We’re going to talk about Peruvian Guinea Pigs today!
What are they, and what makes them such great pets?
What should you know if you want one? Read on to find out.
What are Peruvian Guinea Pigs?
Originating from South America, guinea pigs aren’t pigs, and don’t have anything to do with Guinea. They are large rodents that are part of the Caviidae family.
Also known as a cavy, the guinea pig is short tailed, round bodied, and short limbed, with hairless clawed feet, small ears, and large, expressive eyes.
Domesticated by pre-Colombian cultures as early as 500 years before the Spanish explorers arrived, guinea pigs are one of three mammals domesticated in South America.
Different breed varieties of guinea pigs include the Peruvian, which have a unique, long haired, rock star look.
Peruvian guinea pigs considered one of the oldest and most distinctive breeds of guineas.
Brought to Paris, France by traders in the early 1800s, the Peruvian quickly spread through the UK and US pet markets.
Peruvian Guinea Pig Size
Guinea pigs of all breeds are large for pet rodents. Adult females usually weigh anywhere from 1 to 3 pounds, with adult males coming in at 2 to 3 pounds.
Peruvian guinea pigs commonly fall into the same weight category as the other breeds.
The normal length for most breeds is 6 to 10 inches long. Peruvians are considered one of the larger breeds and can be 10 to 14 inches in length.
Compared to other guinea breeds, the head size is different. Peruvians tend to have a smaller head in ratio to their body size, though it is hard to tell under all that fur!
Peruvian Guinea Pig Personality
Being both social and affectionate, it is understandable that Peruvian Guinea Pigs are popular pets.
Known to be curious where other guinea pigs are timid, Peruvians are alert and aware of their surroundings. They respond well to hand- feeding and human touch.
Peruvians are considered to be very loving pets, enjoying spending time with their humans and other house hold pets
Guinea pigs are social animals and it is widely considered beneficial to have at least two to keep each other company.
To prevent any dominance issues or fighting, make sure your enclosure is large enough for multiple guinea pigs to have their own personal space when needed.
Peruvian Guinea Pig Coat and Colors
Peruvian guinea pigs are loved for their gorgeous Fabio hairdo. The top coat of fur can get as long as 12-14 inches. The longest recorded hair for a guinea pig was 20 inches – unsurprisingly, on a Peruvian.
They come in an assortment of colors including white, cream, tan, russet red, chocolate brown, slate grey, and black. Peruvian Satin Guinea Pigs are especially popular.
Satin guinea pigs of all breeds have an extra gene that causes each hair shaft to be hollow. This makes the guinea’s fur particularly shiny and soft.
Guinea pigs, including Peruvians, can be single “self” colored, bi-colored, or even tri-colored. Tri-colored guineas are considered rare and are the most desirable for breeding and show guineas.
Peruvians are easily confused for Silkie or Cornet guinea pigs, which also have long coats.
Cornet and Silkie guineas’s hair will sweep back away from their face. The Peruvian’s hair, however, parts along the spine, and a rosette of fur on their head creates a fringe of bangs over their face.
Peruvian Guinea Pig Grooming
Guinea pigs are naturally clean creatures, but Peruvians’ extra long hair makes self- grooming difficult, if not impossible.
Because of this, Peruvian Guinea Pigs are high maintenance, and thus aren’t recommended for children or first-time guinea pig owners.
Peruvians need to be brushed once or twice a day to keep their long coat from tangling or accumulating dirt and debris from their enclosures.
Tangled hair can quickly become matted, which is not just unsightly and uncomfortable, but comes with real health risks.
Matted hair can make it difficult for the animal to eat or even move. Mats pull on the hair roots and can cause sores and serious skin infections.
Peruvians depend on their humans to help keep them clean. Their fur needs to be checked regularly, especially their backsides, to be sure they are tidy.
Peruvian Guinea Pig Health Risks
The long hair has been known to cause problems for any nursing babies. Mom’s long coat can make it difficult for infants to find where to get their meals.
Being unable to properly groom themselves also puts Peruvians at risk for fly strike, which is an extremely painful and possibly fatal condition.
Fly strike occurs when a fly lays their eggs on an animal, and the hatching maggots proceed to feed on them. It is a stressful condition that can lead to death.
With these issues in mind, regular grooming and trimming of a Peruvian’s coat is a must.
If a guinea’s enclosure has mesh or wire flooring, their feet should be checked regularly for sores or infections.
Ulcerative pododermatitis, also known as bumblefoot, is painful, but preventable by keeping a clean cage.
Peruvian Guinea Pig Diet
Peruvian guinea pigs need a good diet to stay healthy. Timothy hay and pellets specially formulated for guinea pigs, along with fresh fruits and vegetables, are best.
Fresh produce is very important for all guinea pigs, including Peruvians. They are unable to create their own vitamin C, and so require the occasional supplement in their diet and stave off scurvy.
