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March 2024’s Animal Of The Month – Guinea Pigs

By March 27, 2024 No Comments

We celebrate guinea pigs all year long, but March has been an especially big month for guinea pigs! March is Adopt a Rescued Guinea Pig Month and guinea pigs were also our Animal of the Month for March! But now that March is winding down and Easter is fast approaching, it’s time to bid our featured creatures, the guinea pigs, a fond farewell for now. We hope you enjoyed following us on “X” (a.k.a. Twitter) and Threads as we posted about these charming rodents all month long. But in case you missed any of our posts, here is a summary that you can reference any time. Did you know?:

  • There are currently at least a half-dozen recognized species of wild guinea pigs, all of them endemic to South America.
  • The guinea pigs that are commonly kept in captivity as pets (Cavia porcellus) do not exist in the wild, but are rather domesticized descendants of those wild guinea pigs.
  • Depending on the species, wild guinea pigs can be found in parts of numerous South American countries; including, Brazil, Uruguay, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and Paraguay.
  • There is one species of wild guinea pig endemic to Ecuador, the Sacha guinea pig (Cavia patzelti).
  • The Sacha guinea pig is found exclusively in higher elevations on the inactive Chimborazo volcano, which is part of the Andes mountain range. Other than that, very little is known about this species.
  • Depending on the species, wild guinea pigs can be found in a variety of habitats; including – but not limited to – grasslands, forests, riparian habitats (forested corridors that run along wetlands or rivers), savannas and rocky areas.
  • Guinea pigs are stout, tail-less rodents with short legs and cylindrical bodies. Fully grown, they usually measure between 20-25 cms (8-10 inches) in length. Males are a bit bigger than females.
  • Guinea pigs have heads that seem to be made up mostly by their prominent snouts. Their eyes, ears and mouths are all small by comparison.
  • Guinea pigs in captivity have been selectively bred to produce breeds featuring fur varieties of different colours, length and textures; including the Peruvian, English, Teddy and Himalayan.
  • Guinea pigs are diurnal, meaning they are awake during the day and sleep at night. But they are most active at dawn and dusk, so they can also be considered crepuscular.
  • At night, wild guinea pigs will sleep in burrows. Either they will dig the burrow out for themselves or they will take up residence in a burrow that was abandoned by another animal.
  • Depending on the habitat in which they live, wild guinea pigs may also take shelter in rock crevices or dense vegetation.
  • One thing that sets guinea pigs apart from other rodents – and gives them something in common with humans and other primates – is that they can’t produce vitamin C on their own.
  • Like us, guinea pigs need vitamin C to be healthy and can get scurvy and die without it.
  • Guinea pigs need vitamin C to produce the protein collagen, which is necessary in maintaining healthy blood vessels, joints and skin.
  • Without enough vitamin C through diet and/or supplements, guinea pigs will fall ill and may experience symptoms including – but not limited to – lethargy, limping and the loss of both weight and appetite.
  • In the wild, guinea pigs will eat a variety of grasses, herbs, leaves and other plant matter. They do not eat any animal matter, which means they are completely herbivorous.
  • Guinea pigs are a prey species, which means they have many predators in the wild; including humans, coyotes, wild cats, snakes owls and other birds of prey.
  • When faced with a threat, guinea pigs will employ one of two different defense strategies depending on whether they are facing the threat alone or as a group.
  • If a guinea pig is facing a threat in isolation, she or he will become completely immobile and will stay that way until the threat passes.
  • If faced with a threat in a group, guinea pigs will quickly scatter in all directions with the goal of confusing the predator so all of them can escape.
  • Guinea pigs are very expressive animals and have distinct vocalizations that they will use depending on the situation (for example, when they are happy, distressed, want food, etc.).
  • Guinea pigs also express themselves through a behaviour called “popcorning.”
  • Similar to bunny binkies, popcorning is when a guinea pig makes a sudden little jump either from a standing position or while running.
  • Most of the time guinea pigs popcorn when they are happy, but occasionally they will do it when they are afraid.
  • Guinea pigs made the news recently both in Canada and in the UK, but for very different reasons. The stories may be from opposite ends of the spectrum, but what they have in common is that they highlight the responsibility necessary to care for guinea pigs.
  • A woman in Delhi, Ontario was featured in local newspapers last month for launching a new guinea pig rescue in a dedicated space in her home in October 2023.
  • Paige Cahill started The Rescue Room after adopting a guinea pig named Tim who needed a home. But she knew that guinea pigs are social animals and that Tim also needed a friend.
  • After adopting another guinea pig to keep Tim company, she encountered people in online forums who were looking at rehoming their own guinea pigs and she took them in for rehoming and The Rescue Room was born.
  • In a very different story last month, a lone guinea pig was left abandoned inside a London, UK tube (subway) station in a cage with a note that read “I need a new owner.”
  • Fortunately the guinea pig, nicknamed DiscoPig, was found by station staff and is being cared for by the RSPCA until he can be rehomed with another guinea pig.
  • March is Adopt a Rescued Guinea Pig Month and it’s critical to always do your research before adopting so you know what your guinea pigs need to be healthy and happy for life!

Not only did we put guinea pigs in the spotlight this March, but we also featured them as our Animal of the Month in March 2014 and March 2019. We invite you to check out those blog entries to see what we posted about guinea pigs the first two times around!


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