This page is stuffed full of information about how to care for your baby guinea pig. We’ll chart the milestones of their first days and weeks, and find out what to expect if you discover your female guinea pig is expecting. We will help you to raise your baby guinea pigs to become healthy, happy pets.
Your Baby Guinea Pig
A baby guinea pig is called a pup. They are born precocial, which means they already have teeth and fur, and from their earliest moments they can see, hear, and move about. On average, baby guinea pigs come in litters of 2-4, and weigh 70-115g. Pups from small litters are usually bigger than pups from large litters. Like babies of all species, cute baby guinea pigs are tiny and winsome.
Baby Guinea Pigs
Domestic guinea pigs originated in South America but today these vocal, sociable creatures thrive in households across the globe. Guinea pigs are not only kept as family pets, but like dogs, cats and rabbits, they are also bred for show.
New guinea pig breeds are formalised by the American Cavy Breeders Association, who also oversee breed standards and competitions in the United States. Whether you plan on rearing your own litter of baby Abysinnian guinea pigs, or you’re making plans to buy a baby Peruvian guinea pig, it’s valuable to be able to recognise whether they’re growing and developing normally for the species, and their breed.
In the next section we’ve assembled some of the most commonly asked questions our readers have about their baby guinea pigs.
Baby Guinea Pigs FAQs
- What do you call a baby guinea pig?
- How many babies can a guinea pig have?
- Can you touch a newborn guinea pig?
- What do baby guinea pigs eat?
- How do you sex baby guinea pigs?
- How long do guinea pig babies stay with mom?
- What care do baby guinea pigs need?
- Do guinea pigs eat their babies?
- Where can I find baby guinea pigs for sale?
- What about baby guinea pigs for adoption?
What Are Baby Guinea Pigs Called?
Now, let’s begin at the beginning. Baby guinea pigs are called pups. The name pup calls to mind baby dogs, but guinea pigs actually belong to a family of rodent species called cavies.
When they grow up, male guinea pigs are called boars, and females are called sows. Just like big farmyard pigs! There’s no fixed moment when a guinea pig stops being a pup and becomes an adult. But most people think of it as being around four weeks old, when they reach sexual maturity. Between then and reaching their full adult weight several months later, you might hear them being described as ‘juniors’.
How Many Babies Do Guinea Pigs Have?
Lots of small animals (think rats and rabbits) have reputations for being prolific breeders. And guinea pigs are quite fertile little creatures too!
Guinea pig litters can contain up to eight pups, but two, three or four is more usual. The largest guinea pig litter recorded by the Guinness Book of World Records contained a whopping 17 pups!
How Often Do Guinea Pigs Have Babies?
Although they are able to conceive year-round, springtime is the peak window for baby guineas appearing on the scene. After birth, Guinea pig sows can become pregnant again within hours.
Since their gestation lasts just 59-73 days, a female guinea pig is capable in theory of bearing five or even six litters a year. However, this would put a huge amount of strain on her body and her mental stamina. So it is not good practice by caring breeders.
What Does a Baby Guinea Pig Look Like?
Newborn guinea pigs weigh between 60g and 115g. An average sized pup measures around 3 to 5 inches at birth, and very cylindrical – roughly the size of a tangerine in fact!
Individual size is generally linked to litter size, so the more siblings there are in a litter, the smaller they are each likely to be. Their paws and head are comically outsized in proportion to their body, and they already have a full coat of fur. Their tiny mouths already manage to contain 20 teeth, which grow continuously.
Baby Guinea Pigs Week by Week
Guinea pig pregnancy seems short to us, but in fact it lasts a remarkably long time for their size. And the result is that guinea pig babies are born already more mature than many other species. This is called “precociality”.
For example, guinea pigs are born with their eyes open, and their ears – which look huge at the moment – can already hear. So the remaining milestones left to look for relate to growth, feeding, behavior and sexual maturity.
Baby Guinea Pigs – Week One
Guinea pig babies are born very quickly. Once labor is established, all the pups usually arrive within half an hour.
They will begin to wriggle and move about as soon as they’ve been licked clean by their mom. And within a few hours nursing should be established.
But another remarkable thing about baby guinea pigs is just how grown up their appetites are!
What Do Baby Guinea Pigs Eat?
Baby guinea pigs are capable of digesting solid food very soon after birth (within hours).
Within twenty-four hours they can start to eat grass, produce, hay, and pellet feed just like adults.
It can be a little surprising to witness, but it’s completely normal and nothing to be alarmed about.
Although they are capable of eating almost immediately, baby guineas do still need to nurse and they will seek milk about every two hours.
They will continue to nurse from mom for somewhere between three and six weeks.
Can You Touch a Newborn Guinea Pig?
It is fine to carefully handle your new guinea pig pups during their first week, but be sure to allow them plenty of time with their mother as well. Handling them too much too soon can disrupt the bond they need with their mother in order to nurse from her, and huddle against her for warmth. At worst, it can cause her to reject them.
