Peruvian Guinea Pig

peruvian guinea pig with swirly hair

The hair swirl on the head gives the Peruvian guinea pig a cheeky but stylish look.

Guinea pigs have been popular pets for years. If you're looking for a particularly marvellous guinea pig, you will definitely strike lucky with the Peruvian guinea pig. These sweet mopheads don't just impress with their cheeky hairstyle, but with their lively character too. However, their long fur does require a certain amount of grooming.

What does a Peruvian guinea pig look like?

With their fur of up to 30 centimetres in length, Peruvian guinea pigs are relatively easy to tell apart from other breeds. The middle parting and hair swirls (also called rosettes) on the hips and head are particularly striking. Another distinguishing feature is the resulting fringe, which gives these guinea pigs their cheeky appearance.

The fur of Peruvian guinea pigs is generally smooth and silky and can also be found in different colours and colour variants. For instance, these cute mopheads can be found in monotone, magpie (black, white, mottled black and white), agouti or with a slate blue, gold and white pattern (grey, orange-gold, white).

How big does a Peruvian guinea pig get?

Fur and body length are definitely not proportional with Peruvian guinea pigs. Like other guinea pigs, they have a rather compact but muscular physique. They reach up to 25 centimetres in length.

These cute furballs differ in weight depending on their sex. Whilst females are usually slightly lighter (800 to 1,200g body weight), males can reach up to 1,400g.

peruvian guinea pig
The silky coat of Peruvian guinea pigs is a real eye-catcher.

Character: Shy but lively

Peruvian guinea pigs are very lively and curious. Nevertheless, you should take into account that they are quite shy, similar to other guinea pigs. Too much hustle and bustle can lead to stress, which is not conducive to good health.

Indoor or outdoor housing?

The long fur of Peruvian guinea pigs can easily become tangled and sticky due to too much wind and a harsh climate. Hence, Peruvian guinea pigs are less suitable for being kept solely outdoors and are better suited to indoor housing.

You can use straw as bedding for the new home. The cage should be at least 120 x 60cm in size to offer guinea pigs enough space. Moreover, they like to have plenty of hiding spaces and species-appropriate toys for retreating and relieving boredom.

Peruvian guinea pigs need plenty of grooming

As a longhair breed, the Peruvian guinea pig depends on you for its grooming. Dirt can easily get caught in its silky coat. In addition, very irritating matted lumps often form.

If the fur is too sticky, you can often only get rid of the affected areas of hair by cutting them out. To prevent this from happening in the first place, around twice a month you should trim your guinea pig's fur that is growing to floor length.

In order to rid the fur of dirt and little matted clumps, you're best off using a fine-tooth comb or a soft brush. Place them at the centre parting and gently brush the fur from top to bottom.

If your guinea pig is still very young, you should first get it used to grooming. For this purpose, you can offer it food so that it gradually learns that it can trust you. As well, this helps your Peruvian guinea pig to associate grooming with something positive.

groomed peruvian guinea pig on blue background
Peruvian guinea pigs always enjoy a trip to the groomer!

What do Peruvian guinea pigs eat?

Guinea pigs are generally herbivores, i.e. solely plant-eaters. In their natural habitat, they ear herbs, grass and vegetables. You can therefore offer your Peruvian guinea pig greens like carrots, lettuce, tomatoes or cucumbers. These little guinea pigs also like chicory and celery.

Savory or watercress are suitable herbs, whilst marjoram, ribwort and the like are also welcome. However, you should feed your guinea pig dandelion on a less regular basis, because like parsley, it contains a lot of calcium.

Contrary to many conventional guinea pig foods, cereal grains like oats, rye or wheat aren't part of the natural diet of Peruvian guinea pigs.

peruvian guinea pig eating parsley
The diet of Peruvian guinea pigs is quite demanding. Both fresh herbs and hay should be on the menu. However, you shouldn't give them too much parsley, for instance.

Further tips for a healthy diet

Since the wrong diet can lead to some complaints (e.g. malpositioned teeth, digestion problems, lack of vitamin C), you should take into account the following tips:

  • Hay should form the basis of every portion. Hence, always provide sufficient fresh hay in the cage.
  • The branches of fruit trees contain important nutrients.
  • Also provide fresh food around twice a day (greens, wet food).
  • Your guinea pig should always have access to fresh drinking water.

You should always start a change in diet slowly so that your guinea pig's digestive system can get used to new food. It's better to provide smaller portions more frequently than fewer large portions.

Caution: There are some foods that are not suitable for guinea pigs, including radish, peas and potatoes!

Typical complaints of Peruvian guinea pigs

Peruvian guinea pigs have a life expectancy of around four to six years. However, many guinea pigs suffer over the course of their life from dental problems or gastrointestinal complaints, which can severely affect their quality of life.

Danger of malpositioned teeth

The teeth of Peruvian guinea pigs grown uninterruptedly throughout their entire life. Every week, around one to two millimetres are added to the front and back teeth. They are constantly dependent on plenty of raw fibre to wear down their teeth enough so that they don't grow too long.

However, as many foods for guinea pigs are low in raw fibre and rich in energy at the same time, many guinea pigs suffer from their teeth growing long. This gradually leads to malpositioning and injuries to the oral mucosa.

These painful wounds are often a reason why affected animals no longer want to eat or appear ill. It's not uncommon for vets to have to treat the resulting purulent jaw abscesses under anaesthetic.

Special digestion

Furthermore, guinea pigs have a very special digestive system. Their stomach only pushes food into the small intestine when new food forces out the older food pulp.

Here too there can be difficulties if guinea pigs eat too little food rich in raw fibre, as the food pulp then remains stuck in the stomach, so bacteria that are vital for digestion also lack the required energy source. To avoid this happening, you should always ensure a supply of raw fibre!

Where can you buy Peruvian guinea pigs?

You can usually find Peruvian guinea pigs in any well-stocked pet store. If you wish to buy one over the Internet, you should definitely check the housing and origin of the guinea pigs on offer.

You can of course buy this breed from breeders too. However, there are also Peruvian guinea pigs from hobby breeds. The price varies between 15 and 60 pounds, depending on colour, breeding line and the like.

Where do Peruvian guinea pigs come from?

The history of Peruvian guinea pigs goes back several millennia. As the name suggests, they originally come from the high plains of Peru. The Indians living there used these rodents as a source of meat.

During the colonial period, Spanish ships transported these little furballs to Europe. Europeans saw them more as pets than a source of food. Since they have many litters within a short period, the guinea pig quickly spread to become a popular pet.

Conclusion: High-maintenance but loving companions

If you're looking for a pet as low-maintenance as possible, the Peruvian guinea pig is not very suitable for you. However, if you have prior experience with rodents and welcome a new furry challenge, the Peruvian guinea pig is certainly a suitable alternative to other guinea pig breeds.

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