If you’re thinking of owning the cute Peruvian guinea pig, you’re in the right place.
The Peruvian guinea pig is essentially Rapunzel of the cavy world.
Their long silky hair is certainly elegant.
Just like human Rapunzel, a Peruvian guinea pig’s hair takes a lot of effort to maintain and brush.
I’ve owned long haired breeds of guineas over the years, including both the Silkie and Peruvian, and I was surprised at the amount of maintenance these types of cute cavy needs.
To save you time and stop you researching late into the night, I’ll be going over all the things you need to know about the Peruvian cavy, including: their hair, feeding, grooming, and habitat care.
Due to their extremely long and majestic hair, you might assume the Peruvian cavy was bred in a lab, similar to the Skinny guinea pig.
In actuality, this long haired guinea pig is native to South America.
They’re thought to come from countries like Bolivia, Argentina, and Peru. The latter is why they’re called the Peruvian guinea pig.
They were, however, among the first long-haired breeds selectively bred for show.
Did you know that a fried/roasted guinea pig meat called cuy is a Peruvian delicacy?
But, the Peruvian guinea pig wasn’t always a cute, popular pet, particularly when they only inhabited South America?
In the 16th century, these piggies were brought over to France by French European traders for domestication.
It’s thought that the Peruvian guinea pig came to the United Kingdom through France, and since then similar to hair, they’ve grown – in popularity.
Appearance and Characteristics
One of the most striking features of the Peruvian pig guinea is their long and flowing locks of hair.
Their uniquely long coat is caused by an autosomal recessive gene.
While visually striking, the Peruvian’s beautiful coat is prone to tangles and matts.
These cute piggies are unable to groom themselves properly due to abnormally long length of their hair.
They need daily grooming to maintain their coat and prevent flystrike or skin infections.
If you need tips on guinea pig grooming, check out this guide.
Peruvian guineas and their hair come in a wide range of colors and patterns, including light brown, dark brown, white, and black.
They can be a single color (known as “self”), as well as two colors.
Tricolor Peruvian guinea pigs also exist, but this is quite rare.
Peruvian guinea pigs are one of the largest breeds of guinea pig, and it isn’t uncommon for them to reach 10 to 14 inches in length.
Most other guinea breeds grow to between 6 and 10 inches.
The top layer of a Peruvian’s hair can grow up to 20 inches in length, but the bottom layer hair doesn’t exceed more than 7 inches.
Despite their small size, they can become a big part of your family.
Are Peruvian Guinea Pigs Friendly?
Like most other cavy breeds, the Peruvian can be a friendly and gentle animal. You will surely fall in love with the Peruvian guinea pigs personality.
They are naturally quite outgoing little piggies, and get along with people and piggies.
Are Boy or Girl Peruvian Guinea Pigs Nicer?
As a rule, male Peruvian guinea pigs are a little more confident than females.
But, bear in mind that your cavy’s personality will determine their overall friendliness.
Some other guinea pigs are naturally shy and timid, while others are outgoing and laid-back. No cavy is entirely the same.
For example, I’ve had male guinea pigs that have been nervous and reserved, despite many months of taming.
On the flipside, I’ve had females that have been loving and cuddly from the get-go.
Do Peruvian Guinea Pigs Bite?
While it’s uncommon for Peruvian guinea pigs to bite unprovoked, that’s not to say it doesn’t happen.
A Peruvian can bite people if it feels threatened, stressed, or unhappy.
If you accidentally touch a painful area on your cavy when stroking their coat, they may nip without warning.
Alternatively, your cavy might need the bathroom or simply doesn’t want to be held altogether.
You can usually tell when these animals are uncomfortable as they’ll be a bit more fidgety or wriggly than normal.
They may also squeak or deliver a warning bite.
That’s why you should always keep an eye on your Peruvian guinea pig’s behavior when they’re around you or other people.
The Peruvian is often confused with the adorable Silkie guinea pig, another type of cavy with long hair.
Both cavies have lengthy, smooth hair, but there’s some noticeable differences.
The hair on a Silkie guinea pig sweeps back over its head, kind of like its hair has been styled that way.
In contrast, the hair on a Peruvian is split at the top of its head and parts along the back.
