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There are quite a few things that should be taken into consideration before you choose a guinea pig to become a part of your family. If you have already made your decision it is important to consider other issues such as the type of breed of guinea pig as well as the sex of the guinea pig.
No matter where you are in the process, the information below is meant to help guide your decision making. Remember that everyone has a unique home environment and the decision of whether you should get a guinea pig is ultimately in your hands.
Related Article: 8 Best Guinea Pig Cages 2019
The History Behind the Guinea Pig
Guinea pigs are members of the Caviidae family, a species of rodents that are native to South America. Although domestically called guinea pigs, cavies originate from the wild guinea pigs of Brazil and Peru.
Almost 500 years ago, the Incas were the first people to domesticate guinea pigs and because of this, guinea pigs were featured in many South American folklore traditions. Even today Guinea Pigs are still used as a source of food and even play a role in traditional healing methods by being rubbed against the body of the sick.
There are quite a few different theories as to how Cavies became called Guinea Pigs: one of the theories is that the Spanish conquerors who, during the fifteenth century, were in Peru searching for gold, brought the guinea pigs back to Europe with them and since they traveled by way of Guinea, it was assumed incorrectly that these creatures were actually from there.
Another possible explanation for these creatures being given the name of guinea pigs was a mis-interpretation of the word Guiana, which is a region of South America in which these creatures inhabited. Other historians have even suggested that these animals were sold for a guinea, which was an English coin forged out of West African gold.
During the 1920’s breeders began introducing Guinea Pigs into North America, and in the 1970’s, the guinea pig was accepted into 4-H programs nationwide. As a result of all of this, there are now a wide variety of different breeds of Guinea Pigs which have since developed, and as well as being a very popular family pet, they are now also bred for exhibition purposes and are popular show animals too.
A Look at a Guinea Pig's Daily Schedule
As a guinea pig owner, it is important to realize that they may naturally keep a different schedule than you and your family. While some owners may indeed be living their lives on guinea pig time, most are not. Though it can be difficult to understand, once adjusting your routines to accommodate your guinea pig’s natural schedule, you will probably find your relationship with your pet to be much more rewarding.
Guinea pigs are primarily night owls. These creatures are most active in the evening and night time hours each day. Because of this characteristic, they are often times rewarding pets for human versions of the night owl. Guinea pigs can keep a night dweller company in the wee hours of the morning, when others are fast asleep.
However even if you are not a night owl, you can still interact with your guinea pig. Your guinea pig will probably still be awake when you wake up each morning. First thing in the morning is a great time to give your guinea pig one of his daily meals. Also give him plenty of hay to graze on throughout the day. Once your guinea pig eats his breakfast, he will probably be ready for a nap.
Your guinea pig will probably nap for the rest of the day. He will usually wake up if you try to wake him up, but do not expect him to be enthusiastic about play or interaction. He might also wake up to snack on some hay, but then will be ready for another nap. Finally, around evening, your guinea pig will be ready to start his “day”.
Once evening rolls around and your guinea pig is awake, you can feed him his second meal. Either before or after feeding him each evening is a great time to get your guinea pig out of his cage for playtime. The more time you spend playing with him each evening, the less noise he will probably
How to Choose a Guinea Pig Best Fit For You
You should also think about how your personal and family circumstances will affect your decision on what breed of guinea pig to buy. It is best to remember that long haired guinea pigs usually require a lot more grooming and maintenance, and that some guinea pigs are more suited to families with children than others are. Try to do as much research as you can about the many different breeds of guinea pigs to ensure you choose the correct one for you and your family.
As long as you are not buying a guinea pig for breeding purposes, it really doesn’t matter if you get a male (boar) or a female (sow). However, it is imperative that when you go to a breeder or a pet store to choose your guinea pig, they should be separated by sex. If they are not separated or the pet store employee does not know how to tell the sex of the guinea pigs, then they should be avoided as you might run the risk of buying a pregnant female.
Before making your selection, you should take a good look at all the other guinea pigs in the cage and make sure that they all appear healthy. Their cage should also be clean with plenty of food and water and the guinea pigs should look like they are well cared for.
Also take note of whether the guinea pigs seem alert and active and if they have firm, rounded bodies. Their coats should be full and smooth and their noses, eyes, ears and rear end should also be clean. Always avoid any guinea pig that appears to be too thin or too overweight, and especially stay away from any guinea pig that shows any signs of ill health as well as those that are act frightened whenever they are held.
Traveling With Guinea Pigs
No matter what time of year it is many people are busy planning trips and vacations. However sometimes owning pets can make travel more difficult. If you are a guinea pig owner or thinking of becoming one who is hoping to take your pet along for the ride, here are some things to keep in mind.
