So you have fallen in love with the cuteness of guinea pigs and looking at getting one all for yourself to cuddle? You have probably been looking for information over the internet on how to properly take care of him and make him happy. If you haven't, get on it!
As owners, our responsibility is to take the best care of our pets and guarantee them a long and happy life.
But where to start?
Firstly, let's have a look at the average life expectancy of guinea pigs and the factors that might affect it.
While they don't need much to live their best lives, there are a few things that you should keep in mind before bringing home your new pet.
Let's dive in!
Factors That Affect the Life Expectancy of Your Guinea Pig
As mentioned, the average lifespan of a guinea pig can be as short as 4 years or as long as 8. This huge range is often due to the many lifestyle and health factors that might affect it. Let's have a look at the ones you should take into consideration.
A nutritional diet can go a long way
Guinea pigs are generally easy to care for. However, this does not mean that you should underestimate the importance of a correct diet. This is what you should consider:
- Avoid dairy and other animal products
Firstly, keep in mind that guinea pigs are basically herbivores, and any dairy and other animal products can be very detrimental for their health. Moreover, they don't require water to drink if their food is moist enough.
- Make sure the food has all the nutrients and it's moist enough
If you are looking at feeding your guinea pig commercial pet food, make sure that it has all the nutrients and moist your pet needs. If it doesn't, it can be a good idea to add water to sip in their cages and pieces of fresh vegetables such as romaine lettuce, strawberries, and watermelon.
- Remember Vitamin C
Ultimately, a diet that is rich in Vitamin C, as well as fibrous aliments to chew on (they have always growing teeth!), is essential to maintain your Guinea Pig's health.
Make sure your guinea pig has enough living space
While a medium-sized cage is enough for your guinea pig to thrive, make sure they have at least 10 square feet of space for them.
This gives them the opportunity to identify their own territory and, more importantly, space to exercise. Keeping your guinea pig active will reduce the risk of obesity, gas buildup, and bloating.
Guinea pigs are very playful and curious. Adding enough toys, tunnels, hiding spots, and pet hammocks will allow them to make the most out of their living spaces.
Lastly, if you are planning on getting more than one guinea pig, it is important to add extra room for them to have their own territory and not fight over space.
Give your guinea pig a companion
Guinea pigs are extremely social pets. They can be kept easily with other members of the same sex, provided that they have enough space in the cage to cohabitate happily.
Guinea pigs of a different sex can also be kept together but, if you are not planning on breeding them, it is a good choice to spay or neuter one of the two. This is because females can sometimes suffer complications from pregnancy and see their lifespan reduced.
Raising two guinea pigs can also be incredibly beneficial for their health as having a companion stimulates playing and exercise, which reduces the chances of obesity.
Lastly, don't forget that due to their social nature, raising a pair of guinea pigs will allow them to live the happiest life!
The way you care for your guinea pig matters
As we have seen, your guinea pig won't ever be too demanding. However, there is some responsibility that, as the owner, you should take up to maintain your guinea pig's health and wellbeing.
While facilities, a spacious cage, a nutritious diet, and the abundance of hay are the essential needs of your guinea pig, don't forget about the importance of the environment and hygiene practices.
Environment - guinea pigs are very delicate creatures that can suffer from a sudden change of temperature, diet, humidity, and sunlight. In fact, they can be subjected to heat strokes and sunburn.
Hygiene - guinea pigs can be very messy, and if you don't clean their cage regularly, they can contract bumblefoot. This infection is caused by the presence of urine and faces in the cage for a prolonged period of time and affects your rodent's feet. If not treated, it can be fatal. Lastly, whether your guinea pig will love it or hate it, you can bathe him once every three months or so.
Similarly to humans, genetics and pre-existing conditions can play an important role in the longevity of your Guinea Pig. Moreover, a Guinea Pig can become ill very quickly and worsen even faster.
It is, therefore, a great idea to keep track of regular health checks that your pet might need.
With age, it is not unlikely that your guinea pigs can suffer from a number of illnesses such as cataracts, heart attacks, and arthritis. Your vet can help you identify signs of these issues in advance and find an efficient solution.
The Breed of Your Guinea Pig
Can Determine Its Life Span
Generally speaking, guinea pigs' longevity is greatly affected by their breed. Hairless breeds usually live longer than their long-haired counterparts.
As an overview, here is the average lifespan of the most common breeds of guinea pigs (years):
- Abyssinian - 5 to 7
- American - 4 to 8
- Cuy – 4 to 8
- Himalayan – 5 to 8
- Peruvian – 5 to 8
- Sheltie – 5 to 8
- Silkie - 5 to 8
- Skinny - 7 to 8
- Teddy - 4 to 5
- Texel - 4 to 7
- White Crested - 5 to 7
Guinea Pig Age in Human Years
Guinea pigs' age in human years can be quickly calculated by considering one human year as 12 guinea pig years.
guinea pig age 1 = human age 12
guinea pig age 2 = human age 24
This makes an 8-year-old guinea pig 96 years in human age!
This is how guinea pigs develop early in their life:
- Guinea pigs feed on their mother's milk until 3-4 weeks old.
- Piglets are weaned at a very early stage, and their mother may start introducing them to solid foods at just a day or two old.
- At 4-6 weeks of age female guinea pigs (sows) reach sexual maturity
- At 6-8 weeks old male guinea pigs will reach sexual maturity.
- 5-6 months is the minimum recommended age for sows to reproduce.
- At 14 months, guinea pigs are considered adults and are fully grown.
How Old Should a Guinea Pig Be When You Buy It?
The weaning stage when a baby guinea pig needs his mum's milk is of around 2-3 weeks.
It is very important to keep your guinea pig with his mum for at least this long. After the third or fourth week, it is the optimal time to separate your pet from mum as this is bound to happen naturally anyway.
It is also incredibly important to separate a male guinea pig at 3 weeks of age from his mother as around this age as he is capable of getting his mother pregnant. In this case, the mother could suffer negative complications of pregnancy.
What Happens as Guinea Pigs Age?
Similarly to humans, an older guinea pig can be affected by a number of health conditions that can shorten its lifespan.
For example, it is not uncommon for a guinea pig to suffer from arthritis, cataracts, strokes, heart attacks, and dementia. Moreover, recently there is an increasing number of guinea pigs suffering from cancer. It is, therefore, essential to bring your guinea pig to the veterinarian often for regular health checks.
Moreover, you will notice greying (a Guinea Pig's fur will become grey around the nose and mouth), and a difference in the way your pets' nails are growing. These are all normal signs that your guinea pig has become a senior!
Ultimately, Guinea Pigs are sociable, loving, delicate, and curious creatures that are not too demanding.
However, they do depend on your care and attention. While the cage's size and bathing habits are very important, don't forget that it is essential to give your guinea pig as much love as possible for them to live the happiest and longest life possible.