Being total herbivores, guineas only consume plants. Do not ever try to feed them anything else. Without the stomach enzymes to digest meat or processed human foods, eating the wrong thing can make guineas very sick.
Just because guinea pigs eat plants doesn’t mean all plants are safe for them. Avoid letting your guinea eat any potato, be it peelings, sprouts or any part of the plant. Tomato plants, beans, rhubarb, and dill are also toxic to guinea pigs.
Don’t allow your guinea pig access to any household plants, cut flowers, or unidentified garden weeds. It is better safe than sorry when it comes to unknown plants!
Due to their curious and inquisitive nature, Peruvians are especially prone to taking an exploratory nibble of a foreign plant. If you are worried your guinea got a hold of something it shouldn’t have, call your veterinarian immediately!
Peruvian Guinea Pig Life Span
Peruvian Guinea pigs can live anywhere from 3 to 8 years. The oldest guinea pig ever reached 14 years old!
This is much longer than other rodent pets, such as hamsters and gerbils, which makes guinea pigs pets you must be ready to invest in.
There are many things you can do to give your guinea pig a lengthy and high quality life.
Be sure your Peruvians have proper diet and access to fresh water, especially if they are being fed mostly dry pellet foods.
A comfortably large, clean cage is also important. Two guinea pigs should have no less than ten square feet of living space. This prevents dominance fights and gives the guinea pigs plenty of room to exercise.
Make sure your guinea pigs have toys to play with and comfortable “hidey holes” where they can curl up to sleep when they aren’t feeling social.
Peruvian Guinea Pig Care
To keep your guinea pig healthy, watch for injury or illness. Address any signs of discomfort such as wheezing, sneezing, swollen or crusty eyes, or dandruff immediately.
Separate sick guinea pigs from their cage mates to keep any contagious illness from spreading. Consult your vet immediately.
If your guinea pig seems ill or uncomfortable, call your veterinarian. Always seek professional medical advice for any health concerns with your guinea pigs.
Check your guinea pig’s front teeth. Guinea pigs have what is called open root teeth, which means their front teeth continue growing through out their whole life!
Guinea pigs must have access to proper food and special toys and chewing blocks to keep their teeth in the right shape.
Overgrown teeth can be very uncomfortable and even cause infection and illness. A certified veterinarian is the only one who should trim or file down overgrown teeth.
Peruvian Guinea Pig Breeders
If you decide that Peruvian Guinea Pigs are for you, and you can’t do without one, they may prove somewhat difficult to find.
Because of the special needs of Peruvian Guinea Pigs, they are not usually carried in pet stores. Consider adopting an animal from a shelter or rescue group before of purchasing a baby from a breeder.
If a Peruvian Guinea Pig baby is the only thing that can soothe your soul, then you’re going to need to seek out and thoroughly check a good breeder.
Talk to your local guinea pig associations or fan clubs. Ask about any positive reviews and recommendations for good breeders.
Don’t be afraid to ask the breeders if they have their USDA license and registrations. See if you can tour their facility and view the conditions the guineas are born and raised in.
Guinea pigs should have comfortably sized and clean cages, plenty of fresh food, and be kept clean and well groomed.
Are Peruvian Guinea Pigs The Right Choice For Me?
In summary, we’ve learned a lot about Peruvian Guinea Pigs. They are sweet, companionable creatures, who enjoy the company of humans and other pets.
Their gorgeous long hair is their most distinctive and unique trait, but also makes them a relatively high-maintenance guinea pig.
Without consistent grooming and care, they are at risk for hair matting, sores, and skin infections. Matted hair can impede mobility and their ability to feed comfortably.
Immobility issues from the long hair puts Peruvian guinea pigs at risk for fly strike, which is dangerous and painful. To prevent this, the guinea pigs must be kept groomed and their enclosure clean.
Peruvians are adventuresome and curious, taking an interest in exploring their surroundings. This puts them at risk for injury, so they need to be supervised when out of their enclosures.
If you are passionate about Peruvians, and have the time and finances to dedicate to their extra care and keeping, a Peruvian may be the guinea pig for you. If the special maintenance needed for them is out of reach for you, there are many other wonderful breeds for you to consider.
Do you love the Peruvian Guinea Pig? Tell us all about it in the comments!
Resources and Further Reading
Gade, D. (1967). The Guinea Pig in Andean Folk Culture. Geographical Review.
Encyclopedia Britannica (2018). Guinea Pig.
Universities Federation for Animal Welfare. Genetic Welfare Problems of Companion Animals: Guinea Pigs : Peruvian.
Douglas A. Kelt et al. (2007). The Quintessential Naturalist: Honoring the Life and Legacy of Oliver P. Pearson. University of California Publications, Zoology Volume 134.
Blair, Jennifer (2013). Bumblefoot: A Comparison of Clinical Presentation and Treatment of Pododermatitis in Rabbits, Rodents, and Birds. Veterinary Clinics: Exotic Animal Practice.