Additionally, a Silkie guinea pig’s coat doesn’t usually grow to the same long lengths as a Peruvian’s. But, even with their differences, both breeds are extremely cute and full of hair!
Do Peruvian Guinea Pigs Make Good Pets?
Peruvian guinea pigs with their beautiful hair can make excellent little pets, especially due to their outgoing and docile nature.
However, a cavy with long fur needs daily grooming to keep their hair free of matts and tangles.
As a result, they take a bit more work to look after and care for than breeds with short hair.
If you don’t think you’ll be able to brush a Peruvian cavy’s hair each day, then a cavy with short hair such as the American piggy might be a more suitable choice.
Remember to do your research and not to go with the first sign you see advertising ‘guinea pigs on sale’.
Is It the Best Guinea Pig for You?
If you want a cavy that’s a real showstopper, has an easy-going attitude and fabulous hair then you can’t go wrong with the Peruvian.
But, as I mentioned above, this breed’s luscious hair needs frequent brushing to keep it healthy and looking its best.
Their grooming needs alongside their other care requirements (nourishment, interaction, exercise, etc.,) can take up a sizable chunk out of your schedule.
So, if you’re thinking of owning Peruvians, make sure you have the time to care for them and their hair properly.
Do Peruvian Guinea Pigs Recognize Humans?
Peruvians can recognize humans and their owners, and they display their affection in many different ways.
When you have gained the trust of your cavy, they will normally come up to greet you, often making cute noises.
The sound your Peruvian cavy makes when they’re excited or content isn’t the same as when they’re scared or stressed.
A happy pet will make “coo” squeak rather than a “cooing” squeak when they are upset.
Some Peruvian guinea pigs even lick and groom people to show affection, especially those they are bonded with.
Do Peruvian Guinea Pigs Become Attached to People?
Peruvians can get very attached to their owners, particularly if you’ve spent a lot of time caring for and interacting with them.
It can take a while for cavies to get used to humans, but once you’ve gained the trust of these animals, it’ll be a life-long friendship!
Is It Hard to Take Care of a Peruvian Guinea Pig?
It isn’t too hard to care for a long-haired Peruvian cavy, but they’re definitely not a low-maintenance pet.
This cute long haired piggy needs daily grooming to keep their hair glossy and tangle-free, in addition to at least 3 hours of exercise every day.
In addition, Peruvian piggies need their habitat cleaned every 3 to 7 days, as well as a variety of food (pellets, hay, vegetables) daily. Clean surroundings will help keep their hair clean. Lastly, this cavy requires enrichment and interaction to prevent boredom and loneliness.
If you give your Peruvian cavy all of the above, they’ll be one happy little cavy!
Lifespan – How Long Do Peruvian Guinea Pigs Live?
Peruvian guinea pigs typically live between 4 to 8 years, but their life expectancy is influenced by many other factors, including genetics, environment, and diet.
Make sure you provide your cavy with the best nourishment, a large cage, and plenty of exercise to ensure they stay in good shape.
Do Peruvian Guinea Pigs Smell?
Peruvian guinea pigs aren’t usually stinky animals, but they can be a little smelly if their habitat or hair is unclean.
As the Peruvian’s hair is prone to tangles and matts, this can increase their risk of getting fly strike or skin infections.
That’s why it’s important you commit to daily grooming sessions to ensure your long haired pet’s locks stay silky smooth.
Diarrhea, dirty grease glands, and skin infections can make Peruvians a bit odorous, so be sure to check for signs of these if your cavy is a little smelly.
Peruvians with dirty grease glands will have a sticky oily substance (similar to earwax) around their lower back.
You can remove this by giving your cavy’s lower back a quick bath with some guinea pig shampoo. Coconut oil can also help dislodge particularly stubborn stains.
Choosing a Cage for a Peruvian Guinea Pig
Peruvians require a sizable cage to live in, especially if you want to take care of more than one. These animals enjoy exploring, so their habitat needs to accommodate this.
One cavy will require a cage that provides a minimum of 7.5 square feet of space, whereas two piggies will require a cage that provides at least 7.5 to 10.5 square feet of space.
