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Merino Guinea Pig Info: Pictures, Traits, & Facts

Nicole Cosgrove

June 30, 2021

If you aren’t sure whether the Merino guinea pig can be a good pet, let us assure you that you won’t want to put it down once you hold it. Even though guinea pigs are naturally timid, they make excellent companions once they warm up to you.

When looking to adopt a piggy, most people are shocked to learn that there are several different breeds of guinea pigs, with each having unique characteristics. Learning about the different breeds, therefore, allows you to choose a breed whose care requirements you can meet.

The Merino guinea pig is one of the rarer breeds of this rodent. Here is what you need to know about this guinea pig.

Traits Overview

Merino Guinea pig
Image Credit: Baishev, Shutterstock
Energy
Shedding
Health
Lifespan
Sociability

What Is the Merino Guinea Pig?

The Merino is a curious, outgoing, and laidback breed of guinea pig with long curly hair, like that of a Coronet. In fact, it bears such striking resemblance to the Coronet in both looks and temperament that the untrained eye often cannot tell the two apart.

Interestingly, it is still not clear how this breed came into being. The most popular theory is that the Merino is a cross of the Coronet andRex breeds.

Unfortunately, the Merino is not recognized by any professional guinea pig association, which greatly undermines its credibility as a distinct breed.

Characteristics of the Merino Guinea Pig

The most dominant traits of the Merino is its long, curly coat, as well as the short forehead crest. While some have average coats, others have coats that are so voluminous that they look like little sheep.

The Merino is among the smaller breeds, with adults measuring between 4 and 11 inches. However, the males are usually larger than the females.

Diet🥕

Pet Merino piggies require a diet consisting of at least 75% hay, while the rest is divided among vegetables, fruits, and pellets.

The digestive systems of these animals are quite sensitive, which makes them susceptible to gastrointestinal sicknesses when they consume anything that is not part of their natural diet in the wild.

This is why guinea pig parents are discouraged against giving their pets processed foods, as these contain high levels of fats and sugars. Nonetheless, you can give them small bits as treats when you deem it fit. The rule of thumb is not to allow treats to make up more than 5% of the piggy’s diet.

Merino Guinea pig
Image Credit: Joanna Wnuk, Shutterstock

Unfortunately, Merinos cannot make their own vitamin C, which makes them susceptible to vitamin C deficiency. A vitamin C deficiency manifests itself in symptoms such as weakness, lethargy, appetite loss, difficulty moving, and a rough coat. Some guinea pigs might even experience internal bleeding.

Therefore, to ensure that your Merino does not suffer, incorporate vitamin C supplements into their diet. Also, avoid giving the animal large quantities of fruits and vegetables, as these can make the piggy sick.

Maintenance✂️

For a Merino to be happy, they need a companion, toys to play with, and a clean, spacious cage with hiding spots.

Therefore, instead of adopting a single Merino piggy, adopt a pair. Guinea pigs are social animals and therefore, require the company of another piggy to be content. Consider getting animals of the same sex if you are not capable of raising a litter of these critters.

As part of creating an enriching environment for your animal to live in, ensure that you have safe toys for playtime. It is also necessary to create hideouts where they can sleep in or hide when feeling shy.

Merino guinea pigs require a great deal of grooming. Their long coats tend to collect and trap anything that they touch. As such, you will need to brush the animal as regularly as every other day to prevent dirt from accumulating in their coat. When brushing, ensure that you are gentle about it to prevent the animal from associating grooming with negative experiences.

You may also want to bath them and trim their nails occasionally. Merinos do not like being submerged in water, so use just an inch or two for that purpose. You can use cat claw clippers to trim a Merino’s nails.

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Conclusion

Merino guinea pigs are a rare breed. But if you get one, be prepared for a cute and loving pet.

However, this breed is not for everyone due to its high-maintenance nature. A Merino requires constant grooming for it to remain healthy. If you are up for the challenge, you will be grateful that you adopted a Merino guinea pig.


Featured Image Credit: Baishev, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.