Peruvian Guinea Pig – All You Need To Know
The Peruvian guinea pig (or cavy) is a unique breed with long flowing hair and characteristic bangs that make it look like the unicorn of its kind. Here are all the things you need to know about this majestic creature.
Origin and Name
Guinea pigs span a rich history encompassing 2,000 years and contrary to popular belief, these amazing creatures did not originate from the African country to which they got their names but rather the Andes regions of South America. The belief is that from South America, the cavies were brought to Europe and on the way; they must have traveled through Guinea, hence the association.
As for the Peruvian guinea pigs, they are one of the oldest breeds in the world, having first arrived in Paris sometime during the 1800s and shortly after, the United States – becoming one of only three breeds recognized by the American Cavy Breeders Association during that period.
Just like what their name implies, Peruvian guinea pigs originate from Peru but are also common in Bolivia, Argentina, and other South American countries.
What’s interesting about these creatures is that before they ever became a popular household pet, guinea pigs were actually used as food or were poached due to their fur. While the eating and poaching of these animals still persist today, it’s no longer to the same extent as they were before.
Guinea pigs can live long healthy lives up to 9 years of age and there are instances of these animals living longer when given proper care.
Peruvian cavies’ average lifespan is between 5 and 8 years. However, this breed, along with other long-haired cavies like the Silkie, enjoys longer lives that could reach up to 14 years; while the hairless variety has a shorter lifespan of 3 to 5 years.
Genetics along with the animal’s environment and diet can affect a guinea pig’s lifespan so it is important to consider these factors when buying a Peruvian cavy.
While it is difficult to determine a guinea pig’s age, you may notice that its toes tend to twist outside of its feet as it gets older. At 4 to 5 years, this furry animal starts slowing down.
Apart from their hair, Peruvian cavies are unique even amongst their kind as they tend to grow to larger sizes of 10 to 14 inches and weighing 1 to 3 pounds. Despite their size, their heads remain quite small for their bodies. Peruvian guinea pigs lack tails and are known to have small ears.
Newborn Peruvians easily get mistaken for Abyssinian guinea pigs as they are born with short hair and two rosettes but fast forward to 5 months and they’re one of the most distinguishable cavy breeds out there.
Peruvian guinea pigs have a normal temperature of 38 to 40 degrees Celsius or 101 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
As with all other guinea pig breeds, the Peruvian only has incisors at the front (two at the top and two at the bottom) and add the 16 molars that were designed for chewing, these animals have 20 teeth all in all.
Apart from that, their teeth are also open rooted which means that they don’t stop growing. Because of this, you may need to provide chewing toys for the Peruvian because they would always be teething.
- The Longest Hair
The distinguishing characteristic of Peruvian guinea pigs is their long flowing hair. Their hair can grow to great lengths and they even hold the record for guinea pig hair at 20 inches. However, since it would be quite difficult to maintain, you don’t really have to let your pet’s hair grow to this length.
The 20 inches, however, is only for the top coat of the Peruvian. The hair in the bottom layer of the guinea pig won’t grow any longer than 7 inches. And when both the top and bottom hair are fully grown out, it would be difficult to locate its head.
A lot of people often confuse Peruvian guinea pigs with their Silkie cousins as they both have long hair. The difference between the two, however, is that Silkies have hair that sweeps back over the head while Peruvians, on the other hand, are known for hair that splits at the top of the head and then part along the spine. Peruvian cavy hair also grows longer than that of a Silkie.
Peruvian guinea pigs come in a diverse range of colors such as white, dark brown, light brown, and black, among others. These beautiful creatures could be born with only a single-colored coat, often termed as a “self” Peruvian, or with two colors.
These cavies can also be tri-colored but this is a rare and unique characteristic even for Peruvians. If you’re planning to show-off your Peruvian or have it enter a competition, you definitely will have an advantage if your pet has three colors.
