Our animal ambassador this month of May is one of our mammals – Biscuit the Guinea Pig! Biscuit is a male guinea pig that Zovargo were lucky enough to adopt from Wee Companions in 2015
Guinea pigs (Cavia porcellus) are a hugely popular pet in the Western world, and with good reason – they are really easy to look after, don’t require a huge amount of space and typically have friendly and curious dispositions which make them a very engaging pet. They can live up to 8 years old However, the oldest recorded Guinea Pig was 14 years old!!
Here in the USA, we only know guinea pigs as domestic pets. However, they are found in the wild in South America! It is thought that in the 20th century, already domesticated Guinea Pigs were released into the wild and adapted to their outdoor life, becoming feral (behaving like wild animals, and no longer suitable as pets). In the wild, they live in grassy plains in small groups consisting of many females, one male and young pups.
If you have ever met Biscuit or another Guinea Pig you will know they make distinctive sounds – their high pitched squeaking, and lower vibrations. One way to hear a guinea pig’s squeaking is to show them some of their favourite food (even chopping broccoli in another room can be enough to get them vocalising!)
If you want to get a Guinea Pig as a pet there are a few things worth considering. Firstly, they are social creatures, so it is great if you can adopt two to give them the company that makes them happy. Females are the best pairing, as males can sometimes fight (however this can be avoided if males are introduced at a young age and have no females to fight over). If you can’t have more than one guinea pig you need to ensure you have time to spend handling and interacting with it to keep it happy. Another important thing when getting a guinea pig is to have a suitable cage for it. They are animals which need easily accessible hiding spots to run between, constant hay, suitable flooring (like recycled paper bedding, fleece or aspen shavings) and ideally – access to fresh grass via a covered run.
Lastly, guinea pigs have specific diet requirements and if they eat something bad for them they can get ill very quickly. It is important to have a specialised guinea pig pellet diet in addition to their unlimited hay access. As they also can’t make their own vitamin C, this either needs to be part of their diet and additional fresh vegetables should be offered daily as well! If a guinea pig sounds an ideal pet for you - Wee Companions based in San Diego are a great organization to learn more from and adopt your new pet from!