Guinea pigs have become very popular as domestic pets over the years. Their docile nature, their willingness to be handled and the relative ease in caring for them makes for a dream pet.
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Guinea pigs typically live an average of 4–5 years and come in many breeds – varieties vary with hair length, colour and texture, some even sport ruffled coats with cow licks, rosettes or curls.
Even though guinea pigs are territorial they should always be kept in pairs or groups. If alone they can often show signs of stress and depression. Domestic guinea pigs live in cages and most often will have a grass patch dedicated to them or have free range in the garden. They can jump over small obstacles but are poor climbers and are not very agile. When startled they will freeze in place for long periods or run for cover with quick darting motions.
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Guinea pigs do not see very well, but have a keen sense of hearing and smell.
They have a unique way of communicating vocally, ranging from whistling noises, to bubbling or purring, rumbling and chattering – you can learn to understand your guinea pig!
Grass is their natural diet, but they need to be fed additional food pellets as well as fresh fruit and vegetables like raw broccoli, apple, cabbage, carrot and spinach.
If your guinea pig is left outside in your garden, make sure you do your homework on which plants may be poisonous to your pet, like lily of the valley, rhubarb, wild celery, ivy, oak tree leaves and plants that grow from bulbs, like tulips and onions.
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Guinea pigs are preyed on in the wild and their survival instinct is to mask pain and signs of illness. Health problems may therefore not always be apparent until the condition is severe. Some of the common ailments to look out for will be respiratory tract infections, diarrhea, scurvy (from lack of vitamin C), abscess due to infection and infection of lice, mites or fungus. It is vital that you bring your guinea pig in for its annual check-ups and if you notice small health changes in your pet, contact one of our branches.
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