If you are considering welcoming cute Abyssinian guinea pigs into your family, you may be wondering if this adorable little critter would be the right choice of pet for you.
Guinea pigs make great pets.
They are sociable, charming, and always entertaining.
Unlike other small pets that sleep for a good part of the day, guinea pigs are quite active and ready for fun!
The unique appearance of the Abyssinian guinea pig, with its adorable swirls of long fur, makes this particular variety of piggie especially endearing.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the appealing Abyssinian guinea pig. We’ll tell you all you need to know about caring for an Aby of your very own!
Are Abyssinian guinea pigs the right choice for you?
So, what are Abyssinian guinea pigs like as pets?
How long do they live and what special care do they need in order to thrive?
What’s their temperament like? Since guinea pigs are often a young child’s first pet, are they a good choice for households with children?
Read on for the low-down on these charming, fluffy balls of fun!
What are Abyssinian guinea pigs?
This beautiful variety of guinea pig has a distinctive rough coat, with trademark tufts and whorls of hair called “rosettes”.
Unlike their smooth-coated cousins, Abyssinian guinea pigs have between six and eight rosettes over their bodies, typically on their sides and back.
Rosettes are not usually found on the guinea pig’s head or belly
Abyssinian guinea pig history
All domestic guinea pigs are descended from a wild species of rodent known as a cavy.
Abyssinian guinea pigs originate from the Andes Mountains in South America, not Guinea or Abyssinia!
Nor are they related to pigs; they’re actually rodents, just like rats and mice.
And in some areas of South America, guinea pigs are commonly reared as a staple food source, not kept as pets!
The Abyssinian strain of guinea pig is a very old breed.
Brought back to the UK by explorers, these plucky little creatures first appeared in Victorian England as exotic pets, thanks to their luxuriant coat and cute appearance.
A coat of many colors!
According to the British Cavy Council, Abyssinians come in myriad different colors
You can find solid black Abyssinian guinea pigs, stunning albino or white Abyssinian guinea pigs, and red, brown, marbled and multicolored varieties too.
And if you are intrigued by a really unusual color choice, you might want to choose a roan Abyssinian guinea pig.
Roan is a genetic coloring trait where white is mixed with other colors on the body, while the head and extremities are dark.
Why not take a trip to a specialist cavy show, where you can see even more exotic varieties of Abyssinian guinea pigs on display.
Favorites among professional breeders are satin and long-haired Abyssinian guinea pigs.
Now that’s really rockin’ the trendiest piggy look!
How long do Abyssinian guinea pigs live for?
Abyssinian guinea pigs typically live for between 5 to 6 years if well-cared for and kept in good health.
How big does an Abyssinian guinea pig get?
Guinea pig babies are called “pups”.
When they are born, pups are usually around 3 to 4 inches long and will easily sit in the palm of your hand – totally cute!
Your Abyssinian guinea pig pup will grow quickly, doubling in size in just 8 weeks. Over the next 14 months or so, your guinea pig will continue growing.
A fully-grown guinea pig will be around 8 to 12 inches long.
If you decide to breed from your Abyssinian guinea pigs, please note that you must never use two roan Abyssinians, as this can cause congenital deformities in their offspring, because of the unique roan genetics.
Abyssinian guinea pig personality
As a life-long guinea pig fan, I can testify to the fact that Abyssinians tend to be much cheekier than other varieties!
All guinea pigs are gregarious, lively creatures that thrive when kept in the company of their own species.
But Abyssinian guinea pigs seem to enjoy being around humans just as much.
Abyssinians are very intelligent and personable little bundles of fun, loving interaction with their human owners and even learning simple tricks.
Two of my pet Abyssinian guinea pigs learned to jump up into my lap on command – pretty neat!
You might enjoyteaching your pet simple tricks, using treats as a reward.
Kids and guinea pigs go together like peas and carrots!
If you are acquiring a pet guinea pig for a young child, it’s important to educate kids on the proper care and handling of guinea pigs before bringing one into your home.
Habits and habitat
Abyssinian guinea pig care is much the same as for other varieties of the species.
Always keep your Abyssinian guinea pig in a small same sex group or pair.
This is very important, as lone guinea pigs can suffer from stress, potentially leading to health problems and a shorter life expectancy.
Verify that the guinea pigs you are housing together are the same sex.
