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Introduction to the many different guinea pig breeds

In this installment of guinea pig blogs, I’ll have a look at the different breeds.

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What do Guinea Pigs See and Taste? Plus, Other Common Questions

Facebook @briochepig Hello carefresh friends! In this blog we will look into the senses of the guinea pig and address many popular questions about them.  One of the most popular topics about the senses of a guinea pig is their eyesight. There are a few opinions that contradict others in this area, but for the purposes of this blog, I will use the most agreed upon information among studies.  >>> READ MY FIRST BLOG POST ABOUT GUINEA PIGS  Can guinea pigs see colors?  Guinea pigs have been found by scientists studying their eyes to be dichromatic, that is they see two of the three primary colors. They are able to detect yellow, blue, and hues associated with them. It is likely that the colors they see are less vivid than the color we see.  How well do they see?  Overall a guinea pig does not have great eyesight, but they have some really interesting abilities that help protect them in the wild and those have been passed down through the centuries to our friendly friends today.   Guinea pigs can see an amazing 340° around them. For example, using both eyes, we humans can only see 180° around us. The guinea pig eyesight range is perfect to react to any predators. The 340° vision is also what allows them to quickly react to any object coming toward them without moving their head. That helps account for their super quick reaction times.  But Guinea pigs can only detect what an object actually is from roughly 12-16 inches away (30-38 cm). And they can only see movement/objects from a distance of 5-6 feet (1.5 metres). But at that distance, it is very hard to make out what the object might be. Guinea pigs also have very weak depth perception. This is important to know because if you have them on a bed or chair, they can't recognize how high up they are which could result in them feeling it is safe to jump off when it is not.  Can my piggy see in the dark?    The short answer is, maybe. There isn't a definitive answer to this, but scientists believe they can have a mental map of their surroundings and when combined with their sense of smell and whisker sensors, they can zip around in the dark without crashing into things!!!  How well does my guinea pig hear?  Guinea pig hearing is much better than humans. They can hear in lower, and especially higher, frequencies than we do. Their hearing ability helps make up for their relatively poor eyesight. This is one of the reasons you can, for example, try to quietly open the refrigerator and your guinea pigs might start wheeking thinking a treat is on the way! Your guinea pig can also distinguish your individual voice! However their sensitive hearing also means that they are not a fan of loud noises or bangs, such as fireworks.   Are those whiskers just there for cuteness?  Whiskers on a guinea pig act in very similar ways to other animals. Loaded with nerve endings in them, they are used to measure the width of tunnels and objects. Basically, if the whiskers fit, the piggy will fit. They can also use them to measure the size and depth of an object right in front of them (think lettuce!). They also act as a warning for any object approaching the eye so they may protect it.  Can my guinea pig actually tell who I am compared to others?  Guinea pigs have an amazing sense of smell. Since their eyesight isn't good at detecting predators in the wild, their sense of smell, along with hearing, helps make up for those deficiencies. So the answer to the question concerning if they can recognize you specifically, yes they can! You may see an example of this when you have a visitor over and they approach the guinea pig’s habitat to say ”hi”, the piggy most likely takes off and hides, but they won't do that with you. They know who you are by your smell and know that there is no threat to them and recognize you as a friend!  How well do things taste?  The taste buds of a guinea pig's tongue are highly developed and as such taste flavors well. Naturally they prefer foods more to the sweet side, but over time get to accept slightly less sweet/ bitter tastes. Of course, like humans, some piggies will like one thing while their friends may not. The sensitive taste buds also help determine if a new food is acceptable when their nose and whiskers don't convince them. You may have seen this when introducing a new food and you will see them sniff it and then slowly give it a lick or quick taste. If they don't like it they will often let it fall out of their mouth or will finish what they took, but not eat any more of it.  Hopefully this basic overview of a guinea pig’s senses, and how they work together, will help you understand and appreciate your guinea pigs more than ever! Guest Post by Craig N. - long time Guinea Pig parent, currently of Bentley and Cosmo (pictured above), and they invite you to follow their antics @ https://www.facebook.com/briochepig  Until next time….  
