How long do Guinea Pigs live? And what you can do to help them live longer

How Long do Guinea pigs live – all you need to know

It’s plain to see why Guinea Pigs are so popular as pets. Not only do they have bundles of character; they also come in a variety of colors and furs. If you’re thinking about keeping a Guinea Pig, one of the main things to think about is how long do Guinea Pigs live for. The average Guniea Pig lifespan ranges from 4 to 8 years – the key word is average because it’s important to take into account factors that can influence the lifespan of a Guinea Pig. We hope the following information will help you get the most from your pet Guinea Pig experience.

Guinea Pig Biology

The Cavy, otherwise known as the Guinea Pig, is native to South America, inhabiting a variety of terrains ranging from mountains to grasslands. They live in burrows they make themselves or in abandoned burrows made by other animals. Guinea pigs are nocturnal feeders; the diet consists of various forms of vegetation.

Like Pigs, The female Guinea Pig is called a Sow, and the Male is called a Boar.

The average weight of the male Guinea Pig is 800-1200g, with the female weight slightly less at around 600-900g

The Guinea Pigs heart rate is around 250 beats per Minute!

Guinea Pigs are a little different to your average rodent pet and grow much bigger compared to Hamsters, Gerbils and Mice. Guinea Pigs will grow to an average size of 10-12inch (25-30cm)

Being a bit lager, and more robust, than their smaller cousins, the Guinea Pig can be expected to outlive a hamster, who should live to around 2-3 years old. In comparison, the life expectancy of a guinea pig is 4-8 years.

The Guinea Pig Lifecycle

A mother and baby guine pig

Newborn guinea pigs are fully haired, have eyes open and teeth starting to show. This is known as precocious (early development)

The typical gestation period of a guinea pig is 65 days, and the sow is normally able to conceive from about 2-3months, at a body weight of approximately 500grams. The average guinea pig litter size is 3-4.

Young will suckle from mother for a couple of days only and will quickly start to feed on solid foods. They’ll then gradually wean themselves with a mixture of mothers milk and solid foods for around 3 weeks.

At that point, it’s important that males are separated from their mothers and sister as they will now be close to sexual maturity. Girls can remain with mum but will be able to survive perfectly happily on their own from 21 days also.

Guinea Pigs grow quickly. At birth, they are around 8-10cm, but by 8 weeks you can expect a healthy piggy to reach double that, 15-20cm. They’ll then continue to grow a bit slower, reaching full size at 14 months.

Breeds

There is not known to be a huge difference in the lifespan of the different breeds of Guinea Pig but there are things to take into consideration, and again we are talking average lifespan here.

How long do Abyssinian guinea pigs live for?

The Abyssinian Guinea Pig can be expected to live for 5-6 years if living in a happy and safe environment. The Abyssinian is known to be excitable, which can cause stress related illnesses if not looked after properly

How long do Peruvian guinea pigs live for?

Again, on average, the Peruvian Guinea Pig will live as long as any other. However, there are difference that can effect the lifespan of this pet.

One is the long hair. Short haired guinea pigs are able to groom themselves, but those with long fur, like the Peruvian or the Silkie, cannot. If the coat is not kept clean and groomed daily, it can become matted which can, in turn, lead to skin problems and infections that can mean a reduced life expectancy.

The long hair can also cause problems for young peruvians tring to get to their mothers milk. This can lead to malnourisment and slow growth in the early weeks of the cavys life.

What is the longest living Guinea Pig

According to the Guinness Book of Records, The oldest known guinea pig was 14 years 10 months old when he died in 1979. His name was Snowball, and he lived in Nottinghamshire, England.

How long do Guinea pigs live for – Some factors affecting Guinea pig life span

We now know that the average Guinea Pig will live to around 4-8 years in captivity. However, there are factors that can extend, or even reduce, the life span of your little buddy.

Guinea Pig Genetics

As with all living creatures, coming from a strong gene pool gives one a very good chance of being fit and healthy. This is no different for Guinea Pigs. If your Guinea Pigs parents and grandparents are strong and long-lived, then there is a very good chance that he or she will live just as long, if cared for correctly.

However, due to the nature of cross and selective breeding patterns in Guinea Pigs, its possible that in certain pedigrees the gene pool is weakened

In the attempt to produce a ‘pure’ a breed as possible, show breeders have been known line -breed (Inbreed) their animals. Examples of this are breeding cousins together, half-siblings together, uncle to niece, and similar.

