Guinea Pigs | Rolling Ridge Animal Park
Guinea pigs, also called a cavy, is a species of rodent belonging to the family Caviidae, these animals are not in the pig family, nor are they from Guinea. They originated in the Andes, and therefore, do not exist naturally in the wild.
In many South American groups, guinea pigs are used especially as a food source, but also in folk medicine, and in community religious ceremonies. Since the 1960’s efforts have been made to increase consumption of the animal outside South America. In Western societies, the guinea pig has enjoyed widespread popularity as a household pet since its introduction by European traders in the 16th century. 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. They vary in coat colors and compositions.
Guinea pigs are large for rodents, weighing between 1.5-2.5 pounds, and measuring from 8-10 inches in length. They typically live an average of four to five years, but may live as long as eight years.
Domesticated guinea pigs thrive in groups of two or more; groups of sows or groups of 1 or more sows and a neutered boar are common combinations. Guinea pigs learn to recognize and bond with other individual guinea pigs. Domesticated guinea pigs have developed a different biological rhythm from their wild counterparts, and have longer periods of activity followed by short periods of sleep in between. Activity is scattered randomly over the 24 hours of the day; aside from avoidance of intense light, no regular circadian patterns are apparent. Domesticated guinea pigs generally live in cages, although some owners of large numbers will dedicate entire rooms to their pets. They tend to be messy within their cages; often jumping into their food bowls or kick bedding and feces into them.
Guinea pigs can learn complex paths to food, and can accurately remember a learned path for months. Their strongest problem solving strategy is motion. While they can jump small obstacles, they are poor climbers, and are not particularly agile. They startle extremely easily, and will freeze in place for long periods or run for cover with rapid, darting motions when they sense danger. When excited, guinea pigs may repeatedly perform little hops in the air (known as “pop corning”). They are also exceedingly good swimmers.
Like many rodents, guinea pigs sometimes participate in social grooming, and they regularly self-groom. A milky-white substance is secreted from their eyes and rubbed into the hair during the grooming process. Groups of boars will often chew each other’s hair, but this is a method of establishing hierarchy within a group, rather than a social gesture. Guinea pig sight is not as good as a human, but they have a wider range of vision (about 340°) and see in partial color. They have well developed senses of hearing, smell, and touch. Vocalization is the primary means of communication between members of the species. Some sounds are whistle, rumbling, bubbling or purring, chuting or whining, chattering, squealing or chirping.
The guinea pig is able to breed year round, with birth peaks usually coming in the spring; as many as five litters can be produced per year. The gestation period lasts from 59-72 days, with an average of 63-68 days. Because of the long gestation period and the large size of the pups, pregnant females may become large and eggplant shaped. Newborn pups are well developed with hair, teeth, claws, and partial eyesight, they are immediately mobile, and begin eating solid food immediately, though they continue to suckle. Litters yield 1-6 pups, with an average of three; the largest recorded litter size is 17.
Grass is the guinea pig’s natural diet. Their molars are particularly suited for grinding plant matter, and grow continuously throughout the animal’s life.