Sunday, December 10, 2017

Guinea Pig Product Review: Small Pet Select Meadow Ball

'Tis the season to buy cool stuff for your loved ones! And yes, that should include your guinea pigs. We are part of your family, after all, and if you get us the right gift, you'll see as much excitement on our faces as a human child when they rip open their gifts on whichever holiday you celebrate. But how will you know what the right gift is? Fear not, because we have guinea pig product reviews going back years now, and we're about to add yet another one!

Today, we're reviewing another toy from Small Pet Select's toy sampler: the Meadow Ball. Small Pet Select describes the Meadow Ball as: "Lucious meadow grass, all twisted and wrapped into a ball of fun goodness. What is better than a treat you can eat and play with too? Healthy high fiber, totally safe. This toy is great for chewing and tossing, and you might even see more than one cavy playing with it at a time." Sounds great from the description, but will this toy be a holiday-do or a holiday don't?

Do I want to chew on this?
I think I do want to chew on this.
And give it a little toss! Wow, the description was right.
Similar to the Honeysuckle Ring, I was interested in playing with this toy, but Lola wouldn't even come near it. (Come on, Lola. Live a little!) However, I didn't play with it as long as the ring. Something about the ring was just more fun to chew on, and your neck muscles get tired pretty quickly trying to toss this thing around.

So what's the verdict? We give it 3.5/5 stars--it's a holiday-maybe!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Guinea Pig Product Review: Small Pet Select Honeysuckle Ring

Hi loyal readers! We have to apologize for not filling your lives with tales from our cage lately. It's a mistake we're fixing right now, because we're finally back! Today, we're reviewing Small Pet Select's Honeysuckle Ring, which we got as part of their the toy sampler. We've often been underwhelmed by the guinea pig toys we've gotten in the past, but we think this one is a keeper! (At least, I do. Lola didn't seem too interested in it.)
This seems fun to chew on.
And fun to step on.
Look what I can do!
Lola missed out on all the fun. Too bad for her! I'll give the Honeysuckle Ring 4/5 stars; I think it's lots of fun, but apparently not every piggy thinks so (or will even give it a chance to see if it's fun!).

Monday, November 6, 2017

Our 2017 Halloween Costumes

Over the years, we've shared a few pictures of ourselves in costume, mostly for Halloween. We're generally not big fans of wearing costumes, but we tolerate it to make our humans happy. (The things we do for those big, silly mostly-hairless apes. Am I right?) And even though we always complain a little at the time, we have to admit that we do look adorable in our outfits. Our previous outfits have included Pokemon, dinosaurs and ladybugs, a tuxedo, and a bumblebee.

We know we're a little late in sharing our costumes this year, but better late than never, right? Who wants to see our Halloween costumes? Okay, here they are:

Lola does not look happy in her pumpkin outfit.
There's a new sheriff in town...
As you may notice, Lola's costume is not fully on. She made it very clear to the humans that she didn't want the strap on the hat connected under her chin, so the humans left it loose. (It's very important to respect your guinea pig's boundaries!)

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Help California Guinea Pigs

Hi readers. We want to make you aware of a very serious, very urgent issue that is happening right now in Northern California. A large breeding/hording situation was uncovered this week, and there are nearly 600 guinea pigs who need your help.

The Los Angeles Guinea Pig Rescue was called in to help out and they drove all the way to Northern California and have spent the last few days sexing, medicating, feeding, and separating a massive herd of neglected pigs.

Here is their Facebook page where you can follow updates:

Here's the first video they posted:

And here is their Facebook live footage of the piggies being rescued:

We at Cavy Savvy have donated and encourage you all to help, too, if you are in a position to do so. They are a 501c3 Rescue and ALL donations are 100% tax deductible.

Want to help out? Here's how:

LA Guinea Pig Rescue's Amazon Wish List

Direct Donation

The good news is that these piggies will finally be getting the help they need and hopefully be adopted very soon. Hooray for the LA Guinea Pig Rescue!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Ask a Guinea Pig: Can Guinea Pigs Eat Lamium (dead-nettles)?

It's time for another installment of Ask A Guinea Pig! For today's question, Tavia R. asks: "Can my piggies eat Lamium (Dead Nettle)?"

Answer: According to Wikipedia, "Lamium (dead-nettles) is a genus of about 40–50 species of flowering plants in the family Lamiaceae, of which it is the type genus. They are all herbaceous plants native to Europe, Asia, and northern Africa, but several have become very successful weeds of crop fields and are now widely naturalised across much of the temperate world." Some of the species are noted as being edible (for humans), including:
  • Lamium album (white nettle): "The young leaves are edible, and can be used in salads or cooked as a vegetable."
  • Lamium amplexicaule (Henbit dead-nettle): "The leaves, stem, and flowers of the plant are edible and have a slightly sweet and peppery flavor, similar to celery. Henbit can be eaten raw or cooked."
  • Lamium purpureum (red dead-nettle, purple dead-nettle): "Young plants have edible tops and leaves, used in salads or in stir-fry as a spring vegetable. If finely chopped it can also be used in sauces"

Purple dead-nettle. (source)
We've also heard of people feeding purple dead-nettle to rabbits (although that doesn't necessarily mean it's safe for them). But what about guinea pigs specifically? It seemed like a lot of people just did not know. However, we did find warnings about one Lamium species (Lamium amplexicaule) for alpacas and sheep. And, according to Toxic Plants of North America, "Because of the uncertainty regarding their intoxication potential, the other species of Lamium should be considered suspect as well." So it looks like there's just not enough evidence to say for sure, but what evidence does exist is cause for concern. I'd avoid feeding your piggies dead-nettles if I were you!

There are lots of things that you can safely feed your piggies instead of dead-nettles, such as these pink pearl apples!
Got a question for us? Just leave a comment!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Rent a Guinea Pig in Switzerland

In 2008, Switzerland passed some new animal rights laws, which established social rights for animals. This means that animals that are classified as "social species" need to be allowed to have social interactions with others of their own kind. Guinea pigs are one of these social species, and so Swiss pet shops will not sell just one at a time.

This creates a legal issue when one guinea pig outlives the other. As we've mentioned, guinea pigs live 5-7 years on average, and in our experience, serious health issues are much more likely to appear around age 5, such as Buffy's uterine mass. In the past, each time one of us in the Cavy Savvy cage has passed on, there were 3 piggies in the cage. We haven't been in a situation where there were only 2, and we were at risk of one piggy being left all alone. (Even though there's no social rights law for guinea pigs in the USA that we're aware of, it's still better for the mental well-being of the piggy not be solitary.)

Although it is a very unpleasant thought, it is something we might want to start planning for, given that there's currently only 2 of us, and Broccoli is about 6 years old now. Luckily, he still seems to be happy and healthy (apart from a broken tooth), so hopefully there's still plenty of time to figure that out.
Oh no, I don't think Broccoli likes me talking about this at all. Let's get back to talking about the Swiss...
But getting back to Switzerland, an animal-lover there named Priska Küng decided to start a "rent a guinea pig" service to help out humans and their lonely piggies in this unfortunate situation; as ABC News explains, "Without her rent-a-guinea pig service, the owner would have to purchase a new, probably younger guinea pig as a companion to the ageing survivor, whose eventual death would force the purchase of yet another guinea pig, locking the owner into an endless cycle of guinea pig purchases in order to adhere to Swiss law." (ABC News, we got some news for you: we're fuzzy and delightful, and any human would be lucky to be "locked" into an "endless cycle" with wonderful creatures such as us! But, I digress.) Küng would charge 50 Swiss francs for a male and 60 for a female as a deposit, and you get half of your deposit back when you return the piggy.

While this overall seems like a good thing since it ensures solitary guinea pigs don't spend their twilight years alone, there are some potential issues here. Küng is president of IG Meerschweinchen an organization of guinea pig breeders. As we've mentioned before, breeders often operate without the best interests of the piggies in mind, although in this case, it appears to be a labor of love for Küng, who has said: "It's a hobby that costs me more money than I earn from it." We'd still be comfortable with the idea if it were associated with guinea pig rescues rather than breeders, who may contribute to overpopulation. On the other hand, we've heard that overpopulation is less of an issue in that region, so perhaps there's less of a chance that people would be passing up an opportunity to take home a shelter piggy for a breeder piggy. (On the other hand, another person claimed Switzerland does have many piggies in shelters needing homes, so we don't know what to think.) Any Swiss readers out there who can weigh in?

Although some may also feel that the service sends a message that "guinea pigs are disposable," Küng also says: "It's important that none of the rental guinea pigs just keep getting passed on... If an animal has been hired out once, it either stays with me for the rest of its life or it moves somewhere else for good." This was good to read, since adjusting to a new home tends to be stressful, and we would hope that any similar services would also place guinea pig welfare over profits.

If you are in the unfortunate situation of having one guinea pig outlive the other, and don't live anywhere near the Rent A Guinea Pig service, what other options do you have? You could, of course, adopt another guinea pig. However, if for some reason you don't want to be "locked in" to an "endless cycle" of joy and cuteness for some unfathomable reason, there are other options besides letting your remaining piggy live in solitude. Rescues may take back your remaining piggy, although it's probably hard to give up your furry companion in their time of need. Some rescues may offer a "fostering" option, similar to the Rent A Guinea Pig service, where you can bring home a companion for your piggy and have the option to bring it back to the rescue after he or she passes. Of course, you may become attached to your foster piggy, and not want to give them back after all!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Madame Shiva: The Guinea Pig Sports Oracle

Cavy Savvy readers already know that there are some talented guinea pigs out there, including cops, artists, and more. We have also mentioned that there are guinea pig fortune tellers. Along the same lines, did you know there was a guinea pig sports oracle?

Many people have heard of Paul the Octopus, the famous animal oracle. Paul lived from 2008 to 2010, and in those two years, he correctly predicted 12 out of 14 soccer (AKA "football" outside the USA) matches (that's an 86% success rate). He would choose the winners by eating from one of two food bowls, each with a team flag of the competitors in an upcoming game.

After Paul died, many animal oracles tried to pick up where he left off, including Madame Shiva, a guinea pig:
The one and only guinea pig sports oracle! (image source)
Madame Shiva was sponsored by Swissaid, an international aid organization that focuses on things like poverty and sustainable agriculture. Madame Shiva would choose the winners by being placed on a flat surface painted with the two teams, and would then demonstrate her interest in one or the other, such as by leaving a poop:

Here's how Madame Shiva's predictions turned out:
It looks like Madame Shiva only tried to predict those 3 matches, and her record wasn't too impressive. But hey, even Paul was wrong on 2 of his predictions. Maybe Madame Shiva was just getting warmed up and, if given the chance, would have gotten all the rest of the games right that season!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Guinea Pigs and Solar Eclipses

Humans here in the United States caught eclipse-mania a few weeks ago due to the total solar eclipse on August 21, 2017. Do guinea pigs react to solar eclipses? Is there anything you should be concerned about when they happen?

