Brush up your Cavy knowledge and check out our A-Z Glossary of Guinea Pig words and their meanings!
As a new guinea pig owner, you may have many questions about terms used in the guinea pig world! Additionally, as a current guinea pig owner, you may also have gaps in your knowledge you would like to fill. We have researched all the common terminology associated with guinea pigs to give you the breakdown to understand the world of guinea pigs.
Our A-Z glossary is the most effective way to brush up on your knowledge and inform you of important issues your guinea pigs may experience.
Read on to find out more!
Abyssinian: An Abyssinian guinea pig is a short-haired guinea pig breed with lots of rosettes all over their body. This means that their hair sticks up in all different directions! Abyssinian guinea pigs are generally more sensitive to touch than other guinea pigs.
Albino: An albino guinea pig is a small animal that has been born without the ability to produce melanin. Due to a genetic mutation, a white guinea pig lacks colour in its hair and skin. They have no colour present, leaving them completely white with pink eyes.
Alfalfa hay: Alfalfa hay is high in calcium so it should only be fed as an occasional treat, in adult guinea pigs, as it can cause bladder sludge and possible bladder stones in adult guinea pigs. However, this hay is beneficial for pregnant or nursing sows as the extra calcium and protein are passed onto the pups. It is also a great choice for piggies that are less than 6 months old to support growing teeth and bones.
Barbering: Barbering is a condition where guinea pigs will chew off their own or companion's hair. A guinea pig may barber as a way to assert dominance, or as a response to the conflict between competitive piggies. Guinea pigs may also barber each other due to boredom or stress.
Bloat: A buildup of gas in the intestines, causing swelling and pain. Guinea pig bloat occurs when excess trapped gas causes organs to become compressed. As a result, gut motility is severely slowed. To learn more about guinea pig illnesses, check out our blog.
Boar: A boar is a name used for a male guinea pig.
Bumblefoot: Also known as pododermatitis, bumblefoot is an infection of a guinea pig's foot pad and is often a result of dirty or inappropriate habitat conditions. Even mild cases of bumblefoot can be excruciatingly painful for pets. If you suspect your guinea pig is suffering from bumblefoot, seek the guidance of an exotics veterinarian right away.
Caecal pellets: moist green guinea pig poop that is packed with B-vitamins. These green guinea pig poops are often re-consumed to absorb more nutrients, an important part of your guinea pig's health!
Calcium: Calcium is an essential mineral in your guinea pig's diet. However, an overload of calcium can be harmful to their health, causing bladder stones. To learn more about calcium in your guinea pigs diet read our blog here.
C and C Cage: C&C cage stands for Cubes and Coroplast cage. Cube refers to the grids that are assembled to create the structure of the cage, while coroplast constitutes the plastic base used in the cage. Coroplast and correx are basically brand names for corrugated plastic.To learn more about C&C Cages check out our Blog.
Castration: A surgical procedure in boars where the testicles are removed. A family planning procedure that allows them to live with a group of sows.
Cavy: Another Term for Guinea Pig. The guinea pig or domestic guinea pig, is also known as a cavy. A cavy is a rodent belonging to the genus Cavia in the family Caviidae.
Chirping: Chirping sounds exactly as you’d expect - and, yes, guinea pigs really can chirp like birds! Body language-wise, they may look like they’re in something of a trance-like state when they’re making this sound. So why on earth do guinea pigs chirp like our feathered friends? Well, actually no one knows. Chirping remains a bit of a mystery although some owners report hearing their guinea pig chirping after losing a cage mate whilst some experts say that it indicates fear.
Clucking: A low to medium chirruping sound, this is a noise that indicates that your piggy is feeling happy with life.
Coprophagia: Guinea pigs are coprophagic. This means that they ingest their own poop, a special pellet called caecal pellets, to absorb more nutrients from their food.
Coroplast: Coroplast (or correx) is corrugated plastic which is an essential component for the construction of C&C cages for guinea pigs and rabbits. It creates a waterproof, lightweight, foldable and easy-to-clean cage base.
Crest: A whorl on the head of a guinea pig between the eyes and the ears.
Critical Care: Critical Care is a feed given to guinea pigs during illness or after surgery. Critical Care contains all the essential nutrients of a complete diet, as well as high-fiber timothy hay to support proper gut physiology and digestion. To learn more about critical care click here.
Critical Care Formula (CFC): Any piggie owner knows that quality care is crucial after any surgery or illness that your guinea pig may be going through. Critical care formula is a fluid replacer used to quickly re-hydrate a sick guinea pig. Just like humans, fluids are vital for a guinea pig's survival and can make all the difference during a spell of illness or recovery from surgery.
Cuddle Cup: A cuddle cup is a small fleece bed for a guinea pig to lay in. Shop here.
