American Guinea Pig – Complete care guide

Last Updated : June 5, 2024
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American Guinea Pigs are one of the most popular Guinea Pig breeds.

This breed is iconic because it’s the standard pig that enjoys worldwide appeal. Hardly surprising considering it’s the oldest guinea pig breed, with a timeless, special place in the hearts of hobbyists and breeders alike.

Images and videos across the web that feature guinea pigs will, most commonly, feature the American Guinea Pig breed.

So perhaps you’re looking for a guinea pig that’s affectionate and easy to care for? Read on to learn what you need to know about the most popular breed of them all – the American guinea pig!

American Guinea Pig History

American – Literally? Well, not strictly speaking.

The origin of the name is likely derived from the continent they hail from – South America – but they can be named dependent on the country, for example, the English guinea pig.

That said, the usual name is the American guinea pig so we’ll stick with that.

They share several characteristics including social habits and dusk/dawn activity. Our playful and goofy critters were a staple diet across the Andean highlands. Countries including Peru and Ecuador still farm and eat them, while guinea pigs retain their regional importance in mythology and medicine.

When European traders returned home from their mercantile travels, they brought guinea pigs with them and the little critters soon became firm fixtures as beloved pets.

The oldest recorded guinea pig in England dates to Elizabethan times.

the American Guinea Pig is a founder member b being is one of the oldest known breeds, and one of the founding member breeds of the ARBA/ACBA boards.

American Guinea Pig Taxonomy and Classification

The guinea pigs we keep as pets today belong to the genus Cavia porcellus, which doesn’t occur naturally in wild habitats. It’s probably their wild cousins, Cavia tschudii, that our cute pets originate from.

It is widely recognized that the American Guinea Pig breed is a descendant of the South American Tschudi Guinea Pig breed.

American Guinea Pig Habitat

The domesticated pets are slightly removed from the original guinea pig cousins still found in the wild of South America. In the wild, the distant relatives of the American Guinea Pig will happily live in a variety of environments, from mountain grasslands and savannas to forests and bush.

American Guinea Pig Appearance

The American guinea pig has a stocky, solid look to it – no fancy rosettes or long hair, just a standard furry critter with tons of charm.

The hair is short and sleek, with little ear flaps that add to the cuddly effect.

Like all Guinea Pig breeds, the American Guinea pig is considered tailless but does in fact and a small stumpy tail that is hidden beneath its fur.

American Guinea Pig
Close up of a tri-color American guinea pig


They grow up to 10 inches on average, although some will be smaller/bigger depending on the individual, somewhere between the 8-12 inch range.

Weight can be between 1-3lbs, again halfway at around 2lbs being the average. Male guinea pigs will typically weigh more than female Guinea Pigs.

American Guinea Pig Colors

There are reportedly 19 different colors of American Guinea pig. They can either have a solid color fur or a mix of patches and patterns. They’re classified by the American Cavy Breeders Association (ACBA) in 5 categories. Aguti, self-marked, solid, and tan. The actual colors range from solid white to black, with a common variety being beige/brown or tan in color. There are many different combinations that makes them very unique!

American Guinea Pig classic colors
American Guinea Pig

American Guinea Pig Temperament and personality

The American Guinea Pig breed has such a friendly disposition it seems it was made for new hobbyists, kids, and adults – that’s everyone, in other words!

The term ‘clownish’ is often applied to these guinea pigs because of their antics when at play. The American guinea pig has a very confident temperament, making it a universally popular pet. It’s a rare one that nips fingers, and invariably appreciates plenty of human interaction, fun, and exercise.

This breed is comfortable being handled – just add patience and gentleness and you’ll make a fast friend. Like most guinea pigs, the breed does well in same-sex pairings or small groups. If you’re getting a lone pet, you’ll need to have plenty of play time to keep your critter mentally stimulated.

