Guinea Pigs: Know their habits and pet-caring

Having a small and active pet requires you to be on your toes, but the love and affection your pet gives will make your day better and make you more attentive to them and yourself. So, go ahead and get a small pet.

Guinea pigs (scientific name, Cavia porcellus) belonging to the genus Cavia and subfamily Caviinea are the most popular domesticated rodents. They are very social creatures, and so can live alone with us or in a cluster. Their average life span is from six to eight years. Guinea pigs enjoy being with you and being tickled. They are very entertaining, lovable and friendly pets. Their coats can be black, brown, chestnut, grey, orange and white, or made up of two or more shades of these colours.

Of the 30 known major and frequently breed species as pets, a few of them are the American (short-haired), the Abyssinian (rough-coated), the Peruvian (long-coated), the Silkie (long-coated), the Teddy (densely and short-coated), the White Crested (pure white-haired forehead) and the Coronet (rosette-haired forehead).

Grooming Habits

Guinea pigs grow very quickly and require regular grooming, such as trimming their coats and nails. Cages should be cleaned daily to maintain hygiene. Guinea pigs rarely need a bath. If bathing is necessary, use a shampoo specifically formulated for small animals. You can bathe them infrequently, but once in every 3–12 months.

Food Habits

They are natural grazers. For food and nourishment, they need fresh and clean vegetables and grasses daily in their diet. The fresh and clean water provided to them should be within their reach. Guinea pigs have special dietary needs and require enough Vitamin C, so as per the manufacturer’s instructions provide them with a fresh portion of grass-based guinea-pig pellets each day. These provide essential vitamins like Vitamin C, which generally get destroyed with exposure to air.

Breeding Habits

The female guinea pigs should be first mated between the age of 3 and 7 months. Delaying can then lead to pregnancy and delivery problems. Males, on the other hand, should be 34 months old when they first breed. The females’ heat cycle lasts 16 days. The period during which females can accept males and reproduce is about 8 hours. The average gestation period is 63 days. Female guinea pigs can enter estrus again 15 hours after giving birth, which is called “postpartum estrus”. This means that they can be nursing a litter and be pregnant at the same time. The young are born relatively mature. They are large-sized and fully furred, and can walk about. Also, at this time they have teeth and open eyes. Even though they are newborns, guinea pigs can eat solid food and drink water on their own, but still, they should be allowed to nurse by their mother for at least two weeks.

Symptoms, Diseases and Prevention

Guinea pigs require proper and regular daily care. Some issues are loss of appetite, weight loss, hunched posture, unusual gait or lameness, unusually thin or unusually large belly, changes in coat texture or difficulty breathing. Affected guinea pigs may have low energy or not respond to sound or touch. You should check your pet for possible skin problems, injuries, rapid weight gain or loss, dental problems and other health problems. Common health problems in these animals are related to the lungs or digestive system. A sick guinea pig may have diarrhea or discharge from the eyes or nose. Dental problems are also very common, so check your pet’s mouth for drool, overgrowth or swelling of the teeth. You should also check your pet’s ears for discharge or irritation, and inspect their paws for inflammation or broken claws. This little pet needs immediate veterinary attention to stay active and happy.

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