Guinea pigs are much more complex than you think! That's why we've put together 21 interesting fun facts that we think will delightfully surprise you and, address some of the most frequently asked questions.
Guinea Pig Fun Fact #1: Do guinea pigs blink?If you’ve ever tried to out-stare your piggy, you’ll know that it can’t be done. In fact, our favorite furry little friends appear permanently wired because their eyes generally remain open, whether they’re bouncing around, munching hay or are even asleep. Don’t forget that they’re prey animals and in the wild, they need to stay alert to stay alive.
However, contrary to popular opinion, guinea pigs do actually have eyelids and they do blink from time to time. They blink so fast that it’s often missed! Shocked? A scientific study titled 'Blinking and associated eye movements in humans, guinea pigs, and rabbits‘, presented that guinea pigs are able to blink much faster than humans and even rabbits. Also, unlike humans and many other mammals such as dogs and cats, guinea pigs don’t have to blink multiple times a minute to keep their eyes healthy. But they do occasionally blink to clear away dirt or dust from inside their eyes or to keep their eyes moist in particularly dry atmospheres. Blinking surprising, isn’t it?!
Guinea Pig Fun Fact #2: Do guinea pigs cry?
Guinea pigs are expressive, sensitive little creatures. But you’ll never find your piggy working their way through a box of tissues after a bad day! Unlike us humans, guinea pigs don’t cry in response to feeling sad.
Guinea pigs show their emotions in other ways. They may make a sort of anguished screaming sound when they’re in pain or frightened, or because one of their piggy pals has pinched that piece of lettuce they were eyeing up. It can be disconcerting to hear and make sure you check in on your piggy if you hear them making this sound.
Also, if you notice that your guinea pig has wet or weepy eyes, it’s worth knowing that these can be indicators for health issues, such as infections or allergies, which may need medical attention.
Guinea Pig Fun Fact #3: Do guinea pigs hibernate?You probably already know that many rodents, including dormice and some types of squirrels, hibernate. This means that they curl up in a cozy spot and sleep during the cold winter months in order to conserve energy and retain heat.
So you may be wondering if guinea pigs do the same. Well, we’re here to tell you that no, your little furry pal will not curl up in their hay and snooze for weeks on end each year.
Guinea pigs don’t hibernate - even in really chilly weather. However, as fairly delicate warm blooded creatures, this means that they need special care when temperatures drop below 59 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Celsius). Guinea pigs are really susceptible to respiratory infections and other health conditions which may be brought on by living in cold, damp conditions. For this reason, make sure that your little one’s cage is warm, dry and comfortable with plenty of bedding for them to snuggle in. Also avoid placing it in the way of cold draughts like open windows or doors.
Guinea Pig Fun Fact #4: Do guinea pigs like being held?
Let’s face it, it’s tempting to cuddle your fluffball non-stop! However, guinea pigs really do like to have their own space and it’s important to give them the opportunity for ‘alone time’ in their cage or run.
Guinea pigs can grow to enjoy being held but, as prey animals, it can be terrifying for them to be picked up. After all, in the wild, the only time a guinea pig would suddenly be grabbed is by a predator intent on eating them. For this reason it’s important not to rush things when it comes to cuddling.
First of all, you must earn your guinea pig’s trust and the only way to do this is by hand-taming them. Sit by their cage and chat quietly to them. Hold out tasty veggie treats and wait patiently. Once they will come to you happily, you can move onto holding them.
Start with short sessions so that your guinea pig gets used to the idea and pop them in a cuddle cup or on a pee pad on your lap so they feel secure. Most piggies enjoy a good scratch behind the ears or on the top of their heads as you feed them some veggies.
For more tips on bonding with your piggy check out our blog article: 20 Ways to Bond with Your Guinea Pig!
Guinea Pig Fun Fact #5: Do guinea pigs need baths?
Guinea pigs are very clean and do a marvelous job of grooming themselves by excreting white liquid from their eyes which they then wipe through their fur using their front paws.
However, it’s important to know that your little furball will need occasional baths. The frequency of bath times depends on whether you have a long-haired or short-haired guinea pig - long-haired lovelies tend to require more personal care. For more tips on how to take care of your long hair piggy, check our blog article: The ultimate guide to caring for long-hair piggies.