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What Do Guinea Pig Noises Actually Mean? How to Interpret Their Adorable Sounds

Facebook @briochepig Wheeking, chutting, and rumbling, oh my! These are just some of the noises that the most vocal of rodents, the guinea pig, use to communicate with each other, and you!  In this blog entry, I will dive into what many of the noises guinea pigs make actually mean.  Let’s start with good sounds and work the way down to the not so good sounds. READ MY FIRST BLOG POST ABOUT GUINEA PIGS   WHEEKING  The sound most people equate to guinea pigs is “wheeking”. This is a loud whistle that is essentially asking or demanding a treat. A happy noise. But, not all guinea pigs wheek. In fact, a guinea pig I have now, Cosmo, is the first one I’ve had that wheeks in almost 6 years! And his cage mate, Bentley, sits back and enjoys all the fruits of Cosmo’s efforts. So if you have a guinea pig that doesn’t wheek- no worries- they don’t all wheek.  A wheek is also often used when one pig is calling out for another, especially when a young pig loses track of his/her mother or cage mate.  In this video, Cosmo (black and white) is wheeking when he hears me with a treat bag.    In this next video, you will first hear a baby Cosmo call out for Bentley and Bentley immediately runs to him. In the second part, you’ll hear Bentley as a baby call out for his new cage mate and big “brother” Baxter, who also comes immediately over to Bentley.       BUBBLING  This is a very quiet noise that a content guinea pig may make. It is usually associated when you have a piggy super relaxed in your lap with a very gentle rubbing of teeth. Sometimes a light pet on their jaw when relaxed will bring this action and sound. But beware, teeth rubbing/grinding can also be a very bad noise- more on that later.  CHUTTING  This is my favorite of all noises. Also sometimes called “clucking”, these are noises a super happy guinea pig makes, usually when exploring around during floor time. They tend to make this noise in conjunction with each step they take. They will also occasionally make the sound in their pen, but one is most likely to hear it during floor time.  In this video you will hear Bentley and Cosmo chutting as they are running around. Bentley’s is not as loud as Cosmo.    RUMBLING  This is generally neither a good nor bad noise. For the most part, rumbling refers to “rumble strutting”. Rumble strutting is used when a guinea pig is courting another or, when between two or more males, is used to determine and define a hierarchy. Even if an “alpha male” has already been determined, the behavior can sometimes reoccur to make sure no one forgot what their role is. Among guinea pigs that are already bonded, this is a perfectly natural behavior and sound that may occasionally occur, whether courting or determining who’s in charge. However, this behavior is most likely to occur during bonding and generally not an issue unless a small “fight” breaks out and then only if blood is drawn. Rumble strutting is usually accompanied by a “butt wiggle” and a warning sound as well as teeth chattering (explained later).  Here, Cosmo (black and white) is attempting to remind Bentley (brown) that he is in charge. Bentley really doesn’t want any of it, but does try and stick up for himself. But no worries, these two are bonded buddies and 10 minutes later were napping next to each other.    Rumbling might also occur if an unfamiliar noise briefly startles a guinea pig. Usually it is a quick rumble noise followed by a temporary freezing of the pig’s position for a couple of seconds.  WHINING  This is a more soft noise where the guinea pig is not necessarily excited or pleased with what is going on. Usually it can be heard when you pick up and put a piggy in your lap but he/she isn’t exactly 100% in the mood. Many times a treat or chin scratch will make the piggy relaxed and accepting of “lap time”, but if the noise continues, you might want to consider returning him/her to the pen for a little while and try again later.  SHRIEKING  This is an unmistakable sound sure to catch your attention. The guinea pig is yelling at you to stop what you are doing immediately. If you suspect or have a sick guinea pig, the shriek can actually be helpful for a vet to diagnose just where the problem is in a hurt guinea pig as the shriek will occur when the problem area is touched. Sometimes the shriek can be a simple “don’t pick me up'' quick one. That is not one to usually worry about. Any other instances of shrieking when touched should be looked at by an experienced veterinarian.  TEETH CHATTERING  This sounds just like the name indicates. It is often included as part of a “who’s the boss” rumble strut. It is one or more guinea pigs telling the other to get away from me, I’m not in the mood for your antics right now. It can often foretell a fight. If you hear teeth chattering and it is accompanied by rumble strutting and likely loud noises, keep your eye on the situation. If things become too aggressive that a fight starts and you see blood, you will need to separate them. BUT, you can also get injured trying to do that so extreme caution is advised. Guinea pigs rarely bite humans, but as a last resort, they will. I still have a small scar of piggy incisors on a finger from when I tried to break up a fight 23 years ago and got chomped on!!!  