Guinea pigs are fantastic little critters that have widely become accepted as a popular domestic pet. Although they’re seen as cute loving animals, they are much more awesome than that. Here are 7 guinea pig facts that you probably didn’t know and may amaze you.
1. They Helped Us Discover Vitamin C
If you’ve done some research, you might have realized that it’s absolutely essential to include Vitamin C in your guinea pig’s diet. Like humans, guinea pigs are not capable of naturally producing Vitamin C. Both species share some similar evolutionary quirks, which makes these amazing animals ideal candidates to learn about nutrition for the human body.
Next time you’re taking your Vitamin C tablets, please share some with your little friend. A healthy diet plan consists of roughly 10 to 15 mg of Vitamin C per day. If you don’t have any tablets, you can purchase food pellets that include Vitamin C. Just look in the nutrition label on the back of the food bag. Crush them up and mix them into their food, not water.
2. They Helped Us Find Medicines For Serious Illnesses
Now before you scold these scientists for doing laboratory research on these harmless animals, know that it was for the sake of mankind. Without research on guinea pigs, we would not have medicines for serious illnesses like asthma, tuberculosis and diphtheria.
So if you think about it, these animals have actually saved countless lives. Be sure to thank your piggy if you or someone you know has suffered from those illnesses. Note: rats are more common in these scientific experiements these days.
3. People Worshipped Guinea Pigs
Yes, it’s true. The Moche people of Peru had once worshipped these animals. How do we know? You can find several art works of guinea pigs from this group of people in museums or online. Archaeologists have also found a large number of statues and figures of guinea pigs from Ecuador and Peru. It’s believed that these animals were used in both religious ceremonies and folk medicine back in the ancient days of South America.
4. Giant Guinea Pigs Once Roamed the Earth
Can you imagine a nine-foot, 1500-pound guinea pig running through your backyard? Probably not. But, that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a reality at one point in our earth’s life.
Scientists have actually found fossils of our pet’s close ancestors from about 8 million years ago, when animals were much larger than they are today. Although the scientific name of the Godzilla-version pig is the Phoberomys Pattersoni, enthusiasts have aptly named the guinea pig “Guinea-zilla.”
Not only was the Phoberomys Pattersoni semi-aquatic, but it also had front teeth as long as 8 inches. Wow, imagine trying to housebreak that beast.
5. Constantly Growing Teeth
Can you imagine having your incisors constantly growing? That would mean many more visits to your dentist. Yikes.
Unlike most mammals, the guinea pig’s teeth are always growing throughout its entire life. This is why it’s important to provide chew toys for them, as they will be teething all the time. Next time they accidentally chew up your favorite toy, don’t get too mad. They’re just trying to relieve that itch in their mouth!
6. Unusual Sleep Schedule
Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night to use the restroom, only to realize that your pet was still awake in its cage? A lot of people ask me the question: Are guinea pigs nocturnal? Let me assure you that they are not robo-rodents and actually do sleep.
However, guinea pigs don’t have a regular sleep schedule like we do. Instead of being awake and then asleep for a long durations at a time, they take naps throughout the day. Expect them to take 20 to 30 minute naps in between their activities. A lot of people don’t notice the mid-day naps because they like to burrow themselves under the hay or hide underneath things to sleep.
7. They Can Make a Wide Range of Noises
If you currently own one, you may have already noticed that they’re very vocal creatures (sometimes too vocal). There are several different types of guinea pig sounds that are exclusive to the animal. Their throats are able to produce unique sounds, such as a purr different from a cat’s purr.
These noises helps us, as owners, understand our pet animals on another level. By simply listening to them, you will be able to figure out whether they’re excited, distressed, agitated or even annoyed.
Other sounds include the wheek, rumble, growl, teeth chattering and whine. For more information, visit our page dedicated to their noises and sounds.
8. Eating Fecal Matter is Healthy for Them
Yes, by “fecal matter” I do mean, “poop.” Don’t be too alarmed if you see them doing such a thing, it’s completely normal and even healthy. Their feces contain a lot of Vitamin B and amino acids, which are essential for healthy living.
Don’t be alarmed or disgusted. It’s not like they eat the droppings left in their cage. Rather, they eat it directly from the cecum by tucking their heads into the belly to form a ball. If you see this, just step away. Let them handle their “business.”
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These are wonderful and mysterious animals that may teach you something new about them everyday. I know I learn a lot with every interaction. Of course, there’s much more on guinea pigs that I wasn’t able to mention in this article. If I missed an interesting fact, leave it in the comments section below!