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Guinea pigs (cavies)

A fascinating thing we find about guinea pig babies is that they come out looking exactly like a smaller version of their parents – they have a complete coat and their eyes are open.

Guinea pigs babies only need to receive the sow’s milk for approximately 5 days and they can start eating solids within a few hours. They produce litter sizes ranging from 1-6 pups, which are born after an average gestation period of 63 days. The thing to be very careful about is that pups are sexually mature from 6 weeks of age which means that the boys need to have been separated from the girls by this age. It is best that sows do not breed until they are at least 4 months old and to avoid any unplanned pregnancies they should be kept in same sex groups.

Guinea pigs should be fed a variety of foods to not only provide their nutritional requirements (they require Vitamin C to be added to their diet) but to avoid them getting fussy later on as they have little tolerance to food changes. We feed broccoli, carrots, apple, fresh grass, hay, pellets and plenty of fresh water.

There are many different hutch designs for a guinea pig. The main criteria are that they are protected from damp and draught and have sufficient room to exercise. Guinea pigs can be housed outdoors in New Zealand during the warmer months as long as the hutch has an area that has plenty of warm bedding and is insulated. They need to have somewhere to hide and make sure there is a toilet area separate from the sleeping and bedding areas.

Some interesting facts about guinea pigs:

  • Guinea pigs are originally from South America and are not actually related to pigs
  • Most rodents are nocturnal, but the guinea pig is not
  • When happy, guinea pigs can purr like a cat
  • Like pigs – the male is called a boar, the female is called a sow but the babies are called pups
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