Guinea Pigs - Characteristics Of The Common Guinea PigGuinea Pigs - Characteristics Of The Common Guinea Pig

Over the past century, the guinea pig has become a popular pet in the United States. While we are all familiar with this common animal, there are many facts concerning it that are not necessarily common knowledge. Please read along as we discover and discuss some interesting facts about this common and loveable house pet.

The guinea pig has a very delicate bone structure. Because of this, guinea pigs bones break fairly easily. For this reason guinea pigs should be handled carefully and loosely. Never squeeze or hug a guinea pig tightly. Also, one must be very careful to insure that guinea pigs are not dropped from excessive heights nor allowed to jump from high surfaces such as tables, chairs or sofas.

Guinea pigs have a total of 14 toes. Each front paw has four toes and the back feet each have three toes. When guinea pigs walk or run, they do so only on these toes. The entire foot rests on the ground only when the pigs are standing.

Unlike squirrels, mice or many other rodents; when eating, guinea pigs do not sit on their haunches and grip food between their front paws. Their style is to feed more like a horse or a dog - simply standing on all fours and grazing out of a dish, a bowl or from the ground.

In general, guinea pigs are friendly, congenial and peaceful animals. Two females can easily live with each other with little or no conflict. A male and a female nearly always get along very well (although one of the pair should obviously be neutered in order to prevent an in-cage population explosion). Two males, if raised together will also generally make a good pair. However, if a new male is introduced into another male's home, there will most likely be some hostile behavior - at least in the beginning.

Two males in the presence of one or more females are a bad idea. They can become quite aggressive and adversarial toward one another as they compete for the females. In the wild, guinea pigs used to live in packs. The pack's dominant male was the only male allowed to mate with any of the females. This increased the chances of survival of the offspring because it insured that all of the children were descended from the strongest and fittest male available. Although guinea pigs no longer exist in the wild, this holdover behavior can still be observed in our domesticated pigs.

Guinea pigs have a very acute sense of hearing. Like dogs, they are able to hear frequencies or tones above the human range of hearing. Human beings can only hear frequencies up to 20 kHz (vibrations at 20,000 times per second) whereas cavies can hear frequencies as high as 33 kHz.
The guinea pig is very dependent upon its very keen sense of smell. The cavy's sense of smell is one-thousand times more sensitive and discerning than that of a human being.

The guinea pig is an animal that is very common to most of us in the western world. And although it is quite familiar to us as a family pet and as a laboratory animal, there is much information about this little rodent that is not commonly known. I hope that the newly-gained knowledge from this discussion will help you to better understand the actions and behaviors of your own pet guinea pigs as you interact with them on a daily basis.
by Bob Matthews
References and Bibliography
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