Guinea pig facts
Guinea pigs often make a great first pet. These furry, sociable, noisy little creatures are common in many family homes and gardens across the UK. But how much do we really know about our furry friends? Read on and discover ten things you (or at least, we) never knew about guinea pigs.
1. Guinea pigs are well-travelled. Native to the grasslands and the lower slopes of the Andes Mountains on the west coast of South America, the correct name for guinea pigs is actually 'cavy', pronounced “kay-vee”. In fact, in America, guinea pigs are still known as cavies.
2. Guinea pigs speak their own language. We may not understand why they make so much noise, but boy do us guinea pig owners know that our little companions can make a racket! Each noise your guinea pig makes means something different. When a guinea pig wheeks, he or she is feeling excited (more than likely being fed), whilst a rumbling noise means they’re in the mood for luuuuuurve. Check out this guide to guinea pigs noises to find out more about what your pet is trying to say to you.
3. Guinea pigs haven’t always been pets. Back in the day, the Incas used to farm guinea pigs for food. You may even be able to find fried guinea pig in South America today. Shhhh, don’t tell little Furry-boo!
4. It’s not just humans that need our five-a-day. Guinea pigs, like people, are unable to make their own vitamin C. This means that they must eat plenty of fruit and vegetables (like us) to stay in tip-top condition.
5. Wild guinea pigs are in a league of their own. We may know guinea pigs as a favourite furry pet, but there are still plenty of cavies living wild in various areas of South America. These beasts are most active at night, live in groups of between five and ten and can be up to one metre long. Positively ferocious.
6. Ever wondered where the term ‘guinea pig’ for experiments comes from? You guessed it: a lot of guinea pigs are still used today for medical research, so this is where the term for test volunteers comes from.
7. Guinea pigs are sensitive souls. It doesn’t take much to keep a guinea pig happy – give them enough space, warmth and food and they’ll be alright. However, it also doesn’t take much to make them unhappy either. Very sensitive to temperature, guinea pigs must be kept out of extreme heat or cold – so somewhere between 15C and 26C is perfect.
8. Guinea pigs eat their own poo. No, you didn’t mis-read. They really do! And it’s good for them too, rather than just a nasty habit. Guinea pigs produce two types of droppings – hard, dry pellets and softer, moist pellets. It’s these softer pellets that form an essential part of his or her diet.
9. Guinea pigs are active but not agile. An essential part of your guinea pig’s day will be running around, digging and standing upright. However, give it a ladder to climb and it will struggle. Runners? Yes. Hurdlers? Maybe not…
10. The teeth of your guinea pig will continue to grow throughout the whole of its life. They keep their teeth worn down to the correct length by eating grass and hay and other plants.
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