House guinea pigs
|House guinea pigs|
House guinea pigs ( Cavia porcellus )
|( Linnaeus , 1758)|
The house guinea pig ( Cavia porcellus form. Domestica ) is the domestic form of a mammal of the family of guinea pigs (Caviidae) and is probably closely related to the Tschudi guinea pig ( Cavia tschudii ). Guinea pigs were born around 5000 to 2000 BC. . BC in South America as livestock for meat and fur production domesticated . In Europe and the USA , guinea pigs are mainly kept as pets .
In the 16th century, domestic guinea pigs were exported to Europe and North America. Their descendants form the entire, present-day population in these parts of the world. However, independent, older breeding and wild lines still exist in South America. These guinea pigs are often larger than their distant relatives in Europe and North America. In South America they are kept for ritual purposes and for consumption. In Europe, guinea pigs were also served well into the 20th century. However, they were not used as laboratory animals until the 18th century. More recently, so-called giant guinea pigs have been bred in South America, which have been kept intensively for meat production since then . In Germany these animals are known as Cuys .
According to Duden, the name guinea pig comes from the late Middle High German expression merswin . This originally meant ' dolphin ' and was used because of the (perceived as similar) grunts. However, there are many other, possibly less linguistically justified, assumptions about how the name guinea pig came about. Most often the name is interpreted by the fact that the animals look very much like pigs and came to us from the sea. However, it could also have originated from a corruption of the word “carrot pig”. Another option is to accept that the name of a similar sounding word has developed which, however, has a completely different meaning, similar to the monkey , which has something to do as a species of ape neither sea nor cat, whose name, however, the Indian word "marcata" derives, which means "monkey" translated.
It is not known exactly when guinea pigs were domesticated (kept genetically isolated from the wild form for generations). Depending on the author, the date of domestication is between 5000 BC. BC and 2000 BC Assumed. Archaeological evidence is very difficult due to the small bones, a determination of the domestication time after molecular genetic investigations is not yet possible, since the mutation rate of the gene sequences in question is not yet known. There is only agreement that guinea pigs were first kept in the Altiplano region in South America. Tschudi guinea pigs can still be found in this area today.
The oldest finds that can be clearly assigned to the house guinea pig come from the northern central highlands of Peru . They are made around 900 BC. Dated. Other finds come from the coastal plain of Ecuador , dated around 500 BC. BC, and the Moche Valley, dated around 200 BC. At that time the house guinea pigs were already fully domesticated and had all the characteristics of today's house guinea pigs. The house guinea pig was described by Conrad Gessner in 1554 .
Behavioral differences between wild and domestic guinea pigs
The greatest changes in behavior in the course of domestication can be observed in domestic guinea pigs in the social behavior of the males. Tschudi guinea pigs live in harem groups consisting of one male and several females. The males are absolutely incompatible with each other under the limited space in captivity, it is not possible to keep several males together, as the stronger male would kill the weaker males. Only if there is a correspondingly large amount of space in the wild do large-scale networks of relationships also develop between the males without killing each other as soon as they see each other.
House guinea pigs, on the other hand, are traditionally kept in mixed groups with several males and several females under comparatively limited space, the group size is usually between 2 and 5 animals. Because several males are kept together in a small space, they have become more compatible with one another. Pure male groups are quite possible with house guinea pigs. According to research by Norbert Sachser (1994), young bucks learn the appropriate behavior towards their peers from other male group members. This leads to the conclusion that bucks that grow up exclusively in the company of females or in isolation later have problems with the compatibility with one another.
In order for billy guinea pigs to coexist as stress-free as possible, not only has the willingness to aggression decreased, but the imposing and threatening behavior is more expressive and is shown more frequently. In large mixed-sex groups, a group of several males can even be observed, which in turn keep stronger males in check.
The escape behavior has been fully preserved despite the long domestication period, but domestic guinea pigs escape less coordinated than the wild form. While Tschudi guinea pigs jump over obstacles up to 60 centimeters high on the run, house guinea pigs prefer to hide. If there are no hiding places, a panicked group of guinea pigs forms a ball, with each animal trying to get a place among its group mates.
Normally, it would be expected that the escape behavior would also decrease in the course of domestication, but this is more likely not the case. The unwillingness to jump, on the other hand, is a domestication feature that can be observed in many domestic animals, such as the color mouse. Animals that can jump and escape easily escape faster than young animals and are therefore no longer available for breeding . This is all the more true since house guinea pigs are traditionally only prevented from breaking out by a low board or a low wall.
Tschudi male guinea pigs sometimes defend their group against predators in order to enable the females and young to escape. If the group has fled far enough, the goats turn around and flee in turn. This behavior has been preserved in domestic guinea pigs to this day. However, it can only be observed under natural conditions outside.
Physiological differences between wild and domestic guinea pigs
The head is not as pointed to the snout as in the Tschudi guinea pig. The brain weight is smaller in relation to the body weight than in the wild type. Most domestic guinea pigs have a deeper set of ears and a larger ear. Drop ears are common. The eye color can be dark like the wild type, depending on the hair color, but it can also have red-brown, reddish or blue shades.
The physique is more compact and rounded and not as narrow as the Tschudi.