Inbreeding eventually causes gene realated problems. Characteristics of inbreeding in guinea pigs can include:

  • weaker immune systems
  • smaller size
  • physical deformities
  • decreased fertility
  • decreased overall health

All of which can lead to issues like smaller litters, more infections and increased mortality during birth.

Pet stores have their place in the market and you’re perfectly safe buying a pet from a well known or respected pet store. The chances are with the right care, your little furry friend will live a long and happy life.

However, if you intended to take your guinea pig journey that one step further, maybe showing or breeding, then it is important to know the background of your pet.

Diet and health

Offer a varied, guinea pig friendly diet – variety is the spice of a guinea pig’s life, so giving your buddy interesting foods to try out is paramount to a long and healthy life expectancy.

Provide fresh food daily, using quality foodstuffs to maintain good health. Remember that guinea pigs are grazers, so you need to provide them with quality grass/hay for essential digestive health.

Check out our guide to the best hays for guinea pigs

You can give them grass-based pellets as part of their important Vitamin C intake. As their teeth continuously grow, guinea pigs need to graze on these foodstuffs daily, as well as leafy greens.

Provide fresh water through the day – guinea pigs can become very unwell if dehydrated.

The following are all packed with goodness for you pet, high in vitamin c, and can be fed daily. NB. Any changes to diet should be gradual to avoid upset tummys

  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Carrots

Fruits are also packed full of vitamins, but should be fed less often due to the sugar content. The following are examples of fruits guinea pigs can eat.

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Grapes
  • Oranges

Environment and exercise

Guinea Pigs love to eat, and with all the fresh food and hay you are now going to supply your pet with, it’s important that they get enough exercise to work all those calories off. Obesity can become an issue for Guinea Pigs if they are not encouraged to get enough exercise.

Obesity in Guinea Pigs can lead to all manner of health issues, increased vets bills and a lower quality of life.

As a minimum, you should keep your Guinea Pig in a adaquite sized Hutch/Enclosure. A minimum size would be 7ft square, although we would suggest 10ft square be a good starting point. Of course the bigger the better.

This is large enough for your pet to run around in, do laps, and generally have fun. Toys help encourage this, but it is important not to have too many so that floor space is crowded. Also, where possible, items inside the enclosure should be kept away from the edges, to allow your guinea pig to run freely around the perimeter, which they love to do.

Exercise wheels are not recommended for Guinea Pigs. The exercise, or ‘Hamster Wheel’ is not designed for a guinea pig – Their body shape is not suited for squeezing into these wheels or arching their backs.

Likewise, exercise balls, even if the XL size, should be used with caution as the confined space does not allow for air flow and can cause overheating. And, again, the body of the Guinea Pig is not suited for the spine to be bent backwards. Here at LFP, we are not huge fans of exercise balls for Guinea Pigs.

Guinea Pig in the Grass

Without a doubt, the best way for your pet to get exercise is to roam freely outside of their enclosures.

Whether it’s indoors, or out in the yard, letting your pet have a run around outside the confines of their enclosure is great, not only for exercise but also for their mood.

There are a variety of pens, for both indoors and outdoors, and if possible you should aim for 1 hour a day ‘yard time’

Of course, there are a host of precautions to consider when letting your beloved roam free from the safety of their hutches.

Indoors

  • Make sure doors are shut, especially external
  • Keep an eye on other larger pets, such as Cats or Dogs
  • Make sure there is still a supply of water available
  • Ensure there are no electrical wires within reach
  • Check for gaps and holes that your guinea pig may squeeze into

Outdoors

  • Only when the temperature suits – not too hot or cold
  • Make sure shade is available
  • Ensure there is no way for your pet to escape
  • Again, watch for other animals. It’s wise to remain outside with your guinea pig, unless the enclosure has a roof
  • Provide food and plenty of water
  • If on the grass, make sure there are no poisonous plants or petsicides on the lawn.

Summary

So, How long do guinea pigs live in the wild? The average is up to 4 years. Compare that to around 8 years for a Guinea pig living in captivity.

So, what is the lifespan of a Guinea Pig? Living in the wild is clearly more dangerous and stressful than a nice warm cosy hutch, with plenty of exercise, fresh food and above all, cuddles.

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