As a guinea pig owner, do you want to know how many years you can expect to spend with your pet? What is his life expectancy? The life of a pig lasts on average three to four years, eight at most and, in a few rare cases, ten years. But the averages do not ultimately make much sense because there are significant differences between guinea pigs, without having found any particularities that could explain what can cause such differences. Obviously, life expectancy also varies depending on the context in which the animal evolves.
The life expectancy of a guinea pig in South America
Guinea pigs were domesticated around 500 BC by Native Americans. They were raised as much for their meat as for their company. In contemporary South America, the guinea pig is referred to by the term “cuy” (pronounced “koui”), which is also used to name various dishes cooked from the animal for special occasions. The meat of this animal is rich in protein: it contains 21%, against 18.3% for chicken, 17.5% for beef and 14.5% for pork.
Domestic guinea pigs living in families in Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia today generally roam freely in and around homes. Many families let the guinea pigs live in their kitchens and provide them with a small terracotta enclosure. Although the guinea pig shares the family space, it is not given a name, and its death does not cause sadness. It is most often fed on leftover vegetables, peelings and alfalfa.
Apart from families, the guinea pig can also be raised on farms. They are very profitable farms because guinea pigs require little maintenance. Even if the animals there are much larger, it is the same species that we can buy from us in Europe. It’s a Cavia porcellus, which weighs 1 to 4 kg when raised for its meat, or only a maximum of 1 kg when raised as a pet.
Not all guinea pigs are equally good to eat. Those with short coats are considered the best because they build more muscle than fat. But ancestral beliefs also influence the way guinea pig is eaten and impact its life expectancy.
Young males have the shortest life expectancy because it is between 2 and 4 months that they are the tastiest. In adulthood, in fact, their meat becomes fibrous and the skin too hard. However, the male stallion, around which the breeding reproduction is organized, is consumed late, and this even if he is very old because its consumption is considered to bring vigor to young men. Females who have had many births also have a special place in the ritual life of families because they are preferably served to young women in order to improve their fertility.
If in several European countries, it is considered that “in the pig everything is good”, it is the same for the guinea pig in South America: everything is used, except for a few bones. The viscera are used, for example, to give body to the soup or are served in a sauce to accompany potatoes. The whole body of the guinea pig can be roasted in the oven, on the coals, on the grill or deep-fried. It can be cooked as a stew, accompanied by a peanut-based sauce.
Take care of your guinea pig so that it lives as long as possible
It is estimated in Europe that a domestic guinea pig can live between 5 and 8 years old, provided you take good care of it.
In its natural environment, rocky areas, plains or forest edges, the guinea pig is prey for around thirty different animal species, divided between raptors, snakes, foxes, wild cats, etc. In other words, over the generations, he has developed an effective survival strategy, including great caution and the ability to quickly hide in the reeds or under the bushes. As domestic guinea pigs also have the instinctive need to hide in case of danger, it is essential to provide them with huts, boxes, pipes, roots and branches. Without it, animals develop deep anxieties.
Guinea pigs naturally live in groups, it is also necessary to accommodate at least two individuals together, taking care to choose their sex and offer them a large living space.
The guinea pig is a herbivorous mammal that, just like us humans, cannot synthesize vitamin C. Dandelion, mustard, horseradish or kale leaves given daily can provide this vitamin naturally. .
Quality hay – timothy grass being the best choice outside of any period of growth or lactation – vegetables and, from time to time, fruit, make up its meals. Hay has two functions, that of allowing it to wear down its constantly growing teeth, and that of providing the vitamin D needed to fix calcium.
Guinea pigs can experience health problems which, if not treated properly, can shorten their lifespan. Diarrhea is a serious problem in guinea pigs, which can quickly become dehydrated and die. Pneumonia is another common illness, which can originate from stress, but also poor hygiene or a sudden change in temperature.
Beyond the essential care to be given to your guinea pigs, it is essential to know the needs of the animal. Studies have shown that these prey animals experience great stress when handled. Also, you will ensure a greater longevity to your guinea pigs if you are content to observe them, without trying to cuddle them.