Remember to set up an adequate carrier for your guinea pig. Most small animal carriers will work fine for a guinea pig. Ventilation is key. You want your guinea pig to have access to plenty of air on the journey, and especially in stressful situations. Additionally, security is also key for your guinea pig’s safety as well as his comfort. Make sure that your guinea pig cannot open the carrier himself, or escape it in any way.
You also want to make sure that your guinea pig feels secure himself within the carrier. It is best to provide plenty of bedding for your pet guinea pigs. However, wood shavings and hays may be too messy for the trip. Old t-shirts make great travel bedding. To add a greater level of comfort to the travel environment, consider placing a couple of paper towels into the carrier so that your guinea pig can burrow or hide comfortably within the travel carrier.
Always provide your guinea pig with a water bottle for the trip. If your guinea pig is used to drinking from a bowl, be sure to acquaint him to the bottle well in advance to any travel. And remember to keep your guinea pig inside of the carrier at all times when you are in a vehicle. It is very easy for your guinea pig to cause damage to the car or his own safety when he is not in his cage.
Keep in mind that guinea pigs do not always make the best travel companions. Talk to your veterinarian about boarding your guinea pig at a small animal kennel, or consider hiring a pet sitter.
Introducing an Old Guinea Pig to a New Guinea Pig
A lot of Guinea Pig owners end up buying another guinea pig once they see how lovable guinea pigs are. However before you introduce your new guinea pig to your old guinea pig, there are a few precautions that your should take.
If you already own an adult male guinea pig and are considering purchasing a new baby male guinea pig, then you will have no problems introducing them to each other. You should never introduce two adult males to each other as they will fight until one dies.
However, if you already own an adult female guinea pig, introducing a baby to an adult female is much easier to do. Although it will take much more patience, you can introduce two adult female guinea pigs.
Also, as long as your adult male is neutered, you will be able to easily introduce a female guinea pig to him, regardless of age. Although a single neutered male can live in a colony of females with no problems, you should never have two male guinea pigs living with a female or females as they will always fight.
Regardless of the sex or age of your two guinea pigs, you should have a neutral space available for them to be introduced in. Ideally, this space should be well away from other animals, small children or any other distraction.
Start by placing a few really nice treats in the middle of the neutral space. Pretty quickly the two guinea pigs will start eating the treats and will be forced to recognize each other over a positive experience.
At first the guinea pigs will sniff each other out and should therefore be supervised during the entire process. Once you are confident that they are comfortable with each other, you then place them into their cage together.
If your two guinea pigs do not hit it off right away, it would be best to keep them separate in different cages for a while. Place these cages side by side so your guinea pigs will be able to observe each other and get used to each other and always supervise their playtime together.
Guinea Pig Breeding
Before you start to breed your guinea pig, you should research how to take care of your guinea pig both during and after its pregnancy as well as how to assist raising the babies.
When selecting guinea pigs to breed, it is vitally important that they you obtain a record of good health for both of the potential parents. It is also preferable if their parents have also lived a long and healthy life. Check for good eyes and coat, quick alert movements and a healthy appetite.
Between 5 and 6 months old is actually the ideal age to begin breeding guinea pigs. However, never attempt to breed a sow that is over 10 months old. When older sows are asked to breed, there is a possibility that her pelvic bone will have fused together causing a condition known as dystocia. This can be fatal for both the mother and their young. When a sow has a litter early in life, her bones never fuse – allowing her to reproduce past this 10 month barrier.
If you are going to breed your guinea pigs inside, they should have a pen that is approximately 1m by 1m with sides being around 30cm high. If they are to be housed outdoors, have a similar sized cage but try to accommodate it inside a shed.
Try to plan ahead so that the babies arrive in late spring or early summer. In the wild, there is far more food available at this time and pet guinea pigs are still in keeping with this breeding clock.
The sow’s cycle is usually every 15 to 17 days but she is only fertile for a few hours of every cycle. Because of this, keep the pair together for about 6 or 7 weeks to increase the chances of success.
Do not handle the sow too much before birth. If you need to lift her, make sure you support her very well. The sow’s diet must be adjusted for her pregnancy: continue the normal diet but ensure that she gets enough calcium. Brown bread soaked in warm cow’s milk is a good way to provide this. Immediately after birth, make sure there is a bowl of warm milk and bread available to both mother and young.
The boar should be removed about 2 weeks before the young are due. Although he will not even think about harming the offspring, it is possible they may be hurt when he attempts to mate the sow a few hours after birth.
The average length of pregnancy is 65 to 75 days. Expect only 2 or 3 babies in the first litter and then perhaps between 3 and 6 in subsequent litters.
The babies should weigh between 3 and 4 ounces, and should be lively and alert only a few hours after birth. They should make characteristic noises and will want to eat the same food as their mother in a matter of days.