Category Archives: Nature and character of guinea pigs

can guinea pigs blink

Can Guinea Pigs Climb?

Have you ever worried about whether a piggy could escape its enclosure?

Yep me too!

I’ve spent many a moment thinking about possible escape routes for my guinea pigs including up and over the bars, scaling wooden hutches, even getting over those c&c cages

So can guinea pigs climb at all?

The good news is that they have little ability to climb up verticals like other rodents such as hamsters, rats and mice can.

Their paws and limbs are just built for that kind of agility.

Other rodents are able to scale verticals because of their ability to grip edges, and to manouvre themselves up.

Rodents such as rats, mice and hamsters are also very light and their limbs are strong compared to their overall size and weight and so are able to carry themselves.

Guinea pigs just dont have this ability unfortunately, or fortunatley! Depending on your perspective on the issue.

They can climb slopes,  jump a little and clamber on smaller objects, so they could get over a small enclosure with the help of a suitably placed pig loo or something similar.

They couldn’t scale the wall though!

So as long as you have an enclosure that is at least 16 inches tall, you will have no problems.

can guinea pigs close their eyes

Can Guinea Pigs Close Their Eyes?

If you own a guinea pig then one of the things you may notice is that they have their eyes open a lot.

Their bright round eyes are always on the look out for danger and potential places to explore.

This is a natural instinct that they have, as prey animals, and has helped them to survive throughout the centuries to this very day.

Did you also know that they also sleep with their eyes open?

Impressive, i know!

Again, this helps them stay alert for potential danger as they are able to wake themselves in an instant and make a run for it.

So with this in mind can guinea pigs close their eyes at all or have they completely negated that skill?

Yes they can. When the feel at peace with their surroundings and chilled out, you maybe able to see them close their eyes.

This is a great sign that you are doing a good job as a guinea pig owner as a peaceful piggy is usually the result of a diligent and caring owner.

It means they are at peace with their surroundings, they know that they are free from any potential predators, and they feel comfortable in their home.


can guinea pigs dig

Can Guinea Pigs Dig?

As prey creatures, guinea pigs are used to having to having to having to get away from predators.

This is how they survived so long in the wild.

They are quick and nimble creatures who are difficult to catch at the best time.

Have you every had to try and catch a scared guinea pig?

Not an easy thing at all!

Many creatures will use their digging skills to get themselves out of harm’s way and find shelter.

They will also dig to hide food and build homes for their family.

Hamsters who are rodent cousins of the guinea pig, are voracious diggers who will use their digging skills to build nests and burrows for them in the deserts of Asia where they come from.

So can guinea pigs dig?

No they can’t at all. Unlike other rodents, such as mice, rats, and hamsters guinea pigs do not have the ability to dig.

In the wild, they live in crevices and holes created by other animals.

They do not have the ability to dig their own burrows and have no desire to as well.

This means in a practical sense that they do not have the ability to dig themselves out of their enclosure if you are worried about that.

They also won’t dig through bedding as well. They would much rather have their beds and nests created for them.



how do guinea pigs digest food

How Do Guinea Pigs Digest Food?

Guinea pigs are ravenous creatures.

They always seem to be hungry and on the look out for food.

For example, our piggies no exactly what the sound of a fridge door opening sounds like and know what lies behind it that is so attractive to them.

This is why its good to have hay and water available for them to chew on and feed them regularly.

So once they are eating how to they go about putting it through their system?

How do guinea pigs digest food?

Guinea pigs digest food much differently to what we do as humans.

Like other rodents and herbivores they tend to experience problems digesting food.

Eating in the wild

Feeding can be very dangerous time for guinea pigs in the wild because they are usually exposed, in the open and are potentially vulnerable to predators.

This is because the cell walls of plants contain cellulose and not mammal has evolved the ability to digest this constituent by means of its own enzymes.

Instead, mammals are forced to rely on helpful microbes located within their digestive tract, which possess cellulases for this purpose.

Unfortunately, these bacteria and protozoa are which is beyond the point at which food stuffs can be absorbed into the body. The practice of refection, therefore has evolved.

So how do they digest food?

Foodstuffs pass through the stomach and small intestine as far as the caecum where the bacteria break down the cellulose.

Then soft faecal pellets are then passed out of the anus.

Once these faecal pellets are out in the open, they are consumed again by the guinea pig

The pre-digested cellulose, in the form of its carbohydrate constituents, is then absorbed into the body through the walls of the small intestine.

The water content is then absorbed in the large intestine and the rodent then passes, hard, faecal pellets.

Foodstuffs which do not contain cellulose can be absorbed without passing through the intestinal tract a second time.

So as you can see, the way that guinea pigs digest food is very different to us humans.

They are obviously not put off by the thought of eating their own poop!


A Brief Guide to Improving Guinea Pig Lifespan

The lifespan of a Guinea Pig is not as constant as you may think. Most say that a Guinea Pig can live for about five years on average in captivity. However, this number can increase or decrease and is something that is dependent on a number of factors.

They do not tend to live as long as other domestic pets such as dogs. There are certainly other pets that live longer and enjoy a longer life in years than Guinea pig.

Indeed the top five longest living pets on average are;

Tortoise: 120 years

Parrot: 25 years

Horses: 25 years

Cat: 12 years

Dogs: 12 years

So guinea pig’s do lag behind in terms of the number of years that they can live for.

However, compared to other types of rodent species they do have a good lifespan.

They live longer than some than other types of domestic rodents such as mice, rats, hamsters and gerbils. But not as long as others such as Degu and Chinchillas.

Mice: 1-2 years

Rats 1-2 years

Hamsters: 2-4 years

Degu: 6-8 years

Gerbils: 2-4 years

Chinchillas: 15-20 years

However, these are nothing compared to the longest living rodent which is the Naked Mole Rat which can live for up to 31 years.


How long do Guinea Pigs live for?

Guinea Pig live span is on average five years but they tend to live between 4-8 years. Some however, have been known to live for longer.

The oldest guinea pig on record lived up to 15 years old. You can read more about Sweeties here

An average age for a female breeding guinea pig is 3.5 years.

Does guinea pig lifespan vary depending on variety of guinea pig?

It depends on how vulnerable they are. The more vulnerable the guinea pig, the increased chance it has to die because it is not looked after well.

Hairless guinea pigs are most at risk. This is because they are extremily vulnerable to temperature changes because of they do not have the fur to protect them from cold temperatures. They need to be kept in specific conditions which are well suited to them. They are also vulnerable to injuries and infections because of their lack of fur. Their exposed skin means they don’t have the protection for their skin.

There are two types of hairless guinea pigs, the Skinny guinea pig and the Baldwin guinea pig.

Long haired cavies can be at risk if they are not treated well. You may not think they are vulnerable and are more hardy than most varieties of guinea pig, however their long hair can cause them problems if it is not maintained well. It is common for them to get fecies and other wanted particles stuck in their hair and if they aren’t brushed and washed on a regular basis, they can become ill. Long haired cavies include, the Abyssinian guinea pig, the Coronet guinea pig, Silkie guinea pig, and the Peruvian guinea pig.

Short haired cavies are the most hardy of the all varieties. Of all the varieties of guinea pig, these cavies are able to withstand most temperatures apart from extreme hot or freezing conditions. They don’t require as much care as long haired or hairless varieties and can live either inside or outside as long as temperatures are right.

What happens to a guinea pig in old age?

As with all animals, guinea pigs die of old age. There are some noticeable signs that a guinea pig is getting old;

  1. They will slow down in their movements. You may notice that their toes thicken and twist outwardly as they get older which will make it more painful for them to walk around.
  2. They wont be as playful as they once would have been
  3. Their fur begins to grey, particularly around their facial features.
  4. They may sleep much more.

They may need extra care and more help during this time so do watch them carefully

This the natural way for a guinea pig to pass away but there are things that can shorten their natural life span and prevent the guinea pig from living its natural life.

What will lessen a Guinea Pig’s life span?

Diseases and disorders.

There are many different diseases and disorders which a guinea pig can get. For this section I am grateful for The Merck Manual which lists in detail the diseases and disorders of Guinea pigs.

  • Diarrhea
  • Dental disease
  • Eye and ear disorders such as conjunctivitis
  • Nutritional disorders such as vitamin C deficiency and appetite loss.
  • Metabolic disorders such as hardening of the organs, calcium deficiency and pregnancy toxemia.
  • Lung and Airway disorders such as Pneumonia, Bordetella bronchisepta Infection, Streptococcosis, and Adenovirus Infection.
  • Reproductive disorders such as Ovarian cysts, Mastitis, Bordetellabacteria, Bordetellabacteria, and Dystocia
  • Skin disorders such as fur Mites, Lice, Ringworm, Barbering, and Pododermatitis (Bumblefoot)
  • Disorders affecting multiple body systems such as Enlarged Lymph Nodes (“Lumps” or Lymphadenitis)
  • Cancers and tumors such as trichoepitheliomas and Lymphosarcoma


Ill treatment

Unfortunately, the world is littered with stories of guinea pigs being ill treated. The bottom-line is that if they are not treated well, they stand a good chance of living longer. When they are not fed and watered well, kept in good conditions, and any afflictions are not given appropriate veterinary care, they will suffer.

Another common way of not treating a guinea pig well is to keep it on its own.  When they are on their own they will suffer from loneliness and the sadness that they feel when alone can potentially be enough to kill them eventually.


