The Peruvian Guinea Pig | Breed Facts and Essential Care Guide

The Peruvian Guinea Pig | Breed Facts and Essential Care Guide

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again… if the Texel is the Shirley Temple of guinea pigs with its to-die-for ringlets, then the Peruvian is the Cher or Selena Gomez (depending on your point of reference i.e. age). This Peruvian is a popular choice for cavy enthusiasts the world over, and it’s easy to see why. With its somewhat enviable hairdo and rock star showmanship, the Peruvian piggy has equal amounts of personality and pizazz!

All About Peruvian Guinea Pigs

So what makes the Peruvian guinea pig stand out from other popular breeds (other than its luscious locks, of course) such as the American guinea pig, the rather dapper Abyssinian, the ‘Shirley’ Texel, or the hairless skinny pig?

Carry on reading to find out all about one of the most admired, and adored long haired breeds, the Peruvian cavy.

The History Behind The Peruvian Guinea Pig

Recognised by both the American Cavy Breeders Association and the British Cavy Council, Peruvian cavies date back to the 15th century. Not only are they one of the oldest breeds around, but they’re also one of the first long haired breeds of cavies that were selectively bred for showing.

If you’re keen to find out more fun facts about guinea pigs in general, you might enjoy this article!

Peruvian Guinea Pigs’ Appearance

When it comes to the Peruvian cavy’s appearance, as far as size goes, it’s pretty much the same as every other guinea pig; short, stout, and even somewhat ‘spud’ looking.  

Like all piggies, the Peruvian guinea pig weighs between 1 and 3 pounds, with males at the higher end of the scale. However, length-wise – it’s one of the later breeds, measuring around 10 to 14 inches long. Its head is also a lot smaller than other breeds.

But what really sets this guinea pig breed apart from all other guinea pigs is its luscious, long, silky hair. No other cavy has a coat that grows all the way down to the floor, often measuring as long as 14 inches. And in some show Peruvians, their Rapunzel-type locks may even be longer.

The Peruvian Guinea Pig’s Colour Variations

Peruvian guinea pig

Like the majority of guinea pigs, the Peruvian is available in an assortment of colour variations. The most common is ‘self’ and bi-coloured, while the  tri-coloured variety is the rarest, and most  sought after.

This is because they have an extra gene, which makes their hair even softer and shinier than the single or bi-coloured Peruvians.

Fact – It’s easy to confuse this breed with other long haired cavies, including the Cornet and Silkie. However, the Silkie and Cornet have hair that sweeps off their face.

The Peruvian on the other hand has a middle-parting of hair all the way down its back. And unlike the other two, are its distinguishable, rather hip Noel Fielding bangs or fringe!

The Peruvian Guinea Pigs’ Personality

It’s not only its to-die-for hair that makes this particular breed such a popular choice for cavy lovers the world over; it’s also its larger-than-life personality. 

They are playful and love their humans, and are known for being affectionate and cuddly. They’re also curious, almost to the point of being nosey.

Of course, with such an outgoing personality, people may think this cavy is the ideal pet for first-time guinea pig owners. 

However, it’s one of those breeds that need a lot of maintenance and care, so we wouldn’t recommend it as a pet for inexperienced piggy parents.

Caring For A Peruvian Guinea Pig

When it comes to caring for this particular breed, its basic needs and wants are pretty much the same as other guinea breeds, from the cage size to hutch setup and diet. Grooming, however, is a completely different story, so we’ll focus a bit more on that further down in this section.

Cage Size

All guinea pigs need a large cage. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again – the bigger your guinea pigs’ hutch, the better. They need ample space to forage, exercise, and play. And when it’s time to have a nap, they should have a separate sleeping area

We stock a wide range of quality guinea pig hutches that are made to withstand all weather conditions, as well as accessories such as wind and rain covers, sun shades, and insulators.

Hutch Set Up

Baby and adult guinea pigs need a few basic hutch essentials to keep them happy, healthy, and popcorning with delight. Key items to include in your hutch include:

  • Hay (bedding and to chew on)
  • Food bowls (preferably ceramic)
  • Water bottles
  • Hay racks
  • Nesting boxes

For a complete list of hutch essentials, you can take a look here!

As far as bedding materials go, a lot of the short hair breeds do well with hay, paper, or wood shavings. For the Peruvian piggy, however, it may be worth considering fleece as it’s less likely to get stuck in their hair.

For more information on how to set up a hutch with fleece, you might find this article useful.

Hutch Hygiene

A dirty cage won’t only affect your prize piggy’s appearance, but it can also have a negative impact on its mental and physical well-being. While most other breeds can have their hutches spot-checked once or twice a day, cleaned weekly, and deep cleaned once a month, some Peruvian piggy parents choose to clean the entire enclosure every day.

