The American Guinea Pig | Breed facts and Essential Care Guide – Home & Roost

The American Guinea Pig | Breed facts and Essential Care Guide

The American Guinea Pig | Breed facts and Essential Care Guide

Melinda Connor |

When you think of a guinea pig, chances are it's the American guinea pig you are picturing. With their short coat, solid build and bright intelligent eyes the American guinea pig may not be the most exotic looking cavy, But their laid back and friendly personalities mean they are still one of the most popular breeds as pets. Here's everything you need to know about the American guinea pig and how to care for one as a pet.

All About American Guinea Pigs

The History Behind The American Guinea Pig

Cavia porcellus, or cavies, as we like to call them, originated in South America, in the Andes to be specific. Over time, these little rodents were domesticated and by 5000 BC, they started to appear in folk art. A few years later, they made their way to Europe, eventually keeping company with royalty, presidents and modern-day celebrities.

Did you know - Queen Elizabeth I, President Theodore Roosevelt and Lady Diana Spencer were all proud owners of these cuddly little creatures?

Being the oldest, and arguably the most common breed of cavy has stood the American guinea pig in good stead over the years. According to the American Cavy Breeders Association (ACBA) that recognises 13 breeds, the American and American Satin are not only one of the three original cavy breeds but are still one of the most popular.

Any guesses as to the other two breeds that share this top honour? Well, you won't be surprised to find out it's the Abyssinian and Peruvian.

The American Guinea Pig’s Appearance

Like all guinea pigs, this particular breed looks somewhat like a furry potato, with its solid, cylindrical-shaped body, stout little legs and round ears. Of all the guinea pig breeds, the American guinea pig and its close cousin, the American Satin are probably the most recognizable.

Did you know - In some countries, the American guinea pig is referred to as the English guinea pig?

In terms of its short, straight coat, at first glance, you may think the American cavy is a little boring-looking in comparison, say to the Peruvian guinea pig or its hairless cousin, the skinny pig. But there is nothing dull about the breeds' different colours and variations.

The American Guinea Pig's Colour Variations

To date, there are more than 20 colour and colour variations when it comes to the American guinea pig. These include amongst others:

  • Beige
  • Cream
  • Brindle
  • Agouti
  • Dalmatian
  • Tortoiseshell
  • White
  • Black
  • Lilac
  • Roan
  • Red

The American Guinea Pigs' Personality

The American guinea pig is extremely laid-back and easy-going, making it the perfect family pet. Of course, every cavy has its own unique personality, but on the whole, this breed is charming, friendly, curious and full of beans. And like all piggies, the better socialised it is as a baby, the more outgoing it will be as an adult.

Did you know - Guinea pigs are intelligent little fuzz balls that can be trained to do tricks?

When keeping guinea pigs as pets, it's important to remember that all breeds, like their wild cousins, are herd animals and like companionship. Having one piggy on its own can leave it feeling lonely and bored, which can cause depression, behavioural problems and even affect its physical health.

american guinea pig

Caring For An American Guinea Pig

When it comes to caring for American guinea pigs, there are a few things you need to consider. Understanding what your cavy needs (and likes) will keep it happy and healthy, and of course, wheeling and popcorning with delight.

Carry on reading to find out how best to care for your American cavy!

Cage Size

Yes, American guinea pigs may be small, but they need a lot of space to explore, exercise and interact with their pals. As far as the correct cage size, when it comes to all piggy breeds, bigger is always better. Make sure the cage you choose has plenty of room for your guinea pigs to play together, as well as separate compartments where they can enjoy some alone time and sleep.

Check out our wide range of quality guinea pig hutches here.

Hutch Set Up

Setting up the hutch correctly is also important. Cavies love hay. They nibble on it throughout the day and burrow into it when it's nap time. Make sure your guinea pigs have access to high-quality, dust-free hay all the time.

Other hutch essentials include food bowls, water bottles, shelters and nests as well as animal-friendly cleaning products.

For more information on how best to set up your American guinea pigs' hutch, this article tells you everything you need to know.


As already mentioned, hay forms a large part of all breeds of guinea pigs' diet. But they also need fibre-rich, fortified pellets or nuggets, and plenty of fresh veggies and fruit. Take care though, guinea pigs have a sweet tooth and some fruits may contain too much sugar. This can quickly lead to obesity and long-term health problems.

Want to know more about your guinea pig's diet, and how to get it right? You'll find this article helpful.


Guinea pigs are extremely busy and most of their time is spent running about, foraging for food and playing. In fact, according to the RSPCA, they are active for 20 hours at a time, only stopping to take a quick power nap every now and then.

To ensure they're getting all the exercise they need, we recommend a good size run where they can enjoy time outside their hutch or indoor cage.

You can also play games with your guinea pig! Check out our 7 games to encourage physical activity and bonding time with your clever cavy.


Like all cavy breeds, American guinea pigs are very good at keeping themselves clean. And unlike long-haired breeds that are prone to matting or knotting, the American cavy is considered low-maintenance when it comes to brushing and trimming its fur. Keep in mind, however, sick or senior piggies may need a little help in the grooming department.


Without the correct care, all guinea pigs, including the American guinea pig, is susceptible to a few health problems. Unfortunately, being prey animals, cavies generally try and hide any injuries or illnesses, which is why regular health checks are essential.

The most common conditions to look out for include:

  • Eye infections
  • Respiratory problems
  • Teeth or dental issues
  • Tumours and abscesses
  • Scurvy
  • Diarrhoea
  • Heatstroke
  • Pneumonia
  • Vitamin C deficiency
  • Bumblefoot
  • Flystrike

To keep your piggy as healthy, and happy as possible, always make sure:

  • Your guinea pig has a fresh supply of hay throughout the day.
  • Your cavies have access to clean drinking water 24/7.
  • The cage is kept clean and wet or soiled hay and poop is removed daily.
  • Your cavy is fed a well-balanced diet with plenty of pellets and vegetables that are rich in vitamin C.
  • The hutch is set up in an area that's not too hot or too cold. Cavies are sensitive to extreme temperatures.
  • Your piggy's nails are kept short and that there are no hard or sharp objects in the cage.
  • There are no poisonous plants or flowers anywhere near the hutch or run.
  • Your guinea pigs are supervised while they're in their run or outside the cage and don't keep other animals, like rabbits, in the same enclosure.

If you notice that your piggy has a decreased appetite, is lethargic or acting more aggressive or timid than usual, it could be a sign that something is wrong. It's important that you contact your vet immediately if you notice any changes in your pet's behaviour.

Frequently Asked Questions About American Guinea Pigs

Keen to find out more about the American guinea pig? Our Frequently Asked Questions is ideal if you want more information about this breed, at a glance.

What is the average lifespan of American guinea pigs?

American guinea pigs tend to live longer than some other breeds, with a lifespan of between 5 and 8 years. Of course, other factors play a role, such as diet, exercise and genetics. To ensure your cavy enjoys a long, happy and healthy, be sure to give it the best care you possibly can.

How big do American guinea pigs get?

On average, American guinea pigs are between 10 and 12 inches, or about the size of a 30 cm ruler when fully grown. Boars tend to be bigger than sows, and it also depends on the order they're born and their genetics.

Is an American guinea pig friendly?

As far as guinea pigs go, the American guinea pig is one of the friendlier breeds around. They are curious and clever, enjoy exploring and love to interact with their humans. As with all cavy breeds, they love companionship and thrive when kept as a pair or in groups.

Do American guinea pigs get along with other animals?

This breed's outgoing personality means it gets along with other animals. However, for your pet's safety and your peace of mind, we suggest that any interaction with other animals (and little people) is always supervised.

Do American guinea pigs bite?

As a rule, this particular breed of guinea pig doesn't bite. They are friendly and inquisitive and prefer nibbling on hay rather than biting. However, any cavy, regardless of its breed, will nip or bite when it feels threatened or stressed. Remember to always handle your cavy with care to avoid injuries!

Do American guinea pigs like to cuddle?

Generally speaking, all guinea pigs like a good cuddle now and then, but like humans, cavies have their own unique personalities. This means some will enjoy being held and cuddled more than others. Also, the more time you spend with your cavy as a baby, the more affectionate it'll be as an adult.

If you adopt a guinea pig, how it was treated in the past will have an impact on how it interacts with you.

What are the most popular names for American guinea pigs?

Finding the perfect name for your guinea pig can be loads of fun. But it can also be incredibly stressful because of all the options available. Some piggy parents choose names according to their pet's colour, personality, gender or pairing.

Here are a few of our favourite names:

  • Honey
  • Coco
  • Fudge
  • Sooty
  • Cookie
  • Nibbles
  • Squeaker
  • Popcorn

If you have a pair, you may like:

  • Apricot and Jam
  • Kermit and Piggy
  • Peanut and Butter
  • Dandy and Lion
  • Cocoa and Puff

For more name ideas, take a quick look here.

Where can I get an American guinea pig?

If you're thinking about getting an American guinea pig (or any other breed for that matter), please consider rehoming a pet in need of a loving home.

There are well-known rescue centres across the country, including the RSPCA and the Blue Cross, as well as lesser-known charities such as Animal Rescue and Care and The National Animal Welfare Trust. All of these centres are in desperate need of your support, which is why it's better to adopt rather than shop!

We really hope you enjoyed finding out more about the American guinea pig. If you're already the proud parent of this adorable breed, why not tell us what you love most about your piggy? Just pop a comment in the section below, so we can share it with our readers.