The hind legs are shorter than in the wild type. Polydactyly often occurs in South American lines: guinea pigs with too many toes are considered particularly tender and tasty. In particular with the fattening guinea pigs up to eight claws instead of four can be counted on the front paws, with the hind paws up to six instead of three claws are occasionally found. In Europe and North America, care is taken to breed only normal-toed guinea pigs. Polydactyly is considered a genetic defect.
In the course of domestication, guinea pigs have developed a multitude of colors and types of fur. In South America, light coat colors with white skin are preferred to make the carcass look more appetizing. Dark animals, especially black animals, are used for many ritual purposes.
In Europe and North America attempts are being made to draw different colors in and to breed them as intensively as possible. A condition for the inclusion of a color in the different breed descriptions is that it can be easily distinguished from other, already recognized colors.
In terms of fur varieties, short-haired (smooth-haired guinea pigs), long-haired (long-haired pigs) and animals with curled hair (US Teddy, CH Teddy, Rex, Lunkarya) have appeared. In addition, there are animals with vertebrae on their body (rosette guinea pigs) or a special head vertebra (crested). These fur varieties are also specifically bred and described in the breed standard.
The harsh and half-long hair of the Tschudi guinea pigs can only be found in a few domestic guinea pigs, mainly in old South American lines.
The Tschudi guinea pig can shed part of its back hair in danger, this ability has been almost completely lost in the course of domestication.
Due to the more energetic and juicy diet of domestic guinea pigs, the digestive tract has also adapted over time. The stomach is bigger so that domestic guinea pigs can handle larger meals at once. The small intestine is longer in order to have a longer distance to drain the food pulp. The appendix and large intestine are also larger, probably a consequence of the food, which in some cases differs considerably from the grass forage of the Tschudi, with which the animals have had to get along for thousands of years.
Despite the major changes in the digestive tract, house guinea pigs can still cope with the original grass food of the Tschudi guinea pigs.
Many old South American lines that have been bred there for generations within the families for self-sufficiency, still have the original size of 500 to 600 grams and about the same birth weights as the Tschudi guinea pig. The European and North American lines, on the other hand, are significantly larger at 700 to 1500 grams, as they are descended from larger fattening guinea pigs. The largest animals are the intensively-bred animals from which the North American and European Cuys are descended. In extreme cases, they can weigh up to four kilograms.
At birth, the weight is around 50 to 140 grams, adult animals weigh between 600 and 1300 grams (males) and 500 to 1200 grams (females). After about a year, the growth is complete. However, sexual maturity occurs much earlier. For males, sexual maturity is given as 3 weeks, for females approximately 4 weeks (see also below reproduction ). The female sexual cycle lasts an average of 18 days.
House guinea pigs have seven cervical , twelve thoracic , six lumbar , four sacrum and seven tail vertebrae . Even so, they do not have a visible tail (similar to the tailbone in humans). The collarbone has receded. There are four toes on the front feet and three on the back feet.
The guinea pig's dentition has a total of 20 teeth , of which 4 are incisors and 16 molars (one incisor , one premolar and three molars per half of the jaw). There is a large, toothless space between the incisor and the premolar (→ tooth formula ). The change of teeth already takes place in the womb before birth, so that the young animals are born with permanent teeth that are complete apart from two teeth (the third molars). The teeth have open roots so that they grow throughout their life and have to be worn down by gnawing. They grow 1.2 to 1.5 millimeters per week, which is 5 to 6 millimeters per month.
Guinea pigs are pure herbivores and therefore have a large digestive system , which makes up about a quarter of their body mass. The entire intestine is approximately 2.2 meters long with the small intestine 1.3 meters. The large intestine of the guinea pig specializes in breaking down cellulose. In the appendix there are many bacteria that cellulose split and form vitamins. This is also where the vitamin-rich appendix is formed, which the animals take up again after excretion. Guinea pigs eat around 60 to 80 small meals a day. The volume of the stomach is around 20 to 30 milliliters. It can take five to seven days for food to completely pass through the digestive tract. Guinea pigs cannot vomit , so they have no way of getting rid of food in this way. If a guinea pig has to be operated on, it must never be sobered up beforehand, as this messes up the entire digestion and also has no point, as the animals cannot vomit. Guinea pigs have an intestinal flora that can only slowly adjust to new food. Therefore, feed changes must never be made too quickly.
The perineal pocket , which only occurs in guinea pigs, is located below the anus in a fold of skin . It is more intensely developed in males than in females. In males, it contains fragrances that can be emptied at will, which is why it is assumed that it is a olfactory organ related to the genital function. Above the anus is the caudal gland , which is enriched with sebum glands . This gland produces sexual fragrances and is most developed in sexually mature males.
The amount of blood is around six percent of body weight. Kurloff cells are a special form of white blood cells in guinea pigs .
- Life expectancy: 6 to 8 years (extreme cases up to 15 years)
- Body temperature: 37.5–39 ° C (with more extreme deviations between 37.4–39.5 ° C)
- Breathing rate: 100–130 puffs per minute (in extreme cases up to 150 puffs per minute)
- Heart rate: 230-380 beats per minute (average 300 beats per minute)
- Eyesight: Guinea pigs have a wide range of vision, but are less able to estimate distances. You can distinguish colors, but they don't seem to matter much. The ratio of the rods (which are responsible for light-dark vision) to the cones (which are responsible for color vision) is 4–5: 3. In guinea pigs, over 99% of the nerve fibers cross in the optic nerve junction , which is why the consensual pupillary light reflex is hardly pronounced.
- Hearing ability: Guinea pigs have a wider range of hearing than humans, especially when it comes to high-pitched sounds. According to Ilse Pelz, "the upper limit of hearing [...] is 33,000 hertz (around 15,000 to 20,000 hertz in humans), the lower limit is around 16 vibrations per second (roughly the same in humans)."
- Sense of smell: Guinea pigs have a very well developed sense of smell, which by far exceeds that of humans. The sense of smell seems to be the most important sense for the animals. They perceive their environment very strongly through smells.
- Sense of touch: Guinea pigs have whiskers ( vibrissae ) with which they can orientate themselves better in the dark.
House guinea pigs have a polyphasic activity rhythm, which means that activity and rest phases alternate several times. This not only applies to the day, but also to the night. House guinea pigs eat 60 to 80 small meals around the clock. It is therefore very important that the animals have at least water and hay available around the clock. The animals can adapt their main activity times to environmental conditions or the habits of their owners (feeding times, occupation).
The comfort behavior of guinea pigs includes relaxed dozing, in which the guinea pigs lie around with their heads on the floor and their bodies stretched out. The hind legs can either point to one side or, less often, to both sides. When stretched backwards on both sides, the legs lie with their inner thighs on the floor. The front feet are either under the head or stretched freely to the side. Lying on the side also occurs.
If the guinea pigs have the opportunity to sunbathe, you can often see them snoozing in the sun, as long as it is not too warm.
Sleeping and dozing are very often ended with stretching the body and front legs and yawning. Worried guinea pigs, on the other hand, get up immediately without stretching or yawning.
The nose is cleaned with the front paws, the treads always pointing towards the ground and the toes being slightly curved inwards towards the front paw surface. Either the nose is cleaned with both front paws at the same time, with the paws moving in parallel, or only one paw is used. It is possible to scratch the nose with one hind paw, the hind paw being moved sideways past the body and front paws and the head being turned towards the hind paw. The front paws are firmly on the ground.
Play behavior is not as pronounced in guinea pigs as in other mammals. You can often see young guinea pigs jumping in the air, kicking their hind legs like horses or jumping up with a rounded back and all four legs at the same time. Depending on the constitution and age of the guinea pigs, these leaps in the air can reach a height of 5 to 25 cm. Under generally accepted keeping conditions, these leaps in air persist well into old age and are considered by the owners as a sign of well-being. The whole group can be made to hop in turn by a single hopping animal, which is somewhat similar to popcorn. Guinea pig owners, for example, coined the term “popcornen” for these leaps in the air. In very large outdoor enclosures, such air jumps rarely occur in adult guinea pigs.
Foraging and intake
Usually guinea pigs have their permanent feeding places in the stable and cage, to which they do not have to walk far. So they just run out of their huts, eat and withdraw again. If the preferred food is too small, the guinea pigs begin to argue within the group, they try to make room by kicking back and to the side, and they snap at their eating neighbors. The higher-ranking animals usually prevail and get most of the food. Lower-ranking animals usually do not dare to feed as long as the higher-ranking animals are eating and wait until they are ready.
If the food is distributed widely, the guinea pigs spread out so that arguments are far less common.
Only in very large, natural-looking outdoor enclosures can all behaviors for foraging that have been preserved from the wild form be observed. House guinea pigs also create real trails to their preferred feeding places. If a larger wild meadow is available to them, after a few days it will be criss-crossed by such trails, which mostly lead into bushy areas.
Corridors that correspond exactly to the body size of the guinea pigs are literally eaten and trampled within thickets. The feeding places are preferably visited via corridors closed at the top, even if this means a long detour. The guinea pigs seldom move far from the entrances to such thickets.
If there are already grazing animals of any kind on a meadow, house guinea pigs come out of their cover faster than if there are no grazing animals on the meadow. The type of grazing animal does not matter, it can be sheep, cattle, horses, degus, rabbits or other species. Guinea pigs learn very quickly to distinguish non-grazing animals such as crows, cats and songbirds from grazing animals. They also learn very quickly to react to warning signals from other species - even the warning knocking of rabbits leads to escape within a few days. Otherwise, they are based on the behavior of the other grazing animals: If these graze calmly, the guinea pigs also graze; As soon as even one grazing animal startles or the other grazing animals stop grazing, all the guinea pigs in sight flee.
The cohesion of the group during the grazing is only rudimentary. While Tschudi guinea pigs stay quite close together and avoid grazing individually, house guinea pigs spread out over a large area. It also happens that some guinea pigs graze, others sleep and do the next personal grooming - with the Tschudi guinea pigs, in contrast, the group does everything together, whether eating, grooming or dozing.
Tschudi guinea pigs generally form caravans on their migrations to the pastures. House guinea pigs no longer show this caravan formation as pronounced and mainly in unfamiliar terrain.
House guinea pigs only cover short distances to their feeding grounds, even if they have any amount of space available.
Guinea pigs keep in touch with low bearing noises that sound something like "tuc, tuc, tuc". Almost every change of location is introduced by such sounds. When excited, these contact sounds become louder. This usually leads to the group collecting. If a guinea pig is separated from the group or gets lost, it calls out to the group with loud squeaks; the group answers with loud squeals until the lost guinea pig has found its way back or no longer answers. This squeak is also used opposite the holder to beg for food or to greet the holder. Warning whistles sound very similar, with some groups of domestic guinea pigs a distinction is made between flight alarms and ground alarms.
