Guinea pigs are among the most popular household pets today because of their docile nature, cute and cuddly appearance, and overall suitability as indoor pets. They are calm creatures that even young children can safely care for. Guinea pigs are very friendly, and even though they require a specific diet, it’s easy to find food that meets their nutritional needs.
Just like all other pets, it’s best to research guinea pig care and other helpful information like how to get them to exercise and where to find the best guinea pig cages in the market. Let’s get started.
The Lifecycle of Guinea Pigs
How long do guinea pigs live? This is one of the most common questions parents and children ask. They have a short lifespan of between five to seven years. Of course, domestic guinea pigs can live longer – sometimes up to ten years – with proper care and nutritious food.
Guinea pigs in the wild have a shorter life expectancy – only up to four years – because they often fall prey to bigger animals in the forest. Domestic guinea pigs that live unhealthily or lack proper care and attention are most likely to have a similarly short lifespan.
Here is a look at the life cycle of guinea pigs:
- Pregnancy: The average guinea pig has a pregnancy of around 63 days. However, if the gestation period exceeds 70 days, you must take your pet to the vet because the litter may be stillborn.
- Weaning: The pups are born fully furred and with open eyes. They usually need to nurse for 21 days, but when they are born, they can already eat solid food.
- Maturity for Males: Otherwise known as boars, male guinea pigs reach maturity at around 3-4 months. Males can start showing dominant behavior earlier and establish a pecking order.
- Maturity for Females: Otherwise known as sows, female guinea pigs reach maturity at around 6-8 months. Females can get pregnant earlier and immediately breed again soon after giving birth. The latter isn’t advisable because the nursing female needs to regain her strength and nutritional reserves.
- Senior Age: From around 3 years old onwards, guinea pigs can develop chronic diseases and show signs of aging.
Besides diet and living conditions, the breed can also be a factor in a guinea pig’s life expectancy. Hairy breeds live an average of four years, while the hairless breed or skinny pigs live longer, averaging seven to eight years old.
It’s a good sign when families ask how long guinea pigs live; it means they are carefully considering if such a pet is appropriate for their household and lifestyle. Guinea pigs require a lot of care and attention. So if a teen who’s off to college in two years can no longer care for their pet guinea pig, the parents should be ready to take over the responsibility.
Guinea Pig Care Tips: How to Keep Your Pet Happy and Healthy
If you have decided to keep a guinea pig as a pet, here are some care pointers you should know:
Being herd animals, guinea pigs thrive when they have one or more companions.
2. Ideal Diet and Vitamin Supplements:
Guinea pigs need an unlimited amount of high-quality hay. You can also sprinkle some fresh herbs for additional flavor and nutrition. It’s good for guinea pigs to always chew on hay because their teeth grow constantly. Chewing wears down their teeth and helps prevent dental problems.
Pet specialists recommend grass hay like Oxbow, Timothy Hay, and alfalfa hay. These are rich in vitamin C, which guinea pigs need. Their bodies cannot produce vitamin C, so they depend on food and supplements. Commercially-manufactured pellets are also good, but guinea pigs need variety and nutrition. So apart from hay, give your pet fresh, plain fruits and leafy vegetables like tomatoes, bell peppers, lettuce, broccoli, carrot tops, and kale to complete their diet.
3. Toys for Entertainment and Exercise:
Guinea pigs get bored too, and they need exercise to stay healthy. Veterinarians recommend having at least one hour of supervised time outside their cage, where they can freely walk and explore as much as they like.
Chew toys like molar blocks, cotton rope, and apple tree sticks will keep them occupied and keep their teeth healthy. Tunnels and mini playpens with lots of hiding places are also excellent. They may not look like it, but guinea pigs are prey animals, so they like to burrow and hide and playfully attack their companions.
4. Spacious Cage:
One of the biggest mistakes most people are guilty of is buying a tiny cage for guinea pigs. They may be small, but they need a lot of floor space, especially if they have one or more companions. The old rule of thumb was two square feet per guinea pig, but experts soon realized it’s not enough.
So if you’re looking for the best guinea pig cages for your pets, choose ones that measure two by four feet or bigger and are at least 25 cm in height. Bigger is always better if you have two or more in a cage.
5. Regular Vet Appointments:
It’s recommended to take your pet guinea pig to the vet once or twice a year during the first three years and with increasing frequency or whenever needed from their fourth year onwards. Remember, guinea pigs reach full maturity and are considered seniors at three years old. They become more vulnerable to illnesses and diseases, so you need to watch their health more closely.
Like any pet, caring for a guinea pig requires commitment and willingness to spend time and money on their needs. The tips above will help ensure their health, well-being, and long life.
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