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.