Young guinea pigs from pet stores are often wrongly identified.
You don’t want to find yourself with a pair of breeding piggies!
Smooth-coated and Abyssinian guinea pigs will live happily together.
What’s on the menu?
Your Abyssinian guinea pigs’ diet should comprise mainly timothy hay, which should be fed using a “hayrack”.
Guinea pigs use this fragrant meadow grass to build nests with and play in too – hence the need for a hayrack to keep their foodstuff clean and hygienic!
You should also include a few fruits, veggies, and greens to add variety and interest to your pets’ diet, together with good-quality guinea pig pellets.
Good fruit and vegetable choices include spinach, kale, carrots, sweet potato, apples, bananas, and blueberries.
However, feed veggies and especially fruit in moderation.
A primary cause of mortality in guinea pigs is chronic diarrhea, which is a common result of incorrect diet.
Grooming your Abyssinian guinea pig
Your Abyssinian guinea pigs will spend lots of time engaged in caring for their glorious, fluffy coats. You can help with this task!
Every other day, using a soft-bristle brush (available from your local pet store), gently brush the hair in the direction of growth, teasing out any tangles with your fingers as you go.
This beauty therapy will keep your Abyssinian guinea pigs looking beautiful and will help to develop a bond between the two of you as well.
There’s no need to bathe your Abyssinian guinea pigs, unless you are intending to show them in breed competitions
Abyssinian guinea pig health
Abyssinian guinea pigs can be slightly more prone to health issues than other breeds. Here are a few common health conditions that new guinea pig parents should know about.
According to VCA Hospitals, one of the most significant diseases affecting pet guinea pigs is pneumonia.
Pneumonia is caused by bacteria, including Streptococcus and Bordetella.
Some guinea pigs carry these bacteria, whilst appearing perfectly healthy and never showing signs of disease.
However, if the animal becomes stressed or weakened, the bacteria become active and the disease will develop.
The infection will also quickly spread throughout the sick animal’s cage mates.
Symptoms of pneumonia include cloudy discharge from the eyes and nose, sneezing, and breathing difficulties.
With prompt veterinary treatment and plenty of TLC, most guinea pigs will make a full recovery.
Diarrhea in Abyssinian Guinea Pigs
Abyssinian guinea pigs are very susceptible to bouts of diarrhea.
Their digestive system has a fine balance of “good” bacteria, which is essential for normal bowel function.
When the balance of “good” bacteria becomes disrupted through incorrect feeding or infection, severe diarrhea and dehydration can result.
Your pet may also stop eating, appear depressed, and have a very low body temperature.
If your Abyssinian guinea pig develops diarrhea, you should seek immediate veterinary advice.
Never try to treat your guinea pig yourself with over-the-counter antibiotics and antidiarrheal medications intended for humans.
Vitamin C deficiency (Scurvy)
Scurvy is a common disease in Abyssinian guinea pigs.
Vitamin C is essential for healthy skin, joints, and gums. It is also critical for effective wound healing.
A lack of vitamin C will cause a variety of health problems, including poor coat condition, loss of appetite, diarrhea, swollen and painful joints or feet, ulcers on the skin or gums, and hemorrhages.
Guinea pigs cannot create their own vitamin C, so you must ensure that your pets’ diet is adequately supplemented.
Abyssinian guinea pigs should ideally have 10 to 50 mg of vitamin C every day.
Including a few fresh fruits, greens, and veggies in your pets’ diet is important, but you should also feed your pet good-quality guinea pig pellets that contain added vitamin C.
Foods high in vitamin C include leafy greens, broccoli, asparagus, kiwi, and oranges.
Pellets must be used within 90 days of the date of manufacture. After this time, the vitamin content breaks down rapidly and loses its potency.
Tumors in Abyssinian Guinea Pigs
>White and albino Abyssinian guinea pigs can be prone to developing tumors (solid lumps), especially on the skin and around the mammary glands.
Most tumors are benign and not cancerous, and can be removed surgically by your vet.
An abscess is an infected swelling filled with pus.
Guinea pigs can develop abscesses in their lymph nodes, teeth, jaws, and skin.
If your Abyssinian guinea pig develops an abscess, always seek veterinary attention.
Most abscesses can be simply treated medically, but surgery is sometimes required, depending on the depth and location of the infection.