Because animals behave differently during night and day, as you can imagine, they can get confused during a solar eclipse and behave as if it suddenly became night time. According to a National Geographic article, "modern astronomers and eclipse chasers have also reported wild and domestic animals noticeably reacting to eclipses: Dairy cows return to the barn, crickets begin chirping, birds either go to roost or become more active, and whales breach in the seas."

There's actually an app for nature-loving humans called iNaturalist that allows users to record their observations of nature, and during the eclipse, they had a special project called "Life Responds" to systematically track how animals responded to the solar eclipse. Unfortunately, while there were plenty of dog and cat observations, we did not find any guinea pig observations in the project records. However, there were some observations of our distant relatives on the evolutionary family tree:
  • Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) - "No squirrels were seen - but there was A LOT of squirrel chatter all at once at 2:41pm! Reminded me of their warning call when a snake or raptor is about."
  • Domestic Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus ssp. domesticus) - "Grooming itself and eating, which it usually does around 4 PM"
  • California Ground Squirrel (Otospermophilus beecheyi) - "Squirrels bothered tourists as usual during the eclipse."
Kind of a mixed bag here, but looks like a lot of our distant cousins didn't even notice the eclipse.

On a related note, is there anything you should be concerned with regarding a solar eclipse? Humans have been very concerned about eye damage from looking up at the solar eclipse without proper eye protection, causing a condition called solar retinopathy. This can happen from staring at the sun during regular times, although ordinarily, your body feels pain and tells you to stop it. Is this a concern for guinea pigs? There was a debate about this on the Guinea Lynx Forum:
  • WindeSpirit: "I've been seeing a number of things about folks protecting their dogs & cats from the upcoming eclipse, but nothing about for the other indoor animals... In particular, those that have a window close to them or access to seeing out of, specially from floor height. Please take a simple precaution measure and close blinds, hang up sheets if need to.  Remember, piggies can play statue so easy, and sleeping with eyes open? One can only guess at what sort of damage that could potentially happen to them, and their sight is poor enough as it is. Better not to risk it with such a easy thing to do."
  • Kimera: "I don't understand what you are afraid of. Eclipse reduces the amount of sunlight, not making it stronger or more dangerous in any way. Eye protection, for example, very dark glasses, are necessary only for curious people who want to look directly at the sun to observe the eclipse."
  • crowcrash: "For future reference: The concern is that because the light is more dim, animals will look up or stare at the sun because it doesn't hurt to look up at it. But it will still damage their eyes."
  • kailaeve1271: "I am late as well, but I should let everyone know animals do not naturally look at the sky for no reason except if they sense a bird or something in a tree. Animals don't just stare at the sun. They just assume it is getting late outside. Trust me your animals are safe."
  • WindeSpirit: "To answer, what I am afraid of during eclipses? A piggy who normally sleeps in their safe and happy sunny spot suddenly starts bumping into things as if she had a stroke. Unless any one of the tests afterwards came back a false negative, which was unlikely. The vets only other conclusion was to ask about the partial eclipses, access to sun & exact day it started, that was both positive. We could only figure that the lack of sun allowed whatever natural instincts for her eye to look towards the sun, and assumed she was asleep when it happened since that would have been the ideal position, not to mention the position she usually was in, while in her sunning spot. Perhaps the shadow on her made her think I was standing outside and her eye naturally gravitated? ...The point is, there are times where enough of circumstances happen that can get a animal to look up... the piggy I was speaking about above was our Cotton princess. She lived a long and happy life, though she didn't sunbath as much the following 4-5 years, I ended up having to get a sun lamp."
So it sounds to us like guinea pigs probably don't care much of about solar eclipses (us two being the exception since we write a blog that makes us interested in just about anything guinea pig related), and will probably just ignore it. But there's at least one anecdote of a guinea pig being hurt by a solar eclipse, so it might be worth taking a moment to block off windows during the next one.
Although the risk is slim, it wouldn't hurt to take precautions to protect my eyes!
It will be some time before the next solar eclipse, but it's still something to keep in mind!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Can Guinea Pigs Eat Pink Pearl Apples?

Have you ever stopped to consider all the many wonders of nature that are out there? There's such a huge variety of things to look at, sniff, and--most importantly--chew on. And just when you think you've chewed on it all, nature finds something new to surprise you with. Sometimes the surprise is even hiding inside of something familiar. Take today's food review, for instance. You have what appears to be a regular, old apple, but cut it open, and... SURPRISE!

Wow! It's pink!
Yes, it's pink inside! Hence the name, pink pearl apples. These apples are only ripe from late August to mid-September, so keep your eyes peeled if you want to join in the fun.

Like all apples, we can have pink pearl apples 1-2 times per week.
Why are you giving me that look, Lola? You have your own.

My pink apple!
Admittedly, it tasted just like any other apple. But that's not a problem for us, as we love apples! The splash of color was a nice surprise, too. 5/5 stars!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Ask A Guinea Pig: Guinea Pig's Average Heart Rate?

It's time for another installment of our Ask A Guinea Pig series, where we answer questions from our readers! Here's today's question: Kathy Newman asks: "What is a guinea pig's average heart rate?"

Answer: We actually found a fair bit of variation in the answers out there, but the general consensus seems to be that it's somewhere around 200 - 319 beats per minute. (For comparison, in humans, "A normal resting heart rate for adults ranges from 60 to 100 beats a minute," according to the Mayo Clinic. So guinea pig hearts beat quite a bit faster!)

According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, a guinea pig's resting rate rate is 200-300 bpm:

Doctors Foster and Smith's pet education website gives slightly different numbers: 240-310 bpm. Also, an article in Nature claims that: "guinea pigs have a heart rate of 200–250 beats per minute." In The Biology of the Guinea Pig (Joseph E. Wagner, ed.), they reported that in a 1971 study, "They recorded a mean rate of 275.5 beats per minute as a normal resting heart rate. A range of 229 to 319 beats per minute demonstrated wide individual variation. They also reported that the guinea pig, while often appearing quiescent, is keenly aware of environmental changes as reflected in heart fluctuations. Introduction of a rat into a guinea pig cage caused a distinct bradycardia (25% less than resting rate)" This reminded us of one of our previous Ask A Guinea Pig posts on dogs and guinea pigs, where we cited an anecdote about guinea pigs been much less scared after the dog passed away.

Interestingly, in The Biology of the Guinea Pig, they also note a 1972 study "reported that the heart rate was significantly (P < 0.001) slower in summer than winter." This might help partially explain the different numbers. They also provide the following table, summarizing past research on guinea pig heart rates:

And, if you were curious how you might actually go about measuring a guinea pig's heart rate, we found an article from 1998 describing their process:
"The investigated animals were familiar with a daily standard procedure which included weighing in a plastic basin since their first day of life. In order to avoid disturbing the animals we used this procedure as base for our heart rate measurement: The head of an electronic stethoscope (Bosch, Germany) was built in the weighing basin in a way, that it was directly under the chest of the Guinea pig (figs. 1 and 2). By using an underneath accessible adjusting device the stethoscope’s head could always be adjusted in an optimal position without touching the respective animal with the hands. The electronically amplified heart rate sounds and the animal’s identification were recorded with a commercial two-speed dictation machine (Sanyo, Japan)."

Keep those questions coming!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Guinea Pig Attractions Around the Word: Berkley 510 Skateboarding Guinea Pig Mural

We've highlighted many guinea pig attractions around the world, but let's not forgot that our own country is also part of the world, and has its' own guinea pig attractions worth highlighting!

At 510 Skateboarding in Berkley, California, there was a controversy over a mural back in 2009. They had a 16 foot tall mural on the side of their business that went against the local signage laws because it included their name. An article in Berkleyside shows this mural of a guinea pig as the mural in question, although we're a little confused since the original article said it was a "rainbow mural" (possibly just meaning the colorful background?) and had the business name's name on the mural, which we didn't see until we saw the little"510" patch on the sleeve. (Is that what all the fuss was about?) Here it is:
Photo from Berkleyside (Source); Photographer: Rannie Turingan.
After seeing how old this story was and all the controversy, we figured that the mural was probably gone. However, thanks to Google Street view, we found out that it is still there:
Still there as of April 2017!
Any humans live in or near Berkeley? Go check it out and get your picture taken in front of this super-cool mural!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Guinea Pig Cuddle Cloning

We recently did a post on guinea pig cloning--something that's not quite available yet for guinea pigs, but is available for dogs and cats, so it's probably not too far off in the future. Until then, there is another option for those who can't wait: a guinea pig Cuddle Clone! As their website explains:
"We make soft, adorable, customized stuffed-animal versions of people’s pets called Cuddle Clones. All you have to do is submit at least one picture (although several are preferred) and choose a few customization options (eye color, ear position, tail position) and we’ll send you your very own Cuddle Clone."
Unlike ViaGen Pets, Cuddle Clone does offer a guinea pig "cloning" option:
Here is Bear and his Cuddle Clone.
Gypsea & Cuddle Clone.
Like real cloning. Cuddle Cloning seems expensive. (At least, we think it is. Even after all this time, it's hard to wrap our minds around that money stuff that humans care so much about.) The regular price for a Cuddle Clone is $249, although they're current having a limited summer sale of $149 for a guinea pig. Even though this is a lot less than the $25,000-$50,000 that actual cloning costs, we still don't think our humans will go for it. It's always an option for the future, though, since you just need pictures rather than genetic samples!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Guinea Pig Cloning

Ever since Dolly the sheep was cloned in 1996, the idea of animal cloning has been moving more and more from the realm of science fiction to science reality. There is now a company in the United States that offers pet cloning services called ViaGen Pets.

Our humans recently had a chance to speak with a company representative, and they said that they only currently offer their services for cats and dogs. This is because it takes a lot of research and development work to discover a reliable cloning process for each animal species, and it's probably no surprise that there are a lot more cat and dog owners out there to sell their services to. Also, their services are currently pretty expensive; they currently charge $50,000 for dog cloning, and $25,000 for cat cloning, although they hope to bring the cost down to $5,000 in the future. (They also offer genetic preservation services for $1,600 to save your pet's DNA for possible future cloning.) However, given how far animal cloning has come in the 21 years since Dolly, who knows how this will change in the next decade or two? Guinea pig cloning could become both available and affordable for the average human.

