The Abyssinian Guinea Pig
Species: cavia porcellus
It is one of the oldest breeds of guinea pigs. Their famous “rosettes” are the result of genetic mutation. The first reference to this breed dates back to 1861 (they originated in the UK), and in the end of the 20th century they spread all over Europe and America.
A guinea pig has a compact body and a rounded head with big dark eyes. A purebred specimen has 10 symmetrical rosettes: 4 saddle, 2 shoulder, 2 hip and 2 rump rosettes. The ridges should be even, the coat should be around 3.5 cm long and shouldn’t lie flat. There are several kinds of coloration: black, red, roan and motley are the most popular ones. The guinea pig’s body is between 25 and 25 cm long, they have no tail. An adult male weighs around 1000 – 1500 g, and a female weighs 800-1200 g.
Guinea pigs are sociable animals who feel best in company of their specimens. If you have several of these small cute rodents, you will be able to watch their behavior in a group which can only be seen when a cavy feels safe in a circle of mates. If a guinea pig lives alone, it can only communicate with people, so the owner will have to give it a lot of time and attention.
Guinea pigs are sweet and active rodents. They make great pets for families with kids, since they can be handled, they recognize their names and can even be taught to do tricks. You will have to brush the cavy’s coat once a week with a metal comb. Also you will have to put in the cage a bowl with sand calcinated in an oven.
The cage has to be made of wood, metal or plastic; it has to be at least 30x40 cm so that your pet can move around freely. For bedding it is best to choose wood cuttings, but they shouldn’t be too small, otherwise the dust will get into the guinea pig’s eyes and lungs.
It is best to choose ceramic bowls for food and water so that your pet cannot turn them around.
Guinea pigs are rodents, so they should have pieces of wood or fruit tree branches so that your pet can grind its teeth on them. You will have to clean the cage once every third day so that it doesn’t smell. Wash the food bowl and the water bottle regularly. It is recommended to keep the cage away from draughts and radiators. The ideal temperature for guinea pigs is 18-20 degrees.
You should feed your cavy twice a day. Take away the uneaten food and don’t give the guinea pig too much food, otherwise it can become obese. Don’t give to your pet raw grass: first it has to be washed very carefully and dried. Your guinea pig will need grain, pieces of vegetables and fruit, mineral supplements, hay, branches.
This species is considered to be hard to breed. Guinea pigs become sexually mature at the age of 1 month, but then they are not able yet to give birth. Only 6-8 months’ old specimens can be used for breeding.
Guinea pigs are very gentle and cuddly animals, they get along with children, they love playing and can be taught to fulfill commands. They get on with other animals if those are not aggressive. However it is recommended not to keep guinea pigs in the same home as birds, mice, rats, hamsters and chinchillas.
Average life span of guinea pigs is 8-10 years.
They are not prone to infections and rarely get ill. However if you notice something unusual about your pet, call your vet as soon as possible. The specialist will be able to detect a possible disease. Most diseases fall under one of the following categories: genetic illnesses; diseases due to improper feeding or husbandry; infections caused by bacteria or virus; parasite inflicted diseases; mechanical injuries.