Guinea pigs, or cavies, are found naturally in the Andes mountains in South America. They were domesticated in South America around 5,000 BC and used as a source of food. The domestic guinea pig is a subspecies of the Andes guinea pig and therefore cannot be found in the wild.
Guinea pigs are small, furry herbivores that can live 7 years or more. They communicate with high pitched squeals. Wild guinea pigs eat grass and small plant matter. They also supplement their diet by eating their feces, soft pellets that offer vital nutrients.
Guinea pigs are very social animals and prefer to be among other guinea pigs. They are also territorial and may not like having their cage cleaned. They often will urinate and drag themselves along the cage floor after cleaning to remark their territory.
Perhaps because of the perilous misconception that guinea pigs make great “starter pets” for children, these fragile animals have become popular “pocket pets.” Despite their popularity, guinea pigs aren’t worth as much as a bag of dog food to the stores that peddle them. Sick guinea pigs rarely receive treatment, many are shipped to pet stores too young to be weaned and many arrive with mites.
If you’re willing to open your home to one or, preferably, two guinea pigs, adopt from a shelter or rescue group. Before you do, be prepared to care for your guinea pig for as long as seven years or more and to spend at least $20 per week for supplies.
An exotic-animal veterinarian will need to see the guinea pig annually and can also help with regular nail trimming—a must.
If you are housing a male and female together, you must also first have them sterilized. However, spay/neuter surgeries are more dangerous to perform on small animals, so it is preferable to house females with other females and males with no more than one other male—three or more males together will fight.
Provide your guinea pig with the following: