The American Guinea Pig is a short-haired guinea pig breed. It’s the most popular breed in the United States, and for good reason. The American guinea pig’s short, smooth coat makes them easy to groom and their sweet, affectionate temperament is a favorite among many guinea pig lovers. A combination of these traits has made the American guinea pig the breed of choice for many pet owners.
While most people know a thing or two about the American guinea pig, there are also things that many people do not know. Today, we’re going to dive a little deeper into the American guinea pig. We’ll go over the history of the breed, what they look like, how to properly care for them, their lifespan, their size & appearance, how much they cost, and much more to give you a complete overview of this breed.
American Guinea Pig Fact Sheet
|Breed name||American Guinea Pig|
|Lifespan||5 to 8 years on average|
|Temperament||Docile, affectionate, social, active|
|Size||Regular; 8 to 9 inches|
|Diet||80% hay, 20% vegetables, fruits, nuggets & other|
American Guinea Pig History
All guinea pigs come from the Andes mountains in South America where they live in groups of 10 or more. They feed on the grassy plains of the Andes and have lived there for thousands of years. Humans have started domesticating guinea pigs as early as 7000 years ago. Initially, they were mostly domesticated as livestock by the native tribes. Later on, when the conquistadors and other European explorers arrived, they were brought over to Europe to be kept as pets.
Once they started being kept as pets, breeding programs popped up. These breeding programs selectively bred guinea pigs for certain traits, such as hair length, rosettes, size, and more. As a result of these breeding programs, we have all the different guinea pig breeds that we know today.
Guinea pigs are extinct in the wild but it’s speculated that the American is the original guinea pig breed, and is what wild guinea pigs most closely resembled. The American is one of the oldest guinea pig breeds and was one of the first breeds to be officially recognized by the ACBA. It’s not entirely clear where the name “American” guinea pig comes from.
American Guinea Pig Appearance
The American guinea pig is a short-haired breed with a smooth, soft coat. They come in many colors but are most commonly seen in black, beige, chocolate, cream, cinnamon, gold, lemon, lilac, red, saffron, silver, or white. Oftentimes, the American guinea pig has a solid coat, which means that they only have one color, but they can also be multicolored.
The American Guinea pig is an average-sized guinea pig with an average length of around 8 to 9 inches. Males are typically larger than females. On average, males weigh between 900 to 1200 grams while females weigh between 700 to 900 grams.
The American has a round snout, broad shoulders, and petal-shaped ears.
There are many pictures in this article that you can take a look at to get a better idea of what this breed looks like. As they say, a picture says more than a thousand words. And if pictures say more than a thousand words, then a video says more than a thousand pictures. For that reason, I’ve also included a video of the American guinea pig for you to take a look at. That way, you can get the best possible idea of what this breed looks like.
American Guinea Pig temperament & personality
The American guinea pig’s temperament is often described as affectionate, docile, social, and active. They generally do not bite, except in dire situations where they feel threatened. They get along well with children and other animals and love the attention of humans. They enjoy being petted and handled. Because of this, they’re an excellent family pet.
Also, they are intelligent enough to be able to learn tricks, as long as you give them the proper incentive to do so, for instance, by rewarding them with a treat. Furthermore, they can form strong bonds with their owners and the other guinea pigs they share their cage with.
All guinea pigs are naturally social animals. This is because in nature they used to live in groups of 10 or more piggies. Because of this, you have to make sure that you do not keep your American guinea pig in solitude. Always make sure that your cavy has at least one other guinea pig living with it. If it lives alone the piggy will get lonely and will not be happy.
The lifespan of the American guinea pig is about the same as that of other breeds. They live an average of 5 to 8 years. Keep in mind that this is an average, your particular guinea pig can live longer or shorter than this. How long your particular piggy will live depends on many factors. A guinea pig that’s fed a healthy diet, gets plenty of exercise, and is taken to the vet regularly for check-ups, will live much longer than a neglected guinea pig and can far outlive the average lifespan. In fact, the oldest guinea pig to have ever lived was almost 15 years old before passing away!
Since guinea pigs have quite a long lifespan compared to other rodents you have to be prepared to take care of them for many years to come. If you’re not ready for such a long-term commitment it might be better to adopt a different animal with a shorter lifespan, such as a rat, mouse, or hamster.
How much does an American Guinea Pig cost?