Taming American Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs are far more comfortable and are social and don’t need much taming. They may need time to adapt and get settled down to new surroundings. Avoid noisy sounds which can intimidate them, and ensure they are comfortable in their living quarters.

Regular handling of your pet can help build a bond, not to mention the provision of their favorite snack or toy will help gain familiarity. Guinea pig sounds are a good way of understanding what your pet likes, and what she doesn’t!

American Guinea Pig Lifespan

American Guinea Pigs live for around 8-10 years if cared for correctly. This is much the same as the average lifespan of other Guinea Pig breeds.

Caring for your Guinea pig in the correct way will help to avoid any health conditions, which could reduce the life expectancy of your pet.

Feeding him the correct foods, ensuring living conditions are suitable and kept clean, and making regular health checkups are all essential to providing your Guinea pig with the best quality of life possible.


As the breed is generally long-lived – a lengthy commitment to your pet, even low-maintenance ones like the American, is required.

They’re suitable for even the busiest lifestyles but it’s recommended that you get a same-sex pairing for company, if you’re out at work for instance.

As the American guinea pig is short-haired, hair care is easy – you’ll still need to brush lightly each week for removing detritus to maintain condition.

When you’re doing the weekly buffing, take the opportunity to check for any possible issues – make sure all is okay with your eyes, ears, skin, and bum! If you’ve any concerns, consult with a vet and also ensure your critter’s nails don’t get overlong while you’re at it.

Can American Guinea Pigs live together?

Guinea pigs are social creatures and enjoy the company of a small group. Same-sex pairs are a great match if you don’t want to have baby Guinea pigs! It’s advisable to get males neutered should you be keeping more than one Male together. They can become territorial and aggressive towards each other if not.

If you are getting a single Guinea Pig, then you should stop to consider getting two Guinea Pigs, as they will be much happier together.

If adopting a Guinea pig, it’s advisable to find out their previous living conditions if possible.

If your new pet is used to its own space, then a sudden change to living with other Guinea pigs can be stressful and cause health issues.

Vice versa, if your new addition is used to living with others, then solitary confinement may be very stressful indeed!

American Guinea Pig - Complete care guide
Guinea Pigs enjoy living in small groups!

What does an American Guinea Pig eat?

The American guinea pig doesn’t differ from most other Guinea Pig breeds as far as diet goes. It’s vital they’re kept hydrated so provide fresh water daily – a bowl or drip-feeder are both fine. Opt for good quality proprietary guinea pig pellets – fortified with essential Vitamin C – balanced with small pieces of leafy vegetables, plus carrots and some fruits.

The guinea pigs’ diet is mainly grass. Their molars are especially suitable for milling plant matter and grow constantly throughout their lives.

Guinea pigs also consume particular soft pellets called cecotropes (these are basically Cavy poop!), which recycle B vitamins, fiber, and bacteria necessary for proper digestion.

Guinea Pigs are grazers and should be provided with a constant source of hay to chew. without this, bad habits can develop such as chewing hair or body parts!

A constant supply of hay is generally recommended as Guinea pigs feed continuously and may develop bad habits when food is not present, for example chewing on hair.

Some plants are poisonous to Guinea pigs such as bryony buttercup bryryony charryony and nightshade. It’s always best the check what to feed your Guinea Pig prior to introducing new foods to ensure they are not toxic.

American Guinea Pig - Complete care guide
Guinea Pigs are natural grazers


Your guinea pig will not require any additional grooming or bathing.

They will keep themselves clean and do not require brushing due to their short fine hair. The Guinea Pigs’ living conditions should be clean and hygienic which will help them keep themselves clean.

American Guinea pigs are popular with children and first-time owners as their care needs are somewhat less than other longer-haired breeds.

American Guinea Pig - Complete care guide
American Guinea Pigs have short, fine hair so require little grooming


According to the RSPCA, Your guinea pig could stay active for as long as 20 hours a day so having somewhere for them to discover and explore is essential to get the right amount of exercise!