Damp and moist environments are dangerous to guinea pigs. They can cause a number of issues for them such as an upper respiratory infection and ring worm. Symptoms of upper respiratory infection are watery eyes, nasal discharge, wheezing, coughing and sneezing.

This is why its not a good idea to leave a guinea pig out on grass or in rainy conditions.

Extreme temperatures

The best temperatures for a guinea pig to live in is between 10 – 30 degrees celcius. If temperatures fall below or above that window of temperature then it wont do them any good. They are hardy creatures who can withstand cold and hot conditions, but they wont benefit from it.


Not feeding a guinea pig well can obviously not be of benefit to them. Choosing the wrong foods, irregular feeding, foods that dont have good levels of vitamin c can all do them harm.

How can I help my guinea pig live longer?

In order to help a guinea pig live a bit longer, preventing health issues is essential. This is not an exhaustive list. In essence, this site is all about how to keep a guinea pig living longer so do read other articles on the site, but here is a list of essential activities.

  • Its important that they have access to clean water
  • That their bedding materials are good quality and don’t irritate them.
  • That they have a consistent diet that does not change sporadically.
  • That they live in an environment, of stable temperature, that is cleaned on a regular basis.
  • They have a good area to exercise.
  • That they have good company
  • Help it to enjoy its life
  • Good veterinary care



Why Do Guinea Pigs Squeak?

When you hear guinea pigs squeaking or whistling, what you are hearing is the natural way for guinea pigs to communicate.

Amongst guinea pig owners, the term used is ‘wheaking’.

They will wheak to both other guinea pigs and humans as a way of communicating what they want or even as an expression of excitement.

Once they get to know you, you will often hear them wheaking, demanding your attention for food.

You may also notice them communicating like this to each other if you have guinea pigs together. Often they will communicate like this when it comes to matters of food or when playing or squabbling over something.

In the wild, they may use it to seek one another out or find a herd.

It is nothing to be wary of, and if they are wheaking at you, it is a sign of familiarity.

My guinea pigs know the sound of my footsteps and even before I have come into sight, they know I am coming and they start wheaking away and I know they are wanting to be fed.

This proves them to be quite intelligent and intuitive animals.

But as a guinea pig owner it is one of the most delightful sounds you could hear.

how do guinea pigs show affection

How Do Guinea Pigs Show Affection?

One of the wonderful things about guinea pigs is that can they be very affectionate animals.

Of course, just like humans, if they are raised in an affectionate household, they will be affectionate animals.

Some guinea pigs aren’t like this, or take a while to respond to you. But on the whole if you give them affection, mostly they will respond to you in a similar way.

So if you are getting to know your guinea pig, how can you tell if your guinea pig is being affectionate of not?

image wikipedia

Here are 8 ways that guinea pigs can show affection.

1. Nuzzling – sometimes when you are holding them they may look to nuzzle their head against your hands or if you hold it up close, possibly under your neck. Lots of animals do this most notably cats. But guinea pigs are very good nuzzlers too!

2. Purring – if you are holding your guinea pig gently and stroking it, you may hear your guinea pig purr. When they do this they sound like a quiet cat purr or a pigeon (thanks @LauraGrahamLG :)). It is very soothing to hear and it’s a great sign that your guinea pig feels relaxed.

3. Squealing – if your guinea pig is excited at something they may let out a squeal of delight to let you know how happy they are.

Of course do check that they are not squealing in pain but it’s a funny sound to hear but quite delightful at the same time. It also means, I need food now!! 🙂

4. Popcorning – if they are really excited, they may popcorn which is when the leap up in the air. This is a terrific sight to see and is a great sign that they are really pleased about something.

5. Grooming other piggies – Often when piggies live with each other you may see the grooming each other by licking each other or brushing their heads against the others body.

This is a sign of affection towards each other.

6. Licking – talking of licking, if you are holding one and it happens to lick you then this a good sign that your piggie is being affectionate.

If it goes to lick your nose that is apparently even better, but it hasn’t happened to me yet!

7. Chortling – Personally I love this sound. It makes me smile and one of the many many reasons why guinea pigs are just the cutest animals alive!

Sounds a bit like a small chipmonk, but its a realy sound of happiness and contentedness.

8. Kisses – Now this is a real show of affection.

When they don’t gnaw your hand off because they think its food, and stop short of licking it and its not quite a sniff either.

But they put their mouth’s up to your skin and give you a little kiss. Its very cute, and if you get one of these, you are in the piggie’s good books!!

These are some of the ways I’ve seen my guinea pigs be affectionate, I’m sure there are more out there. If you know of any more then let us know in the comments.

can guinea pigs overeat

Should guinea pigs be bought in pairs?

