If we asked you to think of something even cuter than your favorite fluffball, you’d probably be hard-pressed to come up with an answer. Well, we hate to break it to you, but we may just have found a new contender for the cuteness crown, and that is your cavy in miniature form: the heart-melting baby piggy!
When your pregnant pig gives birth, you might be slightly alarmed to see these little piggies enter the world so perfectly formed. But we promise, it’s really nothing to worry about! Baby guinea pigs are precocial, which basically means that they are born more mature than other animals.
Despite their obvious headstart, guinea pig babies (also known as “pups”) are still tiny and winsome. And like with any helpless infant, they are naturally going to rely on you for some particularly special TLC to make sure they get the best possible start in life.
From their first 24 hours to their first words (piggies start vocalizing after just 2 weeks), there’s a lot that happens in a short space of time for a baby piggy. So before you go ahead and decide to breed or adopt, it’s essential to ensure you’re fully equipped with all the information you need.
This is an exciting yet understandably nerve-wracking time as a piggy parent, so we’ve got all your pressing questions covered. In this article, we’ll give you the low-down on everything you need to know about caring for pups - whether it’s feeding, identifying the sex, socialization, and much more!
Baby Guinea Pigs: 5 Important Things You Need to Know
1. What does a baby guinea pig look like?
Newly born guinea pigs look surprisingly… well, guinea pig-like. Unlike their hamster cousins who start life hairless and sightless, piggies are already relatively well-developed at birth.
These teeny bundles of joy start their lives with a full body of hair, eyes wide open, and 20 perfectly formed little teeth. As soon as they’re born, they’re ready and raring to go! Before you can so much as blink, they’re incredibly scampering around their cage with full motor function.
A newborn pig weighs in at 70-115 grams - exactly like 6 segments of clementine or 2 boiled eggs, if you’re wondering. Pups range in size but they typically measure between 3-5 inches, although they definitely still need to grow into their slightly outsized head and paws at this point. As a general rule of thumb, pups from smaller litters tend to be bigger than pups from larger litters.
It’s all too adorable, we know!
2. How many pups can a guinea pig have per litter?
It makes sense that guinea pigs arrive in the world so fully formed when you consider that a typical piggy litter consists of just 2-4 pups. This is a much smaller offspring than some of their rodent pals. For example, a hamster’s typical litter size is 6-12 furbabies!
3. How long do baby guinea pigs stay with their mothers?
All mammals nurse their young, and guinea pigs are no exception. So it’s important to keep all pups with their mothers for the first few weeks of their life. This ensures that they get the right nutrition they need to grow and develop into happy, healthy piggies, as well as learn how to socialize and behave with other cavies.
The earliest point that a pup stops nursing from their mother is around 3 weeks of age but generally, they can take up to 6 weeks to be fully weaned off their mother’s milk. After this, it’s a natural transition to a complete adult piggy diet.
This timeline may seem staggeringly short compared to other mammals, but it’s just another way for piggies to show how quickly they reach maturity and can’t wait to join the adult cavies with their popcorning. In just 6 to 7 weeks, a piggy becomes independent, self-reliant, and ready to take on the world. This is also around the time that a responsible breeder would wave the baby cavies off to their furever homes.
4. How to determine the sex of your baby guinea pig
Naming your furry babies can be difficult when you’re not sure if you’re talking to Norman or Nellie, we totally get it! Identifying the gender of your piggy is probably one of the first things you’re dying to establish. But we must warn you - it’s not the easiest of tasks!
Determining the sex of any baby rodent is famously tricky so it’s better to leave it to your cavy-savvy vet or a piggy expert. They should be able to help you suss out once and for all which of your pups are male and which of your pups are female.
However, if you’d still like to give it a go yourself, then try the below:
- Carefully pick your pup up and lay them gently on their back (they might be fretting a bit at this point, so don’t keep them in this position too long or they’ll get fidgety!).
- Examine the genital region closely.