Soiled bedding, wee, and piggy poo doesn’t only make the cage smell bad, it can also make your piggy pong.

Did you know – Because Peruvian cavies are so smart, and need to be kept in hygienic conditions, you can train your pet to use a litter box?

Diet

Like all cavy breeds, the Peruvian needs a healthy and balanced diet consisting of Timothy hay and specially formulated piggy pellets that are fortified with essential vitamins and minerals. 

Because all species of cavies are unable to produce their own vitamin C, just like is humans, their diet should include plenty of vitamin C enriched vegetables and fruit.

Something to be aware of when it comes to the Peruvian guinea pig’s curious nature and food is that, unlike other cavies, there’s a good chance this little piggy will chew on anything it comes across. 

Although this is a huge plus when you’re introducing your little piggy to new healthy fruit and veggies, it can be a huge problem when it’s left to forage freely outdoors in its run.

Tip – Keep your Peruvian piggy away from unidentifiable garden weeds, household flowers, and plants as well as potatoes, rhubarb, dill and beans!

Exercise

Exercise is a must for all guinea pigs, including Peruvians. Make sure they have a safe, predator-proof where they can enjoy time outside their cage. Boredom busters are a must and to enjoy special bonding time with your hairy pals, we recommend playing some fun games with them.

It's easy to see why Peruvian guinea pigs are so highly sought after, but before you rush out and buy one, there are a few important questions you need to ask yourself: Click To Tweet

This YouTube clip shows you some of the most appropriate guinea pig-friendly games, or if you prefer, take a look at our top 7 fun games that’ll have cavy wheeking with delight!

Grooming

Grooming your Peruvian piggy is key! Unlike other breeds that don’t need to be bathed regularly, this breed needs daily grooming and regular baths.

The ideal grooming kit should include:

  • A bristle brush – this helps remove excess fur and prevent matting on their long coats. It’s also handy to brush the hair around their face.
  • A comb – a soft-toothed comb is essential to get rid of stubborn knots. Remember to always groom your piggy gently.
  • Round-edged scissors – the best scissors for your guinea pig are round-edged scissors. Unlike nail clippers, these are suitable for trimming the hair around the face and also removing matted fur.
  • Nail clippers – cavies’ toenails, like their teeth, continue to grow throughout their lives. Regular clipping of their nails will avoid problems with walking and other more serious issues, such as bumblefoot.

Bathing your Peruvian Guinea Pig

Because a Peruvian piggy needs to be bathed more often than other breeds, we recommend you start doing this at a young age. This will help your cay get used to the water, and over time, make it a pleasurable (and bonding) experience for both of you.

This article explains, step-by-step, how best to wash your guinea pig. Ignore the bit where it says you shouldn’t top often.

Brushing Your Peruvian Guinea Pig’s Hair

Keeping your piggy’s long coat tangle and knot-free is your number 1 priority. Of course, if they’re not used to it, the first few times could be as stressful for your cavy as it is for you. Getting them used to this routine when they’re babies is crucial.

Take a look at our 5 easy-to-follow tips on how best to brush and maintain your cavy’s long hair.

5 Easy Tips to Brush Your Peruvian

1. Calm them down by talking to them

At first, this may start off as a one-sided conversation, with you gently whispering them to while you give them a brush. However, as they get more used to it, and become comfortable with the grooming routine, you may just find them chatting back to you.

Guinea pigs use a variety of sounds and noises to communicate with you, and knowing what these are (and what they mean) will go a long way in understanding how your piggy’s feeling.

2. Keep them distracted with a snack

All guinea pigs love a snack, and the Peruvian is no different. To keep your cavy distracted while you brush it, you may want to offer it a tasty treat to make the process more enjoyable… for the two of you.

3. Start brushing

Make sure your piggy is placed comfortably on the floor or on your lap. This way, if it wriggles or worms its way out of your hands, there’s very little chance of it getting hurt. 

Take the bristle brush and gently start grooming. Remember to only brush its hair in the direction it’s lying (the coat, not the guinea pig)! And whatever you do, don’t rush the process.

4. Use the comb

Once you’ve brushed through your cavy’s long coat, use the comb to remove knots and tangles. Again, this must be done slowly, and gently. 

You don’t want to hurt or scare your guinea pig. For those extra-stubborn knots, simply use the round-edged scissors to cut them out.

5. Smooth the hair out

It’s a good idea, once you’ve removed the matted fur, to smooth your Peruvian piggy’s fur out one last time with the soft brush.

