With their curly hair and somewhat shaggy appearance, Rex guinea pigs might not be the most elegant breed. But their messy and untidy look definitely adds to their charm.
I’ve owned a variety of guinea pig breeds over the years, including the adorable Rex, which has given me a lot of tips and tricks when it comes to this cavy’s care.
If you’re thinking of owning the Rex guinea pig but want to know more about their care needs, then stick around.
I’ll be going over all the information you need to know about looking after Rexes such as diet, habitat, and health to save you hours of research, so you can use that time to bond with your new perfect piggies.
The Rex guinea pig isn’t a recognized breed by American Cavy Breeders Association, and its origins aren’t known.
That said, there are a few clues regarding its genetics.
The smooth-hair phenotype (“rr”) is dominant in guinea pigs, so it will override any recessive traits cavies have.
The Rex coat (“rx”) and the curly/wavy coat (“wv”) are both recessive.
This means that a guinea pig can only be a Rex breed if both their parents carry the recessive allele (“rxrx”).
Additionally, long-haired guinea pigs with the “rxrx” genotype are Texel cavies, while short-haired guinea pigs with the “rxrx” genotype are Rex guinea pigs.
Combining recessive phenotypes defaults to the dominant genotype. For example, a guinea pig carrying the phenotypes “rrwx” or “rrrx” will have a standard coat of the American guinea pig, with a mix of Teddy and Rex (“wvrx”).
So, to sum everything up: Rex and Teddy guinea pig breeds occur when a recessive trait is expressed from both parents (short-haired).
Appearance and Characteristics
The Rex guinea pig breed has a short and curly coat that sticks outwards.
Their coat is rough and coarse, unlike the Teddy guinea pig which has soft fur.
Rex guinea pigs come in a huge assortment of colors and patterns, just like other guinea pig breeds.
Some of the most common colors include brown, agouti, white, gold, red, and black.
Rex guinea pigs have a potato-like body shape, a slightly elongated face, droopy ears, and a Roman nose.
Their body shape is very similar to the Teddy cavy.
Rexes are the biggest breed of guinea pig.
Most other breeds reach around 10 to 12 inches in length when fully grown.
Rex guinea pigs, on the other hand, can grow up to 17 inches.
Curly Fur and ”Sideburns”
Rexes have curly fur that feels rough and coarse, but it’s actually quite bouncy. Their “sideburns” are also curly, as is the fur on their belly.
A Rex guinea pig kind of looks like a scruffier version of the curly haired Teddy guinea pig, but their unkempt appearance doesn’t make them any less cute!
Biggest of All the Guinea Pig Breeds
As I mentioned earlier, the Rex pig guinea is the largest guinea pig breed.
It’s not uncommon for Rexes to grow up to 17 inches in length.
The hair on a Rex guinea pig sticks out, giving them a fuzzy look.
Their coat doesn’t have any rosettes or whorls.
Are Rex Guinea Pigs Friendly?
If you put in the time to tame and care for them properly, the Rex breed is a friendly cavy.
Bear in mind that all guinea pig breeds can be a little distrustful and cautious of humans at first, especially if they are young or haven’t been handled much.
Spend a lot of time with your Rex guinea pig to win their trust, whether it’s playing with them or simply talking to them.
Although guinea pigs can’t speak back, I find they’re pretty great listeners!
The more you interact with your Rex breed, the more they’ll begin to trust you.
I’d recommend spending at least an hour with your cavy each day to increase your cavy’s bond with you.
You don’t even have to handle your cavy for this long – even talking to them or sitting with them during free-range play can help build their trust.
My guinea pigs, Jake and Finn, were very timid and reserved when I first got them.
It took a lot of praise, treats, and interaction before they came out of their shells.
But now, they’re very friendly and affectionate piggies who thrive on attention.
Are Boy or Girl Rex Guinea Pigs Nicer?
Male Rex guinea pigs are normally a bit more confident and curious than females, but there are always exceptions to this rule.
Your guinea pig’s friendliness is largely determined on their personality and tamability.
Some guinea pigs are shy and a little grumpy by nature, which can make taming them a little difficult.
Other piggies are outgoing, laid-back, and very easy to gain the trust of.