Because the American is the most popular breed they’re quite easy to find. In fact, the most common breed that you’ll see in pet shops is the American. Since they are so common they’re not very expensive. On average, expect to pay around $10-$40 for an American at a pet shop.
However, it’s generally not recommended to buy any animal, including guinea pigs, from a pet shop. The reason for this is that most of the animals sold at pet shops are not treated very well. It’s better to buy your guinea pig directly from a reputable breeder. You will likely pay a little bit more, around $25 to $50, but you will have the peace of mind that you’re not supporting a pet shop that does not treat the piggies well.
The most ethical option to get your hands on an American guinea pig is getting one from a shelter. By doing so, you will give an abandoned cavy a new, loving home. It’s also often not a very expensive option. Some shelters charge a small fee to adopt one of their animals, but it’s also possible to get one for free.
Something else you have to keep in mind that buying the guinea pig itself is not the biggest cost. You also have to account for the fact that you will have to pay for a cage, toys, food, bedding, and vet bills.
Caring for American guinea pigs
American guinea pigs are relatively easy to care for. Their short, smooth coat makes them an ideal breed for first-time guinea pig owners. However, there are few things that are important to know when it comes to taking care of this animal.
Grooming a short-haired guinea pig breed like the American is relatively simple. They do most of their grooming themselves. You only need to brush their hair around once a week to keep it in good condition. To brush their coat properly use a small brush and brush in the direction that your piggy’s hair flows.
You will also need to clip their nails. Clipping their nails can be done with human nail clippers or nail clippers designed for cats. You should clip their nails about once per month to prevent them from going too long.
Bathing your guinea pig might be necessary on certain occasions but with short-haired breeds, like the American, it’s not a very common necessity as long as you brush them frequently enough. If your guinea pig is filthy and does need a bath, make sure to do it carefully. They’re not big fans of water and can easily panic. There’s a good guide on Omlet.us to teach you how to bathe your piggy properly.
American guinea pigs have the same diet as other guinea pig breeds. Unlike other rodents like rats or hamsters, guinea pigs are strict herbivores, so make sure that you do not try to feed them any meat or other animal products.
The ideal diet for your American cavy should consist of the following components:
- Unlimited Hay. High-quality hay, such as Timothy hay or Orchard hay should make up about 80% of your cavy’s daily food intake. Hay helps your American grind down their teeth and aids their digestion while containing very few calories. Make sure that they always have access to plenty of hay so that they can eat it whenever they want to.
- Special guinea pig nuggets/pellets. A small number of guinea pig nuggets or pellets on a daily basis can help your guinea pig get additional nutrition that it might lack from its regular diet.
- About a cup of fresh vegetables per day. About 20% of your American’s daily food intake (by weight) should come from fresh vegetables. Leafy greens should make up the bulk of their vegetable intake. A smaller amount of their daily vegetable intake should come from colored vegetables such as carrots.
- The occasional piece of fruit or other treats. Fruits shouldn’t be a large part of your guinea pig’s diet because they’re high in sugar but in small quantities, they can benefit from eating them. Make sure that no more than 10% of their daily food intake consists of fruits and other treats.
- Unlimited access to fresh, clean water from a water bottle. To stay properly hydrated your cavy will always need access to water. The best way to ensure that they always have access to water is to make sure that their water bottle is always topped up with fresh, clean water. You also have to take care that you clean their water bottle frequently to prevent the build-up of harmful bacteria.
It’s important to note that guinea pigs are incapable of synthesizing their own vitamin C. Because of this, they need to get enough vitamin C from their diet. If they do not get enough vitamin C it can lead to health issues. According to veterinarians, guinea pigs need about 10 to 30mg of vitamin C per day. For that reason, many guinea pig owners choose to supplement their piggy’s diet with additional vitamin C.
Now you know everything you need to know about the American guinea pig, and can call yourself a true expert! To recap, we’ve gone over how to care for this breed, their history, what they look like, their size, their appearance, how much they cost, and their lifespan. I hope this guide was informative and helped you make a decision on whether this breed is right for you.
On the whole, the American guinea pig is a great breed for first-time cavy owners due to the fact that they’re relatively easy to groom and their loving personality. If you choose to adopt one of these adorable animals into your home and take good care of it I’m sure that you’ll fall in love with it in no time!
If you’re interested in learning more about other kinds of guinea pigs, I’ve written similar guides on the following guinea pig breeds: