50 Fun & Interesting Facts About Guinea Pigs

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Guinea pigs are fascinating little creatures. As much as we think we know about them, there’s always something new to learn. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), guinea pigs are number four in the ranking of exotic pets in the United States in terms of population, just behind fish, rabbits, and turtles. They are more popular than their cousins: the hamster and gerbil.

Let’s dive into the wonderful world of cavies and discover 50 new, fascinating and fun facts about guinea pigs!

  • A guinea pig is also called a “cavy”, derived from its scientific name Cavia PorcellusPorcellus means “little pig” in Latin.
  • Its common name is misleading, as it neither originates from Guinea nor is it a pig.
  • The origin of its name is a mystery, but some believe that cavies arrived in Europe by way of sailing vessels coming from South America. These ships would usually make port at the African country of Guinea in order to stock up on supplies prior to continuing their voyage, thus leading many Europeans to assume that the little rodents were indigenous to Guinea.
  • Guinea pigs are native to the Andean region of South America.
  • Guinea pigs were domesticated and used as a food source by tribes in South America more than 7,000 years ago. To this day, they remain a staple in the diets of Peruvians, Bolivians, Ecuadorians, and Colombians.
  • 65 million guinea pigs are eaten in Peru each year.
  • They are also used in rituals, traditional medicine, and religious ceremonies. People that had arthritis or jaundice rubbed themselves with guinea pigs and believed it would heal their illnesses.
  • Guinea pigs are rodents in the same family as the capybara and the mara.
  • Studies suggest that Cavia porcellus is a domesticated descendant of another closely related rodent, Cavia tschudii. This means that our pet guinea pigs as we know them never existed in the wild.
  • Guinea pigs were used so often in laboratory experiments in the 19th and 20th centuries that their name became synonymous with “test subject”, which is why we use “guinea pig” as a byname for a test subject.
boy playing around with guinea pig pet
  • Black-colored guinea pigs are considered especially useful by folk doctors in South America for conducting traditional healing rituals.
  • Mummified remains of guinea pigs in Peru have lead researchers to believe that they were used as ritual sacrifices by the ancient Incas.
  • They were a favorite of Queen Elizabeth I (1533 – 1603); a fact which may have contributed to their rise in popularity in England.
  • Guinea pigs have an average lifespan of 4 – 5 years, with 8 years being the maximum in some cases. An interesting fact is that according to the 2006 Guinness Book of World Records, the oldest guinea pig lived to be 14 years and 10.5 months old before passing away in 1979. 
  • A male guinea pig is called a boar, while a female is a sow. The babies are called pups. A group of guinea pigs is known as a herd or a “muddle”.
  • They are herbivores; which means they primarily eat plant material.
  • They are crepuscular animals; which means that they’re most active during the twilight hours of dusk and dawn.
  • Guinea pigs can’t live in the same cage together with hamsters, rabbits, or gerbils. They love living with other cavies though.
  • Guinea pigs are extremely poor climbers.
  • A self-defense mechanism that they have is where they’ll either freeze in place or quickly run for cover if they sense a nearby threat.
  • Guinea pigs love to groom each other in the same way that baboons and cats do.
  • When excited, cavies hop up and down in the air; an activity called “popcorning”.
  • They can swim pretty well in water if the situation calls for it.
  • Groups of guinea pigs communicate with one another through a series of vocalizations. The intention of these noises ranges from warning calls to sounds of excitement to gentle purring.
  • Female guinea pigs can give birth to babies as early as 4 weeks old.
  • Newborn cavy pups are born with a complete set of teeth, hair, and partial eyesight.
  • Guinea pigs, like humans, cannot produce Vitamin C and therefore need to be supplied with a sufficient amount of fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Their teeth grow continuously throughout their lives, so they need to have a constant supply of hay available to chew on which will help maintain them. They also enjoy chewing on rubber, wooden, or plastic blocks.