I’ve owned male piggies that have been skittish, and females that have been very friendly and affectionate.
Every piggy is different – some will be more docile than others!
However, if you want to increase your chances of getting a cuddly Rex guinea pig, then a male is a good choice.
Do Rex Guinea Pigs Bite?
Unless threatened, unhappy, or scared, Rex guinea pigs don’t usually bite.
However, there are a few reasons why Rexes can nip or lash out, which I’ll be going over below.
If you’re holding your pet and they nip you, it might be because they mistook you for food. You can help prevent this by thoroughly washing your hands before you hold your cavy.
It could also be because they need the toilet – This is usually accompanied with fidgeting.
Alternatively, you might have accidentally touched a painful or tender area – perhaps a sore or a wound from another cagemate.
It could even be because your Rex guinea pig doesn’t want to be handled altogether. Whenever my guinea pigs don’t want to be held, they’ll start to wriggle and give me a warning nip.
This nip doesn’t break the skin and doesn’t hurt, but it lets you know that your pet has had enough.
If you ignore a warning bite, your guinea pig may give you a stronger bite – one that could hurt or even bleed.
Make sure you keep an eye on your piggy’s behavior when you’re handling them. If they are fidgety, squeaky, or wriggly, then that’s a sign that they’re not content with the current situation.
Rex guinea pigs are similar to Teddy guinea pigs as they share the same curly and kinky coat. In fact, it’s very hard to tell the difference between a Rex guinea pig and Teddy guinea pig as they look almost identical.
However, Rex guinea pigs have a rougher coat than Teddy cavies.
Rex guinea piggies also sometimes have curlier whiskers than Teddy guinea pigs, but this isn’t always the case.
Lifespan – How Long Do Rex Guinea Pigs Live?
Rex guinea pigs normally live between 4 and 8 years, just like most other guinea pig breeds.
It’s important to note that diet, environment, and your Rex’s genetics will influence their lifespan.
Provide your Rex guinea pig breed with the best care by giving them a large cage, healthy and well-balanced diet, and plenty of interaction.
Where to Find a Rex
The majority of cavies available at pet stores are of the American breed, but some places may stock Rex cavies.
You could always call up your local pet store ahead of time to see if they have any Rex guinea pigs.
Bear in mind that Rexes look a lot like Teddy cavies, so you might need to double-check that the guinea pigs available at your pet store are definitely of the Rex breed.
If they don’t, check online to see if there are any Rex guinea pig breeders or animal shelters close to you that have some Rexes in need of a new home.
Do Rex Guinea Pigs Make Good Pets?
A Rex cavy can make a great pet as they’re normally docile and friendly animals. Additionally, compared to long haired guinea pigs, cavies with short hair like the Rex have less grooming requirements.
Their curly coat only needs a quick brush around every week, unlike breeds like the Silkie who need grooming once a day.
Is It the Best Breed for You?
The Rex cavy is the best breed for you if you want a laid back and gentle guinea pig with relatively low grooming needs.
Although not as elegant as cavies with long hair like the Silkie, the Rex is still a charming and adorable pet to own.
One of the first guinea pigs I ever owned was a Rex breed named Rex (I know, not very imaginative!).
He was a lovely piggy who got along with everyone, both cavies and humans. I don’t think I’ve ever had another cavy that’s been as easy-going as him.
Do Rex Guinea Pigs Make Good Pets for Children?
A Rex guinea pig breed can make good pets for children due to their even-tempered and docile nature.
Their curly coat is short, so they don’t need much in terms of grooming, which also makes them easier to look after than cavies with long hair like the Silkie.
That said, Rex guinea pigs still need a fair amount of care to keep them content.
You’ll need to make sure you or your child are able to set aside enough time to care for the Rex.
This includes daily feeding and interaction, as well as weekly cage cleans and grooming.
Children and Pets
Additionally, I’d recommend introducing a guinea pig to a child slowly, especially when handling.
Place a towel over their lap and make sure your child wears long sleeves as piggies have quite sharp nails.
That way, the guinea pig can simply sit on your child’s lap until they feel more comfortable handling their pet.
Do Rex Guinea Pigs Get Attached to Humans?
