10 Amazing Facts About Guinea Pigs (Including Lifespan)

On the surface guinea pigs seem to be a run-of-the-mill sort of animal.  But, I did a little digging.  Under a lot of basic information about guinea pigs- there’s some really cool facts (from the gag-inducing to the “whoa”worthy) that you might not have heard of. 

Below is a list of some of the practical and peculiar facts about guinea pigs that I investigated.

  • The oldest guinea pig ever lived to be over a decade old.
  • Guinea pigs clean their faces using a liquid that shoots out of their eyes.
  • They don’t sweat.
  • Guinea pigs have a grease gland that makes them stink.
  • Their teeth NEVER stop growing.
  • Guinea pigs eat their poop.
  • Guinea pigs are considered senior citizens when they turn four.
  • They are very picky eaters.
  • Most guinea pigs are awake and moving 20 hours a day.
  • Guinea pigs are fabulous dancers.

I hope you enjoy the facts that I researched about these wonderful creatures! 

1. The oldest ever guinea pig lived to be 14 years and 10.5 months old

So, what is the lifespan of a guinea pig?  The average lifespan of a guinea pig is 4-8 years.  

But, Snowball-a guinea pig from Nottinghamshire, England, decided to turn that fact on its head.  He lived to be 14 years and 10.5 months old.  (Source)

He died in February 1979.  He’s even in the Guinness Book of World Records.

More than likely Snowball had some help reaching that impressive age.  To extend the life of a guinea pig, pet parents must:

  • A large enclosure 
  • Proper and appropriate amounts of food and water
  • Access to a veterinarian that specializes in small mammals
  • Companionship of other cavies
  • Be responsive to the needs of their fur babies

2. Cavies use a liquid that shoots out of their eyes to wash their faces.

Cringey? Yes. 

True?  Absolutely.

In normal, healthy guinea pigs, a milk-like, white liquid oozes from their eyes.  Experts say that it’s supposed to lubricate their eyes. 

Periodically, you’ll see a guinea pig use their front paws to spread it through their hair to wash their face.  

There are some discharges from your guinea pig’s eyes that might be concerning.  Such as eyes that are:

  • Unusually Watery or Crusty
  • Cloudy or Dazed
  • Protruding from your guinea pig’s face

If you notice these symptoms with your cavy, be sure to contact your veterinarian as soon as possible to get her looked at.

what is the lifespan of a guinea pig - picture of a guinea pig

Related Post: The Ultimate Guinea Pig Bathing Guide (with Wheeky Clean Tips)

3. Guinea pigs don’t sweat.

Too much heat can be deadly for a cavy, since they don’t sweat like we do. Guinea pigs usually have a higher temperature than humans – about 101 degrees Fahrenheit (or 38 degrees Celsius).

Sweat helps the body cool itself down.  Since cavy’s don’t have that capability, they can easily get heat stroke in warmer weather.

Guinea pigs do a marginally better job at handling cold weather.  However, the perfect temperature range from guinea pigs is between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit (or between 18.3 and 23.8 degrees Celsius).

It’s important that fur babies have a home with a stable temperature in that range.  They need it to be healthy and happy.

If you want some tips on how to make sure your providing the right environment for your piggies: How To Keep Your Guinea Pig Warm In The Winter and 13 Proven Ways To Keep Your Guinea Pig Cool When It’s Hot

4. Guinea pigs have a grease gland that makes them stink.

Guinea pigs are very good at keeping themselves clean and well groomed (See #2).  But, that doesn’t stop them from smelling awful.

Both male and female cavies have a grease gland.  

Male grease glands-especially dominant male grease glands-smell the worse.

It’s located where a guinea pig’s tail would be…if they had tails.  It releases a-you guessed it-greasy substance.  

This substance is used to mark their territory and attract mates.Your guinea’s grease glands need to be cleaned periodically, so that they don’t become too stinky.

If you want helpful info about guinea pig grease glands (like how to maintain it), then check out this post: The Grease Gland Guide You Need To Read (Right Now)

5. Their teeth never stop growing.

And I mean never.  Guinea pigs have 20 teeth, and their teeth NEVER stop growing.

This is called “elodont” detition.

This unique condition is the reason why guinea pigs NEED to have something to chew on all the time.  It is recommended that wooden toys and UNLIMITED amounts of hay are given to guinea pigs to grind, chew, and gnaw their teeth to reasonable lengths.  

If guinea pigs don’t have access to items that they can chew, they can end up with a condition called malocclusion.  It’s a misalignment of the jaws and it’s very painful to cavies.

6. Guinea pigs eat their own poop.

Guinea pigs-who are basically poop-machines-poop at least 95-100 times a day.

There are two kinds of poop that come from guinea pigs: droppings and loose stools (called caecals)

You’re more likely to see the dropping-those smell, little brown-black pellets.  But, your guinea pig eats the loose stools (called cecal pellets) as soon as she shoots them out.

Guinea pigs are herbivores.  Sometimes plant material isn’t easily digested.  So, like cows, guinea pigs will chew that poop a second time to extract as many nutrients from it as possible.

Gross…but effective! 

Picture of a Woman Holding a Guinea Pig (What is the Lifespan of a Guinea Pig?)

7. Guinea pigs are considered senior citizens when they turn four.

There’s a fair amount of contradictory information about the age range of the various stages of a guinea pig’s life.  

