Guinea pigs are widely known as being one of the largest and longest lived small pets. When you consider bringing some guinea pigs home for the first time, you may be wondering what their expected lifespan is. The good news is that these fuzzy little animals live much longer than most rodents kept as pets. This also makes them a longer term commitment than some animals.
Some guinea pigs even make it to a ripe old age where they rival the lifespans of some breeds of dogs! Some of this comes down to luck, but there are a few factors that can influence your guinea pig’s age and possibly even extend their life past the average. Keep reading further down the page for some tips to maximize your guinea pig’s potential lifespan.
What is a Guinea Pig’s Average Lifespan?
In captivity, pet guinea pigs live an average of 4-8 years. Most guinea pigs fall right in the middle of this, living between 5-7 years. Guinea pigs that live 8 years or longer are at the upper end.
Although guinea pigs have a shorter life expectancy than dogs or cats, they are one of the longest lived rodents. They live slightly shorter than rabbits on average, but much longer than other common small pets. Rats, mice, hamsters, and gerbils only live around 2-3 years in comparison.
This makes guinea pigs a great pet for people who want a longer lived small animal. However, this also means that guinea pigs are a longer term commitment. They may not be the best choice for young kids that might lose interest sometime down the line.
Can Guinea Pigs Live for 10 Years?
Yes! Guinea pigs have been known to live up to 10 years, 12 years, and occasionally even longer. I’ve actually heard of several guinea pigs making it to the double digits. It is rare, no doubt. But it is quite amazing that there is a possibility of having our beloved piggies for the same amount of time as some dogs!
How Old is The Oldest Guinea Pig in the World?
According to Guinness World Records, the oldest guinea pig ever recorded was Snowball, a guinea pig from Nottinghamshire, UK. Snowball passed away on February 14, 1979 at the incredible age of 14 years, 10.5 months. Another guinea pig named Bear is running for that record, currently at 13 years old.
Is 4 Old For a Guinea Pig?
4 years old is when guinea pigs are considered a senior. At this age, they require more care and attention to detail. Losing weight, eating less, having a puffy coat, or related symptoms can be signs of an underlying health problem. They may require more frequent visits to the vet. Older guinea pigs often need higher than average amounts of Vitamin C, so be sure you’re providing plenty of veggies that are high in Vitamin C.
Some guinea pigs pass away around 4 years old. This is on the earlier end of the spectrum, but it is within the average lifespan. Genetics play a big role, and some guinea pigs don’t live longer than this no matter how well they’re cared for.
I had 2 guinea pigs in the past that lived to be 4.5 years old. Part of me felt like there was something wrong because they didn’t live for 6, 7, 8 years. But ultimately, they didn’t come from the greatest breeding lines and genetics probably played a large role in their lifespan. My other piggies so far have lived to 6 and 8.5 years old. The 8.5 year old came from a smaller, show quality breeder, whereas the others came from pet stores. As you can see, genetics can often have a big impact!
Guinea Pig Lifespan in the Wild
Wild guinea pigs typically reach an maximum of 4 years old. As guinea pigs get older, they sadly become easy prey in the wild. Many wild guinea pigs will not even live that long. Outdoors, guinea pigs are exposed to the elements, food scarcity, and predators such as large birds, coyotes, and snakes. Pet guinea pigs in captivity are much safer and better cared for, so they can live much longer than their wild ancestors.
How to Make Your Guinea Pig Live Longer
There are a few factors that can influence how long your guinea pig lives. Some of these things can be influenced by good care, but the rest is down to luck and genetics. If you haven’t purchased a guinea pig yet, look for a breeder that raises guinea pigs with good genetics. Ask about the ages of past guinea pigs in their breeding line. This can give you an idea of the lifespan you can possibly expect for your own guinea pig.
Provide Lots of Vitamin C
Aside from genetics, you can increase your guinea pig’s average lifespan by providing great care and a proper diet. Provide plenty of Vitamin C in your guinea pig’s diet. Guinea pigs cannot manufacture their own Vitamin C, so they need to get it through their diet.
Guinea pigs that become deficient in this vitamin can develop a condition called scurvy. This causes a lot of weakness, pain in the joints, and inability to move. You can provide enough Vitamin C by feeding vegetables daily that are high in Vitamin C, such as bell peppers.
You can also provide a good source of this essential nutrient by feeding a high quality guinea pig pellet food. Supplementing with Oxbow’s edible Vitamin C cookies is another option to add more Vitamin C.
Avoid buying Vitamin C drops to add to your guinea pig’s drinking water. The Vitamin C in these drops disintegrate quickly when exposed to light through the water bottle. In addition, they also change the flavor of the water, often turning guinea pigs off drinking.