Subjecting your cavy to tiny living quarters is a recipe for disaster. Not only can a poor environment make them stressed and bored, but it can also lead to behavioral problems.
Commercial/Store Bought Cage
A store-bought cage can be a decent choice for a Peruvian cavy, but you’ll have to check the enclosure’s dimensions to ensure it falls within the minimum cage size requirements.
Most commercial cages are too small for one animal, let alone two.
Additionally, be cautious of habitats labelled as “starter homes” as these cages are usually poorly-made and undersized.
Coroplast and Cube Grid Cage
Most cavy owners use Coroplast and cube grid cages for their cavies, myself included.
A C&C cage is cheaper to make than a commercial enclosure, and you’ll be in full control of designing it. This allows you to make your pet’s habitat as big as you want.
Although making your own cage might seem a little intimidating, don’t panic – C&C cages are very easy to craft, and you don’t require many supplies.
All you require is some Coroplast. (corrugated plastic), cube grids, cable ties, and standard connectors.
C & C
Coroplast and cube grid cages are a popular choice for cavy owners.
They’re cheaper to craft than commercial cages, and bigger too! As you’ll have full control of designing the cage, you can make it as large as possible.
Don’t worry if you’re not the best at DIY – C&C cages are simple to set up.
All you need is some cube grids, Coroplast (corrugated plastic), cable ties, and standard connectors.
You should be able to find all of these items online, but you can substitute Coroplast with a shower curtain if you can’t find any.
Make sure your cavy’s habitat falls within their preferred temperature range.
If you want to house your Peruvian cavies indoors, position their cage in a quiet room that’s away from draughts, direct sunlight, vents, and heaters.
It’s also a good idea to use a lid or cover to prevent your piggy from escaping or being in reach of any other animals in your home.
If you’re planning on keeping your Peruvian guinea pig, consider installing fencing around their hutch to help protect them from predators such as foxes and cats.
Once you’ve got your Peruvian piggy’s cage all set up, you’ll next have to consider bedding materials.
The best bedding for guinea pigs, especially for your Peruvian cavy, should be absorbent, soft, and able to control odors.
There are many substrate choices to choose from, but not all of them are safe for peruvian guinea pigs.
Pine wood shavings, corn cob bedding, straw, and kitty litter are some substrates you should avoid.
Beddings To Avoid
Some of these are unsuitable for guinea pigs as they contain harmful phenols or ingredients, while some are unsuitable because they can cause intestinal blockages if ingested.
The best beddings for your Peruvian cavy include paper-based bedding, aspen wood shavings, and fleece blankets.
The latter is what I personally use for my cavies.
Fleece blankets are soft, cozy, and inexpensive to purchase. Furthermore, they can be reused!
Once the blankets are soiled, simply throw the soiled bedding in a washing machine to clean and reuse them.
Grooming Peruvian Guinea Pigs
Your Peruvian’s grooming kit should include a bristle brush, a guinea pig comb, a soft brush, nail clippers, and a pair of round-edged scissors.
Bristle brushes help untangle small knots in your cavy’s hair, and also help remove excess fur.
A guinea pig comb is ideal for dealing with stubborn tangles, while a soft brush is great for brushing the hair around your guinea pig’s face.
Round-edges scissors are useful for trimming your pet’s hair and getting rid of any overly matted fur. If left unattended, matted hair can cause the skin underneath to become sore and infected.
Brushing – How to Brush Your Peruvian’s Hair
Now that you’ve got your Peruvian guinea pig’s grooming kit prepared, the next thing you’ll have to do is actually brush your cavy’s hair.
Some piggies can find grooming a bit stressful, especially if they’ve never been brushed before.
You can help make your Peruvian cavy feel a little more comfortable by softly talking to them.
Although the conversation will be one-sided, the sound of your voice should help make your cavy feel more at ease.
A tasty snack such as a piece of romaine lettuce or kale can also keep your cavy occupied as you brush their hair.
Once you’re all set to brush your long haired guinea pig’s, place them on your lap or the floor.
Grab your bristle brush and work your way through your guinea pig’s hair.
Only brush their hair in the direction it lays.
Be gentle when combing through any knots or tangles so you don’t accidentally hurt your cavy.