As an act of showing off, males often show a very stilted-looking gait, in which, with each footing of the hind legs, they stretch the rear part in the direction where the rear foot was placed. If the right hind foot is put on, the rear part moves extremely far to the right, if the left rear foot is put on, the rear part is also tilted extremely far to the left. The legs are strongly flexed during this rocking step, the movements are slow and emphasized. The throat is pushed out as far as possible towards the floor, the nose is stretched as far and slightly upwards as possible. In addition, the head is turned slightly towards the opponent so that he can see the full size. This rocking step is accompanied by a deep rattle. This behavior can not only be observed in the males, but also the females show this to one another, although not as pronounced and not as frequently as males to one another.
With a light, quick head lift in the direction of the opponent and barely noticeable pushing of the throat towards the ground, the opponent is threatened. If the threat is not taken seriously, there is a short pinch in the direction of the opponent. This threatening behavior can be observed particularly often in females who come too close, for example while eating.
Opponents who come from behind are kept at a distance with targeted kicks with the hind feet. This threatening behavior can be observed in both females and males. In exceptional cases, the splash of urine can also be observed in order to keep the opponent at a distance.
If threats are reciprocated by the opponent and no agreement can be reached by showing off, the threat is stronger. From the rocking step, the opponents begin to chatter their teeth. Most of the time they stop and turn their raised heads towards each other. They look for a good opportunity to pinch the opponent in the sides, back or buttocks, and the ears are also welcome targets for pinch attacks. Usually the opponents align themselves laterally to each other shortly before or during the chattering of teeth so that the head is aligned at the level of the opponent's butt and the butt at the level of the opponent's head.
The opponent tries to avoid pinching and biting attacks by jumping aside. After a pinch attack, the opponents chatter their teeth again and slowly circle each other until the next pinch attack occurs.
At some point the defeated animal turns around and runs away. The winner still follows the loser for a long time.
Threatening through chattering of teeth can mainly be observed in males, it is very rare in females.
As a reassurance gesture, either the head is lowered slightly or no physical movement is visible. The soothing guinea pig makes high squeaks, depending on the level of excitement, quieter or louder. Many guinea pigs make the same sounds when they are petted on the back and neck. Sometimes they then show a stepping away from the caressing hand or a short hop with only the hind legs. Contrary to popular belief, this is neither a sign of well-being nor a sign of being tickled.
Expressions of dominance
In contrast to wild guinea pigs, it is important for male guinea pigs to establish a clear hierarchy. The higher-ranking animal makes its higher rank clear with riding like in the sexual act. The lower-ranking animal then shows appeasement gestures or tries to escape by fleeing. This type of dominance can also be observed in females, but not as often.
Another gesture of dominance is sniffing and licking the genital area, especially with the goats. The caudal gland, on the other hand, is sniffed regardless of rank, but lower-ranking animals are more cautious and ready to flee, while higher-ranking animals cannot be prevented from sniffing the caudal gland.
If you are slightly alarmed, you will hear a short, bright growl. It is repeated at longer intervals. If you are very worried, this growl turns into a clearly audible crackle.
Chirping is a high-pitched sound that is repeated monotonously. It is usually compared to the chirping of birds. Chirping can be heard most in Tschudi guinea pigs and wild guinea pigs, but rarely in house guinea pigs: some house guinea pigs seem to be unable to chirp at all. The function of the chirp is still unclear, but is often associated with either heat or anxiety.
Guinea pigs are usually in sight without contact. Lying in contact, as can often be observed by other rodents living in groups , usually only occurs in young animals. In a few cases this can also be observed in adult animals. Based on the division of the lying guinea pigs in the room, it is often possible to infer hierarchy and friendship. Friends animals lie closer together, higher-ranking animals get the best resting places. Males kept in harem groups usually lie outside of the house and cover so that they can all see their females.
Only in very cold weather or in a shared hiding place in case of danger can you see guinea pigs lying down with body contact.
Mutual personal hygiene
Normally only the boys are cleaned by their mother for the first two days, there are no other mutual grooming measures. However, there are a few exceptions. In dry weather it can seldom be observed that high-ranking females, if they got wet while drinking, go to their best friends and let them lick their fur dry. To do this, the head is stretched up and the wet area is presented. Another exception is licking off each other if food has stuck to the mouth and head. This is only seen in guinea pigs that are very close friends and only extremely rarely.
On the other hand, it can be observed more frequently in well-socialized groups that female animals clean the eyes of their conspecifics. Often it is the lower-ranking animals who clean the eyes of others in their group, so that this can also be an expression of submission or appeasement.
The wild form is territory-forming, the own territory is characterized by a secretion from special glands. These glands are located in a pocket between the anus and genitalia, the perineal pocket. This is filled with an oily secretion from two glands, the perineal glands. This secretion is distributed at strategically important points in the area. The main marking work is done by the male, which is why his perineal pouch and glands are particularly large, while the females only have a very small perineal pouch. House guinea pigs no longer form territories, but still mark the common rooms and also check the scents of other guinea pigs.
