Guinea pigs, also commonly known as cavy, originated in South America. This breed of rodents has been kept as a domesticated pet for over 400 years. Guinea pigs still exist in the wild as well, inhabiting areas of South America. Three main breeds exist: the English or common guinea pig with its short, straight hair, the Abyssinian guinea pig with rough, wiry hair in curls, and the Peruvian guinea pig with its long, silky straight hair.
Guinea pigs of any breed make a great pet due to their social personality. The Peruvian guinea pig’s personality is friendly and docile. They do not take up a lot of space, are fairly easy to care for, and do not bite or scratch. Given their social nature, guinea pigs usually prefer to be housed together to avoid boredom and loneliness. Guinea pigs can weigh between 1.5 and 2.5 pounds on average, and the Peruvian guinea pig’s size is between eight and 12 inches long.
Peruvian Guinea Pig Facts
|Lifespan||4-8 years (average of 5)|
|Weight||1.5 - 2.5 pounds|
|Diet||Pellets, Timothy hay, and vegetables|
|Temperament||Docile and non-aggressive. Good with children.|
- Despite their name, guinea pigs originated in the Andes and not the country of Guinea.
- A male guinea pig is also called a boar and a female is a sow.
- Wild guinea pigs live in herds with a dominant male guinea pig that is in charge.
- Vitamin C is a crucial part of the guinea pig’s diet because their bodies cannot make it themselves.
- Without food and toys to chew on, guinea pigs’ teeth will continue to grow.
Caring for Peruvian Guinea Pigs
Proper Peruvian guinea pig care is important for the health of your cavies. While they generally have good health, poor hygiene can lead to skin infections or parasites. They are also prone to respiratory infections if exposed to damp or humid areas or the cold. Be sure to keep your guinea pig’s habitat in a warm (but not hot), dry area.
Choosing a Cage for your Peruvian Guinea Pigs
Guinea pigs cannot jump or climb well so you do not need a lid for your cage. Walls should be 10 inches or taller and overall cage size should be 200 square inches at minimum. To prevent overheating, choose a cage with bars and not solid walls like an aquarium tank. Cages can be plastic, metal, or wire. The base of the cage should be solid, not grate-style, to prevent injuries to your guinea pigs’ small feet.
Guinea pigs are messy creatures and you will want to clean their cage often. For this reason, wide open spaces and an open top design are easiest. Remove soiled shavings and droppings from the cage bottom daily and clean food bowls as needed. Check that the water bottle works and has not become clogged, as some guinea pigs may spit part of their food into the drinking tube and block the water flow.
Place your pet’s cage out of direct sunlight in a room with temperatures between 65 and 79 degrees Fahrenheit. Cooler temperatures are better than hot temperatures as your guinea pig could overheat due to its long, thick hair.
Best Guinea Pig Accessories
Once you’ve chosen a cage for your Peruvian cavy, you’ll want to stock it with all the toys and accessories your guinea pig needs to be happy. Shelters to hide in are a must-have, as guinea pigs enjoy privacy and a sense of security. A pet-safe wooden structure is a good choice as it gives your guinea pig not only shelter but doubles as a chew toy to keep their teeth healthy.
Guinea pigs need lots of exercise and room to roam. In addition to choosing a large cage, set up a safe area in a room of your home for your cavy to exercise at least once a day. A wire playpen is a great way to provide space for your pet to run around without worrying that they’ll sneak behind furniture.
Other popular toys for guinea pigs include tunnels, hammocks, and wooden blocks. Guinea pigs enjoy exploring their environment and will play with everything from a small ball with a bell inside to a paper towel roll.
Best Bedding Types
Soiled bedding should be changed daily to prevent a strong ammonia smell. Shredded bedding is available at pet stores or can be made from shredded paper. This provides a soft material for guinea pigs’ small feet as well as a comfy place to sleep.
Some owners choose to provide a sock or stuffed animal for their cavies to sleep on. Your pets will move it around the cage as they see fit. Make sure they are not chewing on it or it may need to be removed to avoid ingesting fibers or lose parts.
Feeding Your Peruvian Guinea Pig
Pellets are the ideal food for your guinea pig as they are specially formulated to meet the guinea pig’s unique nutritional needs. Avoid alfalfa-based pellets and use Timothy-based instead. Guinea pigs need a high amount of vitamin C daily. This will be provided in high quality food, but adding some veggies to your pet’s diet will also provide much-needed nutrients.
In addition to commercial pellet food, your guinea pigs also need a fresh supply of Timothy hay available to them. Feeder balls are a popular method for supplying Timothy hay. The hay aids in digestion and prevents teeth from growing too long.
Chop small pieces of vegetables (wash them first!) to give to your guinea pigs to help them reach their required daily intake of vitamin C. Guinea pigs enjoy several veggies including:
- Red or green peppers
Guinea pigs should be introduced to a variety of food types from a young age, otherwise they may resist change later in life. Sudden changes to a guinea pig’s diet can cause an upset stomach. Provide a mixture of foods for your pet to enjoy, and if you must switch to a new brand or type of food make the change gradually by mixing some new food in with the old so your pet’s stomach can adjust.
Water bottles should be rinsed and refilled daily with fresh water. Once a week wash the bottle with hot, soapy water. Cleaning with bleach can also be useful to prevent bacteria growth. Be sure to rinse the bottle and drinking tube thoroughly to remove any soap or bleach.
Grooming Your Peruvian Guinea Pig
Their long silky hair sets Peruvian guinea pigs apart from other breeds. Just like with people, their hair can become tangled without proper daily care. Because long, dirty hair can lead to infections or restrict the cavy’s movement, proper hair care is crucial to the health of your pet.
Once a day, brush your guinea pig’s hair in the same direction it grows and move from front to back. Use a soft pet brush to avoid yanking the hair. This will keep it shiny and remove any large debris, like pellet pieces, that is stuck in the hair. Often, Peruvian guinea pig owners will keep the hair trimmed to a more manageable length of a few inches. Hair shouldn’t fall past the feet, as this can hinder movement.
Typically you will not need to bathe your Peruvian guinea pig unless the hair becomes too dirty to clean with regular brushing or they develop a fungal infection. A special guinea pig shampoo should be used with lukewarm water and your cavy should be kept warm while they are drying to avoid a respiratory infection.
The Peruvian cavy is popular due to its long hair and makes a great starter pet. Best in groups of two or more, your guinea pigs will provide hours of companionship and entertainment. While they have a docile personality and get along well with children, an adult should be available to provide daily care as their long hair requires more grooming than a short-haired guinea pig.
Some owners choose to enter their Peruvian guinea pigs in shows. If you are interested in showing your guinea pig, you may want to let their hair grow longer and keep it wrapped in paper and pinned up between shows to allow your guinea pig unrestricted movement and to keep the hair clean.
Whether for show or companionship, the Peruvian cavy is a popular pet for good reason. You will have many years together with your guinea pig and receive lots of love in return for your efforts.