Rex guinea pig breeds can get attached to humans and their owners, but you’ll need to gain their trust and tame them.
Most cavies are a little unsure and wary of humans at first, particularly just after they’ve been brought home.
But, with time and patience, a Rex guinea pig can become an affectionate and loving small pet.
Both of my two piggies were reserved around people initially, but they eventually became confident and outgoing after roughly 6 weeks of taming.
The amount of time it takes to tame a Rex guinea pig is different for each cavy.
With some piggies, it might take just a couple of taming sessions. Others may take many months of taming before they feel comfortable around people.
Take things at your guinea pig’s pace – don’t rush or try to force things as this may make your pet more afraid of you.
Is It Hard to Take Care of a Rex Guinea Pig?
It isn’t too hard to care for a Rex guinea pig or any other breed of guinea pig.
That said, cavies aren’t exactly low-maintenance pets as they still require some work to keep content.
You’ll need to make sure your Rex guinea pig is fed a good varied diet each day (more on this later!) and is given a large cage.
You’ll also need to exercise your cavy and ensure they get plenty of socialization, both from you and other guinea pigs.
Do Rex Guinea Pigs Smell?
Unless they’re unwell or have an unclean cage, Rex guinea pigs aren’t normally smelly pets.
If your Rex guinea pig breed is a bit pungent, give them a good checkover for signs of illness, infection, or any other health conditions.
Rexes with diarrhea can produce a foul smell, especially if droppings are stuck around their bottom. Additionally, dirty grease glands can cause cavies to be a little stinky.
Guinea pigs with dirty grease glands will have a sticky substance around their bottom (it will look like dark earwax).
Male cavies usually have more active grease glands than females, so they’re most prone to issues with them.
You can get rid of grease gland muck either giving your pet’s lower body a quick wash with some guinea pig shampoo. Coconut oil can help remove particularly stubborn grease gland stains.
Where Should They Live?
A Rex guinea pig can live either indoors or outdoors as long as the temperature is within their preferred range.
This range should be between 65 and 79 degrees Fahrenheit, so make sure you keep a close eye on the temperature of your pet’s habitat, especially if you’re keeping them outside.
If you’re keeping your Rex guinea pig indoors, make sure you position their cage away from direct sunlight, vents, heaters, and draughts.
Try and put their cage in a quiet location that doesn’t get too hot or too cold.
It’s a good idea to put a cover or lid on your Rex’s cage to prevent them from escaping or being in reach of any other pets you may have.
Outdoor hutches can also be made more secure by installing fencing around them.
This helps protect your cavies from predators like foxes and cats.
Choosing a Cage for a Rex Guinea Pig
Guinea pigs need a fairly large cage, especially Rex piggies as they’re the largest guinea pig breed.
A cage for one Rex should offer at least 7.5 square feet of space, while a cage for two Rexes should provide a minimum of 7.5 t0 10.5 square feet of space.
A small group of Rexes will need an even larger cage to ensure every cavy has enough room to roam around in.
Subjecting your cavies to small living quarters can cause a lot of issues, including stress, illness, and behavioral problems.
Types of Cages
A commercial cage can make a great choice for a Rex guinea pig, but you’ll need to check the dimensions of the enclosure to ensure it meets the minimum cage size requirements.
Remember, at least 7.5 square feet of space for one Rex.
Unfortunately, a lot of store-bought cages are undersized and too small to house one guinea pig, nevermind two.
If you want to keep your Rex in a large commercial cage, you may need to part with a large sum of money. Most store-bought cages that are of a good size don’t come cheap!
Coroplast and Cube Grid Cage
If you’re after a cage that provides your Rex guinea pig with plenty of space and doesn’t break the bank, then a Coroplast and cube grid cage is a great option.
This type of cage involves a bit of DIY, but don’t worry, it’s simple to craft!
To make a C&C cage, you’ll need some corrugated plastic, cable ties, standard connectors, and cube grids.
You should be able to get all of these items online, but a shower curtain can make a good replacement for corrugated plastic.
Build The Ideal Cage
As you’ll be in full control of designing this cage, you can make it as big as you like, which will no doubt make your guinea pig content.
