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Do Guinea Pigs Have Tails? What Exactly Are They Used For?

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Tim Rhodes

Sometimes, you end up thinking about the strangest of things when you are alone and bored, example of one such random thought is, do guinea pigs have tails?

It’s just human nature to get curious and wonder about random things because the mind is one strange muscle that likes to work overtime.

You are not crazy, and it’s very normal, it just means that you are a healthy person with a sound mind.

Guinea pigs (Cavia Porcellus) are small mammals in the cavy family (Caviidae) that originated from South America and were bred by Incas.

Pet lovers love them because, well, they are the cutest cuddly little-bodies with short limbs, large heads, and big round eyes, so how can someone possibly not love them?

These cute little things are actually believed to have a personality, and each one has its own likes and dislikes, some are sassy and opinionated, while others are calm and collected just like humans.

A joke is thrown around that ‘if you pick a guinea pig up by its tail, its eyes will fall out,’ so, do guinea pigs have tails?

Where is the guinea pig’s tail?

You can’t see your pet’s tail, right?

Well, the truth is, guinea pigs don’t have a tail, and as such, they can not possibly have used for something they don’t have.

Well, at least they don’t have a long tailpiece such as that of a cat.

So you most certainly can not see it, besides, have you ever seen a potato with a tail?

A guinea pig is just like a potato, but just because they do not have it now, doesn’t mean that they never had a tail.

Did guinea pigs ever have a tail?

Originally, guinea pigs were wild animals that roamed the wild of South America.

They were not found in your backyard or inside your house.

They are from the family of rodents called Cavia porcellus and the whole family is known to not have tails.

If you check, neither Montane guinea pig nor Greater guinea pig has a tail, not even Shiny Guinea Pig has a tail.

Even those little ‘piggies’ who are still in the wild don’t have a tail either.

But guinea pigs’ ancestors from decades before had tails.

They were rat-like animals that lived in the wild and had tails.

Because the environment they lived in dictated that shorter tails had a better survival advantage over long ones, the size of the tail reduced with each generation.

Guinea pigs suffered a rare gene mutation that suppressed the tail development, and this gene spread until there was not a single guinea pig-tail left.

Eventually, there was not a single ‘cavy’ with a tail – though they still have a tailbone inside.

That’s why our lovely pets do not have a tail today.

It was wished away by their ancestors.

Why guinea pigs don’t have a tail?

Simply put, it’s because the little animal doesn’t need a tail anymore.

Well, every part of a body has its own designated function.

Yes, even the tail.

A tail does not do guinea pigs much good.

They do not need to scale anything and their body shape has enough stability to allow them to scurry around in the forest, or even in your house for food.

Even when mating, guinea pigs are known to prefer mates with shorter tails over longer tails.

So it’s a disadvantage if a piggie has a tail because they might end up not finding a mate.

You also do not keep something that you don’t need, right?

So there is no big deal that guinea pigs do not have tails, they have no use for them at all.

Fun fact: Even with no outer tail, seven of the bones in their body are actually tailbones.

They are the residue of the mutated tail.

But it’s not normal to have these bones pointing out on a healthy guinea pig, and therefore the fact remains that guinea pigs do not have a tail.

You could think of a guinea pig’s tail to be similar to that of a human – merged and tucked away under the pelvis.

Like the Peruvian breed, some guinea pig breeds appear to have a tail on the back of their bodies that look like a horsetail.

But this is not at all related to the spinal cord or any other bone.

It’s only due to the rich, smooth fur that appears as cowlicks and makes it look like a tail.

You can have your furry friend’s hair well tamed and brushed regularly to avoid it looking like it has a tail.

Why do other animals have a tail?

Most animals have great use for their tails so having a tail is very important.

But some animals like guinea pigs do not need the tail at all.

Take for example monkeys, they use their tails to aid in their movements and to balance from tree branches.

Beavers, on the other hand, use them to construct their homes.

So for these animals, tails help them to survive in their environment.

A male peacock uses its beautiful tail to attract females.

A female looking to mate will choose a male that has the most beautiful and biggest plumage.

It might be funny to you, but it’s a survival need for a male peacock.

