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Soft and cuddly, guinea pigs are popular pets. Interestingly, they are not related to pigs — potbellied or otherwise. Also known as cavies (pronounced KAY-vees), guinea pigs are the domesticated counterparts of wild guinea pigs from South America. Guinea pigs are rodents, more closely related to chinchillas than to rats or mice. Contrary to what some might think, they are not from Papua New Guinea, but instead come from Venezuela, Peru and Brazil. The origin of their name might be lost, but plenty of pet owners have found that guinea pigs make good companions. Is a guinea pig the right pet for you? This short quiz may hold the answer.
True or False: Guinea pigs are extremely vocal. True. Guinea pigs are well known for their squealing. In fact, they communicate using a variety of sounds. They squeal when they are scared or hungry or when they just want to be held. When content, they tend to squeak, grunt and sometimes even coo or purr.
True or False: Guinea pigs make good pets for children.
True. Their docile nature and low-maintenance upkeep make guinea pigs ideal companions for kids. Unless they are mistreated, guinea pigs do not tend to bite or scratch. However, it is important to handle guinea pigs gently to avoid injuring or dropping them.
True or False: Guinea pigs are not very bright. False. Healthy guinea pigs are alert, active and communicative. When they are really happy, you might even catch them jumping around. Also, with patience and repetition, you can train most guinea pigs to use a litterbox.
True or False: Guinea pigs are social animals.
True. Guinea pigs generally enjoy the company of their fellow cavies. Although it is not a good idea to house too many of them in one cage, most guinea pigs appreciate having a companion. They definitely recognize and respond to their owners and are very interactive.
True or False: Guinea pigs are carnivores.
False. Even wild guinea pigs are herbivores. Domesticated guinea pigs are usually fed specially formulated pelleted diets supplemented with hay and veggies. They must also be supplied with a vitamin C supplement, as their bodies do not manufacture this vital nutrient and without it, they become very ill with clotting problems and abnormal joint formation and skin formation.
True or False: Guinea pigs should receive regular veterinary care.
True. Guinea pigs are generally hardy animals, but they are susceptible to many health problems if they are not cared for properly. Besides keeping your pet's stress levels low by providing a nutritional diet, a healthy environment and proper handling, you should take your guinea pig for annual veterinary exams. Your veterinarian will check your guinea pig’s overall health, trim overgrown nails if necessary and examine his teeth, which will continue to grow throughout his life.
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