- You should be able to identify a girl thanks to the Y-shaped opening close to her anus.
- Boy piggies, on the other hand, have a donut-shaped genital opening in front of the anus (a little bit further away than that of the female).
- If you’re still not sure, run a finger carefully over the genitalia and you should be able to feel the shaft of their penis under the skin. Obviously, you won’t feel anything there if it's a girl!
5. How to separate males from females
As we’ve discussed, baby guinea pigs reach adulthood early in life, and that includes becoming sexually mature from as early as 3 weeks of age. So if you’ve been keeping your guy and gal pups in the same cage up to this point, you’ll want to separate them into different cages.
Should males and females be separated?
Keeping the boys with the girls is likely to lead to teen pregnancies so we strongly recommend separating them as soon as they reach sexual maturity. You’ll want to move the young boars (male pups) into a different cage from their sisters and mothers at around 3-4 weeks of age.
You may be thinking at this point ‘the more the merrier!’, but be careful what you wish for! You probably already have your hands full giving the necessary time and attention to your current litter. It’s also dangerous to breed within the same litter as it can cause congenital disorders in their offspring.
The weaning process
It’s amazing how quickly your furbaby will start enthusiastically nibbling on solid food (usually within a mere day or two of being born!). While this might trick you into thinking they are ready to leave their mother’s milk behind, baby piggies actually continue to be heavily dependent on it regardless of how much they already enjoy the hay and veggies.
Mother guinea pigs tend to nurse their babies for about 3-4 weeks. But if they weigh enough, piggies can be separated and weaned from as young as 2 weeks old. Generally speaking, it’s only safe to do so once they reach 150g or more in weight.
Signs That Baby Guinea Pigs Have Been Neglected From Their Mother
First things first: don’t be too quick to jump to the conclusion that your mommy guinea pig is neglecting her pups. She might not fuss over her babies as much as a hooman mother might, but you shouldn’t take this as hard evidence that you need to intervene. Piggy moms only feed their babies a few times a day and otherwise have a fairly hands-off parenting style. In other words, pups are free to roam and explore as much as they please!
However, if anything feels off and the mom appears weirdly standoffish with her babies, then make sure to check the condition of these sweet pups. Here are some signs that may indicate that a mother isn’t properly taking care of her baby pigs:
- The pups feel cold.
- The pups aren’t moving very much or appear sluggish and lethargic.
- The pups have shrunken bellies.
If you’re concerned and it seems clear that your mother pig needs some help looking after her babies, then you should take action and use formula to start feeding them yourself.
How to Take Care of Your Baby Guinea Pig?
Cage & bedding
Before you bring your new pup (or pups!) home, you’ll want to make sure that you’ve ticked off all the necessary equipment and supplies required to safely house your furbabies. This will provide them with the perfect environment to grow up fit and healthy.
When your pup is so small, it may be tempting to opt for a cage that caters to their current needs, often encouraged by pet stores that sell guinea pig cages on the smaller side. However, we’d advise some forward planning at this early stage to ensure you start with the right size cage from the get-go.
It may feel like your pup is rattling around like a pea in a big pod to start with, but you’ll be surprised by how quickly they grow! Within a couple of months, a cage that once looked roomy will suddenly be on the pokey side for your poor cramped piggy. Plus, any extra space that your pup does have to start with can be eagerly scouted, roamed, and explored!
The Humane Society recommends that guinea pigs be kept in cages no smaller than 7.5 square feet. Here at Kavee, we have a wide selection of cavy cages that are designed with your little pig’s long-term spatial needs in mind, so you can purchase your new piggy’s palace with confidence.
When you put pups in an adult-sized cage, you’ll need to keep an eye on your little Houdinis! If you think it’s a distinct possibility that these escape artists could squeeze through the bars, then you can prevent this in a couple of ways:
- Make sure that the tray at the bottom of the cage is so deep that they can’t reach the bars (or purchase a deeper pan for use during this time).