All varieties of guinea pigs are very prone to urinary problems.
Male guinea pigs can develop bladder and kidney stones (calculi). Calculi can cause potentially life-threatening problems if they obstruct the ureter or urethra.
In the case of a severe obstruction, the animal will not be able to produce any urine.
Female guinea pigs often suffer from attacks of cystitis, a painful bladder infection.
Signs of urinary problems in both sexes include blood in the urine, poor appetite, straining to pass urine, and a hunched posture when trying to urinate.
In the case of urinary tract infections, your vet will prescribe antibiotics. Animals who have stones will usually require surgery, followed by supportive nursing and care.
Skin diseases and parasites
Young guinea pigs can be susceptible to a fungal infection called ringworm. Outbreaks of ringworm often occur due to overcrowding, poor feeding, a dirty cage, or stress.
Affected animals will have itchy patches of skin where lesions form.
After a few days, the hair around the affected site will fall out, and crusty, weeping scabs will develop. Ringworm usually affects the guinea pig’s face, ears, and head.
Ringworm is easily treated with topical or oral antifungal medication that will be prescribed by your vet.
Abyssinian guinea pigs can also be attacked by parasites, including fleas, mites, and lice.
Fleas are common and can usually be seen crawling around the affected animal’s skin or in the fur. You can also use a flea comb on the fur to check for flea dirt.
Mites are diagnosed through microscopic examination, appearing as adults or nits (eggs) around the shafts of the guinea pig’s hair, usually on the face, over the shoulders, or behind the ears.
Lice are often found if your guinea pig also has mites. They can be spread via direct contact or through shared bedding materials.
Skin parasites cause intense itching, and your pet will scratch and rub incessantly against things in the hutch. Hair loss often results, and in severe cases skin damage can result in infection.
Your vet will provide you with a suitable parasite treatment to tackle these 3 common parasites.
Barbering is a common problem in the Abyssinian guinea pig. The animal chews its own fur, resulting in areas resembling a severe “brush cut”!
Barbering is usually the result of boredom and is easily solved by providing your pet with more stimulation. Make sure your guinea pig has plenty of hay or toys to chew, rather than resorting to DIY haircuts!
Bumblefoot (pododermatitis) is a common condition in guinea pigs.
The animal develops a deep infection around one of the toes on its foot, resulting in pain and lameness.
Bumblefoot occurs when animals are kept in cages with wire bottoms or where husbandry is poor, leading to filthy underfoot conditions
Overweight guinea pigs are more susceptible to bumblefoot.
Abyssinian guinea pig breeders
Guinea pigs are commonly sold in pet stores, but did you also know that you can adopt a homeless Abyssinian guinea pig from your local animal shelter or small animal rescue organization?
You can find adoptable guinea pigs through shelter pet search engines like Petfinder. Guinea pig adoption fees are very reasonable, often as little as $5.
Abyssinian guinea pig price
The price of Abyssinian guinea pigs from breeders varies from around $15 to upwards of $75, depending on the color and breeding of the animal.
Are you already a fan of the Abyssinian guinea pig?
Are you planning on getting one, or are you already a proud owner? Abyssinian guinea pigs can make wonderful pets, as fans of these furry little guys already know.
If you’re ready to acquire an Abyssinian guinea pig of your own, be prepared for lots of fun and cuddles! Make sure you educate children on how to safely handle guinea pigs, and take some time to familiarize yourself with proper guinea pig care and diet.
Many veterinarians work with guinea pigs, but you can also seek out an exotic animal practice that specializes in small pets like guinea pigs, rabbits, and rats.
If you have Aby fur babies of your own, we’d love to hear from you! Please share your stories in the comments section below!
References and further reading
Minarikova, A., Hauptman, K., Jeklova, E., et al. “Diseases in Pet Guinea Pigs: A Retrospective Study in 1000 Animals.” VetRecord, 2015.
“Abyssinian Cavy Coat Colors” British Cavy Council.
Guinea Pigs” RSPCA.
“How to Care for Your Pet Guinea Pig.” Small Animal Hospital, University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine.
“Guinea Pigs Problems” VCA Hospitals.
Quesenberry, K.E., Boschert, K.R. “Routine Health Care of Guinea Pigs.” Merck Veterinary Manual.