Dividers: Used in a C&C cage to quarantine and separate fighting guinea pigs. Shop here.
Double Cage: A double cage is a two-tier C and C Cage that is suitable to house up to 6 guinea pigs - three on each level. Shop here.
Emotional Intelligence: Guinea pigs are intelligent animals that can pick up emotions within a herd or by their owner. To learn more check out our blog: Are guinea pigs smart?
Enteritis: An infection in the intestinal tract. The most consistent symptom is diarrhea.
Faecal Impaction: Most commonly occurring in male guinea pigs, around the age of 3, impaction is a condition where faeces becomes difficult to pass from the rectum.
Fleece Liners: Cage fleece liners are a type of bedding for guinea pigs. In contrast to other kinds of litter, they are reusable and washable, which makes them an eco-friendly solution. They are made of several layers of fabric. Typically the top layer is fleece combined with an absorbent layer. Because fleece does not hold moisture, any pee will soak straight through and be 'trapped' in the absorbent layer underneath. Shop here.
Floortime: Regular floortime is essential for your guinea pigs health and well-being. To learn more click here.
Foraging: Foraging is a fun activity and a great way to add variety to your guinea pig's diet. To learn more about foraging for guinea pigs check out our blog here.
Gestation period: The length of a guinea pig pregnancy (65-70 days)
Grids: Are used to build a C&C Cage. Our grids are thin meshes with small holes that are safe to use with baby guinea pigs and rabbits older than 8 weeks. Shop here.
Hay Bag: A hay bag is a great way to keep your guinea pig's hay fresh, clean, and tidy. Shop here.
Hidey House: As guinea pigs are prey animals and having a safe place to rest and hide is critical to their well-being. Our fleece hideaway is fitted with a removable pee pad which can be removed and washed. Shop here.
Hooting: Hooting is a noise you may hear from your guinea pig. Most hooting is down to slightly blocked airways in the nose; often by some little irritation like hay dust or pollen. It generally disappears again after a few hours. Guinea pig airways are very narrow, so are prone to obstructions. If your guinea pig is making a clicking, crackling, wheezing, or “hooting” sound while they take breaths and it does not disappear it is essential to quickly see an exotics veterinarian as this is a sign of a respiratory infection.
Laundry Bag: A laundry bag keeps your washing machine clean by trapping hay and hair stuck on your guinea pigs' (or rabbits') fleece liners. Shop here.
Licking: Guinea pigs love to groom themselves and licking is an effective way of giving themselves a little wash. Licking is also a sign of affection and is also known as guinea pig kisses!
Lifespan: The average age of a guinea pig is 5 years (between 4-7 years). However, in the Guinness Book of Records, there is a 15-year-old guinea pig recorded.
Litter: The collective name for the young from one pregnancy.
Long-haired: Guinea pigs can be long-haired with fur constantly growing.
Malocclusion: A dental disease where the teeth overgrow and prevent the guinea pig from eating.
Mange: A skin condition caused by a burrowing mite, which causes severe itching.
Meadow Hay: Meadow hay is made from long grass, seeds, and flowers from a meadow. Meadow hay is great to encourage foraging behaviour in guinea pigs but can contain more calcium than other hays as well as other plants that guinea pigs may not like. Meadow hay is a tasty option to feed as a treat or to blend with other types of hay.
Nail trimming: As guinea pigs nails are constantly growing it is important to trim your guinea pig nails every two weeks. To learn more check out our blog here.
Nibble Guards: Nibble guards are a great way to prevent your guinea pigs from chewing correx. Correx chewing is a behaviour that tends to fade over time and is often limited to one area of the cage. It can indicate boredom, wanting to attract attention, or being hungry. Placing a nibble guard to protect the area as soon as you notice signs of correx chewing. Shop here.
Nibbling: Nibbling is a sign of affection in guinea pigs and is part of the grooming routine. As guinea pigs explore the world with their teeth they are simply being curious. Guinea pigs only use their teeth aggressively if they feel under threat. To learn more check out our blog Signs your guinea pigs love you.
Oat Hay: Oat Hay is also known as wheat hay. This type of hay comes within the family of oat, wheat, and barley hay. Oat hay is golden/yellow in colour and is thicker with coarser stems so may not be as comfortable as bedding as other types of hay. Oat is a great hay to mix up your routine or feed as a treat alongside your regular hay, as it is known to be higher in protein and fat compared to other hay types.
Orchardgrass Hay: Orchardgrass is very similar to second cut timothy hay, it is just a bit leafier. Orchard grass is a great alternative for people who may have allergies to other types of hay. Orchardgrass can also be a good option to mix in with timothy hay to give your guinea pigs some variety. It is high in fibre and is green to greenish-gold in colour.