But experts recommend that all guinea pigs should have between two to four baths a year.
It’s best to follow your nose here - if your guinea pig starts to smell less than fragrant, it may be time to run a bath.
It’s important to keep guinea pigs clean to avoid their fur becoming soaked in urine or matted and dirty, which can lead to health complications including skin infections and fly strike.
On the flip side, don’t be tempted to overbath your guinea pig as this can strip essential oils from their fur. For tips on bathing your guinea pig, check out this handy step-by-step video by Saskia at LA Guinea Pig Rescue.
Guinea Pig Fun Fact #6: Can guinea pigs watch TV?
If you watch TV whilst enjoying cuddle time with your piggy, your little one may well enjoy relaxing in front of the box as you pet them.
It’s worth knowing that a guinea pig’s eyesight is pretty poor so they won’t be able to see onscreen images particularly clearly. However, they may enjoy some of the lights and movements on the television. Also, as their hearing is much more attuned than their sight, they may well appreciate some of the voices and music. Make sure you don’t have the TV turned up too loud - guinea pigs prefer a quiet, calm atmosphere.
Sadly, they obviously won’t understand the storylines of your favorite show so there’s no point trying to discuss the latest plot twists with them...
For a list of movies staring guinea pigs, be sure to check out our article, Best Fictional Movies and Books about Guinea Pigs.
Guinea Pig Fun Fact #7: Can guinea pigs swim?
Guinea pigs are clever little creatures with very many life skills. For instance, have you seen how quickly they can munch through a gigantic piece of romaine heart lettuce? It’s truly astounding.
However, whilst guinea pigs can swim if they absolutely have to do so, it’s NOT something that is either safe or enjoyable for them. In fact, being forced to swim could actually cause them unnecessary and potentially fatal levels of stress.
Guinea pigs have very poor eyesight with no depth perception. This means that they can’t tell how deep water is. Imagine being plonked into a swimming pool where you can’t see the bottom? That’s exactly how a piggy would feel if it was put in, say, a bath of deep water where they couldn’t rest their feet on the bottom. They would find it utterly terrifying. So keep your piggy on dry land and keep them safe.
Guinea Pig Fun Fact #8: Do guinea pigs vomit?
Unlike many other animals, guinea pigs are unable to throw up food that they’ve eaten. They just don’t have the physical anatomy or the muscle strength to vomit. That’s why it’s really important that you understand which foods are safe or unsafe for your guinea pig to eat in order to avoid potentially fatal accidents.
Always bear in mind that if your piggy eats something poisonous, they won’t be able to get rid of the toxic item quickly by vomiting. If you’re unsure about the best, safe foods to feed your guinea pig, download our free Kavee guinea pig care sheet. It includes lots of handy tips including comprehensive lists of safe fruits and vegetables for guinea pigs as well as unsafe foods which you must never give them.
Guinea Pig Fun Fact #9: Can guinea pigs sweat?
Unlike us humans who perspire when hot in order to regulate our body temperatures, guinea pigs aren’t able to sweat. This means that guinea pigs have difficulty regulating their body temperature in both chilly and hot weather.
Heat stroke can be fatal for piggies so take extra care during heat waves when your little furry pal may struggle. You can cool your guinea pig by draping a cold wet towel around their body or try a pet safe cooling pad for your guinea pig to sit on when they feel hot. To prevent dehydration, ensure your piggy always has plenty of cool water to drink.
For tips and inspiration on how to take care of your piggies during the sunny days, check our blog article : How Spring changes my guinea pig routine.
Guinea Pig Fun Fact #10: How long do guinea pigs sleep for?
We all know guinea pigs are unique but here’s another reason why they’re special. They’re neither diurnal (awake during daylight hours) nor nocturnal (awake during the night). They keep going 24/7! It may seem as though guinea pigs rarely sleep - especially as they often sleep with their eyes open - but guinea pigs DO nap. However, they only need four to six hours of shut eye a day and, rather than snoozing in one long chunk, they tend to take frequent short naps throughout the day.
They tend to sleep with their eyes open, as they would do in the wild to look out for predators, but you can tell if they’re dreaming because their ears or whiskers tend to twitch. If you spot your piggy snuggling down in their hay or hidey with their eyes closed then don’t fret - it’s generally a sign that they feel comfortable and safe in their surroundings.