After you’ve groomed your pet’s hair with a bristle brush, use a guinea pig comb to take care of any stubborn tangles.
Don’t worry if you can’t remove a matt in your guinea pig’s hair – just use a pair of round-edged scissors to cut it out.
Once your Peruvian guinea pig’s hair is free of tangles, go over their fur with a soft brush to smooth everything out.
How to Cut or Trim a Peruvian Guinea Pig
Peruvian guinea pigs and other long haired breeds benefit from frequent haircuts as this makes their length hair much more manageable.
Some Peruvian cavy owners keep their cavy’s hair short to make grooming less time-consuming too,
If you’d rather keep your Peruvian guinea pig’s hair long, then you’ll have to make sure you’re able to commit to daily grooming sessions.
Even if you want your Peruvian guinea pig to have Rapunzel-length hair, I’d still advise to keep the hair trimmed around their lower back short to stop droppings or urine getting caught in it.
Use a pair of round-edged scissors to cut your cavy’s long hair.
Go slowly and don’t snip too close to their skin as you could hurt your guinea pig if they wriggle or fidget.
It may be difficult for your guinea pig to get used to grooming if you have not established a grooming routine since it was at a young age.
If you’re worried about cutting your guinea pig’s hair, ask a friend or family member to assist you.
Groomers that have experience with little animals such as guinea pigs may also be worth looking at.
Guinea Pig Ear Cleaning
In addition to daily grooming, you’ll have to clean your guinea pig’s ears regularly to ensure they stay healthy.
Not only does this help prevent infections and mites, but it also helps reduce wax buildup.
I normally clean my piggies’ ears every couple of weeks, but I check their ears daily for signs of mites or other problems.
To clean your cavy’s ears, dampen a cotton swab with some guinea pig ear cleaner or mineral oil and rub it over the outer surface of each ear.
However, don’t stick the tip inside your Peruvian guinea pig’s ears under any circumstances. This can cause severe damage.
If you think your pet has something wrong with their ears, take them to see a vet as soon as possible.
Guinea Pig Nail Trimming
While you don’t have to trim your Peruvian guinea pig’s nails daily, they still require maintenance every so often to stop them from overgrowing.
Peruvian guinea pigs with overly long nails will find it hard to walk and move around. The regular clipping of their nails will prevent them from having walking issues and other more severe problems, such as bumblefoot.
You can tell when your pet needs their nails cut as their nails will start to curl. Most guinea pigs don’t enjoy having their nails cut, so they may be a little fidgety.
Try to hold your pet securely and take things slow.
Only snip a small segment of nail, and make sure you avoid the quick as cutting into will cause the nail to bleed.
The quick is easy to identify in Peruvian cavies with light-colored nails as it will look similar to a pink/red root.
However, in Peruvian cavies with dark-colored nails, the quick can be much harder to find.
It’s usually safe to cut around ¼ inch of nail from the tip, but watch your guinea pig’s reaction – if they squeak or thrash about, you may have cut too close to the quick.
Guinea Pig Bathing
Most guinea pigs rarely require baths as they’re naturally clean creatures.
Baths aren’t something you should give guinea pigs daily – a few times a year at most.
That said, cavies with long coats such as Peruvians may have to be bathed more frequently than guinea pigs with short hair.
If your guinea pig’s lower back hair gets soiled with droppings or urine, you’ll have to give your pet a bath to clean their hair and remove any stains.
Additionally, if your guinea pig is old, sick, or particularly messy, then you may require additional help with keeping their hair hygienic.
Use guinea pig or small animal shampoo for your cavy’s bath. Human shampoo is much too harsh for your pet’s sensitive skin.
Peruvian Cavy Diet
This food is a critical component of your cavy’s diet, as it provides them with fiber to keep their digestive system working normally.
Hay also helps wear down your piggy’s teeth, which are constantly growing.
Grass hay such as Timothy hay is the best type for your guinea as it’s low in fat, calcium, protein, and calories.
Although hay is important for your cavy’s daily nutrition, vegetables also play a vital role.
Piggies can’t make their own vitamin C so they have to gain it from their food, and fresh vegetables are an excellent source of nutrients.
You should offer your cavy a variety of veggies each day to keep them in good health, ideally leafy greens ones, such as romaine lettuce, kale, cilantro, and kale.
