Guinea Pig Husbandry at Home: Step-by-Step Care and Feeding

Guinea Pig Husbandry at Home: Step-by-Step Care and Feeding


The guinea pig (Cavia porcellus) is a species of rodent belonging to the genus Cavia in the family Caviidae. While breeders commonly use the term “cavy” to describe this animal, it is more widely known as the guinea pig in scientific and laboratory contexts.

This animal originates from the Andes Mountains of South America and was first domesticated by indigenous peoples as a source of meat. It is still used as food in some regions today. The guinea pig, scientifically named Cavia porcellus, is a domesticated animal that does not exist in the wild and is derived from a closely related cavy species such as C. tschudii. The origin of the name guinea pig is not precisely known, but these animals have no biological relation to Guinea or pigs.

In Western society, the guinea pig has enjoyed widespread popularity as a pet since its introduction by European traders to Europe and North America in the 16th century. Their docile nature, friendly responses to handling and feeding, and the relative ease of care have made guinea pigs a popular pet. Guinea pigs have been used in biological experiments since the 17th century.


The taxonomy of the guinea pig is as follows:

Kingdom: Animalia (Animals)

Phylum: Chordata (Chordates)

Subphylum: Vertebrata (Vertebrates)

Infraphylum: Gnathostomata (Jawed vertebrates)

Class: Mammalia (Mammals)

Superorder: Hystricomorpha (Spiny rodents)

Order: Rodentia (Rodents)

Family: Caviidae (Guinea pigs)

Subfamily: Caviinae (Cavies)

Genus: Cavia (Cavy)

Species: Cavia porcellus (domestic guinea pig) and other wild species

The Caviidae family includes tailless South American rodents. These rodents have four toes on their front feet and three toes on their back feet. They also have a pair of mammary glands. The genus Cavia is part of the subfamily Caviinae. This subfamily includes other large rodents such as maras, capybaras, and pacas, in addition to guinea pigs.

The exact wild ancestor of the domestic guinea pig is not known. Some research suggests that a species called Cavia tschudii may have been domesticated. This species lives in the Andes Mountains from Peru to northern Chile and northwestern Argentina.

In addition to the domestic guinea pig, at least five wild guinea pig species are recognized:

Cavia aperea – Brazilian guinea pig, common in the east of the Andes.

Cavia fulgida – Shiny guinea pig, eastern Brazil.

Cavia intermedia – Santa Catarina’s guinea pig or Moleques do Sul guinea pig, Moleques do Sul islands, Santa Catarina, Brazil, first described in 1999.

Cavia magna – Greater guinea pig, Uruguay, southeastern Brazil.

Cavia tschudii – Montane guinea pig, from Peru to northern Chile and northwestern Argentina.

Some authors also recognize the following additional species:

Cavia anolaimae (often considered a synonym of C. porcellus or a subspecies of C. aperea) – Colombia.

Cavia guianae (often considered a synonym of C. porcellus or a subspecies of C. aperea) – Venezuela, Guyana, Brazil.

Cavia patzelti (often considered a synonym of C. aperea) – Ecuador.

Additionally, four fossil species have been described:

Cavia cabrerai – early Pliocene Argentina.

Cavia galileoi – late Pliocene Argentina.

Certainly! Here’s the translation of the text you provided into English:


The ancestors of guinea pigs were wild rodents living in the Andes Mountains of South America. These animals are known as the genus Cavia, and the scientific name for guinea pigs is derived from Cavia porcellus. Porcellus means “little pig” in Latin, which may have been given due to the guinea pigs’ pig-like sounds or appearance.

Guinea pigs were first brought to Europe by Spanish explorers in the 16th century. The Spaniards used guinea pigs both for meat and as domestic pets. Guinea pigs were later spread to other European countries through Dutch traders. The Dutch particularly gave guinea pigs as gifts to children. Guinea pigs have become a popular pet in Europe.

