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Your New Best Friend is a Peruvian Guinea Pig
Small PetsRabbits & Rodents

Your New Best Friend is a Peruvian Guinea Pig

Ben, Critter Culture Staff
Updated Sep 18, 2020

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While a dog or cat is a good fit for many households, perhaps a smaller pet is the perfect match for you. If you're looking for a social, active companion with a small stature but big hair, look no further than the Peruvian guinea pig. These robust little animals have relatively simple needs and are a great fit for many families.

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1

All that hair

Peruvian guinea pig breed on a light background.

Peruvian guinea pigs are best known for their long silky hair. These beautiful locks can grow as long as 14 inches and require more attention than many other guinea pig breeds. Regular combing, bathing, and trimming will keep their locks in check. For owners not intending to maintain the longer hair, regular trims will help keep the coat manageable.

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Cage considerations

guinea pig Olena Kurashova / Getty Images

The Peruvian guinea pig is one of the larger types of guinea pig but are still quite small. They weigh between 1 and 3 pounds and can grow as long as 14 inches. Their small size doesn't mean they can live in a small cage; ensure their cage or enclosure is large enough to offer them room to run around. Lay down bedding made of paper, fleece, or aspen wood shavings.

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The Peruvian's appearance

Peruvian Guinea pig with long hair on Wood

The Peruvians guinea pig's luscious coat can come in a variety of colors, including white, russet red, chocolate brown, slate grey, and black. Some of these animals are just one solid color, but often have a mix of two different shades.

Their long hair tends to fall to either side along its spine and grows bangs on its head that fall into the face, sometimes giving a unicorn-like appearance.

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Life expectancy and health

Peruvian guinea pig health K_Thalhofer / Getty Images

Guinea pigs typically have a lifespan of 3 to 8 years.  Keeping your guinea pig happy and healthy starts with cleaning their cage regularly to prevent foot, skin, and fur conditions. Check your guinea pig often for signs of illness. Make sure their eyes are clear and bright, their nose has no discharge, and that their fur is shiny and smooth. An active guinea pig is also generally a positive indicator of overall good health.

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5

Food and diet

Peruvian Guinea pig eating

Their herbivore diet consists of Timothy hay and pellets, fruits and vegetables. Meats and dairy products are not well tolerated, so keeping these little pigs out of human food is essential.

Check with a veterinarian about safe food choices, as many plants and vegetables are toxic to a guinea pig's body. These include potatoes, tomatoes, dill and beans. Growing guinea pigs will eat twice daily. A full tummy may help to prevent the curiosity causing it to taste houseplants, flowers or other random items around the house.

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Socialization and pals

Peruvian guinea pig Mendelex_photography / Getty Images

Peruvian guinea pigs are social pets and flourish when in the company of other little buddies. It is recommended that owners have at least two guinea pigs to prevent loneliness. Ensure their living area offers sufficient space to avoid fights or dominance issues because everyone needs some personal time on occasion.

These lovable animals will develop a relationship with their owners and come to expect some interaction. This takes time, so don't be frustrated if at first, your new pal seems to prefer being alone.

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Entertainment and play

White and brown Peruvian guinea pig

Peruvians are sociable and friendly animals and enjoy playing with humans, other small pets, and guinea pigs. Bored guinea pigs have been known to chew on their own hair or even their companion's fur. Try keeping things interesting with an outdoor cage to experience new smells and sounds. Be careful to secure them from possible predators. Try adding some equipment or toys to their cages, like low-rise ramps, nesting areas, and tunnels. Check a local pet store for ideas specific to this type of animal. Ensure that the cage or box is large enough to wander around and explore or dig in the bedding.

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Keep their home clean

With any pet, there are always some less desirable traits. In this case, Peruvian guinea pigs sometimes do have an odor, but it is easy to prevent. Much of this smell comes from their urine. It is imperative that the cage is cleaned every day, especially if you have more than one animal sharing the space.

Peruvians can also develop odors resulting from poor grooming practices. Their long hair can get matted with urine and feces if not regularly cleaned and trimmed. If your pet still smells despite proper grooming and regular cage cleanings, contact a veterinarian to rule out any infections or health issues.

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9

Where to find one

Long hair peruvian guinea pig white and gold with terracota plant pots in the background.

Now that you've decided that a Peruvian is the guinea pig for you, it may be a challenge to find one. Their required daily maintenance often means they are scarce in pet stores. Try searching for a rescue organization that can match you with the right animal. If you're sure that baby guinea pigs are the preferred route, there are breeders. Look for fan groups online who can help with suggestions. Make sure to do some research to ensure that the breeder is reputable. Visit the facility to ensure cleanliness, space, and appropriate food has been provided to the animals.

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History of the Guinea pig

domestic peruvian guinea pig

Guinea pigs are believed to have been first domesticated in South America thousands of years before European settlers arrived. In many cases, they were originally used as food for humans and agricultural animals, and still are today in some regions. But there is evidence that early people also kept guinea pigs as household pets.

These adorable little animals are part of the Caviidae family and are not really pigs at all. They are a type of rodent, similar to but smaller than the capybara. There are 13 different species of guinea pigs that range in size, weight, color and hair type.

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