Guinea pigs have been kept and eaten as meat suppliers in the Andean region in Peru , Bolivia , Ecuador and Colombia for over 4000 years . These guinea pigs are named Cuys after the Quechua word for guinea pigs . In recent years, larger and fatter breeds that weigh up to four kilograms have been deliberately bred and intensively fattened.
Guinea pig meat is part of the traditional Peruvian wedding feast and has its meaning in the traditional healing rituals of the Andean countries. The importance of guinea pigs as food is also evident in the representations of the Last Supper in the churches of Lima and Cusco , where Jesus and his disciples eat guinea pigs ( Cuy ), papaya and yuca over a glass of chicha .
Meat is still very rarely on the table among the rural population, mostly guinea pig meat, but llamas and alpacas are also eaten. The guinea pigs are considered a good source of income for the rural population. The situation is different in the cities in the Andes . In many cities, guinea pigs are cooked in many different ways as a delicacy on the side of busy streets. Guinea pigs on a spit are considered a delicacy for the poorer population. Guinea pigs are also often offered as carcasses on the roadside and in markets, with the head usually not being removed. Guinea pig parts are rarely sold when cut.
In the US, it is the Latin American population in particular that consumes guinea pig meat. The meat is usually imported into the USA, but guinea pigs are rarely bred there for meat production.
In Europe, until the Second World War, the guinea pig was also kept and bred for culinary purposes, but it could never prevail over traditional slaughter animals such as "stable rabbits" . Meanwhile, the consumption of guinea pigs is meaningless within Europe.
As meat animals, guinea pigs are more widespread in Africa than is generally known, because they do not usually appear in any livestock statistics. It is not known when and where the animals were first brought to Africa. They are widespread in Cameroon . In the Democratic Republic of the Congo , you can find them in both urban and rural areas, e.g. B. found in South Kivu . They are also kept in many rural households in the Iringa region of southwestern Tanzania .
Like mice, guinea pigs are used as experimental animals in numerous areas of research. Tests are carried out for both medical purposes and to better understand the behavior and needs of domestic guinea pigs themselves.
But domestic, wild and weasel guinea pigs are also used to research biomedical topics such as stress and social behavior , physiological processes, testing new active ingredients and so on . On March 9, 1961, the first guinea pig launched into space. On board the Soviet spaceship Vostok -3KA No. 1 , also known as Sputnik 9 , the animal crew, including some mice and reptiles, circled the earth and returned safely. This flight served as preparation for the flight of J. Gagarin, the first man in the cosmos, which followed a few months later.
Guinea pigs are not very suitable as food animals because they eat a lot and at the same time are not as fertile as other rodents or rabbits. The guinea pig is therefore relatively expensive for its size.
In zoos and animal parks, guinea pigs are often reproduced in large groups and the adult animals are fed to various larger predators and birds of prey.
In the private sector, guinea pigs are almost exclusively fed as adult animals to large snakes and crocodiles, while adult guinea pigs are too big for most other reptiles.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, guinea pigs have increasingly been kept and bred to pass the time. Guinea pigs were quickly considered suitable for children because they are very robust and don't bite as quickly as rabbits, for example. Individual keeping in narrow cages was customary. With the spread of guinea pigs through pet shops, since the 1960s, guinea pigs have increasingly been combined with rabbits. None of these forms of husbandry is appropriate to the species.
Individual keeping is not appropriate to the species in the sense of the Animal Welfare Act . House guinea pigs are pack animals and need at least two partners of the same species, often keeping at least three people is recommended. If kept alone, behavior disorders develop. Nevertheless, it is generally not difficult to socialize guinea pigs that have been kept alone for longer with other conspecifics.
Guinea pigs can be kept in groups of two or more animals. Same-sex groups as well as groups with a castrated buck and one or more females are possible. When keeping several bucks in a group, care should be taken to ensure that the number of bucks is even, as uneven numbers lead to more frequent biting. Groups of pure females are also often more harmonious if they have an even number. Once bucks have had contact with females or smell the scent of female guinea pigs, they can usually no longer socialize with bucks and then sometimes cause very severe injuries to each other.
If bucks weighing 250 grams or more and are castrated before they have reached full sexual maturity, they will not be recognized by old bucks as rivals and can now be socialized in groups with females and a buck or with a breeding buck.
Keeping breeding rams
Due to the intolerance of breeding rams to other members of their sex, keeping one or more breeding rams poses its own problems. Breeders have developed different systems to enable their breeding rams to live with their own kind. Only a few examples can be given here:
- Rotation system: A buck is placed with a female or a breeding group of females for a longer period of time. Before the breeding females give birth, the buck is placed in the next breeding group or with the next breeding female.
- Early castrate / young buck: Early castrate or young buck are added in the time when the breeding buck is not in service.
- old females: The most unsafe method would be to place breeding rams with old female guinea pigs. Normally the old females shouldn't be feeding anymore - but sometimes they do. Birth is life-threatening for such old female guinea pigs.
Socialization with other animal species
Guinea pigs and rabbits do not replace each other. Both differ in their daily rhythm as well as in their body language, which is why keeping a guinea pig and rabbit together is classified as inappropriate for the species. A guinea pig perceives the friendly approach of a rabbit with bowed head and big ears as aggression. The socialization with rabbits is only possible if the rabbits are at least two people, the guinea pigs are at least two people and enough space is available. Separate retreat areas for guinea pigs and rabbits are considered necessary.
