The guinea pig (GP) or cavy, Cavia porcellus, is the domesticated form of a rodent found native to the Andes Mountains of South America. In the sixteenth century they were brought to Europe and selectively bred into three main varieties. Though more recently, a multitude of new varieties have been developed through mutation of these three basic types:

   1. Shorthaired or the English or American Cavy has short hair. 

   2. Abyssinian cavy has short rough hair formed in whorls or rosettes. 

   3. Peruvian Cavy has long hair often exceeding 6 inches in length.

All three breeds exist in a variety of colors. Adult males weigh around 1000 grams, females weigh between 700 to 850 grams. Life expectancy ranges up to 8 years with 4-6 years average.

Picture above is a skinny pig named Wilbur. These pigs are for the most part hairless except for coarse hair around the head and extremities.


A pelleted diet formulated specifically for guinea pigs should be the primary diet along with timothy hay and greens. Stay away from the new seed, dried veggie and pellet formulas. These tend to promote stomach distress and dental disease. Make sure the pellets are made for GP’s, these have additional Vitamin C. Vitamin C degrades rapidly when exposed to heat, humidity and light; therefore it is best not to buy pellets in large quantities. Pellets should be used within 3 months of the milling date on the package.

Guinea pigs have an absolute dietary requirement for vitamin C, without it they may become very ill. A daily supplement of Vitamin C should total 100 mg. Children’s chewable Vitamin C tablets can be offered or Oxbow chewable vitamin C tablets. Refer to our healthy greens for guinea pigs care sheet for fresh veggie ideas.

New foods should be introduced gradually, to make sure your guinea pig does not develop diarrhea.

Timothy hay or oat grass hay should be offered daily.