|TL;DR: Guinea pigs have an average lifespan of 5 to 7 years. It is surprisingly longer than other rodents, such as hamsters, gerbils, or mice, which usually live up to 2 years. Genetics, diet, and environment can affect a guinea pig’s lifespan.|
Guinea pigs, also known as cavies (for their scientific name Cavia porcellus), are gentle, playful creatures. They are very vocal and expressive (have you ever seen one “popcorning“?) and can produce over ten sounds.
So, they make excellent pets for those looking for an engaging and interactive companion.
However, guinea pigs require moderately time-consuming care and attention. Whether you’re a first-time guinea pig owner or are considering adopting one, understanding how long they can live and how to care for them properly is essential for a happy and healthy relationship.
How Long Do Guinea Pigs Live?
Guinea pigs don’t usually live as long as cats or dogs, but they are still a long-term commitment.
Their average lifespan ranges from 5 to 7 years, but it is not uncommon for them to live for 9 or 10 years if cared for properly.
|???? World Record|
Snowball was the oldest-ever guinea pig on Earth! The official Guinness World Record hasn’t been beaten since 1979. Snowball lived 14 years and 10.5 months with Margate Wall, his owner, in Bingham.
Of course, cavies have a considerably shorter lifespan in their natural habitat: usually 1 to 4 years. They face threats that domestic guinea pigs don’t need to worry about, such as harsh living conditions and numerous predators looking to eat them for dinner.
Genetics & Breeding
Like humans, genetics play a role in guinea pigs’ life expectancy. Some will have better genes for longevity than others; there’s not much else to it. While this cannot be tested, knowing the lifespan of a guinea pig’s lineage can hint at what to expect.
Breeding is another important factor, as the pregnancy and birthing process can be hard on female guinea pigs (sows). Sows that reproduce have shortened lifespans and tend to live approximately 3.5 years.
|Warning: An unplanned guinea pig pregnancy can be complex, so neutering the boars (males) and avoiding mixed-sexed groups is always best.|
A Guinea Pig’s Lifespan
Curiously enough, guinea pigs develop remarkably fast. This is how the life of a guinea pig usually unfolds:
The gestation period lasts 68 days on average, which is surprisingly long, considering how small they are. Due to this extended pregnancy, guinea pig pups are born with a higher degree of maturity than many other species.
The average litter size for cavies is two to four, although litters of more than ten pups are not unheard of. The pups typically measure 3 to 4 inches, but the larger the litter, the smaller the pups.
Their babies, known as pups, are born fully developed with fur, teeth and open eyes, ready to explore the world. Mothers can wean their babies as early as three weeks after birth. This is also when the pups begin to reach sexual maturity, so separating males from females is recommended.
Boars typically reach full maturity at 3-4 months and sows at 6-8 months. When fully grown guinea pigs, their size ranges from 8 to 12 inches. They can be considered adults now, but they are not necessarily old yet.
By the time they are 3 years old, they are considered seniors. Some aging signs can start to show. For example, they will probably become calmer and less active. Chronic diseases are prone to appear as well, so it is essential to make regular checks with the vet.
How To Judge the Health of Your Guinea Pig
Cavies are natural prey animals that hide sickness to avoid being left behind by their herd. Therefore, it’s important to monitor any behavioral or physical changes and look out for any symptoms as early as possible. The more you know your piggy, the faster you’ll notice anything strange.
Signs of a healthy guinea pig:
✅ Being active, alert and friendly
✅ Bathing and regularly drinking
✅ Passing normal pelleted stool
✅ Having healthy fur and skin (not itchy, no hair loss)
✅ Having eyes, nose, and mouth free of discharge
✅ Breathing unlabored
✅ Walking normally
✅ Communicating by squeaking
On the other hand, some signs indicate something is wrong, and a vet check-up is in order.
Signs of health issues:
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Even if guinea pigs don’t show any of the red flags mentioned above, it’s good practice to take them regularly to the vet (especially when they reach 3 years of age). And by regular, we mean at least once every 6 to 12 months.
6 Tips To Help Your Guinea Pig Live Longer
There are some things you can do to help your guinea pig enjoy a long, healthy life. Here are some tips.
1. Give them a good diet
Guinea pigs need daily rations of unlimited high-quality hay (timothy and orchard grass are popular), fresh vegetables rich in vitamin C and grass pellets. They will love fruit and treats, which is a great way to bond with them.
2. Make sure they have enough Vitamin C
Like humans, guinea pigs cannot produce their own vitamin C. Supplementing their usual diet with tablets will help them avoid scurvy (a common problem in guinea pigs) and other illnesses.
3. Weigh them regularly
A smart way to keep track of their health is by weighing them weekly. Weight can fluctuate slightly occasionally and variations of less than 2 ounces a week are normal. However, significant changes should be taken seriously.
4. Keep their space clean
Cavies need clean, spacious enclosures. Their habitat should have stimulating toys, best rotated in time to avoid boredom and tiny places where they can hide and feel safe.
5. Let them exercise regularly
Creating a routine with at least one hour a day out of their cages for roaming and running around is advisable. This is a great time to interact with them — cavies enjoy human company and are very affectionate.
6. Give them some love
Guinea pigs are herd animals and need companionship to thrive. Keeping them in pairs or small groups will provide the social stimulation they need. Loneliness and boredom can lead to stress and deter their health. However, introduce them slowly and carefully to prevent aggression or territorial behavior.
Guinea pigs are incredibly expressive pets with many ways to communicate emotions. They are easy to get attached to. Nonetheless, they need consistent care and attention.
Spend time with them, know their habits and understand their unique personalities. By offering them a home equipped with nutritious food, ample social interaction opportunities and various playthings, guinea pigs can lead long, healthy lives.
Flowers, A. (2021). How Long Do Guinea Pigs Live as Pets? pets.webmd.com
Humane Society. (2023). Is a guinea pig the right pet for you? humanesociety.org
Jones, L. (2022). How Long Do Guinea Pigs Live? | PetMD. petmd.com
Monks, D. (2021). Guinea Pigs as Pets. vin.com
Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute. (2023). Guinea pig | Smithsonian’s National Zoo. nationalzoo.si.edu