In Austria, Annex 1 to the 2nd Animal Husbandry Ordinance prohibits joint keeping.
Socialization with other animals (except rabbits) does not generally work.
The standard cages available in pet shops are often too small to hold more than one guinea pig. In general, a floor space of 0.5 m² is recommended per guinea pig . If the animals only live in the enclosure, or if they only rarely get exercise, however, 1 m². Spacious self-made buildings that offer a larger area are considered more suitable. When the cage is standing on the floor, guinea pigs can get hit by vibrations, e.g. B. by taking steps, feeling disturbed and showing fear reactions. In Austria, a minimum height of 60 centimeters is required for setting up small rodent cages. However, you can add the run to these cages in such a way that the animals can get into the run independently without being lifted up.
The animals like to use straw in addition to the obligatory hay to hide and play.
Frequent accidents when keeping animals are getting stuck in holes in the dwellings, tipping over of food and drink bowls when stepping on the edge, and infections from contaminated vessels.
Common furnishings are stones, cork tubes, fabric tunnels, cuddly rolls, sleeping bags, wooden houses, igloos and hammocks. Food balls (grid balls), on the other hand, can be dangerous.
The year-round outdoor housing is considered species-appropriate if there is no abrupt change between inside and outside. Here, however, certain conditions should be created. The stable should be well insulated and large enough, because in winter the animals keep warm by moving. In addition, it is only recommended to keep animals outside if there is a group of at least three animals. However, it is better to have an even larger group so that the animals can warm each other.
Usually only males are castrated. On the one hand, this procedure is much more extensive in females (opening of the abdominal cavity), on the other hand, in most cases several females are kept together with one buck and not the other way around.
Bucks can be neutered when they are young, but the operation is also possible in older animals, depending on their state of health.
Early castration is the castration of small, not yet sexually mature bucks (from around the fifth week of life, from around 300 grams in weight). Early neutered bucks usually (but not always) become less dominant.
Guinea pigs are herbivores that do not need animal protein . Their diet is based on hay or grass, which they eat irregularly throughout the day. The animals need at least ten percent of their own body weight fresh feed every day . The consumption of many small meals and sufficient fiber are important for the intestinal peristalsis and thus for the further transport of the food in the gastrointestinal tract. Fresh water should be offered. Commercially available grain feed, treats and snack sticks with cereals and bread are harmful to health.
Forage plants of the guinea pig are:
- Hay , grass , dandelion , daisy , yarrow , marigold , real chamomile , mallow , lemon balm , ground elder , plantain , sunflower , coltsfoot , leaves of corn , strawberry , raspberry
- Vegetables such as carrots , cucumber , beetroot , celery with green, Jerusalem artichoke , fennel ,
- Wood from willow branches , hazel , poplar , birch and fruit trees , beech , to wear away the teeth
- in small amounts parsley , paprika (a lot of vitamin C, especially yellow paprika), tomatoes , lettuce , clover , fruits such as apples , berries , grapes and bananas
If the animals get used to fresh food too quickly, especially grass in spring, or new types of food, they can get digestive problems.
Guinea pigs develop a lack of vitamin C in scurvy . Depending on its age, a guinea pig needs 5 to 20 milligrams of vitamin C per day.
The teeth are ground down by constant gnawing. If a guinea pig stops eating, the growing back molars can also form a dental bridge over the tongue or tooth tips, which makes feeding difficult or impossible and can lead to the death of the animal. Another special feature is the vital eating of the so-called appendix droppings . These relatively soft balls of feces are excreted and immediately taken up again because they contain important bacteria that cover the vitamin B requirement and large parts of the vitamin K requirement of the animals.
Since domestic guinea pigs have a high rate of absorption of calcium , feeding them feedstuffs rich in calcium (broccoli, kohlrabi leaves, alfalfa , parsley) quickly leads to the formation of urinary stones due to the excretion via the kidneys and alkaline urine .
Side effects of dandelions
Common dandelions are popular forage for rabbits and guinea pigs. In young animals, a large amount of dandelion can increase kidney activity, which leads to an increased excretion of minerals and, as a result, may result in increased kidney activity a. Kidney failure, muscle weakness, muscle paralysis, cramps, muscle tremors or even cardiac arrhythmias.
Many diseases in guinea pigs are related to food utilization. Guinea pigs have a relatively complex digestive system and the food remains in the intestines for a long time . Since they are not ruminants , but are mainly dependent on the relatively nutrient-poor grass in the wild, they have a sensitive bacterial flora in their intestines, which can cause problems even when changing food. The intestinal climate is alkaline, and since products with a high sugar and starch content can lead to an acidic intestinal climate, such foods are harmful to guinea pigs. Flatulence can be fatal within hours.
Often and sometimes in connection with digestion, misaligned teeth also occur, so that the teeth (incisors and molars) have to be shortened regularly, since in the worst case the animal can no longer eat ( bridging ). The teeth of rodents grow back permanently and are usually kept to length by wear and tear.
Food problems can quickly become life-threatening in guinea pigs because they lose weight quickly within a few days. Furthermore, your body is not able to produce vitamin C itself. If the body does not absorb enough vitamin C, it can lead to a deficiency symptom ( hypovitaminosis ).