I used to house my piggies in a commercial cage, but since I relocated them to a C&C cage, they’ve been a lot of happier.
They’re much more content and comfortable with all the extra room!
Once you’ve got your Rex’s habitat sorted, the next thing you’ll need to consider is bedding. Good bedding for a guinea pig should be absorbent, soft, and capable of controlling odors.
There are a few substrate types you can find for guinea pigs, but not all of them are suitable.
What To Avoid
Pine wood shavings, corn cob bedding, kitty litter, and straw are some substrates you should avoid in your cavy’s cage.
Some of these beddings contain strong phenols which can irritate your pet’s respiratory system and skin, and some can even cause internal intestinal blockages if ingested.
What To Use
Good bedding choices for your pet’s cage include paper-based bedding, aspen wood shavings, and fleece blankets.
I personally use the latter as they’re cheap and cozy.
Not only are fleece blankets warm and comfortable, but they’re inexpensive to buy and maintain.
Once the blankets get dirty and smelly, you don’t have to dispose of them – simply throw them in a washing machine so they can be used again.
Short Curly Coat Care
Rex guinea pig grooming care is very similar to the Teddy guinea pig breed.
Unlike a guinea pig breed with long fur like the Silkie, a Rex guinea pig’s coat doesn’t tangle or get knotted.
Their short fur only needs to be brushed once a week to keep it looking shiny and healthy.
All you need to brush your Rex’s curly short coat is a soft grooming brush.
Make sure you only brush your cavy’s coat in the direction the fur lays.
If your Rex guinea pig has excess fur, you can remove it by dampening your hand slightly with some water.
The excess short hair should stick to the palm of your hand, making it easier to dislodge.
Some Rex cavies like having their short hair brushed, but others may find the whole ordeal very stressful. With time, your Rex guinea pig should get more used to grooming and having their fur brushed.
My guinea pigs hated having their short hair brushed when I first got them – they used to hide every time I brought out my grooming coat kit!
After a few weeks of regular grooming, they eventually began to enjoy being brushed.
You can make grooming and curly short coat care a little easier for your Rex guinea pig by speaking to them in a calm voice.
I usually tell my piggies about my day: where I’ve been, what I’ve been up, who I’ve seen.
A tasty snack like a piece of romaine lettuce can also make a good distraction and hold your Rex guinea pig’s attention as you brush their short coat fur.
Ear Cleaning Care
Another part of grooming for a Rex is ear cleaning.
Your Rex cavy needs to get their droopy ears cleaned regularly to keep them healthy, otherwise bacteria, earwax, and other issues could occur.
I normally clean my piggies’ ears every couple of weeks, but I check them over each day for signs of mites or other problems.
How To Clean Cavy Ears
All you need to clean your Rex guinea pig’s ear is a cotton swab and some guinea pig ear cleaner (mineral oil can also work).
Add a small drop of ear cleaner to the cotton swab and wipe it over the outer surface of both of your Rex guinea pig’s ears.
Never stick the swab or anything else inside your Rex guinea pig’s ears. This can be extremely dangerous, especially if your Rex cavy fidgets or moves suddenly!
Nail Trimming Care
These short haired pets also need to have their nails trimmed regularly so they don’t get overgrown.
Most guinea pigs need to have their nails cut around once a month.
If your Rex guinea pig’s nails are starting to curl, that’s a sign that they could do with some care and a trim.
You also might hear a clicking sound as your cavy walks across the floor.
You can find nail clippers designed specifically for small animals at most pet stores, but ones targeted for cats or humans are also good options.
Don’t use dog nail clippers as they’re far too big for a Rex guinea pig.
Bathing Your Rex’s Short Curly Coat
Guinea pigs, especially breeds with a short coat like the Rex, don’t need baths very often. They already do a pretty great job at keeping their fur clean and tidy!
That said, if your Rex is particularly smelly or dirty, then their short hair may need a bath. Additionally, if your Rex is elderly, sick, or is unable to groom their coat properly, then you may need to bathe them more often than usual.
Otherwise, only bathe your Rex guinea pig when they really need it.
The majority of guinea pigs don’t enjoy having their fur bathed, and find the entire situation pretty stressful.
