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Giunea Pig (Cavia porcellus)


The domestic guinea pig (Cavia apera porcellus) belongs to the Caviidae family, suborder Hystricomorfa, and originates from the mountainous regions of the Andes in South America. It is widely accepted as being a good pet given its characteristics as an extremely sociable animal, which does not emit annoying odors, suitable for living with children (with due care and supervision) as it is easy to handle and rarely bites. They are particularly "talkative" animals, possessing a wide range of vocalisations and there are now many breeds available that differ in color and type of coat.

As a "prey animal", the guinea pig has mainly crepuscular / nocturnal habits and in the wild it would occupy burrows and tunnels dug by other animals, living in colonies of about 20-50 individuals. Being extremely social animals, there are no particular restrictions on the number of individuals that can be kept together. Any fights for dominance that could occur between males living together could have castration as a solution, but this may not necessarily be decisive.

Guinea pigs should not be kept together with animals of different species, especially the rabbit.


On the market it is now possible to find a wide range of cages and products to house these animals: overall the most important thing is that they are easy to clean, of sufficient size to contain the desired number of animals, and made of non-toxic materials. Guinea pigs, like any other animal, should spend as little time as possible in their cage, this is to avoid the onset of behavioral problems, as well as obesity, pododermatitis and osteoporosis; therefore, environmental enrichment and access to an area where it can move freely (under the watchful eye of the owner) will be fundamental.

The ideal temperature for these animals is around 20-22 ° C with a humidity level of 40-70%. The ideal setup would be for them have an external area available, with the possibility of a cooler and shaded area, as temperatures above 27 ° C can represent a serious danger to their health (heat stroke).

As a liner for the cage, a simple sheet of newspaper can be used but will have to be changed quite frequently. In addition to being a fairly inexpensive solution, paper will allow the owner to better monitor any changes to the animal's excrement such as production, consistency and conformation of faeces, color and quantity of urine.














Understanding that a diet as varied as possible is the basis of a good state of health, as these animals are strictly herbivorous, their diet should be based exclusively on the daily consumption of hay ad libitum (that it is always available), with the addition of grass, vegetables, seasonal fruits in moderate quantities, and possibly specific pellets for guinea pigs (pay attention to composition and quality). The necessary element will be fibre, which plays an essential role both in terms of wearing down of continuously growing teeth and in maintaining good functionality of the gastro-enteric system. A hay-only diet will be just as wrong as feeding pellets alone.

The daily amount of food per adult animal, in addition to hay, is about 60-70 g / kg / day, increasing to 2 or 3 times as much in growing animals and pregnant females. Water must always be available.

Like the rabbit, the guinea pig also eats the caecotroph (this term means the faeces, with a characteristic cluster appearance, usually produced early in the morning), through which it recovers the elements synthesised by the blind bacterial flora.

Guinea pigs, like humans, are not able to independently synthesise vitamin C and therefore the daily dose of this vitamin via foods (for example mandarin and pepper) is essential. Given the high lability of this vitamin, commercial foods (pellets) must be stored correctly and consumed in a short time. It will therefore be appropriate to administer fresh food combined with dry food. Excess of this vitamin is not dangerous, while deficiency is the cause of scurvy.

Problems most frequently encountered relate to incorrect management of guinea pigs in captivity: the development of pododermatitis (lesions of the plantar portion of the legs favored by obesity, poor cage hygiene and use of inadequate litter), food and vitamin deficiencies (especially vitamin C), excessive administration of foods (obesity) and / or rich in calcium (diseases of the urinary tract), reduced efficiency of the immune system due to stress, dermatological diseases, and dental disease.

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