The exact reason why these animals are called guinea pigs is not known for certain. Some possibilities include:

  • Guinea pigs may have been named using the word “guinea” because they lived in South America, which at the time was a term used to describe places beyond the distant seas. Guinea was a term used in ancient times to describe the west coast of Africa. This term may have later been applied to other regions of Africa and even to America. In this way, guinea pigs may have gotten their name because they came from a region of South America called “guinea.”
  • Guinea pigs may have passed through ports in Guiana or Guinea in South America or Africa on their way to Europe. These ports could be the source of the word ‘guinea.’ Guiana is a region on the northeastern coast of South America. Guinea is a region on the west coast of Africa. These regions may have been important stops on the trade routes for guinea pigs. In this way, guinea pigs may have gotten their name because they came from or went to these ports.
  • As for the second word in the naming, they may have been likened to pigs because of their sounds, behaviors, or appearances. Some sources say that guinea pigs resembled suckling pigs when served as food. Guinea pigs make various sounds like pigs. Guinea pigs are short-legged, round-bodied, and short-tailed animals like pigs. In this way, guinea pigs may have gotten the name guinea pig because they resembled pigs.

In English, guinea pigs are also referred to as Cavy or Cavies. This name comes from Cavia, the genus to which Guinea Pigs belong in scientific classification. Cavia means “guinea pig” in Latin. Cavia was defined by Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus in the 18th century. In this way, guinea pigs have been named Cavy or Cavies based on their scientific name.

In the Andes Mountains, guinea pigs are called cuy and are still an important meat animal in South America. In the 1960s, they were the subject of a modern breeding program in Peru known as Cuy mejorados (improved cuy) and efforts were made to increase their consumption as a source of meat outside South America. In South America, they are also used in traditional medicine and religious ceremonies.

Biological experiments on guinea pigs have been conducted since the 17th century. The animals were used so frequently as experimental animals in the 19th and 20th centuries that the nickname “guinea pig” began to be used to describe human subjects. Today, their place has largely been taken by other rodents, such as mice and rats. However, they are still used in research, primarily as experimental animals to study human health conditions such as type 1 diabetes, tuberculosis, scurvy (like humans, guinea pigs also require dietary intake of vitamin C), and pregnancy complications.

Guinea pigs are considered a popular pet in Western society. They are docile, affectionate, and easy to care for animals.

Sure, here’s the translation of the text about guinea pig care into English:



When choosing a home for your guinea pig, you have three options: you can buy a commercially manufactured cage, have one custom-made at a pet or feed and garden store, or build one yourself. Whichever route you choose, it’s best to follow these basic rules:

Each guinea pig cage should have at least two square meters of space. This means if you have two guinea pigs, the cage should be at least four square meters, and so on. Most commercial cages are designed for a single guinea pig.

A wire cage floor is not suitable for guinea pigs because they can get injured between the wires. They can trap their feet or legs in the gaps and lose toes or break bones. If you have a large wire cage for your guinea pigs, you must cover the floor with plastic, metal, or a type of wood that is safe for them.

A large glass aquarium (terrarium) is also not a good choice for a guinea pig home. It is hard to keep clean, lacks adequate ventilation (which can cause ammonia from their urine to build up quickly), and can become too hot if exposed to sunlight.

Guinea pigs are not good at climbing or jumping, so if you choose a multi-level cage, make sure the levels are not too far apart to prevent serious injuries from falls.

Guinea pigs are native to the high-altitude regions of South America and can withstand cold weather better than hot. The ideal temperature range is between 18.3 and 20°C. They should be kept away from cold drafts, but also from heat sources and direct sunlight, as they can easily suffer heatstroke if the temperature rises above 26.7°C.

Ensure their cage is in a comfortable and stable environment.