Your pet should be housed in a suitable sized cage, and have ample room for exercise and play. Some owners will have a secure enclosure attached to their living quarters so they can come and go as they please.

Plenty of toys and objects for them to explore also helps to encourage more exercise, and prevent boredom. Keeping off the extra pounds is essential for your pet to live a long and healthy life!

American Guinea Pigs
Guinea Pigs are very active!


In general, American guinea pigs are robust, healthy little guys – they’re so boisterous, it’s just as well they’re sturdy. Even so, consult a vet if your critter has diarrhea. Dehydration is dangerous to guinea pigs – or any lumps/bumps you’re not sure about.

The vet can then offer diet and health advice according to the needs of your pet.

The American Guinea Pig is susceptible to similar health issues to most other guinea pig breeds. To keep your pet in the best condition it’s important to keep a daily check on them.

But again, our advice is always the same – Any questions or worries, please consult your veterinarian professional.

American Guinea Pig - Complete care guide
Guinea Pigs are very active animals!

Vitamin C deficiency

Like all Guinea Pigs, the American Guinea Pig breed needs to source vitamin C from its diet.

Pellet feed should make up a majority of your pet’s diet. Most good brands on the market contain added vitamin c.

Vegetables and Fruit are also a good way to supplement vitamin C intake.

Vitamin c deficiency in Guinea Pigs can cause poor condition coats and problems with teeth and joints.

Guinea Pig Skin Diseases

Bad hygiene and poor living conditions can result in skin problems for your pet. Whilst these are all treatable, the most important point we can make is that they are AVOIDABLE if you care for your guinea pig in the correct way.

Mites, fleas, and lice all cause itching, so if you notice your pet is scratching more often than normal, especially if accompanied with dry skin or hair loss, then a trip to the vet is in order.

American Guinea Pig

Digestive Issues

Obesity in sedentary pigs is a health concern that can lead to other health complications. Poor diet and a lack of exercise are the main reasons for excessive body weight.

Diarrhea can also cause problems for guinea pigs because of the highly sensitive digestive tract. You should consult a vet if you notice any weight loss or signs of dehydration.


Guinea pigs may get calcium stones in their kidneys or urinary organs. These stones are painful and can lead to damage that may require surgery. The female guinea pig is especially susceptible to infection of the bladder linked to the formation of stones.

Keeping American Guinea Pigs as Pets

If you decide on an American guinea pig, your life will change forever. These happy little souls can’t help but enrich you with their joie de vivre guinea pig style.

These charismatic little fur balls are sure to make a rich addition to your family. They are sure to create many happy memories for years to come!

american guinea pig
American Guinea Pigs make great pets!

In film and television

A guinea pig named Rodney voiced By Chris Rock was a prominent protagonist in the 1997 film Dr. Dolittle.

Linny the Guinea Pig stars alongside Nick Johnson on Wonder Pets.

Pandemic Two: The Startling” features large guinea pigs in their costumes rampaging around the globe.

The 2009 Disney movies G-Force feature a group of highly intelligent Guinea pigs.

A Guinea pig appears prominently in the second season of House of Cards.

A guinea pig serves a small but pivotal role in episodes 3 Series 4 (2017) of Black Mirror.

3 thoughts on “American Guinea Pig – Complete care guide”

  1. Love your articles about guinea pigs. Six months ago I became a guinea pig parent & quickly learned one little piggy needs company of another. I’ve become a guinea pig “helicopter” parent of 9, all of which have been adopted through a guinea pig rescue. I don’t know of any pet I have enjoyed as much.
    Keep up your articles writings…I love reading them.

    • Hi Em, thanks for your kind comment, we hope you are enjoying the site!
      Sounds like you are going to have your hands full, but it is well worth it!

      It is great to hear that you are adopting from a rescue center an giving a loving home to these little piggys!

      all the best


  2. This is the most helpful thing to help me with with my hamster and my guinea pigs


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