Animal Info - Guinea Pig

Other names: Domestic guinea pig, Cavia porcellus, cavy, domestic cavy

Conservation status: Domesticated


  1. Profile
  2. Tidbits
  3. Status
  4. Data on biology and ecology
  5. References



For rodents, guinea pigs are considered large. The most common pet breeds weigh in at 700 to 1,200 grams (1.5 to 2.6 lb) when adults. They measure between 20 and 25 centimeters (8 to 10 inches) in length. Some breeds live to weigh as much as 3 kg (6.6 lb) when they reach adulthood.

The life span of domestic guinea pigs is between 4 and 5 years, but some are known to have lived to be as old as 8. Guinea pigs have a heart rate of 240 to 250 beats per minute and a respiratory rate of 42 to 105 breaths per minute. The normal body temperature of a guinea pig is 103 degrees F.

The guinea pig is native to South America (Peru, Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil). Guinea pigs inhabit a wide array of terrains ranging from grasslands to mountains. They are gregarious and they live in burrows that they make themselves or in burrows that have been abandoned by other animals. They are nocturnal feeders and their diet consists of different forms of vegetation.


A male guinea pig is called a boar while a female is called a sow.

Guinea pigs are incapable of producing their own vitamin C, so it needs to be supplemented into their own diet.

The oldest guinea pig in the world was 15 years old and is featured in the Guinness Book of Records.


Domesticated guinea pigs are no longer found in the wild. They do, however, have some cousins that go by the same name and that live in the forests, bushy areas, savannas, and mountainous grasslands of South America.

According to the International Union for Conservation of nature, the Brazilian Guinea pig can be found in Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, Guyana, northern Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, as well as Bolivia.

The Moleques do Sul Guinea pig originates from Moleques Island do Sul, a 10.5 hectare (25-acre) island located in Santa Catarina, Brazil.

The shiny Guinea pig can be found in the coastal areas of southeastern Brazil.

The Montane Guinea pig’s natural habitat are northern Chile, Peru, and northwestern Argentina.

The greater Guinea pig can be found in Uruguay and southern Brazil.

At this time, we found no information according to which the Guinea pig might be endangered.


Data on Biology and Ecology

Size and weight

The adult body weight of the guinea pig ranges between 700 to 900 grams (females) and 900 to 1200 grams (males).


As we have mentioned previously, the natural habitat of guinea pigs is mostly in South America - different parts of Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Peru.

Age to maturity

Guinea pigs reach sexual maturity at around 3 to 4 months of age.

Gestation period

Guinea pigs are pregnant for 59 to 72 days.

Birth rate

The medium size of a guinea pig litter is 2 to 4 piglets, but there have been cases reported where a single guinea pig female gave birth to 7 or even 8 piglets. A sow tends to give birth during the night and the delivery usually lasts for about half an hour. Ever piglet is born in its own little amniotic sac, and the mother strips it away and eats it.

Maximum age

The lifespan of the domestic guinea pig is 4 to 8 years.


Guinea pigs have a dietary requirement for vitamin C -- therefore, they should be fed a commercial pelleted diet that is formulated specifically for guinea pigs. Diets in this category are nutritionally complete and do not call for supplementation. If supplements are, however, offered to the pet, they should never consist of more than 15% of the whole diet. Water should be provided ad libitum.


Guinea pigs are capable of learning complex paths to food, and they can even remember a learned path for several months. Their strongest problem-solving strategy has been found to be motion. Guinea pigs startle very easily and they either freeze in place for long periods of time or they run for cover with rapid motions -- whenever they sense there is the possibility of them being in danger. Larger groups of guinea pigs run in haphazard directions in the wild and this is a method of confusing predators.

When they are happy, guinea pigs are known to perform little hops in the air (popcorning). Guinea pigs are excellent swimmers.



Fitzroy Veterinary Hospital; Livescience Guinea Pig Facts; Louisiana Veterinary Medical Association; The Biology of the Guinea Pig, A volume in American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine, Joseph E. Wagner and Patrick J. Manning.

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Last modified: February 26, 2006;

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