One thing I recently learned through slowing videos down, is when a guinea pig is irritated with another, for whatever reason, an aggressive lunge towards the other pig looks very bad and makes me check for any blood. But as it turns out, the initial objection shown by the aggressor actually does not involve teeth. The guinea pig actually will cover up his/her teeth just before contact so no contact with teeth is made. So it amounts to a sort of “push” rather than a “punch” to the other piggy.  In this slowed down video, you will see that Bentley, most likely annoyed that Baxter is in his favorite spot, gives a warning look and then lunges/jabs Baxter. But you can see that just before he does, he covers up his teeth with his lips.     THESE NEXT TWO SOUNDS DO NOT HAVE A DEFINITIVE AGREEMENT ON WHAT THEY MEAN.  The first is chirping. This is a relatively rare noise that most pigs will never make. But it sounds just like a bird chirping quickly. My personal opinion is that it is a warning to others of a sensed danger, similar to a rabbit’s thumping. But again, there is no general consensus on the exact meaning of chirping.  From 2017, my guinea pig Biscotti is under the tv stand, but you clearly hear him chirping.     The second is purring. If you have a pig that purrs, it will most likely occur when you are petting him/her from mid body and back. Sometimes I’m able to mimic the sound, then immediately pet the pig and get him/her to “answer” me back. Once again, there is no general consensus on what purring means, but I believe it is a mostly positive sound.  Cosmo is having a “purring session” with me in this video.    HONKING, HOOTING, CRACKLING, WHEEZING  These are sounds that demand immediate veterinary intervention. As predatory animals, even after hundreds of generations removed from their wild ancestors, guinea pigs try very hard to hide symptoms of illness. Any one or more of those sounds, mainly during breathing, indicates a high likelihood of a respiratory illness that has already developed, which is why an immediate trip to the vet is needed.  TEETH GRINDING  If your guinea pig is grinding his/her teeth while resting, he/she is likely in pain. Most frequent cause would be a kidney/calcium stone, but no matter what the reason, this also requires an immediate trip to a veterinarian. Often the grinding is accompanied by a whimpering sound.  This is a photo of a calcium stone that Biscotti had. You can see it in the x-Ray and also see the actual stone that was removed. How painful that must have been for him. He was both whimpering and grinding his teeth in pain, and then began to lose appetite. This is why an immediate trip to a veterinarian is necessary if such behavior/sounds are noticed.    So these were many of the most common sounds these cute animals use to engage in a surprisingly sophisticated form of communicating. Hopefully this blog helped you learn something new about these furry pets.  In the next blog, I’ll explore guinea pig anatomy. How well do they see? Hear? Smell? Why is it so important their digestive system always has something going through it? How fast does their heart beat?  I hope you will join me for that next time!  Guest Post by Craig N. - long time Guinea Pig parent, currently of Bentley and Cosmo (pictured above), and they invite you to follow their antics @ https://www.facebook.com/briochepig  Until next time…. Learn more about Guinea Pigs here           
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Interesting History Facts About Guinea Pigs and What You Should Know Before Adopting

Facebook @briochepig March is here and it’s “Adopt a Guinea Pig” month! These furry, vocal, and docile little guys can make a great pet!  In this blog we’ll review some interesting history of guinea pigs and some basic information on the many advantages of adopting from a guinea pig rescue besides just giving a needy guinea pig a forever loving home.  In future blogs, we will discuss topics like; guinea pigs’ many vocalizations and what they mean, guinea pig behavior (including signs your guinea pig might be sick), some anatomy facts included things like, “How well do they hear, see, smell?” and so on, the different breeds, proper cage size, time out of cage (floor time), why I choose to use carefresh bedding exclusively over the last 7 years, and proper everyday care including diet. Read this review from Pet Keen  GUINEA PIG OR CAVY HISTORY  Early history can trace evidence of guinea pigs all the way back to 9000 BCE! And the first signs of domestication still go as far back as 2000 BCE! (The accepted date period of domestication is not agreed upon by all- but is generally accepted that it was in that general time period) But you still have to go way back to the early 1500’s when it was believed that Spanish conquistadors brought them to Europe from their native South America to primarily be used as pets at that time. They were introduced to North America in the early 1800’s. They were also popular pets among the wealthy and members of Royalty. In fact, Queen Elizabeth I is reported to be one of the earliest fans of guinea pigs way back in the late 1500’s! They aren’t from the country of Guinea and they aren’t pigs, so where does their name come from? First, in a lot of the world guinea pigs are referred to as cavies (cavy) which is taken from their proper Latin name “Cavia porcellus”.  