If you’re considering adopting a Guinea pig, keep in mind that these pets need company, so it would be best to bring a pair. Although not high-maintenance, the animals require a large cage and plenty of toys to stimulate their brains and fight boredom, including a Guinea pig bridge. And, if you don’t want to name babies for the rest of your life, you should know everything about these rodents’ reproductive system.
Also known as cavies, Guinea pigs have rapidly won the hearts of millions of people, becoming the second most common animals held as pets in American households. They are smaller than dogs and cats and don’t require daily walks outside. In fact, they are self-sufficient, as long as they have a companion in the form of another Guinea pig.
However, keeping a pair of piggies of the opposite sex means dealing with up to five litters per year. Whether or not you want to keep the babies, here is everything you need to know about the heat cycles of these rodents.
Reproduction and infancy
Males are ready to reproduce about six months after birth, while female Guinea pigs will reach sexual maturity later.
The gestation period of these mammals lasts between 60 and 70 days, with a single female being able to deliver multiple babies at the same time. After birth, the babies are kept near the mother for around one month, during which they are fed and kept warm at all times. Because male Guinea pigs mature faster, they should be separated from the rest of the litter after around two weeks.
Your adorable pets are usually weaned around the age of 3-4 weeks, and that is the moment when they will also start eating grass, hay, and eventually move to pellets. Although Guinea pigs are social and docile creatures, both genders cannot live together in the same cage unless you want litter after litter.
Most male Guinea piggies are neutered around the age of one month and only after they can be placed in the same cage with females.
As a general rule, it would be best to keep these rodents separated by gender, even when they are neutered.
And, while females will usually get along fine, you need to watch over your male pets, as territorial behaviors might appear. Older pigs have the tendency of attacking the younger ones when trying to establish their territory, so look for biting and scratching marks, missing fur, fearfulness, and even injuries.
If this happens, you need to immediately separate males and prevent them from getting in contact with each other or other female rodents.
One thing that many Guinea pig owners don’t know about their pets in the beginning is how loud they are. While most other rodents are quite shy when it comes to making sounds, Guinea pigs know how to be vocal.
Females will chatter, happy pets will purr, while stressed ones will rumble. Excited animals will also make specific sounds, most commonly in the morning and early evening.
Keep in mind that these rodents are social creatures, meaning they will need the company of another rodent to prevent stress, sadness, and depression. They are looking for the comfort of a partner so much that some countries even prohibited owning just one Guinea pig.
However, this doesn’t mean that human companions don’t also play an important role in the rodent’s development. Most cavies are friendly and loving once they feel safe around their owners. It may take a while until they open up to you but once they do, they will expect prolonged grooming, petting, and cuddling sessions.
Each pig’s personality is unique, so don’t expect all cavies to be equally friendly and loving toward their owners. As they grow older, these rodents tend to suffer from diseases and disorders associated with age, including cataracts and arthritis. Because it is hurting, you may notice a change in your pet’s behavior as it becomes more introvert or even aggressive.
As we already mentioned, an average Guinea pig lives between 5 and 7 years but in captivity, it can easily reach the age of 8, even 9 years. Unfortunately, their bodies become weaker and more prone to illnesses in time, so you should consider euthanasia at a certain point.
The heat cycles of a Guinea pig
The mating process of these animals is similar to the ones of all other mammals but there are some interesting changes regarding the female’s reproductive system.
Female Guinea pigs have a uterus just like all other mammals but they won’t bleed during their estrus cycles like most other creatures, including humans and dogs. Bleeding during the heating season is not normal and it may be caused by certain affections that require professional medical attendance.
What are the causes of bleeding?
If your pet is bleeding, she might have a serious problem with her uterus, bladder or ovaries. Tumors, infections or uroliths are the most common medical issues causing bleeding. Let’s take a closer look at some of them.
Uroliths is also known as bladder stones, a medical condition that is quite common in cavies. Although further studies need to be conducted, it is widely believed that one of the causes of uroliths is a diet high in calcium.
Unfortunately, surgery is the only option to remove bladder stones and prevent them from growing too big and being passed through the urethra. A balanced diet based on a clean source of proteins and fiber should also be followed as part of the treatment.
Pyometra is another medical condition that can cause bleeding during the heat cycle of your female Guinea pig. Similar to dogs and cats, it is caused by a bad infection and, even though medication exists, the current antibiotics aren’t strong enough to defeat this infection. Therefore, emergency surgery remains the only option if you want your pet to keep living.
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are quite common and can cause small amounts of blood to pass in the urine. These health problems can be misleading and, unless you know better, they can be mistaken for something else.
In order to determine whether or not your cavy suffers from cystitis or a urinary tract infection, you need to convince your pet to urinate on a non-porous surface like an empty litter box or a hard kitchen floor. Try collecting the urine with a syringe and bring a sample to your pet. The doctor is the only one who can determine what’s wrong with your female rodent by running blood tests.
Tumors are extremely dangerous, even when we’re talking about the non-cancerous ones. If a tumor is a part of your cavy’s reproductive tract, it may cause her to pass blood into the urine.
In order to prevent tumors from growing and developing, you need to take your furry friend to the vet regularly. Check her abdomen, sides, and inferior part of the body for any abnormalities and closely observe her reaction. If the Guinea pig shows visible signs of discomfort when touching her in a certain place or if you feel the slightest lump, you need to visit a vet as soon as possible.
In cases of tumors, surgery remains the only option to remove them and restore your pet’s health.
Breeding Guinea pigs
Generally speaking, vets do not recommend that individual pet owners breed these rodents on their own as many things can go wrong. It is also quite hard to find a loving home for each baby of one litter.
Moreover, female pigs that breed after the age of 8 months are prone to diseases, including the ones we previously mentioned.
The behavior of Guinea pigs immediately before and after birth also differs from the one noticed in other mammal species, and this is another reason why inexperienced breeders should avoid delivering new baby rodents into this world.
Whenever a female cavy is about to give birth, all males around her will gather around, trying to become an alpha male to protect the new mother and mate with her. Female Guinea pigs experience a short postpartum estrus that only lasts about half a day and unless one dominant male wins the race, all males will try to breed with the new mother.