What are the signs?
- Did you buy your guinea pig at a pet store?
The odds just went up significantly.
- Did you buy a fairly young guinea pig at a pet store?
The odds just went up even more -- most typical.
- Did you get two "female" guinea pigs from a pet store?
Did you confirm that?
- Is your guinea pig gaining weight, fairly noticeably?
While young guinea pigs grow fast, you usually don't notice normal day-to-day growth, pregnancy growth usually stands out.
- Is her weight gain in the belly area?
- Does she lie down a bit more than normal?
- Does she complain more than normal when you try to pick her up?
Tricky, as most guinea pigs run away or grumble and don't like being picked up.
- Is she hungry or thirsty a lot? More than usual?
This can be hard to tell since all guinea pigs are pretty much non-stop food beggars.
- Have you had your guinea pig less than 10 weeks?
- Does she live with another guinea pig?
Have you double-checked the sex of that guinea pig?
- Has a male been with her at any time in the last 10 weeks?
If so, she should be on pregnancy watch. If other signs are present, then it's pretty likely.
How Can I Tell For Sure?The best thing to do is wait it out. You have to anyway. "Pregnancy watch" lasts 10 1/2 weeks or until babies are born, whichever comes first. Gestation is 59-73 days. There is no blood or urine test (wouldn't that be nice?).
Can only tell after 4 weeks or more.
Expensive and while non-invasive, still stressful to the guinea pig. Wait it out.
- X-ray or Radiograph
Generally unsafe unless your guinea pig is overdue and vet recommended. Expensive, unnecessary radiation exposure risk, and stressful to the guinea pig. Won't show early pregnancy as the bones haven't formed well enough yet -- not until they are about 5 weeks along. Wait it out.
Feel for the baby fetuses. Best left to a qualified vet or vet tech. You can read about the proper technique, but one should generally avoid handling a pregnant guinea pig any more than necessary.
- You can feel the babies move
Need to wait for about 40-45 days for that (6 weeks). Safest confirmation.
- Steady weight gain
Weigh her every 5 to 7 days, chart the results.
Now What?If you think she might be pregnant, then you have to treat her like she is pregnant until proven otherwise. Now you have three aspects of guinea pig issues to consider.
- Health care of the mother
- Caging and pig re-arranging considerations
- Long-term plans for your guinea pigs
Don't buy animals in pet stores!Point made yet? Most people don't appreciate how often this happens. Pet stores need you to have pets. The more pets, the better. You can't be a customer without a pet to feed and maintain. Take yourself OUT of the demand-side of the pet-trade business. Adopt! Consider becoming an advocate, a grass-roots voice of change in your world, a role model of the 'right guinea pig way.'
Points to ponder
- Babies grow up SUPER FAST. You cannot wait to think about what you are going to do. Babies can be fertile as soon as 3 weeks old. They only look like babies for few short months. Then you are going to have adolescent and adult guinea pigs to manage.
- MORE than TWO MALES will NOT get along together. The odds of 3 or more males living together peacefully after an initial 6 months is less than 10% (an estimate based on significant experience). It is a big myth that litter-mates or brothers will naturally get along. Attempting and counting on three males or more to live together should be left to the experts -- those with the resources to attempt it and proper fall-back options in the likelihood that it doesn't work out.
- TWO males can and usually do get along fine if the introductions are managed properly AND they have a properly-sized cage (2x5 grids) AND the cage is outfitted appropriately (a big reason for many failed attempts by well-meaning cavy slaves).
- You should NOT plan on any guinea pigs living alone. Every guinea pig should have a non-breeding cage mate. In the worst case of a guinea pig living in a separate cage, they should be next to another guinea pig.
- Do not keep a fertile male in the same home as a fertile female, if you live in a family setting with children or any situation where the animals are not in YOUR 100% control.
- Two males should not be kept right next to an adjoining cage with females. It can (but not always) encourage more bickering than might be normal.
- Two males need more cage space than two females.
Two females should be in a 2x4 grid cage, minimum. Two males should be in a 2x5 grid cage, minimum (grids are larger than feet).