Here's the process works, according to one of their brochures:
No guinea pigs yet..
Of course, we may want to step back and ask an obvious question here: Why would you want to do this? Why wouldn't someone just accept a guinea pig (or other pet) created the way nature has been making them up to this point? According to veterinarian Alice Villalobos, “As a veterinary oncologist also focused on palliative care and hospice for dogs and cats, I see how this could become a more accessible opportunity for those who want to have an option for a continuum with a genetically similar pet who they are on the verge of losing.” These sentiments seem to match the user reviews on the ViaGen Pets Facebook page:
  • "Thanks to Viagen and their great staff I have peace of mind knowing there is a piece of my angel out there waiting for me! I can hardly wait to hold her in my arms again."
  • "It's never easy losing a "pet", especially when you think of them as family and their health declines almost overnight. Preserving our cat's cells helped with the grieving process because even though she is no longer with us, her cells are preserved! No matter what we decide down the road as far as cloning, it's nice knowing there are options."
  • "You gave Casanova a second chance at being able to continue his lineage (as Casanova is almost 17 now and his sperm are inactive). Casanova 2.0 one day will be able to continue Casanova's family tree"
We think this is all understandable. I remember how painful it was to lose our cage mates Buffy and Lola 1, and perhaps having a clone of them would have made the loss easier to accept. On the other hand, if you have room in your home for another guinea pig, creating a new cloned guinea pig in a surrogate mother seems like a missed opportunity to adopt one of the many guinea pigs who are out there and needs a good home.

What are your thoughts on guinea pig cloning? Let us know in the comments below!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Ask a guinea pig: Are lime peels safe for guinea pigs?

It's time for another installment of our Ask A Guinea Pig feature! Andi Rogynous asks: "Columbia doesn't like limes either, but she did eat the rind. do you know if that's safe?"

Thanks for the question, Andi. It's always good to do your research before feeding something questionable to your piggy. As you know, we did a review post on limes a while back, which included the rind. Of course, we hated limes and barely touched them, so eating the rind was a bit of a moot point for us. Still, just in case there are some piggies out there who feel differently, let's dig into this lime peel issue.

Research has shown that citrus peels are "a good source of molasses, pectin and limonene," and have lots of health benefits. Lime peels in particular are a good source of fiber compared to other citrus peels:
Of course, this seems to be human nutrition research, and doesn't necessarily mean that guinea pigs should have it. We've read that a study showed that limettin, a substance found in lime peel, was not found to be toxic to guinea pigs, but haven't seen any other research specifically on guinea pigs and lime peels.

However, we also know that guinea pigs can eat the rinds of other citrus fruits. For example,'s food chart has orange peel listed as a 2-4 times per week food. In addition, when asked about lemon peels, their diet expert said: "The rind can be fed in small quantities as well."

In addition, we found a thread on the Guinea Pig Forum where someone fed their guinea pig a small lime slice, peel intact, and no one on the forum raised this as an issue:
Image source: PiggieWigs12 on the guinea pig forum; caption: "so apparently special needs Norman loves limes but especially loves lemons!"
Therefore, although the evidence is not 100% ironclad, we're going to say that lime peels are probably safe to feed occasionally (assuming your piggy actually likes them!). However, we should note that limes may have waxy coatings added to them, and should therefore be organic and cleaned very thoroughly. In addition, citrus peels may be high in oxalates, and should therefore only be fed in small quantities.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Guinea Pig Psychology: Understanding Guinea Pig Thinking and Behavior

You spend a lot of time with your guinea pig. You probably have gotten to know their personality to some degree. But how much do you know about what science knows about the guinea pig mind and behavior?
What's going on in Broccoli's mind? Does science hold the answers?
Here's a few interesting things to know about guinea pig psychology, according to academic research:
  • A University of Münster research paper found important differences between domestic guinea pigs and our wild relatives (Cavia aperea, AKA the Brazilian guinea pig). 
    • First, "wild cavies are more exploratory and take more risks than domestic guinea pigs. When put in an open field, the cavies explored further, and when put in a dark box they came out of the box and spent more time in the light." 
    • Second, "domestic guinea pigs were more sociable. Although both cavies and guinea pigs were interested in the unfamiliar infant and female, the guinea pigs engaged in more social interaction with the infant and more courtship behaviours towards the female."
  • A Colorado State University research presentation found a few notable behavioral trends. 
    • First, removing huts from the cage led to a decrease in active behaviors, and an increase in putting front limbs on water bottles. However, after a day or so, guinea pigs grew accustomed to the change. and their behavior evened out. 
    • Second, some behaviors were common to most guinea pigs (stampeding and freezing), while other behaviors (popcorning, attempting to climb out of the cage, and excessive water bottle manipulation) are performed only by specific individuals--think of this as part of your piggy personality. Jumping/popcorning tended to be performed by younger piggies.
    • Third, "Guinea pigs are highly active immediately after lights go out, which may indicate that a sudden loss of lighting is a significant stressor."
  • A University of São Paulo study looked at guinea pig courtship by exposing 4 adult males to a pregnant female for 4 sessions, and then a different female during a 5th session, and recording their behavior. They found that the males decreased their investigative behaviors (licking and sniffing) in the 2nd-4th sessions, but the investigative behaviors returned with the new female in the 5th session. They conclude that: "These results are consistent with the hypothesis that guinea pig males recognize individual females and that courtship responses may suffer a habituation/recovery process controlled by mate novelty."
Bottom line: these studies suggest we're risk-averse, social, we don't like change, guinea pigs have both common behaviors (such as freezing) and unique personalities, and males can be quite... amorous.

