinea pig proper usually weighs around 1000-1250 grams. However, there may be other larger rodents that somewhat resemble the guinea pig in appearance
- The purchase price of a guinea pig it is not high: for the common variants the cost is around 20 euros. A few euros more can cost particular variants or colors. At this price, however, we must add that relating to accessories and accommodation
- can find a guinea pig for sale from breeders or individuals who make litters. But the best would be to turn to Rescue who deal with the recovery and adoption of these animals
- The guinea pig does not smell. If he stinks it is because his litter box is not changed regularly and because he is being held in unsanitary conditions
- The guinea pig makes many noises: a greeting call is typical when he sees you enter the room he is in
- More than talking about who discovered the guinea pig, it would be better to talk about domestication. First news about it is around 5000 BC, when it was domesticated by the shepherds of the Andes. It was considered both a pet and a source of food
- The average life span of a guinea pig is 5-8 years old
- If you decide to get a guinea pig, make sure you also find a nearby veterinarian expert in exotics
Why get a guinea pig?
The guinea pig is a very nice and sociable pet, especially if properly socialized as a puppy (the little ones can be taken in hand safely to be handled, the mother will not reject them if she smells you). You just need to have the necessary space to manage his accommodation and provide him with aadequate nutritionMany of the diseases of the guinea pig, in fact, are caused by errors in its diet.
Source: GreenStyle by www.greenstyle.it.
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