If you want to breed Guinea Pigs you need them to be mature and healthy. If you want to experiment with colours and varieties then knowing something about their background and where they originate is a big help.
Long gone are the days of overcrowded cages and cramped conditions. If you want a healthy litter you need to provide good basic care. Contrary to popular belief, they only breed if they are well fed, clean and healthy. Sick pets do not want to have anything to do with the opposite sex.
They are originally from South America. They have been selectively bred in captivity and they now occur in a variety of colours as well as having three distinct types of coat; the smooth-haired or English, the rough-haired or Abyssinian, and the long-haired Peruvian.
The comfortable size and weight of guinea pigs, together with their gentle, docile nature, means they continue to remain popular as children’s pets. It is very rare for a guinea pig to bite and while the smaller, more agile rodents, such as the gerbil, may prove difficult to handle, the guinea pig can be lifted competently even by young children.
ACQUIRING A CAVIE
The young are born, usually in rather small litters, fully furred, able to move around and with their eyes open. In two or three days they begin to eat solid food such as fine oatmeal.
They are mature enough to be adopted into their new home at the age of four to five weeks and since they are gregarious animals, it is best to keep more than one; a boar with several females for breeding, otherwise two sows.
These are entirely herbivorous animals which thrive on a diet of fresh vegetables, grass, hay and a cereal-based mash with some bran. The mash may be wholemeal bread with milk, or crushed oats and bran softened to a crumbly consistency with hot water or milk. Vitamin C and green food is essential. Guinea pigs must be offered fresh drinking water in a drip-feed bottle. Sometimes they will be seen to drink thirstily, whereas at other times they seem to take all the water they need through grazing.
The most suitable accommodation for guinea pigs is a good rabbit hutch. Two or three guinea pigs will need one measuring a minimum120 x 60 x 50 cm (48 x 24 x 20 in). It will have to be moved into a warm outhouse for added protection in severe weather and furnished with lots of straw for bedding.
An indoor box and an outdoor ark should be provided for exercise. Do not keep guinea pigs on wiremesh as this surface may cause sore hocks and mouths.
The fur may be groomed with a brush or a non-scratch comb. Groom the way the fur grows and do not try to make the rosettes of fur on an Abyssinian lie smooth. The long-haired Peruvian guinea pig is clearly the most difficult variety to keep as a pet, but if kept with a companion of the same breed, each will do the other the service of gnawing off very long hair.
It should be noted, however, that excessive stripping of hair is an abnormality among guinea pigs, thought possibly to be caused by insufficient hay in their diet.
A wooden gnawing block will allow them to trim their own front teeth which grow continuously.
When lifting one, support its weight with both hands, one around the shoulders and one around the pelvis.
Avoid handling the abdomen of sows during their sixty-three day long pregnancy, for fear of harming the developing young.