Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

Guinea Pig

(Cavia porcellus)

Habitat and Distribution: Guinea pigs no longer exist in the wild, but close relatives can be found in mountains and grasslands of South America (Peru, Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay).

Size: 8-16 inches long; 1.5-2 pounds

Diet: Leafy greens, vegetables, hay, and fruit

Predators: They are completely domesticated and not subject to natural predation, but their wild relatives fall prey to animals like ferrets, coyotes, wolves, owls, hawks, and domestic cats and dogs.

Life Span: 4-6 years

Reproduction: Guinea pigs reach sexual maturity at two months and breed up to five times a year, usually at night. Males (boars) investigate females (sows) by chasing, sniffing and purring. Females deliver up to 8 babies after a gestation of 60-70 days. The young are fully haired at birth, with open eyes and ears. They begin eating solid food during the first few days and are weaned after 2-3 weeks.

Behavior: Guinea pigs are nocturnal and highly social, gathering in small groups for warmth and security. When not sleeping, they are usually grooming, feeding, or exploring. They exhibit play behaviors including jumps, head shaking, hopping, bucking, cavorting, body twisting and running. Aggressive behavior, accompanied by threatening vocalizations, can occur between males or between incompatible females.

Conservation

IUCN Status:SmartyNot Evaluated

Did you know?

  • Guinea pigs panic easily and may respond to a frightening experience by freezing in place or running away. They can stay frozen in place for up to 20 minutes.
  • They communicate with a variety of chirps, growls, purrs, squeaks, whines, and whistles.