Adult guinea pigs should have around 1 cup of vegetables every day.
Bell peppers and spinach are rich in vitamin C, so they’re great veggies to include in your guinea pig’s diet.
Root vegetables such as carrots and parsnips shouldn’t be fed often as they are very starchy and cause digestive problems.
Be sure to remove any leftover food within 24 hours so your guinea pig doesn’t consume spoiled food – this could make them very sick.
Fruits shouldn’t make up a huge part of your guinea pig’s diet as they contain a lot of sugar.
However, a fresh fruit can make a healthy sweet treat for your piggy every now and again.
Try to select fruits that are rich in vitamin C such as tomatoes and kiwi.
Other fruits you can feed your cavy include apples (remove the seeds), cucumber, blueberries, strawberries, and papaya.
The last food your cavy needs to eat each day is pellets. Pellets designed for guinea pigs should be low in fat and grass hay-based.
Don’t feed your piggy guinea pig muesli or any other types of food that contain seeds.
Food with seeds are high in fat and can become trapped in your cavy’s teeth, which could result in choking.
For the best guinea pig food choices, check out this review.
When Should I Feed My Peruvian Guinea Pig?
Ideally, you should feed your guinea pig once in the morning and once in the evening.
Offer your Peruvian guinea pig food twice a day to help keep them fit and healthy.
Adhere to a consistent feeding schedule to make sure your cavy doesn’t eat too much or too little. And don’t forget to regularly clean water bottles and food bowls to prevent your guinea pigs from getting sick.
If given the opportunity, guinea pigs will overindulge and eat too much food. While chubby guinea pigs may look cute, the health risks associated with obesity certainly aren’t cute!
Not only are overweight cavies more at risk of joint and mobility issues, but they’re also more susceptible to diabetes, heart issues, and many more.
What I Shouldn’t Feed My Peruvian Guinea Pigs – Toxic Food
- Dairy products (like yogurt, eggs, milk, and cheese) – Cavies lack the enzymes in their GI tract to digest dairy products.
- Meat and insects – Being herbivores, guinea pigs don’t require meat in their diet. If you didn’t already know, giving your guinea pig meaty food can make them very sick.
- Bulb foods – White potatoes, garlic, onions, and other bulb foods are poisonous to these little animals.
- Avocado – In addition to its high fat content, the skin and pit of an avocado is toxic to all guinea pigs.
- Leeks, chives, shallots, and onions – All of these are toxic to cavies. They can also cause blood disorders.
- Rhubarb – All parts of this vegetable is poisonous to guinea pigs, even the leaves.
- Cauliflower and cabbage – These vegetables can cause bloat in piggies.
How to Entertain a Peruvian Guinea Pig?
You can use a run playpen to exercise your piggy, or let them roam around a cavy-proof room/hallway in your house.
Fill your piggy’s play area with many different types of toys and activities such as chews, tunnels, hidey holes, and obstacle courses.
My cavies really enjoy mazes, particularly when I leave food and treats for them to find.
Make sure you tidy away any cables, holes, or other objects your piggy could get into. Additionally, if you have other animals, ensure they can’t reach your cavy.
If you’d like to exercise your cavy in an outdoor run or playpen, check that the weather is dry and not too cold/hot.
Position their pen away from direct sunlight.
You’ll also want to make sure your lawn hasn’t been sprayed with chemicals such as weedkiller.
Your cavy’s outdoor play area should have shade such as a hideaway. I personally use a big towel draped over half of the run.
What Plants are Poisonous to Guinea Pigs?
Some plants and flowers are poisonous to cavies, so ensure your cavy can’t reach anything that could potentially harm them.
If you’re not sure if a plant/flower is toxic, it’s best to err on the side of caution anyway.
Sweet Alyssum, Shirley Poppy, Crown of Thorns, Strawflower, and Pot Marigold are some plants that are toxic to piggies.
Can a Long Haired Peruvian Guinea Pig Live Alone?
Peruvian cavies can live alone, but they do much better when kept in pairs or small groups as cavies are social animals.
These great pets can become lonely and bored without companionship, and a single cavy will require a lot of attention and care to keep happy.