Behavior and Temperament
Guinea pigs are all about socializing and oftentimes, they do this through grooming. In fact, guinea pigs are known to groom each other by licking and cleaning each other. They have eyes that secrete a milky white fluid which other guinea pigs use to clean their fellow’s fur.
Unfortunately, Peruvian guinea pigs cannot groom the same way due to their excessive hair. Instead, Peruvians have their own way of grooming and socializing called “barbering” wherein they chew other guinea pigs’ hair. Sometimes they do this because they cannot find anything else to chew on.
Some males would barber others of their kind to show their dominance but there are also a few others which do this for the actual grooming and cutting off of hair.
Because they are a social breed, you may need to buy them in pairs or if you already have a Peruvian guinea pig at home, getting it a mate would be ideal. Furthermore, they are naturally curious and love to explore, hence, the need for a larger cage.
Peruvian guinea pigs are also known for their love of their owners. In fact, they are known to exhibit positive sounds such as purring when their owners spend time with them and touch them. For this reason, make sure to devote some time to play with them at least once a day.
Breeding and Litter Size
Guinea pigs, Peruvians included, can start breeding as early as 8 weeks, which is why you should separate the males (boars) from the females (sows) before they can start multiplying at that young age. Females should be 6 months to a year old before they should breed and the ideal age for males is 6 months.
All through the year, sows can go into estrus or heat every 16 days. During this period, the heat cycle can last up to 12 hours.
If you’re planning to breed your guinea pigs, it would be a great idea for you to introduce your boar and sow early on and have them stay together for 48 days or 7 weeks at the least in order to give time for them to breed.
If the sow doesn’t get pregnant during her first heat cycle, there’s a high chance that she would during the second if the boar stays with her for a longer amount of time.
Introducing a boar to a sow is fairly easy to do. And while you won’t usually find any problems, it would still be a great idea to keep watch over them to make sure everything’s going right. Furthermore, choose a pair that is healthy and not closely related to each other in order to avoid genetic defects developing in their offspring.
After the 48 days, you should separate the boar from the sow not because he might hurt the babies that they will produce but rather because he may want to mate with the mother again once she’s given birth.
Female guinea pigs go into estrus immediately after giving birth. The average litter size for guinea pigs is between 3 and 5.
Determining whether a female is pregnant would depend on the litter size. When the litter size is small, then it would be difficult to confirm a pregnancy. But when it is big, you may notice the female becoming more awkward and clumsy. Taking the guinea pig to a vet would be the surest way to find out whether or not it is pregnant.
Guinea pig pregnancies usually last 9 to 10 weeks and during this time, do not expect the soon-to-be mother to prepare a nest for her babies because she will not do so. It will be up to you to prepare comfortable bedding for the mother and her babies.
Hay would be the suitable choice for the bedding rather than straw because it is less likely to damage the eyes of the guinea pigs and cause corneal ulcers.
They don’t usually have any problems giving birth. However, you should care enough to trim your Peruvian’s hair because it could be problematic for the babies to feed on their mother if they can’t find the teats.
- The Babies
Most owners do not witness the birth of baby guinea pigs because they tend to go into labor during the night. When the babies are born, they are still covered by their birth sacks and it is the mother that will be responsible for cleaning them up.
You can immediately pick the babies up to check their condition. After doing so, it would be best to leave them with their mother for a while for them to bond and feed. After 2 weeks they may start experimenting with solid food all the while still suckling from their mother.
It is also this age that you should start handling them as much as you could for them to become familiarized with humans and their touch. In a few weeks, they would stop drinking from their mother and would exclusively rely on solid food for sustenance.
At 6 weeks, the offspring may start breeding which is why you should separate the males from the females to avoid accidental breeding.
It is not uncommon for pet stores to send home two guinea pigs of the same sex despite claiming otherwise. To avoid this, it would be great if you know how to properly determine the sex of a guinea pig. This would also help you in separating male pups from the female ones if you decide to breed your pets.