One very common theory on the word “guinea” comes from the fact that they may have been sold for a “guinea”, an English gold coin. But the coin wasn’t created until the 1600’s and documentation of the word “guinea” being used to describe them goes back to the 1500’s. So why “guinea”? Well, that’s a good question. There are many theories, none of which are confirmed. So then, let’s look at the word “pig” used for them. This is also a mystery but the general consensus is it has to do with the grunting noises they make that can resemble some noises an actual pig makes. What a rich and mysterious history these little critters have!   INTERESTING GUINEA PIG HISTORY FACTS  The first accepted evidence of a guinea pig shown in art dates all the way back to 1580 in a portrait of three Elizabethan children with the middle one holding her pet guinea pig!    Many well-known people have had guinea pigs as children or adults. I’ll highlight a couple of them.  In this 1972 photo, the future Princess Diana is seen with her guinea pig, “Peanut”.     Deborah Harry, the lead singer from Blondie, a favorite band of mine growing up, is seen here with her Peruvian guinea pig.     And in New Zealand, a police department named Elliot an official Constable. Elliot was a guinea pig! He was used to bring attention to driving safety including proper speed in school zones. He was outfitted with his own uniform! Elliot had become a bit of a celebrity in New Zealand.      SHOULD YOU HAVE MORE THAN ONE? DOES SWEDEN REALLY HAVE A LAW MAKING OWNING JUST ONE GUINEA PIG AGAINST THE LAW?    The answer is yes and yes. Guinea pigs are very social animals and are absolutely most mentally healthy with at least one other guinea pig. In 2008 Sweden enacted law stating animals classified as “social creatures” , of which guinea pigs are classified as “social creatures” in their law, must be given “adequate social contact with animals of the same species”! So yes, it is against the law to have just one guinea pig (among other species classified in the law)! So unless there are some very unusual circumstances, someone considering getting “a” guinea pig should count on at least a pair.     WHY ADOPT? In addition to the obvious reason “they need a home” there are lots of other advantages. Most rescues specific to guinea pigs will only adopt in pairs unless you need a companion for your current solitary guinea pig.  Rescues do a health exam and usually will have incoming pigs spayed or neutered (usually soon after arrival or when one is healthy enough to undergo a surgical procedure, or at a proper age) and that helps control one of the main reasons guinea pigs end up in rescues- unwanted babies.  Rescues will also be happy to discuss any aspect of guinea pig care and behavior. A pet store associate, unless an experienced guinea pig owner, will only know the bare minimum basics learned during training.  Bonding is crucial. Guinea pigs have a hierarchy and when adopting from a rescue, the two (or more) guinea pigs will have already been bonded and ready for their new home. If you are getting just one as a companion for your solitary one (perhaps recently lost a mate), the rescue will usually have you bring in your guinea pig to be introduced to a prospective companion and start the bonding process to see if the two appear that they should be a good match.  A common misconception is that two boys can’t live together. However, as long as there isn’t a female in with them (in which case neutering would be recommended even if female has been spayed), most boys will successfully bond. In fact, over the last 7 years, I’ve only had boys in pairs.  While my future blogs will dive into important topics, including the most basic things to know for now, if you are considering adopting guinea pigs, but if you can’t wait, it’s very important to remember:  Be prepared for a 5-8 year commitment which includes proper medical care expenses. If you are adopting as pets for a child (children), their time with the guinea pigs should be supervised and perhaps most importantly, you need to be ready to give appropriate care if the child gets “tired” of the guinea pig.      There are many good websites for guinea pig care information, but I recommend using a guinea pig specific rescue’s website. In fact, most rescues are happy to receive messages or phone calls to help with questions related to care. So when you adopt from a rescue, you aren’t just giving homeless cuties a home, but you are getting pets that were prescreened, and treated if necessary, for health problems. You get to know the history of the guinea pig including how well it adapted to the new environment of the rescue and how easily bonding occurred. You’ll know any behavior “quirks” and possible recommendations on any special care prior to choosing. And perhaps most importantly, a place to go for information or questions after the adoption.  Of course other places, like your local Humane Society, are also good places to adopt, but keep in mind that often you won’t know anything about the guinea pig except a reason given to the shelter for surrender.        Guest Post by Craig N. - long time Guinea Pig parent, currently of Bentley and Cosmo (pictured above), and they invite you to follow their antics @ https://www.facebook.com/briochepig  Until next time…. Learn more about Guinea Pigs here   
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Reduce Your Waste - How to Compost carefresh Small Pet Paper Bedding

