Guinea Pigs

Guinea Pigs

Monday, October 5, 2015 | NHS Behavior Department

Originally from South America, the guinea pig isn’t related to pigs at all. They are a type of rodent called a cavy. Incas domesticated these animals for use in religious ceremonies and for food.


Guinea pigs require a large, single-level cage. Exercise is necessary in order to avoid abnormal and destructive behaviors. The cage should be an open, small grade mesh material. The floor should be solid to avoid damage to your guinea pig’s feet. High temperatures and high humidity must be avoided. Do not place in direct sunlight. 


Guinea pigs have long guard hairs with a short undercoat. As in most species of mammals, they tend to groom themselves appropriately. However, brushing weekly will help you bond with your animal, as well as reducing shedding. Long-haired guinea pigs should be brushed daily to avoid knots and mats.


These animals tend to be messy eaters, preferring to mix water and food in their mouth. Offer a limited amount of pellets. The majority of the diet should be comprised of high-fiber hay and fresh produce. A sturdy ceramic bowl or a feeder that attaches to the cage side will stop your guinea pig from tipping his food onto the cage floor. Most guinea pigs are used to drinking from a water bottle instead of a bowl.


Guinea pigs are generally very social and docile. They love to interact and be held by their owners. However, infrequent holding can result in animals become territorial and unsocial. 

Guinea pigs are unable to produce their own Vitamin C. Pellets infused with vitamins are essential. Also, offering select fruits high in Vitamin C will help prevent the onset of scurvy.


Guinea pigs are very noisy animals, producing a variety of vocalizations. Common sounds that can be heard include purring, teeth clatter, cooing and whistling. 
These animals are crepuscular, meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk. Be consistent with your day-night cycles, as well as your feeding schedule, as this will eliminate many unwanted behaviors. 

Chewing and digging are natural behaviors and unfortunately cannot be controlled, but can be redirected into positive outlets. Make sure that the guinea pig’s area is safe and secure (cords are unreachable, outlets are covered). 

Enrichment will help keep various behaviors in check, while providing stimulation for your cavy. Boredom is the main reason behind most behavior problems in these animals. Various enrichment items include:

  • Toilet paper tubes stuffed with treats
  • Untreated wood blocks
  • Sturdy, hard plastic toys
  • Empty soda can with a rock inside

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