Watch this video to see a Peruvian guinea pig grooming session in action

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Trimming Your Peruvian Guinea Pig’s Hair

During warmer weather, it’s a good idea to trim your Peruvian piggy’s coat. Like other long haired breeds, they are susceptible to dehydration and heatstroke, which can be fatal for these tiny little creatures.

Some Peruvian parents trim their pets’ coats for easy maintenance. It also prevents poo and wee soiled bedding from getting caught in their tresses. Just make sure not to trim the hair too close to the skin.

Did you know – For those owners with prize-winning show Peruvians, trimming their hair isn’t an option? After all, it’s their crowning glory. Instead, they use hair wraps to prevent unmanageable knots and matted hair.

For more grooming tips, including cleaning your Peruvian piggy’s eyes and ears and trimming its toenails, we think this article may be particularly useful.

Health

All breeds of guinea pigs are susceptible to various health issues, but they’re not always easy to diagnose. This is because cavies are prey animals, and will hide any sickness or injury for as long as possible. 

What this means, for you, as a guinea pig owner, is that by the time you are aware something might be wrong with your pet, it is sadly often too late for treatment.

Common health issues for all cavies include dental issues, diarrhoea, pneumonia and eye infections, to name a few. Daily examinations, especially during grooming and cuddling sessions, is the perfect opportunity for you to do a complete health check

Peruvian Guinea Pig Health Problems

As much as Peruvian guinea pigs are prone to the same health issues as other cavies, when it comes to this breed, according to the Universities Federation For Animal Welfare (UFAW) there are a few more things to be aware of.

Let’s take a look at these in a bit more detail, shall we?

Nursing baby Peruvian guinea pigs

As you can imagine, the long hair on a Peruvian can make it difficult for it to nurse its babies. If you’re concerned about the nutrition baby Peruvian cavies are getting, it may be worth trimming mama pig’s coat short enough while she’s nursing.

Heatstroke

In warmer climates and during the UK’s summer months, Peruvian guinea pigs are especially prone to heatstroke. 

To keep your little cavy cooler when the temperatures soar, we suggest getting an ice pod and a shade for their run

It’s also important to make sure they are kept out of direct sunlight at all times.

Flystrike

While all guinea pig breeds are fastidious groomers, the long hair on a Peruvian makes it more difficult for them to keep themselves clean. 

This can lead to flystrike, which is one of the most painful conditions for a guinea pig. And, if left untreated, can prove fatal.

This fatal condition is more prevalent in warmer climates and affects guinea pigs, rabbits, and other small animals. Always check around your piggy’s bottom for flies or egg-laying maggots, which are all signs of this dreadful condition.

Bumblefoot

Bumblefoot or ulcerative pododermatitis is another nasty condition to look out for, especially if your pet lives in a hutch with wire flooring. Because of its long hair, it’s not always easy to recognise the signs early on.

This painful condition impeded a cavy’s agility, causes problems walking, and if left unchecked can quickly lead to infections and eventually death.

Mites and ear infections

You must regularly check your Peruvian guinea pigs’ ears. Unlike short hair breeds, it’s not always easy to spot an ear infection or mites with these hairy little fellows. 

This means regular grooming, keeping hair trimmed, and regular cleaning with ear tips. Always do this gently and NEVER stick the tip inside your piggy’s ear!

So we know Peruvian guinea pigs are cute enough to gobble up (in the figurative sense), but some people take this more literally!

Pet or petit plat? Did you know that guinea pig, which is also called cuy, is considered a delicacy in some countries? 

Whether it’s deep fried, or roasted, guinea pig meat is eaten by farmers, rural folk and is even included on menus in upmarket restaurants, such as the Le Mar in Dubai.

Is A Peruvian Guinea Pig The Ideal Pet For You?

It’s easy to see why Peruvian guinea pigs are so highly sought after, but before you rush out and buy one, there are a few important questions you need to ask yourself:

  • Do have the time and commitment to dedicate to those affectionate, attention-seeking little cavies?
  • Are you prepared to take the extra time and effort when it comes to grooming these hairy little ‘tatoes on legs?
  • Are you a first-time guinea pig owner, or do you have a fair amount of experience with cavies?

If you answered no to any of these, then you may want to consider a different breed. 

Most short haired cavies are low maintenance and don’t require daily grooming and cleaning of cages. It’s also easier to spot health issues, which aren’t hidden behind masses of Fabio-Esque long hair.

The best guinea pigs for families and those who are new to the cavy world include:

As much as all breeds need large spaces to roam, balanced diets packed with fortified vitamins and minerals and plenty of playtime, they don’t require the daily upkeep Peruvian piggies do.

Have you got any questions for us? Maybe you want to tell us all about your Peruvian? Or perhaps you have an opinion on people eating cavies? 

Feel free to drop us a message in the comment section below!

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Melinda Connor

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