- You can buy gridding with smaller spacing that you can fix onto the current bars until they’ve grown.
Once your cage is set up, remember that keeping it clean is a neverending job! You’ll want to change your pup’s bedding regularly and give the cage a deep clean at least once a week. This minimizes the risk of respiratory membrane irritations, as well as other nasty infections.
You’ll want to keep your mucky pup clean and regularly toileted, but it’s not advisable to bathe them until they are at least 8 weeks old.
It may sound a bit strange, but baby piggies need the stimulation of their mother’s grooming tongue on their bellies and genital region in order to be able to go for a wee or a poop in their infancy. This is a natural behavior for a mom and pup, but bear in mind that you may need to help your little piggy go to the toilet if their mother is absent.
You can do this by using a moistened cotton ball or bud. Gently tap or rub your pup’s urogenital area until they are relieved.
Diet of baby guinea pigs
What do baby guinea pigs eat & drink?
Catering properly for your baby piggy’s diet ensures they stay happy and healthy, and the right nutrients are exactly what will help them develop into strong, robust adults.
You should give your pup access to fresh, clean drinking water at all times. To do this, make sure that your tiny pig isn’t struggling to reach and sip from the inverted water bottle on the inside of their cage. You might have to use a second water bottle for your pup’s mother if the lowered one is uncomfortable for her.
Amazingly, your newly born pup will be able to munch on solid food just a few hours after birth. A plentiful supply of fresh hay is the most important part of a guinea pig’s diet, and this can be combined with some fresh fruit and veggies (just make sure to cut it up for them!). Just don’t forget to check the recommended serving sizes and whether any of the foods you choose are good for their delicate tummies!
How much to feed baby guinea pigs
You should allow pups to nibble on fresh hay to their heart’s content, so make sure that it is always readily available and regularly topped up. You’ll also want to supplement hay with alfalfa when your piggy is under 6 months old to help them grow.
How to feed baby guinea pigs
Your baby piggy will begin to eat like an adult within 24 hours of being born, which means a lot of curious nibbling on grass, hay, pellets, and fresh produce. Remember that they’ll also need a diet rich in additional calcium during their first few weeks.
Feed your pups twice a day by providing small amounts of food in a sturdy bowl, and remove any leftover food at the end of the day to ensure it doesn’t go bad. We don’t want any upset tummies!
During these first few weeks, it’s a good idea to expose your pup to a variety of foods. This enriches their diet and also gives their sensitive stomachs time to adapt to new meals in a controlled way.
Medical care for baby guinea pigs
If you’re following all of the advice in this article, your pup has the best chance of growing into a well-developed little cavy. But even when providing the best possible care, you should keep an eye on your precious furball for any signs of sickness.
Pups are susceptible to a variety of different diseases like heat stress, foot pad infections, and even pneumonia. Guinea pigs are also unable to produce their own Vitamin C, which can commonly lead to the onset of scurvy, so make sure you provide them with plenty of fresh foods that contain this nutrient.
Keep a watchful eye on your pups, and if you notice anything unusual, it’s always best to get them checked out as quickly as you can by your local cavy-savvy vet.
Baby guinea pigs and toys
Guinea pigs are curious and playful animals, and little piggies are no exception! These cheeky rascals love nothing more than exploring and nibbling, so make sure to provide a stimulating environment that will keep them entertained for hours on end!
You’ll want to incorporate ramps, tunnels, chew toys, and hidey holes in their cage for them to enjoy. You can even make the most of free DIY options. For example, a used cardboard kitchen roll tube or an empty shoebox can provide plenty of joyful playtime!
Oh, and remember that pups can’t resist getting their teeth into anything and everything in sight, so make sure there’s nothing that could cause them harm in their immediate surroundings (or just anything you don’t want little teeth marks on!).