Bathing Coat Care – How to Bathe a Rex Guinea Pig’s Curly Coat
- First thing’s first, fill a basin or sink with roughly ¼ inch of lukewarm water.
- Gently lower your Rex guinea pig’s body into the water and slowly pour water over their coat. You can use your hands or a jug to do this.
- When your Rex guinea pig’s fur is wet, take them out of the water and place them onto a towelled lap or floor.
- Deposit a small amount of guinea pig shampoo (you can find this at most pet stores) onto your hand, then massage it into your Rex cavy’s curly haired coat.
- Rinse your Rex guinea pig’s coat well with lukewarm water until there are no suds visible in their coat. Next, wrap your Rex cavy in a soft towel to help them dry. Make sure you don’t cover their head.
- A hairdryer is a great way to help your Rex piggy’s curly haired coat dry off quicker. Use the hairdryer on the lowest setting and move it around frequently.
Now that your Rex guinea pig’s curly coat is clean and dry, you can put your pet back into their cage.
How Often Should I Bathe My Rex Guinea Pig’s Short Coat?
As I mentioned above, only bathe your Rex guinea pig’s curly coat when it’s absolutely necessary, such as if your vet advises you to or they have droppings stuck in their fur.
Most cavies shouldn’t be bathed more than 3 times a year.
Rex Guinea Pig Diet – What Can Rex Guinea Pigs Eat?
Hay is a crucial component of any guinea pig’s diet, including the short haired Rex breed. It’s high in fiber, which aids your pet’s digestion and keeps their gut functioning normally.
It also helps wear down their teeth.
Did you know that your Rex guinea pig’s teeth constantly grow throughout their life? That’s why they need chew toys to stop them from getting too long.
Grass hay like Timothy hay is a great choice for a Rex guinea pig as it’s low in fat, calcium, calories, and protein.
All guinea pig breeds need access to an unlimited amount of hat every day. In fact, it should make up 80% of their diet – that’s how important it is!
Alongside grass hay, a Rex guinea pig needs vegetables, ideally leafy greens, in their diet to keep them well and healthy.
Cavies can’t make their own vitamin C, so they need to get it from their food.
Vegetables that are high in a vitamin C are a great way to give your pet this compound. Bell peppers and spinach are a couple of good options.
Some great leafy greens you can feed your pet daily include romaine lettuce, kale, parsley, and cilantro.
Offer your pet a variety of vegetables and mix them up frequently to ensure they get a range of nutrients.
An adult guinea pig will need around one cup of vegetables each day to keep them healthy and content.
Root veggies like carrot and parsnip can be fed every now and again, but not often due to their starchiness.
Remove fresh vegetables and fruits from your cavy’s cage within 24 hours so they get sick from eating spoiled foods.
Another great addition to your Rex’s diet is fruit.
Fruits can make a healthy and tasty snack for your guinea pig, especially if you select fruits that are high in vitamin C.
However, fruits are high in sugar and should not be given to your pet in excessive amounts. A couple of slices twice a week is more than enough for your Rex guinea pig.
Feeding your Rex guinea pig too many fruits can lead to bladder problems, diarrhea, and other health concerns.
Some great fruits to include in your cavy’s diet include kiwi, papaya, blueberries, tomato, cucumber, strawberries, and apple (remove the seeds).
My piggies really like cucumber, especially on a hot day as it’s refreshing and hydrating.
Last but not least, you should make sure your Rex guinea pig has access to pellets each day.
Around ⅛ cup is suitable for most adult guinea pigs.
Try to find guinea pig pellets that are low in fat with added vitamin C (a grass hay based one is also a great choice).
Don’t get guinea pig muesli or any other cavy foods that contain seeds.
Not only are seeds very fatty, but they can be a choking hazard to your pet.
When Should I Feed My Rex Guinea Pig?
Feed your Rex guinea pig once in the morning and then again in the evening.
Your Rex guinea pig should be fed once a day to keep them well and content.
Make sure you follow a consistent feeding schedule each day to ensure your pet maintains a healthy weight.
What I Shouldn’t Feed My Rex Guinea Pig Breed – Toxic Foods
- Dairy products (like yogurt, eggs, milk, and cheese) – All guinea pig breeds are lactose intolerant. They don’t have the enzymes in their GI tract to digest dairy products.