Guinea Pig Fun Fact #11: When are guinea pigs most active?
You may have noticed that your piggies tend to go crazy in their cages early in the morning and in the evening. That’s because they’re crepuscular, which means they are most active during dusk and dawn.
These are perfect times to sit quietly beside the cage and watch your piggies. You may notice them suddenly becoming very alert, grooming themselves, munching on snacks, dashing around and playing with their cage mates. It’s really special to see them enjoying themselves and doing what guinea pigs do best.
Guinea Pig Fun Fact #12: When are guinea pigs fully grown/when are guinea pigs considered adults?
With a domestic pig’s lifespan lasting between four and eight years, it can be tricky to know what stage of life they’re at at any given time. After all, they’re born already as toddlers when you consider that they’re able to walk and run almost immediately!
Experts estimate that guinea pigs are considered to be fully grown adult guinea pigs at 18 months old. So, if your piggy is any younger than this, they may still have some growing and developing to do.
Guinea Pig Fun Fact #13: Can guinea pigs see colors?
Guinea pigs may have fairly poor eyesight but unlike most rodents they can see many colors accurately. A scientific study found that guinea pigs appear to have dichromatic color vision which means that whilst their color vision is not as good as ours, they have a fairly good sense of color compared to most animals. In fact, color expert and author, Leatrice Eiseman, reckons guinea pigs may actually have better spectrum perception than cats and dogs.
Piggies are said to be particularly sensitive to the color green - handy for spotting yummy patches of grass and sprigs of parsley!
Guinea Pig Fun Fact #14: Can guinea pigs recognize their owners?
You may love coming home and seeing your furry little friend but does your piggy recognize you? Well, you’ll be glad to hear that, yes they do! You may notice your piggy running to the side of the cage to greet you or licking your fingers when you’re holding them - even when you’re not offering them food.
Guinea pigs aren’t just sociable with other guinea pigs - they love interaction with humans. By licking your fingers during cuddle time or wheeking with approval when they see you, your piggy is telling you that, yes, they recognize you and that they feel safe with you. Enjoy your special bond!
For tips on how to bond with your guinea pigs, check out our article, 20 Best Ways to Bond with your Guinea pigs.
Guinea Pig Fun Fact #15: Are guinea pigs related to pigs?
The name ‘guinea pig’ understandably confuses a lot of people but, no, our favorite little piggy friends are not related biologically to actual pigs. Although they’re mammals and so are pigs, that’s where the similarity ends. Guinea pigs are actually rodents - the largest group of mammals on earth with over 4,660 different species, characterized by their upper and lower ever-growing rootless incisor teeth.
Also known as cavies due to their scientific, Latin name Cavia Porcellus (porcellus translates as little pig), their name is said to have been inspired by the wheeking and squeaking sounds they make, which sound similar to the noises made by baby pigs.
Also, here’s some more top trivia - did you know that guinea pigs aren’t from Guinea? They actually originated in the Andes of South America….
Guinea Pig Fun Fact #16: Do guinea pigs have a tail?
Squirrels are famous for their bushy posteriors and it’s impossible to imagine a mouse without a long tail flowing behind it, isn’t it? But guinea pigs are different. However, unlike other rodents, guinea pigs don’t have a tail at all. Like us humans, however, they do have a tailbone. In fact, they actually have seven little tailbones tucked away at the base of their spine, although you’d never know that they were there.
Some rodents - like mice, rats and squirrels - use their elongated tails to help them balance as well as wrapping them around themselves for warmth when they sleep. As guinea pigs aren’t built for acrobatics and don’t tend to climb, they have no need for a tail. But imagine how different they’d look with one!
Guinea Pig Fun Fact #17: How many bones does a guinea pig have?
For their size, guinea pigs have complex skeletons with a mind boggling 258 bones in total.
A guinea pig’s skeletal structure has three separate parts - the Axial, Appendicular and Heretopic and like all mammals, guinea pigs have a breastbone, ribs, and a skull.
You may have already noticed that your own guinea pig has four visible toes on their front feet and three on their hind feet. But did you know that their front legs have 43 bones whilst their back legs are comprised of 36 bones? A guinea pig’s spinal cord has approximately 36 bones. That’s a lot of teeny bones to allow our furry ones to run around and play in their hay. Nature really is incredible, isn’t it?