While it is somewhat confusing to differentiate males from females, you should know that boars are typically larger than their counterparts. They also tend to have smaller nipples and when they are sexually mature, you may notice a genital pouch on its reproductive organ.
Just to make sure, you can try pressing the area near the genitals gently to let the penis emerge. You may also feel the ridge of the penis when you press the boar’s belly near the genitals.
Sows, on the other hand, will have a Y-shaped opening on their genitals which will be sealed off by a vaginal membrane.
Furthermore, another difference between the two is that boars often pee inwards while sows do the opposite; outwards.
Guinea pigs, Peruvians included, are strict herbivores and therefore need to eat only from the foods acceptable to them. Feeding them dairy and meat products can be detrimental to their health. Feeding them commercial treats that contain no nutritive value can also have dire repercussions as the guinea pigs may lessen the consumption of the food they really need.
Just like humans, guinea pigs can’t produce their own vitamin C and because of this, they would need to consume ample amounts of foods rich in this nutrient.
Vegetables and fruits are the best sources of vitamin C but most guinea pig pellets are also enriched with the nutrient. Vitamin C deficiency can lead to scurvy and your cavy may need 10 to 30 mg/kg per day to prevent this condition.
- Things To Remember about Guinea Pig Diet
- These furry animals tend to favor fruits and vegetables above all other foods so it would be important that you try to moderate their consumption and limit it to a cup a day so that they don’t ignore the other essential food they need.
- Make sure to feed your cavies fruits and vegetables that are pesticide-free, unspoiled, and not wilted.
- You will also need to provide unlimited high-quality grass hay for your pet guinea pig. This is because the hay will help its digestive tract functioning well and also provides a good chewing material during the times your pet will be teething.
- Timothy hay or orchard grass are ideal to give to guinea pig but when they are young, it would be great to give them Alfalfa hay as well as it is high in calcium that would be beneficial to the development of your pet. When they age, however, consumption of Alfalfa hay should be stopped or be limited as an occasional treat because the excess calcium may lead to the formation of bladder stones in older cavies.
- Alfalfa hay should not be used as a substitute for grass hay.
- The bulk of a guinea pig’s diet should be specially-formulated pellets containing 20% protein, 16% fiber, and should contain vitamin C. Do not feed them rabbit pellets as guinea pigs do not contain vitamin C and may include antibiotics that could be toxic to guinea pigs.
- When coupled with fruits, vegetables, and hay, your guinea pig may eat up to 1/8 cup per day. It is important that you remove the remaining pellets after your pet has eaten because guinea pigs are prone to overeating and obesity.
- Water should be replaced daily and as much as possible, it should be given via drip bottle to avoid getting contaminated.
- Vitamin C should not be added to the water because it can change its taste and the guinea pig may stop drinking.
- Because guinea pigs are creatures of habits, make sure to feed them at the same hour every day. Disrupting their schedule can lead to stress
Peruvian guinea pigs are high maintenance and this is the reason why they are unfit for first-time owners and children. Owners would need to devote a considerable amount of time and effort to groom their pet cavies.
This is especially important because Peruvian cavies’ hair can grow quite fast and could be difficult to maintain. Their hair is also prone to matting which further complicates the maintenance aspect of pet care.
When their coats mat, it can cause quite the irritation and discomfort for the guinea pig. Not only that, the skin underneath the matted hair will also be prone to soring, infections, and even ulcers. When the hair near the cavy’s face gets too long, it may also affect how the animal eats.
Because of these reasons, it is important that you schedule a daily grooming activity for your pet. Introducing your pet to grooming should be done at a young age so that they would get to enjoy the act early on.
- Start by brushing your Peruvian’s hair daily using a fine-toothed comb or with a soft baby brush. Doing so would help remove the loose hair and prevent entanglement while also reducing your pet’s shedding. If you cannot commit to brushing your pet’s hair daily at least make an effort to do so once a week. When you do, brush towards the direction the hair grows.