Colds can lead to pneumonia . Signs of a cold are sneezing, eye and nasal discharge, and reluctance to eat, accompanied by weight loss. Acute signs are problems with walking ( paralysis ) or shallow breathing. Pneumonia is often fatal if left untreated.
Parasites that are common in guinea pigs are mites ( Trixacarus caviae , pathogen causing guinea pig mange ), fur mites ( Chirodiscoides caviae ) and hair lice ( Gyropus ovalis , Gliricola porcelli , Trimenopon hispidum ).
Since guinea pigs reproduce very quickly, if you don't want to have young, you should keep males and females separate or sterilize / castrate them . When buying new guinea pigs, you should definitely check the sex of the animals beforehand and consult a veterinarian if you are unsure.
The sexual maturity in guinea pigs is subject to large fluctuations. In females there is the so-called precociousness from three to four weeks. In order to rule out health disorders, a female should never be mated before she is five months old and weighing 700 grams, as long as she is still growing. The best time to mate a female for the first time is around 6 to 12 months old. However, if the first pregnancy occurs before or after, it can easily lead to stillbirths or difficult births. In male bucks, sexual maturity is around four to six weeks after birth or around 300 grams in weight. However, there are also early developers who were able to cover with two weeks or 250 grams.
The female is in heat every 14 to 18 days for about eight to eleven hours. If the mating with the male was successful, both animals groom themselves extensively. After the young have fully developed in an average of 68 days (the gestation period can vary between 59 and 72 days), they give birth to the mother within a quarter of an hour, although the birth can sometimes take several hours. It is not uncommon for young animals to be born after three to four hours. The young are fleeing nests , weigh between 60 and 120 grams, already have a coat (in long-haired breeds it is even shorter), open eyes, can walk and nibble on hay, fruit and vegetables just a few hours after birth. If the young animals weigh less than 50 grams at birth, they should be presented to a veterinarian. If the mother dies in childbirth, the little ones still need milk to survive. You can give it to another mother - sometimes she will suckle the strange cubs with you. Otherwise, the young have to be fed with cat rearing milk or with baby food (HN healing food) and a syringe (without a needle) every two hours.
Immediately after the birth of the young, the guinea pig lady is ready to receive again, which is why uncastrated males should not be in the cage in order to avoid immediate re-discovery. A female can give birth to one to seven cubs, usually two to four. The first litter is not necessarily smaller than the following. The young are then suckled by the mother for three weeks until they can be given away at four to five weeks (and a minimum weight of 250 g). If the young animals are still suckling from the mother after this time or if they should be lighter, they must under no circumstances be separated from the mother, as this leads to behavioral disorders and damage to the health of the young animals.
In contrast to the gray to red-brown, rather short-haired wild breeds, the domestic guinea pig can be found in a wide variety of colors, coat lengths and structures. In general, there are almost any combination of colors, fur length and vertebrae. In addition, there is a different hair structure (wiry to velvety, as well as curly).
In recent years, many breeds have emerged through targeted breeding, with a distinction between fur and colored breeds. Fur breeds differ in their different fur structures and hair lengths. Color races are differentiated based on the coat pattern. Both breeds can be combined, resulting in a huge variety of breeds. Examples: Tortoiseshell Rex and Himalayan Sheltie.
- The smooth- haired guinea pig has short (approx. 3 cm), smooth fur and is certainly the most common breed.
- The rosette guinea pig shows vertebrae all over the body, which make the short hair stick out. The breed standard prescribes at least eight symmetrically arranged vertebrae on certain parts of the body.
- The American or English Crested has short, smooth fur and a crown on the head, whereby this is always white in American Cresteds.
- The Ridgeback is a smooth-haired guinea pig whose back hair grows against the grain. They are bred from rosette and smooth-haired guinea pigs after selection.
- The Dutch guinea pig is a short-haired guinea pig with a two-tone fur. The neck and the front half of the torso ("saddle") as well as the middle head region are white.
- The Rex is a breed of guinea pig with wiry, rough, upright, short fur. A very similar breed is the teddy guinea pig.
- The US Teddy is a breed of guinea pig with a similar fur structure to the Rex, but the hair is more finely wavy (the best way to differentiate between the two breeds is by the abdominal hair.)
- The CH teddy is its own mutation with a fur about six centimeters long that protrudes from the body. A crown is tolerated, but body vertebrae are not. The US teddy bear, the CH teddy bear and the Rex are not genetically related. If you mate them to each other, you would get smooth-haired guinea pigs.
- The Curly is a short- haired Lunkarya
- The Somali is a rex with vertebrae resembling a rosette guinea pig
- The Rex Crested is a Rex with a crown or a forehead rosette. the crown should be in the center and pronounced.
- The angora is a long-haired rosette guinea pig. The breed is not yet officially recognized, but is on the way to becoming one.
- A Peruvian is a guinea pig with long, smooth fur, two vertebrae on the rump and one on the head. The middle parting is also very typical for this breed. Its hair can be up to 50 centimeters long, which is why it is recommended that the fur of the animals be trimmed to the length of the floor in order to facilitate maintenance and to prevent the fur from becoming dirty.
- The Sheltie is a guinea pig with long, smooth fur.
- The coronet is a guinea pig with long, smooth fur like a Sheltie and a crown on its head.
