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Curious about Guinea Pigs

Updated: Nov 21, 2018

I recently made the acquaintance of a critter known as a guinea pig. The guinea pig is a domesticated species of rodent that was originally from South America. While domesticated Guinea pigs are no longer found in the wild, they do have some wild cousins, also called Guinea pigs, in South America that live in forests, savannas, mountainous grasslands and bushy areas. They have a relatively short life span averaging between four and eight years. They are herbivores (which means they eat only plants) and come in a variety of colors and sizes. It is easy for people to handle guinea pigs, but they prefer a routine that includes playing, eating, and resting. These rodents communicate by making various sounds that have different meanings and are known to "popcorn," or jump in the air, when happy. Guinea pigs are social companion animals that require daily interaction. They are crepuscular, which means they are most active during dusk and dawn.

To us cats (and dogs too), guinea pigs are prey animals, which makes them nervous around me and other species larger then themselves. Cats are often very interested in guinea pigs: we like to sit by their cage staring in at them curiously. However, I'm told this behavior can be extremely stressful for the guinea pig.

Cats, dogs and guinea pigs can accept one another, but any interaction, throughout their lives, should be firmly supervised. Guinea pigs move very fast, and you can’t blame a cat (or dog) for instinctively reacting to a running guinea pig. But guinea pigs are quite fragile, even a paw placed on a guinea pig just to stop it from running could be enough to seriously harm this delicate animal.

Did you know that there are 12 commonly recognized types or breeds of guinea pig? This graphic helps you to identify the different types.

Cheryl feeding Maizey a piece of bell pepper
Cheryl and Maizey

Meet my friends Cheryl and her sweet and amazing Guinea Pig, Maizey. Maizey loves to snuggle up on Cheryl’s neck and chest and is a real cuddlier. Cheryl gives Maizey a strip of orange (often red) bell pepper as a treat (not hot peppers!) which are rich in Vitamin C. Can you tell which type of Guinea Pig beautiful Maizey is?

Be sure to check out these helpful links if you are considering getting or have a pet guinea pig:

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