Whats the topic for today?

I’m going to talk about the Cavy today

The what?
The Cavy.  Thats the scientific name for the guinea pig

So what can you tell us about guinea pigs.
Well they originally come from the Andes in south America and they can still be found living wild there. They were first domesticated by the Incas who farmed them as a source of food.

H’mm sounds like a real delicacy. How did guinea pigs get their name as I’m sure they cant be related to the pig.
No one knows for sure but they were first introduced into Europe in the 16th century by explorers who allegedly found them on a south American island called dutch Guiana. And because they squeal like a pig when you pick them up they originally got the name guiana pig. The other theory is that they used to be sold at markets for one guinea.

Can you tell us some interesting facts about guinea pigs?
Well they are quite an unusual animal really. Did you know they only have three toes on their back feet for instance.  I think the most interesting thing about them though is how advanced they are when they are born. They are born with teeth and their eyes are open. They are fully haired and can run around when only 3 hours old. And by 2 days old they are already eating solid food.

Wow they grow up fast
They sure do. The female is sexually mature at 4-6 weeks of age.

How long do they live for?
About 5-8 years though the oldest guinea pig ever was 15years old.

Do they make good pets? Do they like living alone or with other guinea pigs?
They make great pets as they rarely bite. They are herd animals in the wild so do like the company of other guinea pigs. In the wild though there is usually one dominant Boar who has all the privaleges and for this reason keeping male guinea pigs together can cause fighting problems.

So male guinea pigs are called boars, just like real pigs?
Yes and the female  is called a sow.  But strangely the babies are called pups.

Any other interesting guinea pig facts?
Well they eat their own droppings, like rabbits.

Why would they want to do that?
Its an essential part of their diet . Guinea pigs produce soft droppings and hard droppings. The soft ones are full of essential B vitamins that they otherwise wouldn’t get in their diet.

Do guinea pigs have many health problems?
One very important one is Scurvy, vitamin C deficiency. Most mammals except humans and guinea pigs can synthesise their own supply of vitamin C. Humans and guinea pigs need a daily supply in our diet. 

So what should people feed their guinea pigs ?
Its important that you feed your guinea pig fresh fruit and vegetables every day as well as pellets made specifically for guinea pigs. Dont just use rabbit pellets as the guinea pig ones are fortified with vitamin C.

Any other health problems
They often get in trouble when having babies and end up needing a ceasarian section.  This is because if they aren’t bred at an early age the bones of their pelvis fuse together and are no longer able to stretch apart  when giving birth.

Whats the best age to breed a guinea pig at?
Firstly I wouldn’t encourage people at all to breed their pet guinea pigs but if they do it should be at 4-7 months of age.  If its later than this they may die during giving birth.

Are guinea pigs easy to treat if they get sick?
They do tend to be very sensitive to certain drugs so you have to be very careful about what medicines to use.
Penicillin for instance is lethal to guinea pigs.

Its sounds like guinea pigs are quite complicated animals really.