Bedding is an important part of your guinea pig’s cage. It provides a place for your guinea pig to do its business, dig and hide, and walk comfortably. You should choose bedding that is safe for your guinea pig’s health and can reduce the smell of urine and feces. Below are the pros and cons of different types of bedding you can find at pet stores or online, but remember that this list is not exhaustive or definitive.

Cedar shavings are a dangerous choice for bedding for small mammals. They contain aromatic oils that can harm the animals’ respiratory systems and livers. Some animals may also be allergic to cedar shavings and can experience skin and breathing problems. Cedar shavings may smell nice to humans, but they are toxic to small mammals.

Pine shavings are another type of softwood bedding frequently sold for small mammals. They also contain aromatic oils that can affect the animals’ health. They can reduce the smell of ammonia from urine, but they can also irritate the animals’ noses and lungs. Some people recommend using baked pine shavings with less oil, but they are not ideal. Small mammals have a better sense of smell than humans and have to live with their bedding materials constantly. Even a small amount of oil can be uncomfortable or harmful to them. Pine shavings are better than cedar shavings, but should be avoided if possible.

Aspen shavings are a safe bedding made from a hardwood that does not contain harmful chemicals or oils. It is soft and comfortable for your guinea pig, but it does not absorb much moisture or odor. You will need to clean the cage frequently to prevent bad smells and infections.

Carefresh is bedding made from recycled wood pulp fibers that look like paper. It is very absorbent and good at controlling odor because it prevents the formation of ammonia from urine. It is also dust-free and biodegradable, which is good for the environment.

Paper-Based Pellet Bedding are beddings made from hard or soft compressed paper pellets. They are very absorbent and resistant to odor by locking in moisture and smell. However, they can be harsh on your guinea pig’s feet and skin, so you might want to add some hay on top to make them more comfortable.

Hay alone is not suitable because it does not absorb urine and its hard stalks can cause eye injuries.

Timothy hay can make a good bedding for guinea pigs. In addition to being a natural food source, guinea pigs love to tunnel in it, nest, and play with it. Fresh timothy hay has a pleasant smell and absorbs some urine. Its disadvantages are that it does not control odors and can mold when wet. If used as a thin layer over a more absorbent bedding, it can be changed every one or two days, whereas paper-based bedding can last a week or longer. Fresh timothy hay taken directly is best. Packaged timothy hay found in pet stores has been dried to extend its shelf life, making it harder and less suitable as bedding.

Cat litter is generally not a good choice because of its indigestibility, the chemicals most cat litters contain to control odors, and its generally rough, stony quality. Wet clumping litter can stick to the rabbit’s fur and become like cement.

Cage Accessories

Guinea pigs need a comfortable and spacious cage and some basic accessories. The most important items are a water bottle and a food bowl. The water bottle should be attached to the outside of the cage and have a stainless steel drinking tube. This prevents the water from getting dirty or spilled and prevents the tube from being chewed by guinea pigs. The food bowl should be sturdy and have a wide base so it does not tip over easily. It should also have a small opening so that guinea pigs do not sit in their food and contaminate it. A hay rack is also a useful accessory because it keeps some timothy hay off the cage floor and provides a fresher food source.

You can add some stones, bricks, and pipes to make the cage more interesting and fun for guinea pigs. They can trim their nails, hide from stress, and discover new things. You can use four-inch diameter PVC pipe from a home improvement store as a cheap and durable toy. Elbows and T-joints are especially good for creating tunnels and corners. PVC plastic is hard, easy to clean, and safe for guinea pigs. Check all toys regularly for any signs of damage or wear.


Guinea pigs are herbivores and in their natural habitat, they consume grasses and other plant-based foods. When kept as pets, they require a similar diet. The most important food for guinea pigs is grass hay, as it provides them with fiber, nutrients, and dental health benefits. They should always have access to fresh and clean hay. The best type of hay for guinea pigs is timothy hay, but other grass hays can also be used. However, alfalfa hay should be avoided or limited because it contains too much protein and calcium, which can lead to health issues like obesity and bladder stones. You can purchase timothy hay or other grass hays from pet stores or feed stores.