How to Tame Your Baby Guinea Pig
You’ll be itching to get to know everything about your little pig from day one - from their individual quirks to how they express their emerging personality. It’s also important to get pally with your furry friend so that you know their normal routines and can spot any changes in their behavior quickly and effectively.
Importance of socializing your baby guinea pig
Whilst you might want all the attention from your baby piggies, it’s super important that they spend the majority of their time with their mom and other pups in the litter during their first couple of weeks. This is a key time for them to learn how to bond and how to behave in a herd.
A socialized piggy is a happy piggy. To make sure your pups grow into confident cavies, don’t overlook this vital phase.
Why is it important to handle your baby guinea pig as often as possible?
You’ll want to start handling your baby pups early and often so that they’re at ease with being cuddled and groomed by their piggy parents. If you have a long-haired breed like a Peruvian or an Abyssinian cavy, it’s even more crucial to get them used to brushing from an early age as it will become a big part of their regular routines!
Your little floof might be a bit nervous at first, but once they come to associate handling with TLC, they’ll likely love nothing more than the opportunity of a pamper session with their favorite hoomans.
How to handle your baby guinea pigs
In the beginning, you should only hold your pup for short spells. This means that they can get used to this strange (yet surprisingly enjoyable) behavior. If your baby piggy gets wriggly and fidgety when you’re handling them, then you should gently return them to their cage. Also, take care not to remove them from their cage for too long. If they begin to squeal or make any distressed noises when taken away from their mother, you should slowly put them back down.
We’re sure that you would be more than a little annoyed if you were rudely interrupted when napping or eating, so it goes without saying that it's best not to disturb your sleepy, hangry pups during these times. We want them to build positive associations with being held!
When it’s appropriate to do so, you can handle your piggy safely by following the below steps:
- Clean your hands thoroughly before handling your pup to remove any harmful bacteria and eliminate the smells from any other animals in your household that could cause your cavy to fret.
- Soothe your baby pig in a calm and gentle voice.
- Slide one of your hands under their chest, whilst using the other hand to support their bottom. This ensures that you distribute their weight evenly and that your pup is as comfortable as they can be.
- Avoid sudden movements. You should pick up your pig slowly and gently to reduce any unwanted stress.
- Hold your piggy to your chest for as long as they will let you, before returning them carefully to their cage.
Baby Guinea Pigs FAKs - Frequently Asked Kavees
How many babies do guinea pigs have?
Guinea pigs have small litters, typically consisting of 2-4 little furbabies.
Do guinea pigs eat their babies?
It’s a disturbing question, but it is true that mothers can sadly sometimes eat their babies. This is usually due to inexperience or serious malnourishment.
Can you put a baby guinea pig in with an older one?
If you already have an older guinea pig, you can introduce them to the same cage as a pup. Just make sure to keep a close eye on them for the first couple of hours to make sure they’re getting on okay. Piggies are social creatures so fingers crossed that they can become the best of cavy friends!
Do baby guinea pigs need to be kept warm?
If you have 2 baby guinea pigs or more, they’ll naturally huddle together to share body heat and stay toasty. However, if there’s only one pup, then you can pop a warm bottle in their cage or a heat pack wrapped in a soft towel to keep them warm. Place this where your piggy can escape to cool down if needed!
When are baby guinea pigs weaned?
Pups are weaned anywhere between 3-6 weeks. This varies between furbabies, but typically depends on a few factors: the pup’s weight, their mom’s milk supply, and the number of other siblings in the litter.
Should male and female baby guinea pigs be separated?
Yes! Once pups reach sexual maturity (around 3 weeks after birth), you’ll want to separate the males and females to prevent any unwanted pregnancies. Not only will you have your hands full with your current litter of pups, but it isn’t wise to breed siblings as it could lead to congenital disorders.
At what age can baby guinea pigs be re-homed?
Guinea pig babies can typically be re-homed at around the 8-week mark. By this point, they should be fully weaned and eating solid foods well on their own, so they are ready to take the leap of independence into their new family.