Did you know that carefresh bedding is 100% biodegradable and compostable? carefresh is a made from scratch small pet paper bedding, which allows it to be returned from where it came—the earth! Not only are we committed to making sustainable products, but we also strive to produce minimal waste and help you do the same! Did you know that roughly 80% of the items buried in landfills in the United States could be recycled or composted? Landfills are one of the largest contributors to soil pollution. In the past when cleaning out a small pet’s home, it has been common to simply toss the old bedding into the trash. However, composting has recently become a great way to reduce household waste. Small pet parents who compost their old bedding can sleep better at night knowing that they are creating a smaller carbon footprint for your furry friend. How does it work? Organic waste will break down naturally if given enough access to oxygen, allowing microorganisms to feed on the organic materials, breaking it down into usable compost! This is called aerobic decomposition, organic materials converted to compost can be used as a soil amendment, improving the quality of your soil by adding essential plant nutrients. In landfills, waste lacks access to oxygen causing decomposition to take much longer and producing lots of greenhouse gasses like methane and takes up so much space! How do I start a home compost? If you are interested in starting a home composting system, do your research to find the right composting system for your home – there are tons of methods out there that will require different amounts of space and even work on your end. The basic principles of creating healthy compost are the same, it’s critical to practice good composting standards for optimal aerobic decomposition. This means stirring, turning, watering, checking the temperature, and covering your compost every few days. Make sure there isn’t too much of one type of organic material in your compost pile, you want an overall balanced content. Variety is the spice of life, and that holds true to your compost pile as well! It does take some effort but it’s well worth it in the end and after a few months, your compost will be ready to be used in your happy and healthy garden. If you have any questions or concerns regarding composting at home, we recommend checking your local ag regulations, reading more through the tips at EPA.gov, or checking your state regulations. Can I compost poo?  It depends. Many of the compost blends you can buy on the market will contain manure from animals like cows and horses. These animals are herbivores, meaning their waste will only contain plant matter and this creates amazing compost! So the rules of thumb for composting your pet’s waste is: herbivores only! Rabbit, guinea pig, or chinchilla feces are a great addition to your compost piles. Parents of omnivore or carnivore pets can still compost their excess carefresh bedding, but we recommend removing the solid waste from the used litter and properly disposing with the use of a biodegradable bag. The feces of any omnivorous or carnivorous animals may contain harmful bacteria and should NOT come in contact with anything edible. After removing any solid waste, you can safely compost the rest of the litter. Composting How-to: Place the droppings and used bedding on your compost heap, add some straw and mix it all together. Allow this to sit with other compostable items, turning the compost as needed to allow for proper aerobic decomposition. Each composting system has different requirements for turning and tending, so make sure to tailor these steps to your specific system. Depending on the size of your pile and your method of composting, it can take anywhere from two to six months for your compost to be ready to use and mixed into your garden. Important Tips for Success: Do not compost the waste of any animals who are ill, contagious, or taking medication, as these unwanted elements may wind up in your soil. Do not compost the feces of carnivores or omnivores Keep your compost pile balanced Don’t want to Start your Own Composting System? What if I don’t want to start a home compost, but don’t want to throw my excess bedding into the garbage? If you are not interested in creating your own home compost bin or don’t have the available space, you may be able to use a yard waste bin or simply bring your compostable materials to local farms or a nearby community garden. Be sure to ask first if they will accept compostable materials with pet waste and what the requirements are. Most waste management companies have a commercial composting facility, especially if you live in a larger town or city. If you are struggling to locate one, we simply recommend googling “composting facilities near me”, give them a call and ask: If they provide a waste-management bin and the times they pick up compost If they do not pick up, when and how your compostable materials can be dropped off Any regulations of what should/should not be included in your compost materials The cost associated with working the yard-waste management Any additional benefits they provide (such as finished compost at a reduced price).  So what are you waiting for? Start composting your used carefresh bedding today!    
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Natural Wood Cat Litter vs Clay & Silica: What's the Difference and Why Make the Switch Today

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Top Reasons to Adopt a Bunny and What You Need to Know

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