- Neutering an adult male won't stop males from bickering but opens up options.
It can be a bit pricey, but worth considering if you have access to a good vet. This is discussed further in our Combining Guinea Pigs article.
- Guinea pigs can be hard to rehome. Please use www.GuineaPigFinder.com. Do NOT wait until the last minute. Babies and younger pigs can be easier to adopt out, so the sooner you get a listing created, the better. Please try very hard to avoid placing any guinea pig in a single-guinea-pig home.
Health Care of the MotherThis is the easiest issue to manage. You really don't have to do much.
- If she's hungry, feed her.
- Use a good-quality alfalfa-based pellet and/or give her some alfalfa hay for additional protein and calcium.
- A good variety of good-quality veggies and fruit will cover a better nutritional profile.
- Make sure she is getting Vitamin C in her diet (not in the water)
- If you still have a fertile male with her, please remove him immediately -- especially if there is any chance she still may NOT be pregnant!
- She can live with other females in the cage -- assuming the cage is big enough.
- Keep the cage super clean.
- Guinea pigs do not 'nest' but you should provide plenty of soft, comfortable options for her in the cage.
- Make sure she has plenty of overhead protection and hideys -- allowing her to feel safe and stress-free. A wide-open cage with just a couple of hideys does not cut it. Please see our article on Cage Feng Shui.
- Find a vet NOW. Find a good, competent guinea pig vet. One who has dealt with pregnancies and neutering. When the time comes, if she has trouble delivering, that won't be the time to start looking. Do NOT count on your average cat and dog vet even seeing your guinea pig, much less knowing what to do with them. You usually have to find a specialty vet and more often than not, it's not easy to find one.
Who will you keep and how?When it comes to accidental pregnancies, most people need to face the option of rehoming some combination of their resulting new herd. It's a philosophical, ethical and moral dilemma. But the bottom line is most of us only have the capacity to properly care for a small number of pets, especially caged pets. You don't do the animals any favors by keeping them in substandard conditions when rehoming them could provide a better life.
Average LitterFirst litters are typically smaller, but the average litter size for a guinea pig is 3 to 4 pups (so 3.5!). 7 is not uncommon. 1 or 2 are typical on first litters. You just never know. Take care because back-to-back pregnancies are difficult on the mother. Please read our Sexing and Babies article.
How to RehomeRehoming does NOT mean calling your local rescue and asking if you can ""donate"" your pigs to them. Accident or not, these guinea pigs are your responsibility -- not a local rescue's nor your town's shelter. Feel free to reach out for help or guidance, but doing the right thing means not being a burden to others. It's why we recommend GuineaPigFinder.com. It's laser-focused on helping rehome guinea pigs via local adoptions to good homes. And surely anyone with the intelligence to be reading this page, already knows that turning any domesticated pet like a guinea pig loose outdoors is a death sentence. Sometimes the obvious needs to be repeated anyway.
Your living constraints to consider
- Space: for additional or larger cages.
- Budget for additional caging and supplies, budget for ongoing care and maintenance (food, bedding, vet, etc.).
- Time: Two guinea pigs aren't much more work than one -- same cage, etc. More than two, it starts to add up.
- Lifestyle: Were you planning on taking your one or two with you on vacations or travel? More than two is not so easy.
Planning before knowing the pregnancy outcomeThis is the tricky part. Sadly, many people are trying to procure a bigger and proper cage for their guinea pigs because they just found out one is pregnant or just had babies and now they know for sure that their current cage is too small. But, until you know all facts about a resulting herd and which ones you want to keep and which ones you'll want to rehome (if any) -- deciding on the right cage setup isn't easy.
We have some basic guidelines for realistic options on putting together the best guinea pig combinations for their benefit as well as yours. Please visit our article: Combining Guinea Pigs for more information on planning out your possible litter requirements.
- I think my guinea pig might be pregnant, what should I do?
- Guinea Pig Pregnancy
- Pregnancy Thread with x-rays
- Guinea Pig Cages - Pregnancy and Babies Forum
We have an entire forum section dedicated to accidental pregnancies and babies.