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Get the Lowdown on Cuddly Guinea Pigs
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Get the Lowdown on Cuddly Guinea Pigs

Critter Culture Staff

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Few grown animals elicit long 'awws' from humans. Guinea pigs are one of them. These small mammals have the cutest faces and the nicest dispositions, and if you're thinking about getting one, you're probably curious to find out as much as you can about these stars of the small pet world. For starters, it doesn't take them long to become beloved, albeit squeaky, members of your household.

1

Guinea pigs are relatively heavy

Guinea pigs are about 8 to 16 inches long and weigh in at approximately 1 to 3 pounds. That's heavy compared to, say, a two-ounce gerbil. Guinea pigs are big moving balls of fur, so they're eminently snugglable. But they can get overweight if they're inactive, eat too much, or become pregnant.

Close Up Of Girl Holding Pet Guinea Pig Outdoors In Garden Daisy-Daisy / Getty Images

2

Guinea pigs aren't simply starter pets

They're easy to care for, yes, but they might not be as low maintenance as you think. There are a lot of guinea pigs in shelters because people underestimate the work involved or the costs of taking them to the vet when they get sick. Do your research on nutrition, cage size, preventive healthcare, and grooming before deciding to buy or adopt.

Guinea Pig at the Vets -Being fed through a syringe mwpenny / Getty Images

3

Guinea pigs are social creatures

Consider adopting two guinea pigs because a single guinea pig can get lonely, bored, and display low energy levels without a friend. Guinea pig relatives live in herds in the wild, and unlike hamsters and rats, they aren't nocturnal. They're very active during the day, and they don't need too much sleep either, so when your household is lights out, you'll hear Guinea Pig One squeaking at Guinea Pig Two and vice versa. If you pair a male and female together, ensure they're neutered.

Close-Up Of Guinea Pigs Aprison Aprison / EyeEm / Getty Images

4

Guinea pigs love their leafy greens

These cuddly rodents are vegetation-eating herbivores. They need constant access to chemical-free grass hay (not lawnmower clippings!) in a hayrack, and their diet should include fresh seedless fruits, herbs, and veggies every day. Vegetables like bell peppers and carrots are great for a much-needed daily dose of Vitamin C, and a small portion of fresh commercial guinea pig pellets can offer the vitamin too. Rodent teeth never stop growing, so guinea pigs need to chew on roughage to wear their teeth down and prevent dental issues.

guinea pig eating greens druvo / Getty Images

5

Guinea pigs live longer than hamsters

If your family gets attached to your guinea pig, which is highly likely considering how lovable these animals are, you'll be glad to know that they can live for between five to eight years. Life expectancy drops to between one and four years in the wild. Hamsters generally have lifespans of about two to three years in captivity.

Two young girls petting a pampered pet guinea pig. Matt Carey / Getty Images

6

Guinea pigs exhibit this unique behavior

It's called popcorning. You might notice your guinea pig jerkily jumping around a lot. If you're not used to it, it may be concerning, especially when all four legs leave the ground. Well, don't fret. Popcorning is not a sign of pain, and it's different from a seizure. This behavior is normal and often indicates that your pet is happy and excited. But sometimes, it's a sign of fear resulting from a sudden change in the environment. Figure out whether it's the presence of an unknown animal or some other jarring stimulus and remove the external factor.

Baby guinea pig on grassy field gollykim / Getty Images

7

Guinea pigs are fart machines

Guinea pigs can get a bit stinky, but a weekly cage cleaning and an air purifier should sort the problem out. If it doesn't, it might mean that your buddy is eating the wrong foods, is sick, or unable to groom themselves. Excessive bloating or flatulence is irregular. You can put your questions to the online guinea pig community — they'll help you decide when to get professional help at a clinic.

Portrait of cute red guinea pig DevMarya / Getty Images

8

Guinea pigs have deceptive names

They aren't from Guinea in West Africa. Instead, they're domesticated animals related to a cavy species originally from the Andes mountains in South America. And they're not pigs à la Babe: Pig in the City. However, males are called boars, and females are known as sows, just like pigs. Infant guinea pigs are called pups.

Guinea pig eating grass outside in the garden. PetrBonek / Getty Images

9

Guinea pigs are good emotional support animals

Guinea pigs are friendly, fit perfectly in a child's lap, and can help children with autism spectrum disorders at school. Research shows that these docile little critters have a calming effect on autistic kids and lower their anxiety levels around other children. Through feeding, petting, grooming, and drawing the guinea pigs, autistic children bond with the animal and learn empathy and responsibility. They also acquire a conversational topic to discuss with their peers in mixed student groups. College students with depression, for example, may also take guinea pigs to campus dorms if they can provide the necessary documentation. The pets provide companionship and help students' mental health. Caring for a pet reminds students to care for themselves too.

Portrait of happy smiling little girl hugging red guinea pig bondarillia / Getty Images

10

Bonus facts

Also known as cavies, guinea pigs are sweet, entertaining, and trainable. For example, you can teach a guinea pig to push a button when they want a treat. Guinea pigs don't mind if you dress them up, and they're willing to eat veggies between one point and another and pretend to be in a race. Fun!

Brown and white guinea pig wearing a dress. picandpixel / Getty Images

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