Guinea pigs are not a pigs, nor are they from New Guinea! Guinea pigs actually originated in the Andes, and have enjoyed popularity as household pets since their introduction by European traders in the 16th century. Their docile nature, their cheerful personalities and the relative ease of caring for them make the guinea pig a popular pet.
Guinea pigs are excellent pets for older children who have mastered proper handling techniques and who have parents who are ready to shoulder the responsibility for the pets’ care should the kids lose interest. Guinea pigs make wonderful companions; they are generally calm and rarely bite. Guinea pigs squeak – or ‘wheek’ with delight when their favorite people enter the room.
Most Guinea pigs are one of three breeds: the Smooth-Coated Guinea pig has short, glossy fur; the Abyssinian Guinea pig has hair which grows in fluffy tufts all over their body, and the Peruvian Guinea pig has long, silky hair which flows to the ground.
Guinea pigs live an average of five to seven years, which is longer than many other small pets such as hamsters, gerbils, mice, or rats, but not as long as rabbits, cats or dogs. Five years is still a significant period of time, so make sure you are ready to provide your pet with a good home, good food and veterinary care and daily attention for that period of time.
Guinea pigs are social animals and will be happiest in small groups (and can thus provide each other with companionship when you are not around). If you keep two or more females together, they will become great friends. If you want two males, it is best to find two littermates in order to avoid conflict later on. Guinea pigs – like all rodents – multiply rapidly, so you do not want to keep males and females together.
There are regularly guinea pigs for adoption at the Humane Society of Greater Dayton and at Robyn’s Nest Rescue in Miamisburg, and frequently these are groups of two or more guinea pigs which are already happily bonded and living together.
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