- Meat and insects – Piggies are herbivores, so meat-based foods aren’t necessary in their diet. Giving these pets insects or meat can make them severely sick.
- Bulb foods – White potatoes, garlic, onions, and other bulb foods are poisonous to cavies.
- Avocado – Avocados are high in fat, so feeding them to your Rex guinea pig can slow down their digestive tract. Avocado pits and skin are also known to be poisonous.
- Leeks, chives, shallots, and onions – These are toxic to all guinea pig breeds and can lead to blood disorders.
- Rhubarb – Any part of this vegetable is poisonous to guinea pigs, including the leaves.
- Cauliflower and cabbage – These two veggies, in addition to other vegetables known for being gassy, can cause bloat in all guinea pig breeds.
Exercise and Activity
Exercise is important for your cavy’s physical health and wellbeing. Not only does it keep them in good shape, but it also provides them with mental stimulation.
This helps prevent boredom and behavioral problems, giving your pet the opportunity to play and have fun!
Cavies need around 3 to 4 hours of free-range time each day, especially if they live in a small habitat.
You can use a run or playpen to exercise your cavy, or simply let them wander around your house (as long as you make some adjustments to make it piggy-safe).
Give your cavy some activities to do and toys to play with such as chews, tunnels, obstacle courses, or even a maze. My piggies love mazes and obstacle courses, particularly when treats are involved!
Tidy away cables and belongings that your cavy could reach, and block off any small holes or gaps.
If you have other pets around, make sure they can’t access your cavy while they’re exercising.
If you want to exercise your cavy outside, make sure the temperature is dry and not too hot or cold.
Place the enclosure away from direct sunlight and make sure your lawn hasn’t been sprayed with weedkiller or other chemicals.
Provide your cavy with shelter, especially if it’s sunny. I personally put a large towel over one half of my cavy’s run.
You should also check your piggy can’t get into any potentially dangerous plants or flowers.
Sweet Alyssum, Shirley Poppy, Crown of Thorns, Strawflower, and Pot Marigold are some plants that are poisonous to piggies. Always supervise your cavy when they’re exercising outside of their cage.
Can a Rex Guinea Pig Live Alone?
A Rex guinea pig can live alone, but they’re much more content when kept in pairs or small groups.
All breeds of guinea pig are social and like being with their own kind, so try to avoid keeping only one.
If you want to own just one guinea pig, make sure you’re able to give them lots of care and attention. Single guinea pigs need more interaction than those kept in pairs/small groups to prevent boredom and loneliness.
You can keep other guinea pig breeds with Rex cavies, including long haired breeds like the Silkie and other breeds with short curly fur like the Teddy.
Rex Cavy Gestation Period and Pregnancy
Female Rex guinea pigs have an average gestation period of around 69 days, just like any other guinea pig breed.
However, pregnancy for this breed can last anywhere between 59 days and 72 days.
A female guinea pig can have 1 to 8 pups in a litter, but between 2 and 4 is most common.
Rex Guinea Pig Health
Signs of a Healthy Rex Cavy
A Rex cavy in great health will have a shiny and full curly coat – there shouldn’t be any bald patches or sores on their skin.
Your Rex should be mobile and active, and there should be no restrictions in their movement.
If your Rex is limping or is unable to get around well, then that’s a sign that something isn’t quite right.
Healthy Rexes will have bright eyes, as well as a good appetite.
They should look neither overweight or skinny.
Lastly, a healthy rex should not have any lumps, bumps, cuts, abrasions, breathing problems, or dental issues. If you notice anything slightly amiss with your Rex guinea pig, make sure you get them checked over at a vet as soon as possible.
The Rex cavy is certainly a lovely breed of guinea pig to own, with their gentle and laid back nature, not to mention their Teddy and hedgehog-esque appearance.
The Rex is one of my favorite breeds of guinea pig, as is the Teddy cavy.
I think it might have something to do with their curly coats! What’s your favorite guinea pig breed?
I hope I helped you find out more about the Rex guinea pig and gave you some good pointers on how to care for them.
If there’s any information you’re unsure of, let me know on our social media platforms.