Pelleted feeds are an important part of your guinea pig’s diet. They provide a balanced source of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that your guinea pig needs. They also provide a consistent source of protein for your guinea pig. However, pellets alone are not enough to meet your guinea pig’s nutritional needs.

One reason is that guinea pigs cannot produce or store vitamin C themselves, so they must get it daily from their food. Pellets lose vitamin C over their shelf life, so you need to buy them in small quantities and ensure they are fresh. Even fresh pellets may not contain enough vitamin C to prevent disease, so you need to provide your guinea pig with vitamin C-rich fresh vegetables and fruits. Another issue with pellets is that they may not contain enough fiber to aid your guinea pig’s digestion. You should only give a small amount of pellets to your guinea pig, about 28-57 grams per adult, along with hay and raw vegetables and fruits.

Fresh vegetables and fruits are not only good for your guinea pig’s health but also for their happiness. You can enrich their diet with essential nutrients, especially vitamin C, and prevent them from getting bored with eating the same food every day. However, you need to be careful about how you introduce and feed fresh foods to your guinea pig. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Start with small amounts of a new food at a time and observe how your guinea pig reacts. Some foods can cause digestive problems or allergies if given too much or too suddenly.
  • Consider the proportion of the food to your guinea pig’s body size. A grape may seem small to you, but it’s massive for a guinea pig. Cut the food into small pieces and avoid giving too much fruit or vegetable at once.
  • Choose foods rich in vitamin C, such as broccoli, dandelion leaves, kiwi, mustard greens, parsley, apple, green pepper, kale, fresh tomato, and the like. Vitamin C is vital for your guinea pig’s health and immunity, but they cannot produce it themselves.
  • Do not give your guinea pig harmful or non-nutritious foods, such as lettuce, nuts or seeds, dairy products, and sweets. These foods can cause obesity, dental problems, or other health issues in your guinea pig.


Water is essential for guinea pigs to live. They can get some of their water needs from fresh fruits and vegetables when they eat them, but they should always have access to fresh and clean water. The best way to provide water to your guinea pig is to use a water bottle. You should change the water in the bottle every day and clean the bottle regularly. Some guinea pigs like to play with the drinking tubes and spill the water or push their food into the water. This can cause the water to become dirty with bacteria, so you should check the water level more than once a day.

Some people give their guinea pigs extra vitamin C by adding crushed vitamin C to their water. If you want to do this, please follow these steps:

  1. Add the appropriate amount of supplement to the water your guinea pig will drink in a day and fill it with more water if the bottle is half full or less.
  2. Vitamin C can break down in sunlight and water, so cover the water bottle with foil and make the vitamin C/water mixture every day.
  3. Chlorine in tap water can neutralize ascorbic acid. Use bottled water or water that has been left to stand for at least 24 hours.


Guinea pigs can become ill easily and may show signs of sickness such as loss of appetite and lethargy. They are herbivores and need to eat small amounts continuously. If they stop eating, it could be a sign of a serious problem. Common health issues for guinea pigs include:

Heatstroke: Guinea pigs cannot tolerate high temperatures and can overheat very quickly. They may appear weak, with their heads raised, and breathing rapidly and shallowly. This is an emergency and they need to be cooled down immediately. You can wrap them in a wet, cool towel or spray them with cold water. You can also give them cold Pedialyte to drink.

Respiratory Infections: Guinea pigs can contract infections that affect their nose, throat, and lungs. Symptoms may include nasal discharge, sneezing, or difficulty breathing. These infections can turn into pneumonia, which can be fatal for guinea pigs. If you notice these symptoms, you should take your guinea pig to a veterinarian. Some of these infections are caused by a virus called Bordetella, which can also infect rabbits and dogs. Do not keep guinea pigs and rabbits in the same cage, and be cautious when letting your dog near your guinea pig.

