[fbshare type=”button”] Guinea pigs, or Cavys as they’re sometimes known are charming little creatures. One of the more vocal pets with their sing song squeaks, comical expressions and little busy body personalities, they let you know when they sense a handful of hay or leaves is on the way, but they’re quite gentle and not known for biting, but give a loud squeak or a push with their heads if your in the way. Like rabbits, guinea pigs were probably first domesticated as a source of food, when Europeans first found them in South America. In some ways the shape and colour of the wild animal is slightly similar to small wild boar. What is a little different about guinea pigs is that the domestic animal has changed greatly from its distant wild cousin and over the centuries, domestic guinea pigs became a separate species (Cavia Porcellus) which can’t directly be found in the wild.
Their nearest wild relatives include the Brazilian Guinea pig (Cavia Aperea), although occasionally, you may see a pet guinea pig that has the same agouti brown coat colour, similar to wild rabbit colour giving a glimpse of their wild ancestors. Like rabbits, Guinea pigs are social creatures and are kept in single gender groups, where they’re fun to watch shuffling around each other. While most Guinea pigs are much the same shape and size, with boars slightly larger than sows, their colour and hair length differs greatly from smooth coated to the untidy rosettes of the Abyssinian or the shaggy bob hair of the Peruvian. Although long haired guinea pigs are less likely to become tatted than the soft hair of an Angora rabbit, so are easier to look after, care still needs to be taken to groom and make sure their hair doesn’t become tatted or soiled. Because many pet shops keep their young guinea pigs in groups of about the same age from several litters to choose from, it can sometimes be difficult to know how the adult Guinea pig will look.
Click below to see more Cavia Aperea.
Like Rabbits, wild Guinea Pigs eat a diet rich in grass, so a constant supply of fresh hay is really important for guinea pigs, and they love it! Give them all of their food at once and they’ll run straight for the hay and dive right in. Grass is also important to wild guinea pigs to provide them with cover from predators since they aren’t burrowing animals, so seek natural cover. For this reason they are happy with a pile of hay to hide under, but a cardboard box does a similar job (remove any staples or tape first). A hay rack type of container will stop the guinea pigs wetting or soiling in the hay but any hay that has been in the hutch for long can become stale and need to be removed. Guinea pigs also require a regular supply of fresh fruit and vegetables, particularly green leafy ones, with sugar rich carrot or apple as an occasional treat. An important aspect of a guinea pig diet is vitamin C, which guinea pigs must obtain from their foodstuff. Broccoli is rich in vitamin C, regularly available in the supermarket, and they’ll also enjoy munching through the dense stalk. A balanced guinea pig nugget diet with enough vitamin C is recommended and it is important not to feed guinea pigs with rabbit food which doesn’t contain enough. Fresh water must be provided at all times, bottle feeders are the best way to do this, because bowls may be too heavy to knock over by a guinea pig, but they would often soil them. Change the water daily rather than topping up to keep the water fresh.