But, overall, guinea pigs are considered “old” when they turn four.  At that point, pet parents should watch their cavies carefully for “old age” conditions like arthritis, cataracts, and other age-related ailments.

Typically, guinea pigs can live for 4 to 8 years. But, some make it to the double digits.

Cavies age quite a bit differently than humans as you can tell from the table below.  

You can tell if a guinea pig is up in age by looking at her feet and her nails. As a guinea pig gets older, her feet start to curve inward slightly.  Her nails will often become crooked and thicker.

Guinea Pig AgeHuman Equivalent
3 months2.5 years old
2 years 20 years old
3 years30 years old
4 years40 years old
5 years50 years old
6 years 60 years old
7 years80 years old

(Source

what is the lifespan of a guinea pig

8. They are very picky eaters. 

Guinea pigs are neophobic.  That means that they have a strong dislike of anything unfamiliar.  (Source)

So, it’s important to expose baby guinea pigs to a wide variety of foods that they need to be healthy as soon as possible. Good quality hay, a few pellets, and a wide variety of green, leafy vegetables should be the norm from Day 1.

If you want some tips on how to build a better relationship with your guinea pigs or how they relate to each other, check out these posts: 5 Top Reasons Why Your Guinea Pig Is A Picky Eater (You Need to Know) and 9 Tips For How To Teach A Guinea Pig To Eat Vegetables

9. Most guinea pigs are awake and active for 20 hours a day.

Cavies don’t seem to have an off switch.  They just keep going and going.

On average, ten minutes is about the longest that they’ll sit still…unless they’ve been properly motivated by their pet parent through bonding or food bribery.

Experts say that cavies don’t sleep-truly sleep-for more than six minutes of time.  This is likely because they’re prey animals.  In the wild, guinea pigs would have to alert constantly to avoid getting eaten by something bigger, scarier, and with a frightful amount of sharp teeth. 

Curious about guinea pig sleeping habits? Check out these posts: Do Guinea Pig Sleep With Their Eyes Open? (If So, Why?) and Are Guinea Pigs Nocturnal? (Sleeping Habits and More)

10. Guinea pigs are fabulous dancers.

Popcorning isn’t just something done over a campfire.  Guinea pigs “popcorn” when they’re delightedly happy.  

What does popcorning look like?  It depends on the guinea pig.  But, here are some examples of popcorning:

  • Jumping straight into the air
  • Doing a mixture of riding an imaginary bull in mid air while dancing…like no one is watching
  • Twisting and kicking their legs as they jump
  • Squealing (a happy squeal)
  • Acting a little bit crazy…in a good way

Wanna see an example in real life? Take a look at the video below.

Mostly younger cavies do it, but some guinea pigs “popcorn” when they’re really happy, their entire lives.

Thinking about adding a piggie to your family or want to brush up on the essentials? Gotcha covered. What you need is a reliable, “all-in-one” resource to refer to when you’re struggling. A Beginner’s Ultimate Guide To Guinea Pig Care is a starting point with all the basics and more to get you on your way!

Related Questions

How often do you need to clean a guinea pig cage? 

Most experts agree that a guinea pig’s cage should be spot cleaned daily-use a litter or food scoop to remove visible poop.  However, a cavy’s cage should be deep cleaned at least once a week. Keeping a clean cage is very important to the health and happiness of your guinea pig.  

Can guinea pigs die suddenly? 

Despite their popularity, Guinea pigs are quite fragile.  There are a number of reasons why guinea pigs can die suddenly-especially as they grow older. Complications from a heart attack or a stroke, dental and stomach diseases can all cause the sudden death of a beloved cavy.  

How often should guinea pigs be bathed? 

Short haired guinea pigs can be bathed once or twice a year, while long-haired breeds require a bath every 3 month. Guinea pigs don’t need to be bathed that frequently, because they do a good job of keeping themselves clean.  However, sometimes a cavy’s fur might get sticky or need some freshening up if she’s gotten very dirty.

Cavia porcellus (Guinea pig). (n.d.). Animal Diversity Web. https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Cavia_porcellus/

Diseases in pet Guinea pigs: A retrospective study in 1000 animals. (n.d.). PubMed.

Guinea pig | Diet, life span, & facts. (2020, March 20). Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/animal/guinea-pig

Guinea pigs–and their teeth! (2018, November 26). Pet Hotel of Milford. https://www.animalclinicofmilfordct.com/guinea-pigs-and-their-teeth/

Hartley-parkinson, R. (2012, July 23). Going fur gold: Guinea pigs take inspiration from London 2012 and take part in their own version of the Olympics for new calendar. Mail Online. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2177688/London-2012-Olympics-Company-designs-Guinea-Pig-Olympics-calendar.html

How old is my Guinea pig? (n.d.). Melbourne Rabbit Clinic. https://www.melbournerabbitclinic.com/guinea-pigs/how-old-is-my-guinea-pig/

Seizures | Arizona exotics | -Guinea pigs resources. (n.d.). Arizona Exotic Animal Hospital | Veterinary care for exotic pets in Phoenix, Mesa, Tempe, Chandler, Gilbert AZ.  https://azeah.com/guinea-pigs/seizures

Vanderlip, S. L. (2003). The Guinea pig handbook. Barron’s Educational Series.

World’s oldest pets. (2011, January 25). Reader’s Digest.  https://www.readersdigest.ca/home-garden/pets/worlds-oldest-pets/

what is the lifespan of a guinea pig

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