These findings may not be too surprising to people who have guinea pigs. It only takes minimal exposure to guinea pigs to know that we're freaked out by the unknown. I can also relate to disliking changes in the environment; I can remember how stressful it was when my new humans first brought me home. I also remember having to put up with plenty of Broccoli's "investigative behaviors" when I was the new pig on the block. But now that we've put all that drama behind us, we've become good friends, showing that "more sociable" side that the first study mentioned.

Turning off lights causing stress in guinea pigs might surprise humans, though, since you probably don't see what we do after the lights go off. Maybe it would help if you tried dimming the lights slowly rather than turning them off suddenly?

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Guinea Pig Attractions Around the Word: Perth Royal Show Cavy Racing

It's time for another look at guinea pig attractions around the world! This time, we're taking a look at a guinea pig competition down in Australia.

The Perth Royal Show is "an annual event that is a mix of amusement park rides, markets and agriculture shows." One of the annual attractions at the Show is Cavy Racing, which "has become a tradition at the event and never fails to draw crowds. While it isn’t a race that stops a nation, when the cavies hit the track there will be plenty of excitement and laughs."

Here's a video of one of the races:

Turns out this one wasn't much of a race, but we're guessing some races are more competitive than others!

Long-time readers may recall that this isn't the first guinea pig race we've showcased on our blog; the guinea pig attraction in Colombia was also a race. Colombia's race seemed more like an informal street performance, compared to this giant community event. We should also point out that while these races are cute, there could be some issues with events like this--see our post on guinea pig pageants.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Guinea Pig Volunteering as Therapy Animals

We previously talked about flying with guinea pigs, and in the course of that discussion, briefly touched on the different special classifications of pets (service animals, emotional support animals, and therapy animals), and what implications they had for flying. We'd like to talk more about the therapy animal classification in general, not just in the context of flying.

As we said in our previous post, therapy animals "provide affection and comfort to various members of the public, typically in facility settings such as hospitals, retirement homes, and schools." Although this does not entitle you to special access on airlines, it does make a difference in people's lives. The organization Pet Partners has a page on the benefits of the human-animal bond. Here are just a few of the benefits they cite:
  • "A therapy dog has a positive effect on patients’ pain level and satisfaction with their hospital stay following total joint arthroplasty (Harper, 2014) [1]."
  • "The presence of an animal can significantly increase positive social behaviors among children with autism spectrum disorder (O’Haire, 2013) [4]."
  • "Pet owners have higher one-year survival rates following heart attacks (Friedmann, 1980, 1995) [8,9]."
Some of these health benefit citations are dog-specific, but did you know that guinea pigs are able to become volunteer therapy animals through Pet Partners? Pet Partners "is the nation’s largest and most prestigious nonprofit registering handlers of multiple species as volunteer teams providing animal-assisted interventions." They accept volunteer applications from 9 species: dogs, cats, equines, rabbits, guinea pigs, llamas and alpacas, birds, pigs and rats. Guinea pig volunteers must be at least 6 months old, have lived in the owner's home for at least 6 months, and be well-behaved. They even have worksheets they use to evaluate prospective volunteers:
Not struggle to leave? That sounds like a tough exam. Strangers can be scary!
Guinea Pig Today featured an article on some piggies who participated in the Pet Partners program, which showed how not every piggy is cut out for this line of work:
"Why didn’t all of Erin’s guinea pigs join her? Being a therapy pet requires very special traits. Erin’s three other female cavies are fun at home but don’t have personalities suited for therapy work. Rosie, an albino with striking red eyes, was considered for therapy registration, but there was concern that her red eyes might make people feel uneasy. Val, adopted from a friend who could no longer care for her, is the most active guinea pig and never sits still. Sally, their newest addition, is still a bit skittish and shy. Erin tells Guinea Pig Today, “Her personality reminds me of that of a cat – she can be affectionate or stand-offish, depending on her mood.” 
Daphne and Sienna have a special talent for sitting long periods at a time and Erin decided only these two sows would be registered. After supporting hospice for 25 years, Erin had a hunch guinea pigs would work well with patients who benefit from animal visitation but have difficulty working with the therapy dogs. Daphne and Sienna weigh less than two pounds and can gently lay on patients while being stroked."
There were a lot of hoops to jump through, but they eventually were approved and became therapy animals:

Photo caption: "The therapy animal teams at Hospice are wonderful. Here we are with two of our friends, Kelly and her handler (left), and Gus and his handler (right)."
 And how did the hospice patients react to Daphne and Sienna? Quite well, according to this Casper Journal article:
The guinea pigs’ hospice visits are also different from the dogs’. Whereas most of the canines sit beside the patient’s bed, the guinea pigs have more direct contact.
“They’re light so they can be on people’s laps and chests,” Erin said. “Some people sing to them.”
She recalled her first visit, to a woman who had been unresponsive for a while.
“I put the guinea pigs on her lap, and she sang to them, in her own language,” Maggard said. “Those experiences are just delightful!”
There were only 21 registered therapy guinea pigs with Pet Partners in 2013. Do you think you have what it takes to join the elite ranks of therapy guinea pigs? If so, feel free to reach out to Pet Partners about volunteer opportunities!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Can Guinea Pigs Eat Jerusalem Artichokes (Sunchoke)?

