two guinea pigs cuddling
Guinea pigs are social animals. Katrina Br*?#*!@nd/Flickr

It’s easy to see that guinea pigs are cute. If you share your life with guinea pigs, you also know that they have personalities and each piggie has their own likes and dislikes. But how much to do you know about guinea pigs in general? Things like their life span, anatomy, dietary needs, history, and more? You can see that guinea pigs don’t have a tail and that they have large ears, four toes on their front feet and three on their back. Following are 12 more guinea pig facts.

Guinea Pig Fact 1

Perhaps one of the most famous facts about guinea pigs is that they cannot make their own vitamin C, unlike most other mammals. They share this inability with people, who also need to get vitamin C from their diet. Without vitamin C, guinea pigs develop scurvy. Scurvy causes numerous problems, including swollen joints, lethargy, skin and fur problems, loss of appetite, and more.

Guinea Pig Fact 2

The American Cavy Breeders Association and American Rabbit Breeders Association currently recognize 13 breeds of guinea pig. The “founding” breeds recognized were the American (sometimes called English), Abyssinian, and Peruvian.

Guinea Pig Fact 3

The typical life span of pet guinea pigs is 5 to 6 years. This varies by individual, quality of care, and environment.

Guinea Pig Fact 4

Guinea pigs are herd animals who usually prefer to be in a pair or group. Their social need is so strong, that some places actively encourage keeping more than one guinea pig. Notably, a law that took effect in 2008 in Switzerland declared guinea pigs among the “social species.” Such species are considered abused if they don’t live or regularly interact with others of their species.

Guinea Pig Fact 5

Although most other rodents have yellow incisors, the incisors of guinea pigs are normally white. All teeth grow continuously, so guinea pigs need chewing on the high fiber of grass hay to keep their teeth worn down. Hay is the majority of the guinea pig diet, but they also need some vegetables, fruit, pelleted food, and healthy treats.

Guinea Pig Fact 6

Female guinea pigs are known as sows, males are boars, and babies are pups. The collective noun is likely group, as in “a group of guinea pigs.” However, this was declared boring in a guinea pig forum a few years ago and sparked a discussion of other names to use, including “wheek” and “blessing.”

Guinea Pig Fact 7

Guinea pigs are known by several different names. The scientific name for guinea pigs is Cavia porcellus. In South America, where guinea pigs originated, they are called cuy. In North America, Europe, and Australia, the names guinea pig and cavy are used most. Cavy is most likely taken from the genus name, Cavia. But the origin of the name guinea pig is debatable. They’re not from the country of Guinea, which is in Africa. One theory the Online Entymology Dictionary suggests, among others, is that the word guinea comes from either the types of ships used at the time by British traders who brought guinea pigs to Europe, or from part of the trade route, which traveled between England, Guinea, and South America.

Guinea Pig Fact 8

Guinea pig eye color ranges include dark eyes (including black, brown, or blue) and pink or red (with a ruby pupil). The eye shine is red. Guinea pigs have dichromatic rather than full color vision.

Guinea Pig Fact 9

Yes, guinea pigs eat some of their own feces. This coprophagy is necessary to guinea pig health, because guinea pigs who don’t eat some of their feces daily eventually fall ill.

Guinea Pig Fact 10

In South America, cuy are raised as food and sometimes kept as pets. South American cuy are larger and less tame than pet guinea pigs. In recent years, cuy popped up in the United States as pets. Some guinea pig rescues in the United States, including the Los Angeles Guinea Pig Rescue in Los Angeles and Wee Companions in San Diego, now try to educate people about the differences between guinea pigs and cuy, warning that cuy usually do not make good pets.

Guinea Pig Fact 11

Female guinea pigs who don’t give birth before 7 or 8 months of age likely face a difficult pregnancy if bred. This is because the pubic bones get fixed into place after that age, making a first-time birthing difficult.

Guinea Pig Fact 12

Although studies vary on the exact hearing range of guinea pigs, a Louisiana State University website places the range at 54 to 50,000 Hz, comparing it to the human range of 64 to 23,000 Hz.

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