- The alpaca is a braced Peruvian .
- The Texel is a waxed Sheltie .
- The merino is, depending on how you look at it, a rexted coronet or a texel with a crown on its head.
- The mohair is an angora with long, curly fur.
- The Sheba Mini Yak is an Australian breed. They originated from Australian Shelties and rosette guinea pigs . The hair is rather harsh and only half-length.
- The Lunkarya comes from Sweden and has harsh, protruding long curls that are inherited dominantly (in contrast to the other curlers, in which the curl is recessive )
The satin guinea pigs are another fur variant . They are characterized by a particularly strong shine of the coat, which is caused by the fact that the individual hairs are hollow. Satin guinea pigs can be bred of all breeds and colors. Because of the frequent occurrence of a specific bone disease , the breeding of these animals is controversial.
The breeding of naked guinea pigs ( Baldwins and Skinnys ) is also controversial .
Even the Incas knew different color variants in the guinea pigs. However, the targeted cultivation of colors did not begin until the 20th century:
In addition to the full colors, there are many lightening tones that can vary up to white.
- Monochrome : These animals only show one color (self). In the black color range, it can vary from black to sepia, chocolate, slate blue and lilac to the Himalayas. In the red color range, there are lightened colors from red to gold, saffron, cream, beige, buff up to pure white.
- Agouti : In this species, which comes very close to the original form, each individual hair is two-colored, with the hair at the base and the tip having a color from the black color series, the so-called ticking, while in the middle there is a banding of the red color series having. It therefore resembles the related species of the guinea pigs of the same name ( agoutis ). The coat color agouti can still appear in many variations, the natural color of the guinea pigs is called gold agouti (black-red). In addition, there are also Solidagoutis in which the black tip has almost completely disappeared. Common agouti colors are, for example, lemonagouti, salmagouti, gray agouti and cinnamonagouti.
- Argente :
- Tan colors are mutated agouti drawings that are similar to the tan rabbit . There are badges on the belly (belly stripes as in the agouti) and on the face. The rest of the body color is solid. The guinea pigs are called "Tan" with red markings, "Fox" with white markings and "Otter" with cream-colored markings. The Lohe colors are also available, if still rarely, in combination with Solidagoutis. The ticking, which is also predominant in the solids, for example on the stomach, can also be seen in the tan markings instead of the single-color markings.
- Multi-colored : this includes the agoutis already mentioned. There are also tortoiseshell animals that have uniform black and red color fields. Another gene can cause the colors to blend together. This is called a brindle or magpie.
- Dalmatians and molds are fur drawings in which individual hairs of the animals are white. Both drawings are based on the same genetic makeup. The different appearance was achieved through selection of breeds : In white molds, the white hairs are diffusely distributed in the fur, in the Dalmatian the colored hair forms points similar to that of a Dalmatian dog. The gene for this drawing is a lethal factor . This lethal factor has a fatal effect if it doubles, which means that you must never mate a mold with a mold, otherwise viable young animals will not be produced.
- Himalaya describes a white to light cream-colored body color, in which the nose and ear region and the feet are darkly colored. The eye color of these animals is always red in purebred animals.
All color variants can appear in lightening colors and in combination with white fields.
In the Federal Republic of Germany there are no specific legal requirements for keeping guinea pigs. According to Section 2 of the Animal Welfare Act , animals must in principle be fed, cared for and housed according to their needs. According to the opinion on minimum requirements for the keeping of mammals by the BMEL , at least 3 m 2 must be available for up to 5 animals , which should be highly littered and offer suitable hiding places. Hay, green fodder and feed containing vitamin C are necessary.
In Austria , the keeping of guinea pigs is regulated by the Animal Husbandry Ordinance. The general keeping conditions include the constant supply of the animals with activity material such as wood or branches. The cages must be rectangular. Cages with bars must be cross-wired and made of a corrosion-resistant, non-reflective material. The grid width must be so narrow that the guinea pigs cannot get caught in it. Glass pools may only be used if they have ventilation openings on the sides and top. The cage device must be structured three-dimensionally. In addition, the guinea pigs must be able to withdraw into houses, cardboard tubes or the like. Cat litter must not be used as litter, the litter must be absorbent, non-slip and harmless to health. The guinea pigs must always have access to clean drinking water, and the water must be refreshed daily. Forage hay is to be offered in racks. Furthermore, a natural day / night rhythm must be observed for all pets. If animals are kept in cages, they must be allowed to run outside the cage several times a week. There are also the following minimum requirements for keeping guinea pigs: The cage must be at least 100 × 60 × 50 centimeters (length × width × height) for two animals. An area of at least 2,000 square centimeters must be added for each additional animal. The animals are to be offered a sleeping den and raised areas to lie on. Another requirement is that guinea pigs should be kept in pairs or in groups, but not with rabbits.
In Switzerland , according to the Animal Welfare Ordinance, at least two guinea pigs have to be kept together since September 1st, 2008, individual keeping is prohibited. At least 0.5 m 2 must be available for both animals . Suitable bedding, retreats for all animals and gnawing objects such as soft wood or fresh branches must be available. For nutrition, both roughly structured and vitamin C-containing food must be offered.
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- Ruth Morgenegg: Appropriate husbandry - a basic right for guinea pigs too. 3. Edition. 2005, p. 125.
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