Hi everyone. Lola (2) here. I have to share a source of some minor frustration for me. Since I'm a bit of a latecomer to the Cavy Savvy family, I missed out on the opportunity to review a lot of foods out there. Sometimes I'll just list off foods that I'd like an excuse to eat--Apples? Blueberries? Corn? But after I list each one, Broccoli will inform me that they've already reviewed each of them before I got here. It took some digging, but I finally found another food that guinea pigs can eat that hasn't been done already: Jerusalem artichokes. So let's do the review!

Jerusalem artichokes are also known as sunroot, sunchoke, earth apple and topinambour, according to Wikipedia. They can be eaten by guinea pigs, but this should be considered a special, rare treat only. This is because they have high sugar, low vitamin C, and a not-so-great calcium-phosphorous ratio. So you'll only want to feed this one in small portions 1-2 times per month.
This is a Jerusalem artichoke. Doesn't look like much, does it?

Make sure your human peels and cuts it for you.

Food review time! It's been too long!

Crunch, crunch, crunch! I love it!
Aside from the poor nutritional profile, we've got nothing bad to say about Jerusalem artichokes. They're delicious, and we wasted no time in gobbling up our small portion. We look forward to the possibility of having more next month. 5/5 stars!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Guinea Pig Cop

As we've shown on this blog, there are a lot of talented guinea pigs out there. There are guinea pig painters, musicians , and even fortune tellers. Now you can add police officer to the list!

Meet Elliot, the New Zealand Police Department's guinea pig. He doesn't do high-speed chases and shoot outs with bank robbers as far as we know, but he does deliver useful safety messages:
Caption: "Did you know that a piggie's top speed can be around 9km/hr? Not me, I have gone a bit overboard on the carbs lately and need to lighten up, so I go even slower. I am not too fast and that's the way I like it - slow is safe!  Keep this in mind when you are driving near any schools tomorrow. Remember people, the kids are going to be out and about walking and biking, and crossing roads. Like me, they are small and unpredictable, so you have to watch out! Keep an eye out for school patrols and please do your part in keeping our kids safe. Drive to the conditions, reduce your speed and stay alert. Oh, and eat your greens....always eat your greens. #schoolsback #crossingpatrol #constableelliot #eatyourgreens"
Caption: "'Just the facts ma'am...'"
You can find more Elliot at the New Zealand Police Department's Facebook page. Good job keeping New Zealand safe, Elliot!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Guinea Pig Attractions Around the World: Inokashira Park Zoo Guinea Pig House Revisited

We don't generally like to repeat ourselves, and we've already done a guinea pig attractions around the world post on the guinea pig house in Inokashira Park Zoo. However, since the humans actually got a chance to see this guinea pig attraction in person, we figured that our loyal readers may appreciate the opportunity to get a closer look at this one.

Notice that the guinea pig house has special hours.
The humans showed up between 11:30 - 13:30 (AKA 1:30 PM), and saw these "Resting" signs.
These plush guinea pigs were nearby, and could be handled at any time, however.
When you visit, it's good to get there early. There's a line to pet the guinea pigs!
Once you get through the line, everyone gets to pick a guinea pig to pet.
You get about 15 minutes of petting time, and then the next group of people in line get their turn.
After petting the guinea pigs, you can always see all the other animals in the zoo. Or, you can get right back in line and wait your turn to pet guinea pigs again!

Have you seen any guinea pig attractions that you think we should feature on the blog? If so, let us know in the comments section.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Guinea Pig Tuxedo Outfit

According to Wikipedia, "The most popular uses of the tuxedo in the United States at present are for formal weddings, galas, balls, formal proms and formal nights on cruises."   What if you're a male guinea pig who's been invited to one of these formal occasions? Sure, that fur coat you were born with is fine for most occasions, but there are special occasions where you may need to kick it up a notch. Case in point, this video:

The humans brought back this tuxedo guinea pig costume from Morugumi in Tokyo, so I'll be prepared for my next formal event! (Bring on the guinea pig wedding invites!)

Is that my size?
It fits. Do I look dapper in this?
All dressed up and nowhere to go!
I looked pretty darn good if I do say so myself, but like all costumes we've tried, I looked forward to getting it off. After all, the fur coat that Mother Nature gave me is the most comfortable outfit of all.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Music for Guinea Pigs by PetTunes

In a recent post, we talked about music made by guinea pigs. Now we want to talk about music made for guinea pigs. We recently discovered "PetTunes," which describes itself as follows:
Pet Tunes uses sound repetitive rhythms and key notes designed to relax and calm your pet. If you pet has sleeping problems or anxiety problems or is even stressed during fireworks, you should try our music. It will calm your guinea pig, rabbit, dog, cat, hamster... in other words, any species!
And sure enough, they have several songs intended for guinea pigs, such as this one:

But does it actually work? We started by checking the YouTube comments on their guinea pig music videos. Here's a sampling of them:
  • "he fell asleep in my hands I carried him to his cage and when I closed it it made a sound and he woke up"
  • "This was too relaxing for my Guinea pig ,caramel,She peed on me lol"
  • "The moment the guinea pigs heard this song, their life was changed"
  • "I played this to keep my Guinea pig quit and she didn't care about the music she just was chewing on my phone case!"
  • "My guinea pig was hopping and jumping all over me while I was holding her. I started playing this and she just stopped, listened, and crawled into the blanket that was on my lap! She's currenly just cuddling up in the blanket and she actually just purred. She loves this! This music is working wonders for her!"
Not 100% positive, as you can see, but positive enough that we decided to try it for ourselves:
Apologies for the messy cage in this video. (We're about due for a cleaning! Humans, get on that ASAP!)