Pee Pad: A pee pad is used in busy areas of a guinea pig's cage to keep it clean or as a blanket when holding your guinea pig. Shop here.
Peripheral Vision: Studies have shown that guinea pigs have 340-degree eyesight which means they have great peripheral vision. Guinea pigs can almost see 360 degrees, all the way around them.
Perineal Sac: anatomically refers to the area that stores caecal pellets in a guinea pig's anus.
Pododermatitis: Pododermatitis is also known as bumblefoot. This is an infection in the footpad which leads to swelling and pain.
Pop-corning: When a guinea pig is happy and excited, it will often 'popcorn'. This describes the sudden jumps performed by guinea pigs, sometimes from a standing position, sometimes in mid-stride, and often involving a change in direction and an endearing squeak! When your guinea pig is pop-corning it means it is very excited and happy!
Pruritis: The medical term for an itch.
Pups: Another name for guinea pig babies (they are not known as Guinea Piglets!)
Purring: Purring is a common noise you will hear from your guinea pig. Purring is usually associated with being content or happy. You will most likely hear it when you are gently petting your pig.
Respiratory: Respiratory issues are very common in guinea pigs. Symptoms include laboured and/or rapid breathing, discharge from the eyes and nostrils, lethargy, inappetence, sneezing, and coughing. Upper respiratory infections are commonly seen in newly acquired guinea pigs. Pneumonia develops very quickly and can rapidly lead to death.
Rumbling: This low-pitched, prolonged, or repeated noise is often accompanied by hostile body languages such as puffed-up fur and angry snorting. Just like teeth chattering, rumbling is an aggressive sound made towards other guinea pigs of either the same or the opposite sex. You may also notice your guinea pig walking slowly and swaying from left to right as they rumble.
Rumble Strutting: Rumble strutting is a dominant behaviour displayed by guinea pigs. You may also notice your guinea pig walking slowly and swaying from left to right as they rumble. This action is known as ‘rumble strutting’ - sometimes referred to as a guinea pig ‘war dance’
Roan: This is the name for the colour where the body is one colour with white hairs evenly mixed throughout the coat. Dalmations are also roans. Two roan guinea pigs should not be mated together as their offspring are often born with teeth and eye problems.
Ryegrass: Ryegrass is considered one of the most balanced hays for calcium and phosphorus but is high in protein. Due to its naturally high sugar content, it is best to feed to your piggies in moderation or mix in with other hay to encourage foraging. It is often called pasture hay in some parts of the world such as Australia.
Saline: saline solution is a mixture of salt and water commonly used to clean wounds. It is recommended saline is kept in emergency medical kits for guinea pigs.
Short Hair: Guinea pigs are either short or long-haired.
Silkie: A breed of guinea pig. Silkie guinea pigs, also commonly known as Shelties, are a long-haired breed often used as show animals and make great pets due to their calm and gentle nature.
Sleep Sack: A sleep sack is a great accessory to add to your guinea pig's cage for them to sleep and hide in. The opening is reinforced so will stay open at all times. Shop here.
Sow: A female guinea pig.
Storage boxes: Storage boxes are a great addition to any guinea pig cage allowing room to store hay and toys. Shop here.
Styptic Powder: Styptic powder is a fast-acting blood stopper that can be used on small animals and is a handy tool to use especially when trimming guinea pig nails.
Timothy Hay: Hay that makes up the bulk of a guinea pig's diet Timothy Hay is the most common and well-known hay used for guinea pigs. Timothy Hay is a high-quality green hay that has a high nutritional value for guinea pigs and is a great choice to feed your piggies on a daily basis.
Teeth Chattering: Not to be confused with teeth grinding, teeth chattering sounds dramatic and aggressive and with good reason. It indicates that your guinea pig is seriously displeased and sounds exactly as you’d expect when your guinea pig is gnashing their teeth together. Teeth chattering may also be accompanied by foot stomping and fluffed-up fur.
Teeth Grinding: This is a quiet, subtle noise that you may only notice if you’re pretty close to your piggy. It sounds pretty much like human teeth grinding and you may also notice your piggy’s mouth moving slightly.
Transparent Panels: Transparent panels are an upgraded version of popular grids for C&C Cages. Made from clear perspex, the panels act as a window for your guinea pigs to see the outside world. Learn more here.
Tunnel: A great place for guinea pigs to play, hide or sleep in. Shop here.
Vitamin C: Vitamin C is vital for bodily functions such as the maintenance of skin, joints, and wound healing. Like humans, guinea pigs can't make their own vitamin C, so it must be obtained from their diet.
Wheek: A squeaking noise made by guinea pigs to gain attention! Normally when they want feeding! Learn more about guinea pig noises and sounds here.
By using our glossary you will be familiar with all terms related to guinea pigs! To learn more about resources and the best sources of information for guinea pigs check out our blog.
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