Guinea Pig Life Span: How Long Do Cavies Live & How To Help Extend Their Life Span

by Lindsay Pereira
Guinea pig lifespan

One of the most important factors you should consider before getting a guinea pig as a pet is their lifespan. Essentially, you need to understand how long of a commitment you’re signing up for when adopting these cute little cavies. In turn, having a clear picture of a guinea pig lifespan will help you realize if you can, indeed, get a few of these furry rodents as an addition to your family.

How long do guinea pigs live?

In short, guinea pigs typically live an average of 5-7 years. That means, compared to other rodents like mice, gerbils, or hamsters, they have a substantially longer lifespan. Yet, it’s essential to note that there is a distinct link between age and factors such as diet, breed, environment, and access to veterinary care.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the oldest guinea pig on record, a cavy named Snowball, lived to be just shy of 15 years old – 14 years and 10.5 months to be exact. So, when it comes to domesticated cavies who are well-looked after and have access to healthy food, it is certainly possible for guineas to live longer lives than the average lifespan.

Life cycle of a guinea pig

To better understand age and lifespan, let’s go over the average life cycle of guinea pigs.

  • Birth: Newborn cavies will feed on the sow’s milk for up to 4-7 weeks.
  • 4-6 weeks: Female cavies reach sexual maturity.
  • 6-8 weeks: Male pigs reach sexual maturity, though some reach this period sooner.
  • 5-6 months: The minimum recommended age for reproduction in females.
  • 14 months: When both sexes are fully grown and considered adults.
  • 5-7 years: average lifespan of domestic cavies, all depends on genetics, health, and environment.

Guinea pig age in human years

How to extend the life span of guinea pigs

Although some online sources differ, I’ve found a few vet clinics that stick to the following calculations I’ll mention below. I do want to note here that this is just to give you an example of age. I have also seen other charts that claim 1 human year is equivalent to 12 guinea pig years.

Human age Vs. Guinea age, equivalency time:

  • 3 months = 2.5 years old
  • 6 months = 5 years old
  • 1 year = 10 years old
  • 2 years = 20 years old
  • 3 years = 30 years old
  • 4 years = 40 years old
  • 5 years = 50 years old
  • 6 years = 60 years old
  • 7 years = 80 years old
  • 8 years = 80 years old
  • 9 years = 90 years old
  • 10 years = 100 years old

So, for instance, let’s take my cavy’s age and see how old she is in human years, to get an idea of age equivalency. Muffy is approximately 8 years old, according to her adoption records. That means she’s about 80 years old in human years – basically, a senior pet who has already surpassed the maximum age of her expected lifespan.

6 ways to help your cavies live a long, healthy life

Yes, you can help your guinea pigs have long, healthy lives – and it’s a lot easier than you think! Here are 6 ways you can extend the lives of your fabulous, furry friends.

1. A healthy diet

As with humans, one of the keys to a long, healthy life is a healthy diet. Give your guinea pigs the right food, such as water, vegetables, hay, and pellets, in the current quantities.

2. Regular exercise

Exercise is another essential factor in lifespan, and it’s no different for your pets. Living day-in and day-out in a cage is no fun, as I’m sure you can imagine. So, on a regular basis, a few times a day, let your pets have some exercise via free-play time outside of their habitat.

3. A clean, safe, stimulating environment

First things first, make sure you have a cage that is an appropriate size for your cavies. If their habitat is too small for them, they’ll live in a constant state of stress and quite possibly argue amongst themselves because of the stress – thus reducing their lifespan. As well, the cage should be located in a safe area, away from drafts and too much noise, as well as other pets who may think they look like a tasty treat. Boredom is also a factor, so ensure your cavies have several stimulating options to engage them mentally and physically.

4. Love and attention

Whether your guinea pigs enjoy being held or would rather you let them scurry about, cavies respond very positively to pet parents who spend time with them. By just talking and hanging out with your guineas, you can greatly extend their lifespan.

5. Companionship

Did you know that in some countries it’s illegal to have a single, solitary guinea pig? That’s because cavies are very social creatures, so much so they can suffer from depression and even die of loneliness. So, even if you pay loads of attention to your furry bestie, it’s really important to consider adopting another guinea pig for companionship.

6. Regular vet appointments

Regular medical check-ups help you stay on top of your pet’s health and can address health issues before they get out of control. If your guinea pigs display any unusual signs, it’s always best consult a veterinary that specializes in rodent species.

What happens as your cavies age?

Guinea pig lifespan - How long do guinea pigs live

Here are a few signs – all things that are normal – your cavies are aging.

  • Around 4-5 years of age, they tend to slow down and be less active physically.
  • You may notice your pets are sleeping a bit more than usual. This is perfectly normal. However, if this is combined with depression, less eating, or difficulty waking up, it’s important to consult your vet.
  • As their age progresses, you may notice a growth or lump appearing. Often, these are fatty deposits that pose no health risk. Nonetheless, always visit your veterinarian to make sure it’s nothing more serious.
  • Ailments like arthritis and cataracts are often part and parcel when it comes to aging. Speak to your vet about what can be done to alleviate the discomfort of these conditions.
  • Older cavies, as with humans and many other types of pets, habitually go gray around the mouth and nose area.

When guinea pigs pass away

While my sweet little Abyssinian sweet pea Muffy is still with us at the ripe old age of 8(ish), sadly, her sister Lilly is not. I’m not sure if her breed played any part in her passing away at 6 years of age – Lilly was an American guinea pig. To be honest, we adopted them from a guinea rescue center, so their age was always more of an estimate than anything. She passed away at home in her sleep, quietly, and we simply assumed it was her time. Though Lilly is missed by all, above all else, we remember how much joy she brought us – and talk about the next little companion we’ll bring into our home.

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