Cute, Furry, and Affectionate
Guinea pigs are one of the world's oldest domesticated animals.Â This stocky, nearly tailless rodent originally comes from the Andes mountains of South America, where they have been raised as a food source for around 7,000 years.Â Outside of the region, though, eating an animal so ridiculously cute is generally considered taboo, so the rest of the world has done the only logical thing and made house pets out of them.
Guinea pigs are also known as "cavies" (the singular being "cavy"), which is a shortened version of their scientific name, Cavia porcellus.Â Guinea pigs were first brought to Europe from South America during the Spanish Conquest in the 16th century.Â They quickly became popular as exotic pets among those who could afford such a luxury, such as nobles and royalty.Â
Guinea pigs are exceptionally docile and almost never bite unless they are badly frightened. They perform self-grooming, and they also perform social grooming when kept in groups.Â Cavies are a thoroughly domesticated animal, and love being played with and petted. Much like cats, guinea pigs will make a purring sound or squeak playfully when they are happy.Â For children in particular, this provides a great positive feedback for knowing that the animal is enjoying itself, making them an excellent kids' pet.
Guinea pigs live for about 5-7 years if cared for properly.
Guinea pigs are not terribly adventurous, but they may get into trouble if allowed to roam freely. Being rodents they do like to chew, so electrical cords pose a real threat to a guinea pig's safety.Â An enclosure, such as a cage, is necessary.Â To ensure that your guinea pig has enough space, get an enclosure with at least four square feet of floor space.
Don't use pine or cedar bedding for you guinea pig, as this can make them sick.Â Opt for aspen shavings, ground corncob bedding, or a product made from recycled paper or wood pulp.Â Of course, simple newspaper shredded into strips makes good bedding too, as long as the inks used are soy-based rather than petroleum-based.Â Avoid using the glossy insert pages for this if you take the newspaper route.
Food & Water
Guinea pigs are easy to feed by purchasing pelleted food from any good pet store.Â Pellets should make up about 1/2 to 2/3 of the guinea pig's diet.Â They should also get lots of clean, fresh timothy hay to eat, and plenty of leafy greens.Â Kale, spinach, romaine lettuce, and freshly picked dandelions are great for guinea pigs.Â Don't feed your cavies iceberg lettuce, though, as it has no nutritional value and can interfere with proper digestion.
Water can be given to guinea pigs in a bowl, but bedding materials will quickly contaminate the water, meaning it will have to be changed frequently.Â Hanging bottles make the job of providing water to your guinea pig much easier.Â They can drink lots of water, so make sure that the bottle is full of clean water at all times.