Diarrhea: Diarrhea can have many causes, such as eating too many greens, bacterial infection, or taking certain antibiotics. Diarrhea can be very dangerous for guinea pigs because it can lead to dehydration and disrupt the balance of intestinal bacteria. If your guinea pig has watery or very frequent diarrhea, you should take them to a veterinarian as soon as possible. If the diarrhea is not severe, you can try feeding them only hay and giving them more fluids. Pedialyte can also help in this situation. Never give antibiotics to your guinea pig without consulting a veterinarian, as some can cause fatal diarrhea in guinea pigs.

Guinea pigs are prone to various infections and dental problems due to their anatomy and diet. Here are some common issues and how to deal with them:

  • Bacterial/Fungal Infections: Guinea pigs can get injured from scratching, biting, or contact with dirty surfaces. To prevent this, clean the wound with hydrogen peroxide as soon as you notice it and then apply a diluted mixture of Nolvasan or Betadine solution to keep it clean. Also, regularly check the wound for signs of infection, such as swelling, redness, pus, or bad odor.
  • Broken Teeth: Guinea pigs can accidentally break their front teeth (incisors) while chewing hard objects or falling from a height. This is usually not a serious problem, as the tooth will grow back within a few weeks. However, you should monitor the opposing tooth, as it can overgrow without the other tooth. If this happens, you should seek professional help for tooth filing. You should also help your guinea pig eat by cutting their food into small pieces and grinding their pellets. This will ensure your guinea pig gets enough nutrition and keeps their back teeth (molars) healthy.
  • Malocclusion: This is a condition where guinea pigs’ teeth are not aligned properly and do not wear down evenly. It can be caused by genetics, infection, or injuries. If this occurs, guinea pigs’ teeth can grow too long, too sharp, or too crooked. This can cause pain, difficulty eating, weight loss, and mouth sores. To treat this condition, you should take your guinea pigs to a specialist who can file or extract their teeth if necessary. You should also provide plenty of hay and chew toys to help maintain their dental health.

Guinea pigs’ teeth grow continuously throughout their lives. However, sometimes the outward growth of the teeth stops and the roots start to grow. This can lead to painful molar teeth, which can cause inflammation by pressing on the bone. This can cause guinea pigs to lose their appetite and drool excessively. There is no cure for this disease, but some medications can help reduce pain and inflammation. If your guinea pig shows these symptoms, you should take them to a specialist immediately.

Another problem that can affect female guinea pigs is dystocia, or difficulty giving birth. This can happen if a female guinea pig is first mated when she is older than 8 months. Her pelvic bones will fuse together and she will not be able to give birth to the pups without surgical intervention. Female guinea pigs mated before 8 months can also have problems during birth. If your female guinea pig is trying to give birth for a long time or experiencing strong contractions for more than 30 minutes without delivering a pup, you should take her to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Dystocia can be very harmful to both the mother and the pups.

Many health problems in your guinea pigs can be prevented by closely monitoring them and providing good care.


Guinea pigs have a long gestation period of 63-68 days, which is the longest among all rodents. This is because the pups are born fully developed with fur, eyes, and teeth. They can eat solid food a few hours after birth, but they should continue to nurse from their mother for about three weeks. During this time, they should be weaned and separated by sex, as female guinea pigs can become pregnant as early as 5-6 weeks old and male guinea pigs can impregnate females at 8 weeks old. Guinea pigs usually have 2-3 pups at a time, but it can go up to 6.


Guinea pigs are generally healthy animals, but they can carry certain fungal and bacterial diseases that may affect humans. However, the most common issue that humans encounter with guinea pigs is an allergic reaction to their fur. Some people may experience symptoms such as a runny nose, hives, or even severe allergic shock when exposed to guinea pig fur. Therefore, it is recommended to spend some time around guinea pigs before adopting one as a pet to see if you have any allergies.

Post Comment

You May Have Missed