When you do approach the a baby guinea pig, be careful to move slowly and gently. Approach them face-on, so they can see you coming. Place one hand under their tummy and one behind their bottom, and hold the little guy close to you.
Two Week Old Baby Guinea Pigs
By their second week, you won’t be able to miss how much your baby guinea pigs have grown already. They might surprise you with how busy and outgoing they are too.
You can expect your pup to wander curiously about their world during this time, but their legs are still a bit clumsy and they’re apt to suddenly plop down as they explore their environs. Guinea pigs are also notorious communicators, and they start vocalising from babyhood.
What Do Baby Guinea Pigs Sound Like?
Guinea pigs make eleven different call types. They use them to form social bonds and initiate mating, attract the attention of herd members over great distances, communicate sadness, and sound the alarm. And baby guinea pigs are capable of joining in from a very young age.
Don’t be surprised if your pup lets out a little chirp as a means of asking for food! You might also notice they squeak in distress when you take them away from their mom. If this happens, pop them back in with her, and visit again later.
Paying lots of brief visits to your litter with mother, and getting them used to gentle handling without worrying them are going to be a vital foundation of good socialization.
Socializing Baby Guinea Pigs
Getting guinea pigs used to handling from an early age is an important part of rearing confident, relaxed pets.
To help you, we’ve written more about how to tame a guinea pig here.
It’s just as important that your baby guinea pig also spends most of their time with other guinea pigs. This is where they learn how to bond and behave in a herd.
It’s easy to achieve in the first two weeks by keeping the whole litter together with their mom, but next week it’s time to start thinking about separating them.
Three Week Old Baby Guinea Pigs
Three weeks marks the earliest point at which pups may stop nursing from their mother. But many experts recommend that pups be weaned as late as 6 weeks.
Weaning age depends on several factors including the pup’s weight, the mother’s milk supply, and the number of siblings.
But usually, mom will begin to discourage her babies from nursing at about the 3rd week.
Significantly, this is the age when pups will start to reach sexual maturity.
And that means that in a mixed litter of boys and girls, it’s time for the boys to be relocated to a new home, to prevent unwanted pregnancies.
How Do You Sex Baby Guinea Pigs?
No matter how cute baby guinea pigs are, one litter at a time should be plenty for most people to think about.
Allowing siblings to breed also poses a risk of dangerous congenital disorders to their offspring.
It is famously difficult to sex baby rodents, so the easiest way to be sure which of your pups are girls and which are boys is to ask a more experienced mentor, or a vet, to help you.
Begin by holding your guinea pig gently on their back. Be prepared to assess them quickly, because they won’t like to be held in that position for long!
Male baby guinea pigs have a donut-shaped genital opening in front of their anus. If you carefully run a finger over the area, you should be able to feel the shaft of their penis under the skin. And if you push very gently, the penis might appear.
Female baby guinea pigs on the other hand have a y-shaped genital opening, set much closer to the anus. And of course, when you run a finger over the area, you won’t feel a penis!
Baby Guinea Pig Behavior – Week Four Onwards
By the time they’re a month old, baby guinea pigs’ body shape rather resembles that of a syrian hamster.
You will get a kick out of their eagerness to chase each other around and play, and maybe even start popcorning.
Popcorning is an incredibly descriptive term to describe the frenzied bursts of energetic jumping, bumping and hopping about that guinea pigs engage in.
Individuals will be starting to show their own distinct personalities too.
And all the behaviors they’ll need to carry out for themselves instead of having performed for them by mom – like grooming – will be well established.
You might even have witnessed them start to join in with social grooming by this point.
How Long Do Baby Guinea Pigs Stay With Their Mothers?
At six weeks old baby guineas pigs are fully weaned, and have stopped nursing from their mother.
They’ve learned all the skills they need for independence, and they’re ready to leave the nest.
Six or seven weeks old is the age at which most breeders will let their pups go to their new homes.
It’s also the age of the youngest baby guinea pigs in pet stores.
How to Care for Baby Guinea Pigs
If you bring home your baby guinea pig at seven weeks old, you’ll find all the information you need to raise them in our guide to guinea pigs as pets.
Keep an eye on their weight, and you’ll be able to observe them steadily gaining ounces until around their first birthday.
Always consult your vet if you think a baby guinea pig overly small, or failing to thrive.
Bathing them, if it’s something you plan to try, should wait until they are at least eight weeks old.
Baby Guinea Pig Care – Raising a Litter of Pups
On the other hand if you’ll be helping a sow to raise a litter of pups from birth, there’s rather more to think about.
- Giving your litter the best start begins before your sow is even pregnant – make sure she has a clean bill of health from a vet before she is mated, and buy a hutch big enough to house her and her babies until they move out.
- During pregnancy your sow will need lots of energy and vitamin C, so make sure her hay doesn’t run out, and offer a larger helping of fresh fruit and veg every day.
