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Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions regarding guinea pigs, based on e-mails sent to me and the searches done on this site. If you have any other questions add a new topic in our forums.

Compared with my very active hamster, they seem to lead a very sedentary life. Should my guinea pigs be encouraged to exercise?

Guinea pig called Ginger Guinea pigs are not regularly on the move like hamsters and they certainly do not need an exercise wheel. But they will be quite active at some times of the day if they are given interesting things to do. For example, tunnels, or an 'adventure playground' with tunnels, bricks and thing for them to run on and in and out of without them getting hurt. They do like to lie in the sun and soak up the warmth but they are susceptible to sun stoke.

How long do guinea pigs live?
The lifespan for guinea pigs is between five and eight years, depending on breed, how well it is look after, exercise etc.

How often should my guinea pig's claws be clipped?
Clip the claws as often as necessary. The more frequently a guinea pig can walk/run on a hard surface, the less frequently they will need clipping, as they will wear down themselves. A guinea pig that spends a lot of time on grass or in its hutch will need its claws clipping more often.

I have seen my guinea pigs eating their own droppings. Should I stop them doing this, if so how?
It is normal for a guinea pig to eat their own droppings, known as coprophagy. The guinea pig is not eating its hard droppings but the small, moist droppings, which it takes directly from its anus. It is a bit like cows chewing the cud. The protein content of these droppings is important for the animals' health and you should not stop them doing it. It can't transmit disease.

My guinea pigs have ruined several water bottles by chewing the spouts. What should I do?
If possible buy a bottle with a metal spout, preferably stainless steel, as aluminum is a soft metal and a guinea pig might be able to chew through it. Whatever type of water bottle you have, you must check it regularly to ensure that the water flows freely and always make sure fresh, clean water is supplied. Have a look at GPW's Pet Products page for suitable water bottles.

Why does my guinea pig bite me?
Your guinea pig may bite you for two reasons. Number one is that it might think you are feeding it and nip your finger instead. Or your guinea pig is frightened of you and, biting in self defense - specially new or young pets. You need to try to handle your guinea pig more often and talk to it in a 'soft' tone of voice.

What are other names for guinea pigs?
The Latin name for guinea pigs is 'Cavia porcellus'. They are sometimes referred to as 'cavies' (singular being 'cavy'). The guinea pigs found in the wild in South America are called 'cavia cutleri', see Their History for more information about where guinea pigs are thought to originally come from.

Last updated: Wednesday, 3 November, 2004
© Alexander Pimm 2004