Guinea pigs are species of rodents that became popular as a household pet in the western world, when it was introduced by European traders in the 16th century. However, they also serve as a food source to many indigenous South American groups. There are 13 recognized breeds (cavies) in the United States, according to the American Rabbit Breeders Association. They include Short haired, Peruvian, Abyssinian, Silkie or sheltie, Teddy, and Rex. The colors and coat textures of different breeds vary. As far as coloring goes, you may have a solid white, black, and chocolate guinea pig, or you may have combination of two or more colors on the coat. Nonetheless, a solid black one is not a breed by itself, just the coloration of the creature.
As Pets: The three most common breeds of guinea pigs kept as pets are the Smooth-Coated, that has short, glossy fur; the Abyssinian, with fluffy tufts of fur, and the Peruvian, that has long, silky hair. Guinea pigs are very popular pet, owning not only to their gentle nature, but also to their responsiveness. Between 8''-10'' in length, their diminutive size does not require them a great deal of space. Usually housed in cages, they can be taken care of by older children. With proper handling in early life, guinea pigs become comfortable with being picked up and carried, and seldom bite or scratch. They are also known to let out little squeaks of delight at the sight of their favorite human.
The Habitat: The most common way to keep one is in a cage. The correct size is a cage that provides four square feet of space per pig, though the larger the better. Glass aquariums have very little ventilation which is why they are not a good idea. Make sure the cage has a solid-base (no wires) and line it with aspen or hardwood shavings, paper products, corn cob materials or any other types of safe bedding material. Provide cardboard tubes for them to play in, and medium-sized flower pot or covered sleeping box which they can use as a cave at nap time. Guinea pigs are susceptible to heatstroke, so keep the cage away from drafts and extreme temperatures. The ideal environment is between 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Diet: While their natural diet is grass, one can sustain their pet pig on timothy hay and commercial guinea pig pellets. In addition to this, small amounts of fresh fruit and vegetables such as cucumbers, peas, carrots grapes, and pears will add a nice variety to your pet's diet. Feed it twice daily, in the morning and in the evening. Ensure you include some foods that provide Vitamin C in the diet, and a constant supply of fresh, clean water.
Behavior: Guinea pigs are social animals, which is why it is best to keep them in small groups of two or three. Two or more females will get on well together, and you can also keep a single male with them. However, it you don't want babies, make sure that the male is neutered. Guinea pigs can jump small obstacles but aren't adept climbers. When startled, you may either find your pig assuming the same position for an extended period of time (freezing) or running for cover. It is normal for your pets to groom themselves and communicate with each other through a number of different sounds. They have an average lifespan of 4 to 8 years.