- Change her bedding daily in the run up to labor and while the pups are small. Ammonia fumes from soiled bedding can damage pups’ lungs, and bacteria can infect your sow’s nipples while she’s nursing.
- Once the pups arrive, monitor them closely to make sure nursing is established within 12 hours. Ask your vet for advice if this isn’t the case.
- Start offering them shredded lettuce from the day their born. Remember to remove any they leave, as it will spoil quickly.
- The pups will learn a lot – from how to form social bonds, to which foods are safe to eat – from the adults they live with. Plan in advance how you will make sure the boy babies still receive this education after they leave their mom and siblings at three weeks old.
Do Guinea Pigs Eat Their Babies?
Sadly yes, guinea pig mothers do sometimes eat their newborn young.
This can be startling and upsetting. It’s understandable to feel that way.
But recognising the biological reasons why it occurs makes it easier to avoid.
It can happen for two reasons.
An inexperienced sow might accidentally damage her young with her teeth whilst trying to clean them up after the birth.
This usually happens when pups are stillborn, or born to ill to survive.
When they don’t respond to her attention, she tries cleaning them more and more vigorously, until eventually she ends up damaging them.
Secondly, even an experienced guinea pig mom might resort to eating her young if she is severely malnourished.
Bear in mind this doesn’t necessarily mean she is dangerously thin.
If her diet doesn’t contain enough vital vitamins and nutrients, she can still be malnourished whilst receiving enough calories to maintain her body weight.
A great way to get help raising your first litter successfully, and in recognising potential problems quickly, is by enlisting the support of a mentor.
You can find a mentor by asking your local cavy club to put you in touch with suitable experienced breeders.
You can also ask your vet for advice and support.
Choosing a Baby Guinea Pig Name
Once all the serious aspects of baby guinea pig care are in hand, you can turn your mind to more fun tasks, like picking their names.
Here are some of our top baby guinea pig name lists to help you feel inspired!
- Girl guinea pig names
- Boy guinea pig names
- Cute guinea pig names
- Cool guinea pig names
- Funny guinea pig names
Where Can I Find Baby Guinea Pigs For Sale?
If you have decided you’re ready to take the plunge and welcome a new baby guinea pig into your life, take a look at our article Where To Buy Guinea Pigs to start your journey.
What About Baby Guinea Pigs For Adoption?
Alternatively, you can contact local small animal shelters and ask if they have any baby guinea pigs for adoption.
This often happens when owners of female guinea pigs discover an unplanned pregnancy and aren’t able to care for all the babies.
Baby guinea pigs for adoption are usually a little cheaper than guinea pigs for sale, and often come with a clean bill of health from a vet.
If you’re not looking for a specific breed or sex of guinea pig, rescuing one from a shelter is a great way to meet your new pet.
Baby Guinea Pig Summary
We hope you’ve enjoyed this in depth article about cute baby guinea pigs!
Guinea pig pups are quite unlike most other baby animals.
From the moment they are born they are unusually mature and capable of looking after themselves.
But whether you’re raising a litter from birth or buying an older baby guinea pig for sale, getting prepared in advance is the best way to make sure you provide them with the best start in life.
In the meantime, if you haven’t seen enough sweet pictures of baby guinea pigs yet, then why not visit our compilation of favorite guinea pig videos.
Baby Guinea Pig Care — Have You Raised Baby Guinea Pigs?
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References and Further Reading
Bartesaghi, R., Severi, S., Effects of early environment on field CA2 pyramidal neurons in the guinea-pig, Neuroscience, 2004.
Briscoe, T.A., et al, Cardiovascular and renal disease in the adolescent guinea pig after chronic placental insufficiency, American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 2004.
Dwyer, C.M., et al, The effect of maternal undernutrition on the growth and development of the guinea pig placenta, Journal of Developmental Physiology, 1992.
Kind, K.L., Chronic maternal feed restriction impairs growth but increases adiposity of the fetal guinea pig, American Journal of Physiology, 2005.
Berryman, J. C., Guinea‐pig Vocalizations: Their Structure, Causation and Function, Ethology, 1976.
Pettijohn, T. F., Attachment and Separation Distress in the Infant Guinea Pig, Developmental Psychobiology, 1979.
Bellinger, S. A. et al, An ecologically relevant guinea pig model of fetal behavior, Behavioral Brain Research, 2015.
Clements, M. and Kelly, J. B., Auditory spatial responses of young guinea pigs (Cavia porcellus) during and after ear blocking, Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology, 1978.
Witkowska, A. et al, The Effects of Diet on Anatomy, Physiology and Health in the Guinea Pig, Journal of Animal Health and Behavioural Science, 2017.
Donnelly, T. M. and Brown, C. J., Guinea Pig and Chinchilla Care and Husbandry, Veterinary Clinics Exotic Animal Practice, 2004.
Garner-Richardson, V., Guinea Pig Nutrition, The Veterinary Nurse, 2013.
This article has been extensively revised for 2019.