Despite their domestication around 500 years ago, guinea pigs have not lost their original instincts. In the wild they live in the harsh climate of the high plateaus of South America. This results in the great adaptability of these animals. Guinea pigs live in small families of three to ten animals. They spend most of the day searching for food together. They cover great distances and always use the same beaten paths. As defenseless prey, they avoid open, unprotected areas and always move from one shelter to the next.
There is nothing worse for a guinea pig than spending its life in solitude. Even if the pet owner deals intensively with the animal, he will never be able to replace a conspecific – just as little as a dissimilar animal (e.g. a rabbit) can do this. Physical and social contact with other guinea pigs is very important for the well-being of the animal.
In order for a guinea pig to live out its need for social contact, it must live in a group of at least two animals. If three or more conspecifics are kept, the activity level increases significantly. The animals encourage each other and live out their social behavior better – a lively community is created. The males establish social hierarchies, in which an alpha male dominates his subordinate males. When it comes to potential partners and territories, the males can become very aggressive.
Movement and escape animal
Guinea pigs have an innate urge to move, gnaw and hide. In the wild, they are very busy digging burrows and burrows that serve as hiding places. Some species are considered excellent rock climbers that can also climb into shallow bushes and jump from branch to branch there.
Their nickname of «flight animal» is no coincidence as they have a variety of enemies including wild cats, coyotes, wolves, snakes, hawks, owls and humans. For the latter, the cute little animals serve as food and/or are an ingredient in traditional medicine.
Guinea pigs are herbivores, they eat vegetarian food. Depending on the habitat, their diet in the wild consists mainly of grass, hay, plants, various herbs, seeds, twigs and bark, and more rarely roots. Their diet is high in fiber and contains sufficient vitamin C. Their diet serves as a model for the food supply of their domesticated conspecifics and it may be supplemented with a few other side dishes.