10 Things You Might Not Know About Guinea Pigs

Image courtesy of Jenny

Baby guinea pigs, Bobbin and Stitch, at twenty minutes old.

Some guinea pig facts have been fairly commonly known for years – as an example, guinea pigs are not pigs and not from Guinea, or even New Guinea. I thought it might be interesting to share some facts about pigs that might not be so well known, maybe even among guinea pig owners.

1. Guinea pigs produce a white milky looking fluid at the corner of their eyes. It is used to help them groom and is completely normal. Typically the fluid goes unnoticed, they groom themselves very quickly! Pigs use their front feet to wipe the fluid from their eyes around their faces and over their heads when they bathe. Guinea Lynx has a good picture of eye fluid on their information pages.

2. Although guinea pigs don’t have great vision overall, they are not color blind.

3. Guinea pigs have what are known as “open rooted” teeth, which means the teeth grow constantly throughout their lives. Pigs need unlimited access to foods, especially grass hays, to help grind down their teeth in order to keep them to the proper length and alignment.

4. Pigs make two kinds of fecal matter, “normal” and cecotropes. Cecotropes, or cecals, are produced when food passes through the digestive tract a second time via a special process common in many rodents and some mammals. This article does a good job of explaining it without being too scientific to follow. Cecals are very high in Vitamin B and amino acids and are essential to a guinea pigs’ health.  It is rare to see cecals, pigs typically eat them directly from their cecum by ducking their heads back under their bellies.  This process is known as coprophagy.

5. Normal guinea pig body temperature is between 99 and 103 degrees. The few times my pigs have gotten their temperatures taken it’s been about 101 degrees. Because their temperature is so high pigs are especially vulnerable on hot days or if exposed to direct sunlight, or both.

6. Grass hay should be a fundamental part of guinea pig diets. Some examples of grass hays are Timothy hays and Orchard Grass. Alfalfa is legume hay, not grass hay, and should not be fed to adult guinea pigs. Hay fills several needs for pigs – it has abrasive silicates in it to help wear down their teeth and the long-strand fibers keep their gastrointestinal tracts working properly to keep them healthy and happy. If you’ve ever seen a guinea pig dive in a pile of hay you know what I mean by happy!

7. Male guinea pigs can (and do) live together very happily. In the past it was a widely held belief that male pigs would inevitably fight if housed together, however piggy relationships are determined as much by personality as by gender.  Not any pair of males is compatible of course that that is true of any pair of guinea pigs.

8. Male pigs (and females in some circumstances) will “rumblestrut” as a sign of courtship and/or dominance toward another pig. A rumblestrutting pig will typically have raised or puffy hair, be making a “brrrrrr” vibrating sound and swaying their hips back and forth.

9. Baby guinea pigs are born precocial, meaning they have all their hair, their eyes are open and functioning and their teeth are fully developed. Within a few hours they can run and within a day they can eat solid food although they do need to nurse from their mother for a while.

10. Because baby pigs are precocial they reach sexual maturity very fast.  A baby boy guinea pig can reach sexual maturity in 3-5 weeks and a female in as little as 4 weeks.  Young guinea pigs must be sexed by a vet or someone else with experience so the boys and girls can be separated early enough to prevent additional litters.

If you have a great idea for an article about guinea pigs, please let us know. Guinea Pig Today is a network of guinea pig lovers and we’re always looking for the next great story. View our submissions page for more information on how to submit your idea.

Jenny, Writer, GPT

Jenny has been a dedicated volunteer with Metropolitan Guinea Pig Rescue for a number of years. She makes public speaking appearances on the topics of guinea pig care and the benefits of adopting rescued guinea pigs. Currently she has four rescued MGPR alumni guinea pigs, two MGPR sanctuary pigs and an ever changing number of foster pigs sharing her home.

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2 Responses to “10 Things You Might Not Know About Guinea Pigs”
  1. karine Jans says:

    Number 2 Piggies have dichromal color vision, as humans have trichromal. That means they see all colors, besides red. They can see yellow, some orange, purple, blue, green, just not red. When they need to focus, they will use one eye to do so. They can be right-eyed, or left-eyed, just like humans.

    Number 4: I call the edible poos vitapoos, lol.

    Number 10: baby boars can impregnate at 3 weeks old. They can however start to practice, with “blanks”, at the age of 2 weeks old. Baby sows can get pregnant at 3 weeks, hence why they need to be separated. Sows getting pregnant that young have a slim chance of survival too, because the babies can’t get out of a small body once they are due and cesareans are far too harsh, too difficult, etc at such a young age.

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