It was actually kind of relaxing. I was rattling my bars shortly before the video started, and after the music started, I just wanted to munch on pellets and sip water. I fell asleep after about 15 minutes. (Broccoli was already asleep.) So it was good at first. However, at about 30:58, they included some sort of horrible alarm noise that woke us both up and made us wheek in terror! Why would they include this? Is this a prank or a mistake?

Our conclusion is that PetTunes seems like a good idea in theory, but someone needs to test this out with actual pets before putting out songs like this.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Cavy Savvy 2017 Spring Giveaway Winner Announcement!

It's time to share the wealth that our humans brought back from Japan! We used a random number generator to choose the winner of the 2017 Spring Giveaway, and the winner is ...

Arwen and Eowyn!

Congratulations! You just some Guinea pig stickers, coasters, and a marshmallow from Morugumi, the Japanese guinea pig cafe and specialty store! (Long-time readers may remember that Arwen and Eowyn also won a Thanksgiving costume back in 2014. That just goes to show that it pays to be a long-time reader and enter every time!)

Please email us your current mailing address to within 5 days and we will send mail you your prize. (If left unclaimed, we may choose another winner, so don't delay!)

Thank you to everyone who entered. If you didn't win this time, don't worry, there's always next time. Be sure that you are a follower of Cavy Savvy if you want to be considered for future giveaways. To follow us, just click the "Follow" button on the right.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Guinea Pigs Make Music With Makey Makey

One thing we find fascinating is technology that guinea pigs can use. We all remember the guinea pig bridge in Japan that Parry Gripp called "the latest guinea pig bridge technology," right? And also the automatic guinea pig feeder using Arduino? Well, we just found about about some new guinea pig tech that we must share with you!

There's a device called a Makey Makey that can allows you to connect random household objects to a computer with alligator clips, and have them each be considered different buttons. Someone had the brilliant idea to use a Makey Makey to turn their guinea pigs into musicians!

Okay, so it might not be the most amazing song we've ever heard. They may need a little practice. But no musician starts out as Mozart on day 1, right? Keep eating those musical veggies, piggies! We'll buy your album!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Cavy Savvy 2017 Spring Giveaway!

As we mentioned in our last post, our humans recently went to Japan and visited some guinea pig-related attractions, including a guinea pig cafe and specialty store called Morugumi. They got some really cool goodies that we've decided to raffle off to our loyal readers!

Here's what the winner gets: Guinea pig stickers, coasters, and marshmallow! (The marshmallow is a treat for humans, by the way. Just because a guinea pig is on it doesn't mean we can eat it.)
Doesn't that stuff look awesome and adorable? Don't you want to win it for your human? If so, here are the giveaway rules:

  • You must be a resident of the continental United States.
  • You have to be a follower of this blog. To follow us, just click the "join this site" button on the right.
  • To enter, leave a comment on this blog post expressing your interest in participating in the contest.
  • All entries must be received by April 15th, 2017 at 12:00 pm (US Eastern time) to be eligible.
  • One winner will be chosen at random from all eligible entries and announced on this blog on April 15th sometime after the giveaway closes.
  • The winner will be instructed to email us to provide us with a mailing address to send the prize to. Winners must provide us with a mailing address within 5 days to receive their prize. If we do not receive a response in time, we will randomly select another winner from the eligible responses. 

Good luck!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Guinea Pig Attractions Around the World: Morugumi Cafe and Specialty Shop

As we mentioned in a previous post, we were staying at the veterinarian while the humans were out of town. The humans went on quite an adventure on the other side of the world, and we wanted to let our readers know about one of the guinea pig attractions they found.

Although we've already done two posts on guinea pig attractions in Japan, this will be the first time that our humans are actually bringing back first-hand experience of an attraction. (They also got a chance to visit one of the previously-mentioned attractions for themselves, so we might post on that in the future.)

In Tokyo, Japan, there is a neighborhood called Jiyugaoka where you can find a cafe and specialty store devoted entirely to guinea pigs! The place is called Morugumi, and if you're a human who loves guinea pigs, this is the place for you!
Fun awaits you on the second floor!
It's not a very big place, but their walls are lined with guinea pig merchandise for sale, both functional and ornamental:
Tunnels! Pellets!
Plush guinea pig toys!
Guinea pig books! Ceramic guinea pigs! Cuddle cups!
Ceramic guinea pig cop!
Little plastic guinea pig toys!
Little plastic guinea pig play set!
Guinea pig coasters!
And humans can reward themselves while they're here with some guinea pig themed human treats. (Don't feed these sugary human treats to your guinea pig, of course.)
Soda with guinea pig marshmallow, coffee with guinea pig art and a different guinea pig marshmallow on the side, and fondant guinea pigs. Can you handle this much cuteness?!
Those fondant guinea pigs on the side aren't just sold that way. The cafe will give you fondant to shape and paint with food coloring, allowing you to make your own guinea pig. If I could easily hold a paint brush, I might want to try that out!

By the way, the humans brought back a couple extra items from Morugumi, and we are considering holding another giveaway for our loyal readers. Stay tuned!