Unmistakably so, guinea pigs are some of the friendliest, most docile and cutest little buggers you could have in your home.
Cats are adorable yes and they are very independent creatures, but they don’t hold a candle to the guinea pigs, especially when it comes to how easy they are to handle.
As such, it’s no wonder that guinea pigs make for some of the best pets out there, since they mark off every requirement on the checklist.
Guinea Pigs are considered to be one of the largest types of rodents out there, and even though we don’t get to see them all that much, they can still be found out in the wild.
For the most part, they live in the wild in South America, although they can also be found in other places such as Brazil, Venezuela, Bolivia, Argentina and Colombia to name a few.
The only real problem with owning a guinea pig is the proclivity people have towards how much research you need to do before you actually own one.
Most people believe that you don’t need to know a single thing about them before you can purchase your very own guinea pig, but they’re sadly mistaken.
Guinea pigs need a very specific diet to live long and happy life, on top of also needing very carefully constructed housing. They also have special medical needs that you will not be able to help them with if you don’t do any research beforehand.
So, in this article we set out to answer multiple questions about guinea pigs so that you better understand everything there is to know to owning a guinea pig.
But first, let’s answer the question that we promised an answer for in the title:
How Long Do Guinea Pigs Live?
Most guinea pigs tend to live anywhere between 5 to 7 years, although it isn’t completely unheard of to have a guinea pig live for longer than that or less, if you haven’t been taking proper care of them.
There was even a case in which a guinea pig managed to live up to almost reach its 15th birthday, but sadly this was cut short due to it passing away of old age. This little guinea pig went on to be added to the Guinness Book of World Records.
For the most part though, you’ll find that guinea pigs tend to pass away by the time they get to be 5 years old. They are very active between the ages of 1 to 4 years old, but as soon as they reach the ripe old age of 5 years old, they tend to be very rigid and slow.
Male guinea pigs are known as boars, while the females go by sows. Boars are typically heavier than the sows, with most of them getting to be around 2 to 2.5lbs when they mature while the sows rarely get heavier than 1.5 to 2lbs.
As far as their overall life cycle is concerned, this is what you can expect from your guinea pigs:
- Their gestation period averages out at around 68 days.
- You will be getting around 4 pups per litter, but it isn’t uncommon to have litters with well over 10 pups at once.
- Most of the time, the pups are born with their eyes open and they start weaning around 21 days later.
- Your boar will fully mature by the time it reaches the ripe old age of 3 to 4 months old, although in some cases they can do so much earlier on in their life.
- Sows mature by the time they get to be around 6 to 8 months old, but that doesn’t mean they have to wait that long to get pregnant, as that can happen much sooner.
- Any and all guinea pigs are considered to be elderly by the time they get to be around 3 years old, and you can tell that this is the case from the obvious signs of aging or chronic diseases they display.
By far one of the most common reasons as to why sows end up passing away prematurely include their potential for breeding.
In case you didn’t know by now, it is never recommended that you breed the guinea pigs yourself because their pelvis fuses between 9 and 12 months of age.
Because of this, the sow needs to be bred before this happens or else the pups will not be able to fit through their birth canal and they will die as well as their mother.
This is why so many sows end up dying during the birthing process, so again, we urge you that you don’t try to breed them on your own.
Even if the birth process is a success, taking care of baby guinea pigs is nowhere near as simple as you’d think, as they can easily get diseases and more importantly, they can pass away at the flip of a coin.
So, if you do plan on keeping guinea pigs together, make sure that they are either spayed or neutered so as to make sure that they will not breed with one another to avoid what we just mentioned.
Another thing to note as far as their longevity is concerned is what actual breed you have on your hands. The hairless breed, also commonly referred to as the skinny guinea pig, usually lives up to be somewhere around 7 to 8 years old.
Other breeds though , such as the ones with longer hair only live up to be 4 years old, so do your own research before you actually invest into a guinea pig.
After all, maybe you don’t want a pet that can live up to be 8 years old, maybe you just want to give your children a new pet and you want to teach them how to care for another life.
But by far the most important factors that you need to keep in mind regarding the guinea pig’s lifecycle is their diet and husbandry.
What Makes Guinea Pigs Live Longer and Happier Lives?
The most important factor that will overpower anything else you could possibly do to keep your guinea pig alive is its genes.
This is because you can’t fight against the course of life, if your guinea pig’s time is already here you can’t force them to live any longer than that.
But, instead, what you can do is you can actually help them live longer and happier lives through good husbandry and an overall sense of care and management that is severely lacking in a lot of households out there.
At the same time, you need to keep in mind where you got the guinea pig from and what documents you got with them.
This means that if you ended up purchasing them or adopting them from a random seller then chances are that you won’t have any documents indicating their overall health or genetic defects.
At the same time, you will need to keep in mind that just because a product claims to be good for your guinea pig that doesn’t mean it actually is any good for them.
So, don’t focus as much on the supplements that promise to double or even triple your guinea pig’s overall life and instead take this time to invest in the essentials that are sure to keep your guinea pig healthy and happy.
These include but are not limited to the following:
- A well-rounded diet that consists of grass hay, veggies and decent amounts of pellets to keep them well fed
- Vitamin C supplements, this is an exceptionally important part as guinea pigs are incapable of making their own vitamin C, so they will need a little extra help from you as their owner
- Proper housing is a must as they can easily end up dying because they heat up very quickly and the cold will not do them any good either
- A decent handful of toys for your guinea pig to play with, although you will need to make sure that these are safe for them to have around and exercise with so that they don’t get too chubby
- Proper and routine veterinary care, now this part is a must because guinea pigs tend to be quite sickly little things, so it won’t take a lot for them to pretty much go from being happy-go-lucky to being as solid as the toys they exercise with
How to Extend Your Guinea Pig’s Life
There are quite a lot of things that you can do if you want to make sure that your guinea pig lives its best life.
Now, these are not sure to guarantee your guinea pig will live for a decade, but they will at the very least make sure that your guinea pig enjoys every day it has on this planet.
So, keep in mind that genetics still hold the most important key of the puzzle here. But regardless, you can still extend your guinea pig’s life by doing the following:
- You can feed your guinea pig exclusively high-quality grass hay such as Oxbow, as well as unnatural amounts of veggies and high-quality guinea pig pellets
- You can mix and match their diet to make sure that they don’t get tired of eating the same things over and over again. We get it, we love pizza too, but eating it every day will make us enjoy it less so make sure that they have a bit of variety in their diet
- Make sure to always weigh your guinea pig on a weekly basis to make sure that they don’t get too heavy or too slim for their own good. Fluffy guinea pigs are cuter, we know that, but they can also develop more than a handful of diseases from that.
- On top of that, if your guinea pig is losing its appetite or just losing weight this could be an indicator that your guinea pig’s health is in jeopardy
- At the same time, you should definitely send your guinea pig directly to the vet’s office at least once every 6 to 12 months. While most visits will be unfruitful, you never know when you’ll find a preventable disease before it can take its toll on your pet
- As mentioned previously, you can and you should definitely supplement your guinea pig with vitamin C tablets because they can’t produce it by themselves so this will help them out greatly
- Guinea pigs are herd animals that shouldn’t be kept in solidary confinement unless they are unhealthy or they have temperament issues
- You should make sure that your pet guinea pig has more than a handful of ways to exercise, and at the same time you will need to make sure that they get at least one hour per day if not more out of their cage for their own good
- You should always keep a close eye on your guinea pig’s behavior so as to make sure that you’re not missing any of the telltale signs that they’re going through something
- You also need to clean out their water and food dishes on a daily basis, as bacteria can quickly gather on them and take their toll on your guinea pig. At the same time, change their bedding every 3 to 4 days
- Last but not least you will need to make sure that your guinea pig’s home is well-ventilated, and better yet that it isn’t too cold or too hot for them to live in
What to Know Before Getting a Pet Guinea Pig?
Guinea pigs may be very cute and cuddly but they are not to be taken lightly. So, make sure that you keep in mind the following facts about them before you actually invest in a pet guinea pig:
- Guinea pigs are a long-term commitment – Sure, guinea pigs don’ live anywhere near as long as cats or dogs do, but that doesn’t mean that you can take their lives for granted.
- They can live out to be around five to seven years old, so be sure that you can provide them with the long term care that they deserve
- They are social herd creatures – If you can’t spend at least a couple of hours a day with your guinea pig then you may as well make sure that you have several other guinea pigs with them to keep them company.
- Do keep in mind though that females can be kept together, and so can males as long as they don’t get aggressive with one another, but mixing the two will easily result in a full litter practically overnight
- Guinea pigs need a much larger cage than you think – Guinea pigs make be small but they need a lot of space to roam around in. This is why we always recommend that you build your own homemade cage, as most marketed cages are too small, especially if you end up purchasing a pair of guinea pigs at once
- Guinea pigs are much quieter than you think – The internet has made us think that guinea pigs are very loud and outspoken, but they’re anything but that. They make a distinctive wheeking or whistling sound, and while they’re not loud enough to alarm the neighbors, they are still loud enough to interrupt the people in the other room
- Guinea pigs are very easy to train and tame – Guinea pigs tend to be very easy to handle, even though every now and then they can also get a bit nervous and anxious around new people
- You can find more than a handful of guinea pigs at shelters – Before you go ahead and buy your very own guinea pig, why not consider checking in with your local shelter or rescue for guinea pigs that actually need a new forever home to live out the rest of their lives in?
Interestingly enough, even though they don’t live for the longest of periods of time, guinea pigs are known as some of the longest lasting pocket pets out there.
As such, even though they don’t get to live as long as most cats or dogs do, they are still considered to be a long term commitment that you shouldn’t take lightly.
So, make sure to interact with them on a daily basis, take them to the vet every now and then and most importantly, groom them as often as possible just so that you can make sure that they don’t regret a single day of their lives.