Guinea pigs were domesticated between 3,000 and 7,000 years ago for eating. Their small size and quick breeding continue to make them popular in the cities throughout South America. The wild ancestor, also known as the guinea pig, is most likely the montane species (Cavia tschudii). Guinea pigs have a huge variety of colours and coat lengths.
Guinea pigs are social animals and need to be kept in groups, called herds. They can be friendly towards humans if handled regularly. Any hutch must include hidden areas where the guinea pig can hide. This is especially important if you also have a pet cat or dog as these will be perceived as predators. A substrate that permits digging is also necessary (such as hay and straw). In addition, tubes to run through aid making their environment more interesting.
Wild guinea pigs eat grasses and herbs. For domestic guinea pigs this high fibre food is substituted with hay. In addition to hay, they are also usually fed a guinea pig dry mix (those of a single size and colour are best to ensure the guinea pig gets a balanced diet) and fresh fruit and vegetables. It is important that they get fresh food as guinea pigs, like humans, cannot produce their own vitamin C.
Like rabbits, guinea pigs have two types of faeces; soft and green, which they eat, and dry and brown, which are left. This is an important way for guinea pigs to get nutrition from their high fibre diet.
Wild guinea pigs are classified as Least Concern by the IUCN and there are no known threats to their population.
- Conservation Status: Least Concern
- Distribution: Peru
- Habitat: Grassland, Swamp, Tropical Forest
- Diet: Grasses, Herbivore
- Height: 20 -25cm
- Weight: 700 - 1200g
- Gestation: 63 days
- No. of young: 1 - 4
- Life Span: 6 years