Lifespan is an important factor to consider anytime you decide to add a new pet to your family. You don’t want a pet that has an exceptionally short lifespan – your pet may die just as you start to bond strongly. Nor do you want a pet that’ll live for decades, as it can be difficult to plan for the distant future.
Instead, it is generally wise to choose a pet with a reasonable lifespan, which is long enough to allow you to enjoy each other’s company, yet not so long that it’ll present challenges for your pet’s long-term care. Fortunately, guinea pigs have a reasonable lifespan, which will work well for most cavy keepers.
How Long Do Guinea Pigs Live?
Most authorities agree that guinea pigs generally live for about 4 to 7 years of age. However, there is a bit of variation, with some listing the average lifespan as 4 to 6 years, and others reporting that guinea pigs typically live about 5 to 8 years. It is difficult to arrive at a more precise number, as many owners do not know their pet’s date of birth.
However, some guinea pigs do live for much longer than this. The Guinness Book of World Records reports that the longest recorded lifespan for a guinea pig was 14 years and 10.5 months.
Factors That Can Affect Your Guinea Pig’s Lifespan
While most guinea pigs will live for about 4 to 7 years, there are a number of things that will influence your pet’s lifespan. A few of the most important factors include:
The Quality of Care You Provide
If you provide your cavy with a clean and spacious habitat, provide plenty of opportunities for exercising and socialization, and ensure that your pet always has access to hay and fresh water, he’ll likely live longer than cavies who don’t receive high-quality care.
Your Guinea Pig’s Diet
Guinea pigs who receive a nutritious diet will likely outlive those who aren’t fed a diverse, high-quality diet. So, be sure to pick a premium pelleted food for your pet and provide him with an assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables too.
How Closely You Work with Your Vet
It is imperative that you establish a good relationship with a veterinarian who treats cavies. This will not only ensure you have someone to turn to if your pet suffers an injury or illness, but it can also help extend your pet’s lifespan (and quality of life) too, as your vet is more likely to notice the subtle signs some health problems present than you are.
So, be sure to visit your vet regularly (perhaps once every six months or so), as this will give you the best chance of catching health problems before they can become serious.
You Cavy’s Breed
It is possible, though not completely clear, that some guinea pig breeds will live longer than others. There simply isn’t enough data available to make lifespan predictions for different guinea pig breeds. However, this tendency does occur in other pets – some dog breeds, for example, live longer than others.
Additionally, some guinea pigs – such as many of the short-haired varieties – are more susceptible to skin infections than other breeds. This may ultimately have an effect on their lifespan.
The lifespan of many animals – including cavies – is undoubtedly a result of their genes. Some guinea pigs seem to naturally have longer lifespans than others, and they’ll likely pass on the genes responsible for their longevity to their offspring.
Unfortunately, this is rarely helpful for prospective cavy owners who purchase their pet from a retail store, as it is usually impossible to find out anything about the cavy’s parents. However, if you purchase your pet from a breeder, it may be helpful to select one who is the descendant of animals who’ve reached advanced ages.
Guinea Pig Age in Human Years
Because guinea pigs have such different lifespans than humans, many keepers are interested in understanding their guinea pig’s lifecycle. Specifically, they’d like to know how guinea pig ages correspond to human ages. Put more simply, they want to understand how guinea pig years translate to human years.
However, this is a very difficult correlation to make. Take dogs, for example. Most people believe that dogs age about 7 years during each calendar year. But this is an oversimplification – in truth, dogs mature quite quickly for their first few years, before entering a slower maturation phase for their adult lives.
Nevertheless, if we assume that most guinea pigs will live for about 6 years, and the average human lifespan us 79 years, every guinea pig year is equal to about 13 human years. However, even this can be misleading, as guinea pigs become sexually mature at about 1 to 2 months of age (the human equivalent of being 1 to 2 years old).
How Old Should a Guinea Pig Be When You Buy It?
Guinea pigs mature fairly quickly, so you usually don’t have to worry about your guinea pig’s age when purchasing or adopting one. As a rule of thumb, you’ll want to wait until the guinea pig has finished nursing and begun eating solid foods. This usually occurs by 2 to 3 weeks of age.
Nevertheless, this is rarely something you need to worry about, as most retail establishments and breeders will refrain from selling guinea pigs until they’re old enough to handle the transition to their new home.
Tips for Increasing Your Guinea Pig’s Lifespan
Understandably, many owners become quite attached to their cavy and want their pet to live for as long as possible. You won’t be able to re-write your pet’s genetic code, but you can do a few things that may increase his lifespan substantially.
We mentioned some of the most important things to do earlier, and they primarily involve providing your pet with the best possible care. This includes things like providing your pet with high-quality food, visiting your vet frequently, and keeping your pet’s habitat clean.
It’s also important to limit your pet’s stress. Stress can lead to a variety of health problems, so you’ll want to strive to provide your pet with a calm life. Some of the most important ways to do so include:
- Don’t allow other pets (particularly cats or dogs) to frighten your guinea pig.
- Don’t travel with your guinea pig unnecessarily – you may need to take him for car rides from time to time, but limit these trips as much as possible.
- Try to keep multiple guinea pigs together. Because they’re a social species, cavies can become stressed and frightened when kept singly.
- Move slowly when interacting with your pet, as quick movements can sometimes frighten guinea pigs.
- Try to avoid making loud noises around your pet or his habitat.
- Maintain a consistent light-dark cycle, to mimic the natural sun cycle. Generally speaking, you’ll want to leave the lights on for your guinea pig for about 12 hours and turn them off for about 12 hours.
Guinea pigs may not live as long as some other pets, such as tortoises or macaws, but they usually live long enough to give you plenty of time to enjoy and bond with your pet. Just be sure to care for your pet carefully and employ the tips provided above, so that your guinea pig will be with you for as long as possible.