March is Adopt a Guinea Pig Month, Learn Some Fun Facts About These Sociable Pets
During March, we celebrate the first day of spring, St. Patrick’s Day, the beginning of later daylight hours, and, most importantly, Adopt a Guinea Pig Month. These family favorite pets are believed to have been first domesticated by the Incas more than 3,000 years ago. Today, there are 13 different breeds, and they have a broad range of coats, from white or red to chocolate brown or black. Regardless of the breed, they’re fun furry additions to the home. They’re even in many shelters, so you could adopt one there. Read on to learn some fun facts about them!
They May Be Smarter Than Their Wild Cousins
The guinea pig’s wild cousins are called cavies. They’re found across South America in a broad range of habitats, and they herd together. A study aimed to determine whether guinea pigs or wild cavies were more clever, finding that the domesticated version performed better on learning speed when tackling a task within a water maze. The researchers said this could be due to an adaptation to a man-made environment that helped them solve the task more efficiently.
They’re a Bit Tricksy
Their intelligence isn’t limited to solving water mazes. They can also master quite a few tricks! Among them are shake, turn in circles, beg, push a ball, and play dead. One guinea pig certainly made sure his competitors’ chances of outperforming him were dead, too. A four-to-five-year-old North Carolina guinea pig named Coco set the world record for most tricks performed by a guinea pig in a minute, with 16! His human actually trained him through a program called Do More with Your Dog! Sounds like those dogs need to do more to keep up with Coco.
They Have a Slam Dunk Champion
Not only do dogs need to do more to keep up with guinea pigs, basketball players do, too. Another world record goes to Hungary-based Molly, who performed the most slam dunks by a guinea pig in 30 seconds, with four! Her human says Molly loves playing basketball, and she can actually do up to eight dunks in 30 seconds during practice sessions. Let’s hope we see her teach the humans a thing or two at the next NBA Slam Dunk Contest
Switzerland Ensures Every Guinea Pig Has a Buddy
Guinea pigs like their buddies, and one country makes sure they always have a buddy around so they don’t get lonely. Switzerland bans pet owners from having solo guinea pigs. This has actually caused a rent-a-guinea pig service to get plenty of business, to help pet owners who may have lost one of their guinea pigs, putting them at odds with the law.
In the wild, they live in larger groups, so you should shoot for a little group, but two will do the trick in your home. They also appreciate your friendship, so be sure to have plenty of buddy time with them yourself.
They Have Their Own Language
When they’re hanging out with those buddies, they have good long chats, or at least, short exchanges of information. Guinea pigs have a variety of vocalizations to communicate with each other. Those include “wheek”, which means they’re pretty stinkin’ excited. They emit a low-pitch purr when they’re content. Even cuter, they coo at each other to provide comfort and show affection. On the opposite end of the spectrum, chattering teeth means they’re annoyed with someone.
They Are Practically Insomniacs
If humans get four hours of sleep a day, we will be a bit cranky. For guinea pigs, though, that’s standard. Guinea pigs are active for up to 20 hours a day, with dawn and dusk the peak of their activity. Pet owners should keep this in mind and make sure they have plenty of food, water, enrichment, space to roam, and company from friends during all these waking hours.
They’re Always Watching…
You used to be concerned that your mom had eyes in the back of her head, due to how easily she caught you when you were misbehaving. For guinea pigs, this is almost true. The position of their eyes and the shape of their heads mean they have 340-degree vision. This allows them to see above and behind themselves, as well as to their sides. Don’t try to sneak anything past them. They’ll know what you’re up to.
Look Out Orville, There’s Some New Popcorn in Town
Guinea pigs show their excitement and eagerness to play by leaping up in the air, sometimes repeatedly. It’s a pretty cute behavior, but it’s even cuter when you learn what it’s called colloquially: popcorning. Just makes you want to pop out and go adopt a few, doesn’t it? If you see this behavior, rest assured, your furry friend is one happy animal.
They Have Some Persistent Chompers
Dental care is important for all of us, and guinea pigs are no different. Their teeth never stop growing, which can lead to trouble eating and ultimately starvation if proper care isn’t taken. To ensure this doesn’t become an issue, it’s very important to provide them ample chewing opportunities to whittle those chompers down. This can be achieved through letting them gnaw on species-appropriate untreated wooden blocks, chew toys, or chew sticks.
You Could Enjoy Up to 10 Years with Them
So how much time can you expect to get with these strong-teethed, social, clever slam dunk champions? On average, you’re looking at five or six years, but 10 years is doable for some. Currently, the record for longest lived guinea pig is 14 years and 10.5 months, accomplished by UK-based Snowball. This sweetheart died on Valentine’s Day in 1979.
To get the most out of your time with your furry friend, be sure to understand their care needs and get them to the vet annually.
Would you like to help some guinea pigs in shelters stay healthy and happy? Find out how you can do so here!
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