Besides, what’s cuter than one Peruvian guinea pig? Two Peruvian guinea pigs!
You can keep Peruvians with other types of guinea pigs, including those with short hair.
Breeding – Gestation Period and Pregnancy
Female Peruvian cavies have an average gestation period of roughly 69 days after successful breeding, but anywhere between 59 days and 72 days is considered normal.
A female cavy can have between 1 to 8 pups in a litter, but 2 to 4 is the norm.
Signs of a Healthy Piggy
Healthy piggies should have:
- Alert and bright eyes
- Enthusiasm for food
- Agile and active movement (no stiffness, lethargy, or limping)
- Glossy and shiny hair (no bald patches, sore, lumps, etc)
- Dry nose
- Neither overweight or underweight
- Clear mouth
- Clean bottom
- No signs of breathing or dental issues
If your cavy has all of the above, then they’re one healthy and healthy piggy!
If you’re concerned about your cavy and think they’re unwell, then take them to a veterinarian immediately.
Vitamin C Deficiency
A common ailment that can occur in cavies is vitamin C deficiency.
It’s typically due to poor nutrition, but other health issues that restrict your piggy’s ability to eat, digest, or absorb vitamin C can also cause this type of deficiency.
Low levels of vitamin C in your piggy’s body can eventually lead to scurvy, a condition that affects your cavy’s collagen production.
Piggies require collagen for healthy tissue and bones.
Here’s a video on giving vitamin C to guinea pigs.
If left untreated, scurvy can result in skin, joint, and blood clotting problems. Many piggies with scurvy typically have symptoms such as:
- Poor appetite
- Weight loss
- Lethargy and weakness
- Swollen joints and poor mobility
- Dull hair
- Spots or subcutaneous bleeding under the skin surface
- Cuts or small wounds that bleed excessively or are slow to heal
- Internal bleeding in the muscles, brain, intestines, membranes around the skull
- Sudden death
If you notice any of the above signs in your cavy, take them to see a vet as soon as possible. A healthy diet enriched with vitamin C foods such as fresh vegetables, fruits, and cavy pellets will help prevent scurvy and vitamin C deficiencies.
Also referred to as pododermatitis, bumblefoot is a condition that causes inflammation and swelling of your cavy’s footpad.
This infection often looks similar to tumors, sores, or calluses on your piggy’s feet.
Over many months, your pet’s feet may become overgrown, red, or covered in sores.
Other symptoms of bumblefoot include: loss of hair around the feet, swollen joints/tendons, reluctance to walk, and loss of appetite.
Your piggy may also have protein deposits in their kidneys, pancreas, liver, or hormonal glands.
Pododermatitis is typically caused by the Staphylococcus aureus bacterium, which enters your cavy’s foot via wounds, cuts, or scrapes.
Some underlying factors of this infection are:
- Poor diet (specifically, a lack of vitamin C)
- Overgrown nails
- Humid habitat
- Wire floors
- Excessive pressure on feet
- Unhygienic environment
When detected early, bumblefoot can usually be successfully treated by making changes to your cavy’s environment, such as changing to a soft bedding, maintaining cleanliness, and switching to a smooth floor.
If your piggy isn’t getting enough vitamin C, your vet may advise you to increase the amount of this compound in their diet.
If your cavy requires treatment other than environmental adjustments, your vet will do this.
They may clean and clip the hair around the affected area, trim long nails or dead tissue, and soak your cavy’s footpad in an antibiotic solution.
Severe cases of bumblefoot may require pain medication and oral antibiotics.
If left to progress without treatment, amputation of the infected leg may be necessary.
Peruvian guinea pigs are cute and majestic little animals, and one of the most unique and striking guinea pig breeds.
If you have the time to maintain their luscious locks and care for their other needs, they’re a lovely pet to own.
I hope you found this guide on Peruvians helpful, but let me know if you have any questions or if there’s something about this piggy that I haven’t covered.
What do you think of Peruvian guinea cavies? Has their cute appearance won you over? Let me know on our social media platforms.
If the Peruvian doesn’t seem like the right cavy for you, then be sure to take a look at our in-depth care guides on many other guinea pig breeds to help you find the perfect one.