The tail needs to be big enough to attract enough females.

How to care for your Guinea Pig?

Since you are reading this article, I assume that you have a pet guinea pig or you are looking to get one.

So it’s crucial to know how to take care of it, just like any other pet, guinea pigs like a lot of attention and care.

Pet lovers love them as they are social creatures that are cute and cuddly.

These animals are considered an excellent first-pet for children and even grown-ups.

But you need to do your proper research and understand the best way to take care of them.

Diet

Feeding guinea pigs is easy since they are herbivores, and the most important part of their diet is grass hay.

But it’s also advisable to be very careful with your guinea pig’s diet to avoid any unwanted complications.

Feed a lot of grass hay in addition to fresh vegetables and fruits because it keeps your little guy healthy and happy.

Grass hay helps with their digestion due to the high fiber content and helps trim their teeth to keep up with the continuous growth.

The indigestible fiber in grass hay helps keep the intestinal tract moving at an undistracted speed and helps produce vitamin B and amino acids.

Timothy and orchard brome are the highly recommended feed by veterinarians all over the world.

Avoid legume hays because they have high protein and calories and therefore are not suitable for your guinea pig.

Feed your guinea pig a lot of fresh vegetables and fruits like mustard greens, kales, pears, berries, apples, cucumbers, etc.

You can also feed the guinea pig pellets but in moderation because too much may lead to a lot of weight gain.

Guinea pig pellets contain extra vitamin C that might be useful for your little guy.

Do not give your guinea pig foods with a high starch level like corn, peas, cereal grains, cakes, and the likes.

Guinea Pig Wellbeing

Housing

Guinea pigs like freedom.

So it would help if you considered making their enclosure as large as possible for them to be able to move around freely.

When making their housing, there are a few factors you should consider.

The area’s temperature should not exceed 75 degrees, and the cage should not be in direct sunlight.

Consider having a 36″L x 30″W x 18″H area with a solid surface area to allow enough room for the guinea pig to jump around and have some fun.

Provide the little guy with nice and clean beddings, and avoid using sawdust as this may cause respiratory issues.

Instead, use soft grass to provide the needed cushion.

The cage should be in a quiet spot away from the noise to avoid discomfort and stress.

Guinea pigs do great in a dry, well-ventilated space, clean and disinfect the place at least once a week, but remove any wet patches often.

Grooming and Hygiene

Guinea pigs also need grooming to keep their fur in pristine condition.

It also helps build the guinea pigs’ confidence and keep them nice and friendly.

Use a nice and soft brush and gently brush the fur in the same direction the hair grows while gently detangling and removing any dead hairs.

As you are grooming your pet, take that opportunity to check if it’s in perfect health.

Check for fleas and mites or any other external parasites as they cause skin irritation and keep your pet uncomfortable.

If you notice something wrong, take the guinea pig to the veterinarian for a thorough check-up.

Exercise

Guinea pigs need regular exercise to be healthy and have adequate mental stimulation.

Preparing an environment that is good and encourages exercise for your guinea pig is very vital.

Create for them appropriate foraging opportunities such as leaving a hay basket with food hidden around and encouraging them to find them.

Provide toys such as balls or small stuffed toys.

Each guinea pig should have its own chew item to play with.

This will keep them both entertained and help wear down their teeth to keep up with their growth.

Create an environment that is big enough and varied for the animal to explore.

You can use things like ramps and other materials like old clothes to create different environments.

This will encourage the guinea pig to run and climb around through the materials.

Provide a safe outdoor area for your guinea pig to run around in the grass, ensure that it’s not direct to the sun and the grass has not been sprayed with weed killer.

Interesting Guinea Pig Facts

These little creatures are both loyal and lovable and have very interesting and super amusing personalities.

Delightful pet owners domesticate them even though they are neither a pig nor are they from Guinea.

Although they do not have a tail, these little creatures have many more interesting features that make them both unique and lovable.

Their toes are uneven

The front limbs/feet have four toes, while the hind limbs have three toes each.

Interesting, right?

This doesn’t make it fun for the little guy, as the uneven feet do not allow him to climb or scale more than just a few degrees in angle.