Feed Unlimited Amounts of Grass Hay
Grass hay is the most important part of your guinea pig’s diet. In fact, hay should consist of 80% of your guinea pig’s diet! Hay should be freely accessible and provided in large piles in your guinea pig’s cage. Orchard grass hay and timothy hay are the 2 best types of hay for guinea pigs.
Hay is essential for guinea pigs to keep their teeth ground down, and keep their digestive system in check. Guinea pigs can get gut stasis if they’re not eating consistently throughout the day, which can be a very serious medical problem. Overgrown teeth are also a common development if guinea pigs are not eating enough hay. Guinea pig teeth are ever growing, and require long strands of hay to counter this and keep them at the correct length.
Exercise and Healthy Weight
Obesity is very common in guinea pigs. Being overweight makes your guinea pig even more prone to health problems, especially as they age. Guinea pigs cannot run on wheels like other rodents, so they need to get their exercise in other ways.
Providing a large cage can give them more space to move around. It’s recommended to have 7.5 square feet for 1 guinea pig, and 2.5 square feet for each additional guinea pig. Place their food all over the cage to encourage them to run around. You can also hide treats all over the cage to encourage more movement.
Also, make sure you place their hideys and beds in a way that they still have space to run around the cage if they want. Some guinea pigs like to run “piggy laps” around the cage, so providing them with an open “track” around the walls of the cage gives them that opportunity.
Floor time is another important way to give guinea pigs the regular exercise they need. It’s a good idea to give your guinea pigs time out of their cage in a guinea pig proofed room or exercise pen. It’s recommended to have floor time for 1-2 hours a few times a week, but daily floor time is best if you can swing it.
You can also exercise your guinea pig by teaching them tricks! This is a fun way to exercise and bond with your guinea pig while doing something interactive. You can even build a little agility course and teach your guinea pigs to navigate the obstacles. Treat balls can also be a lot of fun for guinea pigs. Rather than feeding your guinea pig in a bowl, put their pellets in a treat ball for them to roll around in their cage. You can also dice up veggies to put in treat balls.
Keep Your Guinea Pig’s Cage Clean
Guinea pigs can develop problems such as respiratory issues or bumblefoot if their cage is not cleaned regularly. Guinea pigs often pee and poop where they sleep. This can cause problems, as they’re constantly exposed to the dirtiest parts of their cage.
For this reason, it’s important to do a full cage clean weekly. However, sleeping areas should be cleaned every couple days, or daily if it gets soiled quickly. Some people put chenille bath mats under their guinea pigs’ sleeping areas. This makes cleaning very fast, because you just simply shake the rug off into the garbage, put it in the laundry, and replace with a clean mat.
Provide Clean Fresh Water
It’s also important to provide clean, fresh water daily. Empty and refill the bottle daily so it always tastes good and fresh to your guinea pig. It’s also a good idea to provide multiple water bottles, especially if you have more than 1 guinea pig.
As your guinea pig gets older, they may develop arthritis or just be more tired than usual. If this happens, make sure they have water bottles easily accessible near their food and also where they sleep. Not drinking enough water can contribute to other types of problems that are easily avoided.
Watch Out For Calcium
Guinea pigs are prone to developing bladder stones if they have too much calcium in their diet. To avoid this, limit feeding vegetables that are very high in calcium. For every high calcium veggie you feed, add 2-3 lower calcium vegetables into their diet.
Avoid feeding alfalfa hay, as this type of hay is very high in calcium. Also watch out for dried white powdery pee stains left around your guinea pig’s cage. If you see this, it’s a warning sign that your guinea pig has too much calcium in their diet.
Keep Your Guinea Pig Indoors
Guinea pigs can be quite prone to weather conditions and temperature fluctuations. They can also be easily stressed, and this can take a toll on their health. Loud noises from wind and thunderstorms can startle them easily and cause a lot of stress. There’s even a chance of predators breaking into the enclosure or simply harassing and stressing your guinea pigs from outside of the pen.
For all these reasons, guinea pigs are much safer, and possibly even longer lived when kept indoors. Supervised time outside is great, as long as your guinea pigs are in a secure pen and kept safe from birds and other animals.
Keep an Eye on Weight Fluctuations
Weight loss is an early sign of so many health problems. Especially as your guinea pig gets older, it’s important to keep a close eye on this. Weighing your guinea pig weekly is a good idea. This way, you can catch any health problems early while they are easier to fix.
It’s also a good idea to have a veterinarian in your area that treats small pets. Even if you don’t need to bring them to a vet yet, it’s a good idea to look around and find a good vet that is knowledgeable about guinea pigs. In case of an emergency, it’s better to be organized and prepared ahead of time.
There are many factors that influence a pet guinea pig’s lifespan. Some of these factors are within our control, but sometimes it’s simply down to luck and genetics. Guinea pigs are one of the longest lived rodents regardless, so it’s important that you are committed to their care for the long term when you bring home some new guinea pig companions.