Although larger than mice and rats, Guinea Pigs are rodents and are still usually thought of as being small pets. Their size, compared to other rodents, is part of the reason they have a much longer gestation period. Guinea Pigs can be pregnant for up to 2 months before giving birth. By comparison, mice are usually pregnant for 3 weeks and rats for 3 to 4 weeks.
When Guinea Pigs are born, they can walk, their eyes are open, and they are even capable of eating solid food, although experts recommend that they be allowed to nurse for the first 2 weeks.
About Guinea Pigs
Guinea Pigs make good companion pets. They tend to be friendly and with regular handling from a young age, they will not only tolerate being handled but will actively enjoy it. They are considered chatty rodents and can often be heard squeaking and grunting in their enclosure. Some even purr when they are content and enjoying love from their humans. And, whereas mice and hamsters only live up to 3 years, Guinea Pigs can live as long as 7 years.
Another reason for their popularity as pets is that they are mostly diurnal—because they’re awake during the day, they make better companions than pets that sleep during the day and are active at night.
Guinea Pigs are considered mature when pups. They are born with fur, can walk around, and can eat dry food and drink from a bowl. However, experts recommend that pups nurse from their moms for at least 2 weeks and ideally 3 to 4 weeks. They will also get warmth and company from their mother during this time.
Once weaned, at the age of 3 or 4 weeks, they mature quickly, eating grass or hay initially before usually moving on to eat commercial food pellets in addition to their staple hay diet. From a few months, Guinea Pigs are considered to have reached adulthood and can live up to 7 years, although life expectancy is between 5 and 7 years.
Males and females can become sexually active from the age of about 2 months. Owners are advised to remove males from the litter at the age of 3 weeks.
Females should be left until they are 3 months old before they are allowed to mate but should be bred for the first time before they are 8 months old. If the female is older than this when she first breeds, there can be life-threatening problems during the delivery. She will usually have to undergo a cesarean section to ensure safe delivery.
Guinea Pig Gestation Period
Female Guinea Pigs go into heat roughly every 17 days, and are sexually receptive towards males for about 6-11 hours. During this time, males in the vicinity will try to mate with the female (often at night).
Once pregnant, the gestation period lasts about 2 months, which is a long time for rodent gestation. Her appetite will increase substantially, and her abdomen will grow. A pregnant Guinea Pig can weigh up to twice her normal weight during pregnancy.
A litter can have up to six pups, although most sows have two or three young per litter. It takes approximately 5 minutes for each pup to be delivered, and stillbirths are common with Guinea Pig births. This is true regardless of the age of the sow.
You should remove males from the hutch before the female gives birth or she may become pregnant again. Guinea Pigs can be pregnant and nursing at the same time, but it is best to avoid putting the mother under this much physical strain.
How To Care for a Pregnant Guinea Pig
If you believe your Guinea Pig might be pregnant, the first thing to do is visit the vet. If she is pregnant, you should consult with your veterinarian for dietary changes that are appropriate for your female guinea pig.
How To Care for Guinea Pig Pups
Mothers lactate for up to 21 days, and although the young are capable of eating solid food, they should be allowed to nurse for at least 2 weeks to aid in their development. Weaning can be completed after 2 weeks, and the juvenile Guinea Pigs should be fed high-quality hay or grass at this time.
For the first week, you should avoid handling the babies at all. For the next week, handling should be minimal, and once the young Cavies reach 2 to 3 weeks of age, you can handle them more regularly to socialize them and get them used to it.
Guinea Pigs are larger and have a longer life expectancy than other small rodent pets like mice and hamsters. They also have a substantially longer gestation period, with most pregnancies lasting approximately 65 days. Pups are born with their eyes open, and they already have teeth and fur. While they are capable of eating solid food, you should allow the young to nurse for the first 2 weeks before weaning them onto good-quality hay or grass. By 8 weeks of age, Guinea Pigs can be rehomed and may start eating more food pellets.
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