Often when one buys a guinea pig at first, it is bought on it own. This is not surprising as it can often be a daunting thing getting a guinea pig for the first time and you wouldn’t want to be overwhelmed by it having not had one before.

image wikipedia

Why people often just get one guinea pig

This gives one the chance to try out owning a guinea pig and to try it out without having the burden of having too many to look after all at once as a total novice to owning a guinea pig.

However, you may find that the guinea pig gets very lonely after a while. This is because they are herd animals and meant to live in groups. They are most comfortable living with other guinea pigs and love to spend time in the company of others.

Why not try a pair of piggies?

This is why the ideal situation is to buy more than one guinea pig.

You could buy a pair of guinea pigs which really are not much more harder than just buying one guinea pig.

Two guinea pigs doesn’t necessarily mean much more work than one

The great thing about owning guinea pigs is that they are not high maintenance at all.

Yes, their cages need spot cleaning on a daily basis and a thorough deep clean on a weekly basis but aside from feeding them and cuddling them they don’t need much more than that.

If you do not have so much time on your hands, especially if you work during the day, you will find that you don’t have that much time to spend with your guinea pigs.
Because of this they do need company.

By having a pair of guinea pigs together, they can keep each other company and talk to each other. It means that they wont get lonely at all and will be much more lively.

I’ve had a lone guinea pig before. It’s a sad sight as you can tell that they are lonely and sad, and mine immediately perked up when another guinea pig arrived to keep it company.

Why two guinea pigs is better than one

So if you are thinking of getting guinea pigs, do consider getting a pair of guinea pigs instead of just the one piggy.

It will mean that they have much more fun, are less lonely and live in the way they like to live.

guinea pigs purr

Why do Guinea Pigs Purr?

You may have had a situation where you are holding a guinea pig and they are laid out on you and suddenly they begin to purr.

A bit weird don’t you think, surely only cats purr, not guinea pigs right??

Nope, guinea pigs purr too.

Actually, it’s a great sign.

Why do guinea pigs purr?

It’s a sign that your guinea pig is feeling relaxed and calm.

It’s a sign that they are at peace and are comfortable in their surroundings.

They may even close their eyes which is probably the ultimate sign that a guinea pig feels at ease in the environment.

When guinea pigs are purring it is a great sign and you should be pleased that they feel so at ease as they are naturally very cautious creatures and quite jumpy most of the time.

This is because they are always on their guard against predators being prey animals that they are.

So if your guinea pig begins to purr whilst you are holding it, be pleased that it feels comfortable in its surroundings.

It is a sign that you are doing the right things with regards to looking after your guinea pig.

can guinea pigs eat their own pooop

How Do Guinea Pigs Protect Themselves?

As natural prey animals, guinea pigs are very used to protecting themselves against the danger of predators that may look to come into their vicinity. This is how they keep themselves from harm and ensure they stay alive in the wild.

Here are 7 ways that they look to protect themselves when presented with danger.

how do guinea pigs protect themselves1. Travel in herds.

Guinea pigs are natural herd animals and will look to go around together rather than stay together.

They much prefer the company of others and will use each other to protect themselves.

When in the wild, they will for example take turns in looking out for danger and will call to the others when it senses danger coming.

2. They can sleep with their eyes open.

As well as sleeping with their eyes closed, guinea pigs have the remarkable ability to sleep with their eyes open.

This keeps them able to sense danger and act immediately.

They will do this often in places where they are unsure of.

If you see them sleep with their eyes closed, this means that they are absolutely sure that there is no apparent danger around and feel secure enough to relax.

3. They are very quick and agile.

When they want to be, guinea pigs can get out of danger very quickly with their quickness.

By using their agility they can out run and out-wit potential predators.

4. They can hide.

Guinea pigs are very good at hiding and seeking shelter.

They will always retreat to cover if they can if they sense danger.

This may mean that they seek out appropriate safe places at first when they come into a new territory.

5. Staying very still.

If they have no where to hide, they will often just freeze on the spot staying very still as a way of becoming less noticed to predators. It’s quite strange to see this happen, but it does work for them at times. It’s a last resort though for them.

It will also be a sign to other guinea pigs in the herd that they sense danger around.

6. Biting their predators.

If they are being attacked, they will look to fight back in self defence and will often bite back.

You may see this if for example you place two male guinea pigs in a cage together for the first time.

I’ve seen this happen and the other one will let out a yelp. At this point it’s time to separate the two piggies. But they can use it if they come up against other animals including humans.

7. Using their claws.

As well as biting, if guinea pigs are attacked, they will often retaliate using their claws to protect themselves. I have only occasionally seen this, and it doesn’t happen often. It’s one of those ways of defending themselves that they will only use if they have to.

In conclusion

Even though they often use these ways of protecting themselves in the wild, they will often use them in a domestic environment so do use them to try and and understand your piggies a little better and so with that sense how they’re feeling about a situation.