**I am not an expert, all the information and advice in here is based on my experience as an enthusiastic “Mummy” to a total of six piggies over the last decade.
If you’re looking for a small pet to join your family then forget hamsters, pass the gerbils by and seriously look into the sweetest, friendliest, funniest members of the rodent family that go by the common name of Guinea Pigs. Right at the outset, I’m going to admit that I’m severely biased in favour of these gorgeous little animals as I’m completely in love with my four. Life just wouldn’t be the same without the chorus of wheeks and squeaks that greet us every morning and the chirrups of contentment as they tuck into breakfast. While we have other pets in the house the piggies are most definitely mine and now I’m going to share my experience of looking after and loving them along with a few tips and hints for caring for your very own piggies.A Bit About Piggies
The title Guinea Pig is a bit of a misnomer really, as Guinea Pigs are neither members of the Porcine family (pigs) nor from Guinea. Guinea pigs are actually fairly large rodents that originated from South America, where they are kept as a food source. Although they are now completely domesticated there was a time in the far distant past that they were found in the Andean region of South America (modern day Columbia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia). It is thought that Guinea Pigs were first domesticated around 7000 years ago and that they were first brought to Europe around 1550 and quickly became favourite exotic pets among the upper classes and royalty, including Queen Elizabeth I. (Source Wikipedia).
Guinea Pigs are reasonably large rodents weighing in at approximately 700-1200g (1.5-2.5lb) and measuring 20-25cm in length. This makes them much larger than hamsters, mice and gerbils that share their class but smaller than most rabbits. Looks-wise they have quite a large head, long oval body, short legs and a stub for a tail. Their closest relatives are the Capybara, which are the largest of all rodents, and the likeness is particularly noticeable in young babies. Guinea Pigs are also known as Cavies (especially by serious breeders), which is derived from their scientific Latin name, Cavia Porcellus (with the Porcellus meaning little pig).
Guinea Pigs are social, herd animals who should at the very least be kept in pairs. In the wild they would live in small herds comprising of a male, several females and their babies. In my opinion it is verging on cruel to keep a single Guinea Pig (other than if it has a medical reason for being kept isolated) and this is a belief that is shared by the lawmakers of Sweden, where it is illegal to sell a lone Guinea Pig unless the buyer already owns others. As pets Guinea Pigs can be kept in pair, threesomes or even larger groups, if cage space allows. Two or more girls (sows) can happily be housed together, or two boys (boars) or a girl and a spayed male.
*This review is long, but it is a guide to choosing and looking after the most wonderful of pets and I’ve tried to be as comprehensive as I can.