Guinea Pig Fun Fact #18: Do guinea pigs eat their own poop? Why do guinea pigs eat their own poop?
As we’ve already mentioned, guinea pigs are generally pretty clean and civilized. But they do have one, erm, ‘unusual’ habit. They eat their own poop….yes, really! You may have noticed your piggy bending almost double to pull a pellet from their bum - and then snack on it. It may seem gross but actually it’s completely normal guinea pig behavior. Also, biologically, it makes complete sense.
Guinea pigs excrete two types of pellets. One is faecal waste (poo) but the other is a mix of essential protein, fiber and vitamins and these pellets are called caecotrophs. As guinea pigs can’t chew their food enough to properly digest it, caecotrophs (caecals) pellets need to be rechewed in order for the guinea pig to get the necessary nourishment.
So once these pellets have passed through the guinea pig, they need to be re eaten - straight from the guinea pig’s anus.
You can tell the difference because standard guinea pig poops are hard and dark brown, whilst caecotrophs tend to be greener and softer. So, strictly speaking, guinea pigs don’t eat their actual poo - they only eat their caecotrophs. Clever isn’t it? We can’t see it catching on at dinner parties though…..
Guinea Pig Fun Fact #19: Do guinea pigs climb?
Guinea pigs are down to earth creatures - quite literally. Unlike other rodents like hamsters or rats, guinea pigs are not agile enough to scale great heights in the same way - their cuddly, stocky physical build just wouldn’t allow it.
The truth is that guinea pigs tend to feel safer on a flat, sturdy surface - although they do benefit from living in cages on a stand, as we explain here. Climbing steep or sudden angles can actually damage a guinea pig’s delicate spine.
So the only way you’ll really see a guinea pig climbing is on a safe, gentle incline - our Kavee coroplast ramp and loft inserts are built on a very gradual gradient for this very reason. These ingenious additions to your cage are designed to suit guinea pig’s fragile backs and provide enrichment and a chance to explore, even for the most timid of little piggies. You can also choose a matching fleece liner for your ramp and loft.
Guinea Pig Fun Fact #20: Do guinea pigs need an exercise wheel or exercise ball?
Unlike hamsters, who can enjoy running on an exercise ball or wheel, you should never put this sort of toy in your guinea pig’s cage. Guinea pigs are built differently from other rodents such as mice and hamsters. They have a very delicate anatomy and, if they’re placed in a running ball or wheel, it could lead to their spine becoming curved and damaged.
That said, guinea pigs do need plenty of space, exercise and stimulation in their cage and should really have two hours of floor time each day. This means providing them with safe, open floor space for them to run around in. For more tips on daily floor time, have a read of our definitive guide to floortime for guinea pigs. Trust us, it’s a lot of fun for your little adventurer - and for you too!
For exciting spacious cages and enrichment toys for guinea pigs, check our range of premium guinea pig supplies.
Guinea Pig Fun Fact #21: Do guinea pig teeth stop growing?
Unlike us humans, guinea pigs don’t get a baby set of teeth followed by a grown up set of gnashers. Their front and back teeth continue to grow throughout their lives - and never stop!
This means that their teeth need to be continually worn down by eating hay and that’s why it’s vital that your piggy has a plentiful and constant supply of hay in their cage. They really do need to eat a lot of the yellow (and green) stuff.
Another way they can wear down their teeth is by gnawing on toys designed for rodents such as willow sticks, balls or hideys. They may also enjoy gnawing on pet safe cardboard toys such as our fabulous tank and van toys for guinea pigs.
It’s important to provide your piggy with opportunities to wear down their teeth and a balanced diet as well as a good supply of chew toys should provide overgrown teeth. Bear in mind that if your piggy’s teeth do become overgrown, they’ll need a trip to see an exotic vet in order to have them worn down under anesthetic.
So there you have it….guinea pigs aren’t just cuddly and cute, they’re unique, intriguing little creatures with lots of surprising skills and attributes too. We hope you’ve enjoyed our article and learnt a few things about our favorite furry pals. With all this expert knowledge, you’ll now be ready to wow your friends with amazing fun facts about guinea pigs!