  • The record for the highest number of pups in one litter goes to a mother cavy with a litter of 17 babies.
  • Female guinea pigs that live together watch over each other’s babies.
  • Guinea pigs excrete small pellets called cecotropes along with their feces. These cecotropes contain recycled B Vitamins, fiber, and good bacteria for digestion. A guinea pig will supplement its diet by eating these excretions.
  • Any plant that grows from a bulb is poisonous to guinea pigs and must not be eaten. These include garlic, onions, shallots, leeks, and chives. Citrus fruits are also toxic to guinea pigs.
  • Being prey animals, guinea pigs hide any symptoms of illnesses they may be experiencing.
  • It is illegal to own a guinea pig in Switzerland where it is considered harmful and inhumane to keep it as a pet.
  • They greatly dislike water but don’t need to take baths anyway since they do a pretty good job cleaning their own fur throughout the day.
  • Guinea pigs have been known to carry allergens in their urine, saliva, and dander.
  • A cartoon was made by Walt Disney in 1954 which told the story about two guinea pigs that continued to reproduce while stuck in a railway station. The name of the cartoon and the book on which it is based is called Pigs is Pigs.
  • There are 13 breeds of guinea pig – 6 short-haired and 7 long-haired varieties. Each breed can have different colorations, patterns, and markings. In order to become qualified as a breed, the guinea pig must conform to a breed standard which is set by the cavy association in its respective country.
  • A 13-year-old girl named Jemma Woldhuis took matters into her own hands when neighboring possums continued to attack her pet guinea pig. She created a computer program that remotely controlled her cavy’s entry/exit door so that it would open automatically in the morning and close at night.
  • Guinea pigs have an amazing sense of hearing – they can hear sounds from 40,000 – 50,000 hertz! Their vocalizations are also considered to be ultrasonic, reaching wavelengths of more than 20,000 Hertz.
  • A female guinea pig that isn’t interested in mating will shoot urine at the male who is trying to court her.
  • There is a certain breed of guinea pigs that have almost no hair on its body due to a recessive gene. These types of cavies are called “Skinny Pigs”.
  • The fastest guinea pig in the world ran 32.8 feet in 8.81 seconds on July 27, 2009, in the United Kingdom. The lightning-fast cavy, known only as “The Flash”, is still the record holder for “World’s Fastest Guinea Pig”.
  • Meanwhile, in Sweden, the guinea pig named Puckel Martin was able to snatch the world record for a cavy’s highest jump after he leaped 7.8 inches off the ground.
  • There are plenty of online stores in different countries that feature clothes for guinea pigs. Guinea pigs can wear sweaters, cardigans, tank tops, hats, hair extensions, and even wedding dresses!
  • When guinea pigs walk as a group, they always march single file. This is an instinct, again, picked up by cavies when they were still wild animals, wherein groups of them would go single file through tall grass. The cavy at the lead would be responsible for parting the grass, leaving a sort of tunnel behind for the rest to follow through.
  • The guinea pig had a fearsome ancestor known by its scientific name Josephoartigasia monesi. This giant rodent roamed the Earth millions of years ago and stood 5 feet tall, weighed a ton, and had a bite three times stronger than a tiger’s. It was about 10 feet long and is the largest known rodent to live on our planet.
  • Cavies’ spines aren’t especially flexible and can’t tolerate much stress. This is the reason why it’s not advised to use leashes on them. It’s also one of the reasons why guinea pigs can’t use exercise wheels or rodent balls.
  • They’re also allergic to penicillin. It has been documented that guinea pigs are very sensitive to the effects of antibiotics which can cause symptoms such as diarrhea or loss of appetite when administered. Never use antibiotics on a guinea pig unless specifically directed to by a veterinarian.
  • They have 4 toes on their front feet but only 3 toes on their hind feet. Some mutated guinea pigs have extra toes caused by a condition called polydactyly.
Carlye Yancey
Carlye Yancey

Between internships, volunteering, and paid jobs over the last 4 years, I have pretty much-gained experience with domesticated animals. Currently being in school for my veterinary technology degree, I spend my leisure time with 3 critters that I own.

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