- If you don’t have any plans to show your pet, it would be ideal to trim its hair because it grows low closer to the ground which makes it easy for dirt and bacteria to attach to it and when that happens, it can cause all sorts of problems for you and your pet. Use a good pair of rounded scissors when trimming your pet’s hair so that you don’t accidentally cut it’s skin and traumatizing it in the process.
- If you do plan to show off your pet and enter it in competitions, you can tie the hair up on tissue paper which would be held up by rubber bands to keep it clean.
- Most guinea pigs do not need baths but for Peruvians with long hair, you may need to bathe them from time to time. When you do, use only lukewarm water and specially-formulated shampoo for small animals so that their skin won’t get dry. Bathe them in a way that won’t get water in their ears and they should be dry when you return them to their cages so that they don’t get chills.
- Grooming won’t be complete without clipping your pet’s toenails. Clipping should be done at least once a month and while your guinea pig may not like the process, it is an unfortunate necessity in order to keep your pet well-groomed and its movement unimpaired. Use scissor-style small animal clippers to do the job and make sure not to clip too deep or too short to avoid cutting the living part of the nail.
During the grooming process, pay extra attention to the area close to the genital and the anus as it often gets soiled and dirty due to the urine and feces that they come into contact with.
Setting up an appropriate living space for your pet is important for its health and survival. When you choose a cage, pick one that has a smooth and flat bottom to keep your pet’s feet from getting caught in anything and getting damaged by the wires.
The cage should have enough room for your pet to move around with ease. If you plan on having 2 or more guinea pigs, they’ll get along better if they are provided with bigger living quarters. Not only that, make sure that the cage grid is no more than an inch and a half because lots of guinea pigs have already died after getting stuck on larger cage grids.
As for where to put your pet’s cage, choose a bright location that is of stable temperatures between 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. It is recommended that owners refrain from placing their pet’s cages inside their bedrooms for the sake of their own health.
However, this does not mean the cages should be placed in the outdoors. Remember, when you keep guinea pigs outside, they would be exposed to temperature fluctuations as well as predators that could harm your pet.
Beddings are necessary to keep your pet comfortable which is why you would need to cover your pet’s cage floor with at least an inch of it. Shredded newspapers, aspen shavings, and kiln-dried pine are ideal choices for your pet’s bedding.
High-quality soft grass or hay should also be added above the beddings for your pet to chew on when it is hungry or teething. You would also need to place a quality food bowl and drip bottle in your pet’s cage as well as its own personal hiding place for whenever it wishes to escape the prying eyes of people.
Optional accessories would include a low-rising ramp for guinea pigs to practice climbing as well as toys for entertainment and chewing purposes.
Because they have longer fur, Peruvian guinea pigs are more susceptible to stress caused by rising temperatures. Constant stress could jeopardize their health which is why effective grooming and cage location is necessary to keep your pet comfortable.
While Peruvian cavies live longer than most and are mostly healthy, they are also still subject to mortality and thus, certain diseases. Prevention is often better than cure but sometimes, you never can tell if you’re doing a great job of caring for your pet. Quick action will be needed when you feel something is wrong with your pet. If it is behaving unusually, maybe it’s time to visit a vet.
|Common Signs Your Pet Isn’t Feeling Too Good||Most Common Illness and Diseases for Peruvian Guinea Pigs|
Loss of Appetite
Unable to Urinate
Malocclusion (Misaligned or Overgrown Teeth)
Pyometra (Uterine Infection)
Urinary Tract Infection
Are Peruvian Guinea Pigs Right For Me?
Peruvian guinea pigs are adorable and affectionate pets that would definitely grow to love their owners. However, they’re not exactly the easiest pets to care for. Their excessive hair requires lots of time and effort to maintain. For this reason, these critters aren’t suitable pets for children as well as first-time guinea pig owners.
Peruvian cavies are ideal for those with tons of experience raising guinea pigs and those who plan to showcase their pets at competitions.