So when you are making a cage for your guinea pig, you need to include ramps to help him move around and keep them from falling.

A Guinea pig cannot make its own vitamin C

Unlike most mammals, these little creatures cannot make their own Vitamin C, and just like humans, they need to intake it with their diet.

If there is a defiance in the Vitamin C intake, guinea pigs develop scurvy, leading to various problems like lethargy, skin problems, loss of appetite, and many more.

You should give a lot more attention to your pet’s diet to avoid all the problems that come with a lack of vitamin C and let your furry friend live a healthy life.

Teeth that never stop growing

These little guys love to eat, and as such, their teeth have open roots that ensure that they are continuously growing.

Continuous chomping and chewing of fresh fruits and vegetables wear down their teeth, ensuring that they do not overgrow and are maintained at a comfortable length.

It’s also advisable to get your pet plenty of chew toys and feed the hay and other hard and chewy diets to maintain healthy teeth.

Chew toys also keep the pet entertained and help them avoid overeating.

They have very high temperatures

Guinea pigs usually have an average body temperature of between 99 and 103 degrees.

This temperature is very high compared to the average human temperature of between 98-99 degrees.

As a result of this, you need to keep your little friend away from direct sunlight.

They are also unable to sweat, and it’s advisable to keep their room or the area where they move around at a temperature of between 65 to 75 degrees.

Anything higher than this will put their lives in danger.

Guinea pigs rarely sleep

Unlike your cat, guinea pigs do not like to sleep.

They are awake most of the day, they sleep between 2 to 4 hours a day and are up and about for the rest of the day.

Therefore, it’s best to have more than one guinea pig so that they can have each other’s company during the day.

Sows need to have pups before ten months

Female guinea pigs are called sows, the male boars, and the little ones are called pups.

Sows need to get their litter of pups before they are ten months old.

If they do not, then their pubic bones fuse, making it very hard for them to give birth to pups naturally.

Guinea pigs eat their feces

Yes, you read that right.

They eat their own poop as a necessity to practice coprophagy.

Nutrients are not entirely absorbed the first round, and they consume back the droppings to continue breaking down the food and get more nutrients.

Sounds disgusting, right!

Guinea pigs have a total of 258 bones in their body

It really might not look like it at first glance, but the little guy has a total of 258 bones in that tiny body.

There are 34 in the spinal cord, 86 in the front legs, 72 in the back legs, and the balance makes up the skull, ribs, and breastbone.

Unfortunately, guinea pigs cannot jump or land properly despite a large number of bones in their legs.

Their eyesight is excellent

Their eyes are bright, large, and round and are placed on the side of the head.

Giving them a wide field of vision to detect their predators from either above or from any angle on the ground.

The sight is not good in front of their noses though and they can see colors and detect moving objects.

Guinea pigs have an excellent digestive system

Their digestive system is significantly developed and extended so that they can properly digest their food.

After the food gets in the stomach, it mixes with digestive juices, which helps all sugars and fats get absorbed by the intestines.

Then the food passes down to the caecum, where it enters into fermentation.

The caecum takes up about 50-75% of the guinea pigs’ abdominal cavity.

They then produce two types of dropping: the soft ones they eat back and the hard ones you are supposed to clean-up.

They have a perfect sense of hearing

Guinea pig’s ears can hear sound frequencies the human ear cannot.

For example, they can hear you flush the upstairs toilet from the garden or when you crack open a jar of jam.

Like their excellent eyesight, their enhanced hearing is so that they can hear their predictors from a safe distance.

Final Thoughts

Even without a tail, guinea pigs are just fascinating little balls of fur.

So there you have it, friends, guinea pigs don’t have a tail, which might be to their advantage considering how much time these little animals spend pooping.

They also do not need to use a tail because they do not have it.

But although they don’t have a tail, these cuddly animals have a lot more going on for them.

They are cute and cuddly and are great companions to both kids and adults.

Guinea pigs make great companions and are considered easy to care for than other animals like dogs or cats.

Essential, you can get a pet guinea pig if you are in a position to provide a lovely home, and it will be quite rewarding eventually.

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