Guinea pigs are adorably social rodents who make “weet weet,” chirping and purring noises to communicate with each other and the humans who care for them. We love the chorus of “weet weets!” that greet us when we enter our guinea pig house. When guinea pigs are particularly excited, they make quick hopping movements called “popcorning,” it’s so cute!
Guinea pigs were native to South America but after years of being hunted for pets and food, they no longer exist in the wild. Guinea pigs have become very popular household pets. Queen Elizabeth I, President Theodore Roosevelt, and even Princess Diana had pet guinea pigs!
Guinea pigs live 5-8 years and are incredible swimmers, some have been known to swim for up to 5 hours at a time. Wild guinea pigs traveled in herds (we would LOVE to see a wild guinea pig herd running by!) made up of males (boars), females (sows), and young guinea pigs (pups). In the wild, they wouldn’t dig burrows but preferred to find shelter in other animal’s burrows, crevices, and small caves.
Because they are prey animals, they have several evolutionary adaptations that assist them. A guinea pig pup can run when they’re 3 hours old, helping them to evade predators at a young age. They also sleep in short 4-10 minute bursts for a total of 4 hours a day, this allows them to constantly be aware of their surroundings. Guinea pigs' teeth grow continuously throughout their lives! In order to keep their teeth filed down, they adapted to gnaw and chew on wood, their food and pretty much everything else around them.
These little rodents were first domesticated as early as 5000 BC for food by tribes in the Andean Region of South America. There are actually guinea pig enclosures built into many of the ancient ruins in South America! Make sure to look for them if you go visit. Guinea pigs can not make their own Vitamin C. Because of this evolutionary quirk they share with humans (we don’t make our own Vitamin C either!) they were frequently used as experimental subjects in the 19th and 20th centuries, resulting in the epithet “guinea pig” for a test subject.
Guinea pigs love to cuddle and be social and even talk with their owners! They can learn to recognize their owner by sight and will greet you with excited “weet weet!” noises, especially when it’s time for them to eat. Guinea pigs need a variety of fruits and vegetables in addition to their pellet food and a continuous amount of hay (continuous access to hay is VERY important to help keep their teeth filed down). Always check if a guinea pig can eat a specific type of fruit or vegetable before giving it to them. Guinea pigs need a large enclosure (7 square feet of space is recommended), are very social and do best when living with at least one other guinea pig of the same sex. We make sure our guinea pigs get lots of outdoor play time (in enclosed play areas) and get lots of new toys and experiences every day through our enrichment programs. Please email us if you have any questions about guinea pig care at firstname.lastname@example.org