Guinea pigs existed solely in the wild before being domesticated over 3000 years ago. They’re native to South America and have been used for sacrificial ceremonies and also kept as pets and food sources since then.
Also referred to as cavies, this rodent species has been selectively bred over the years into various species with 13 being the most common breeds from the long-haired Peruvian to the short-haired American breeds.
The domestic pet breeds still have relatives in the wild but they are more colorful compared to their counterparts who have dull hair.
Whether you have been thinking of releasing your pet out to the wild, or your adorable furry friend made a grand escape from home, or you are just curious whether guinea pigs can live in the wild on their own after experiencing your affection, well, I got the answers for you.
Keep reading to learn more.
Can pet guinea pigs survive in the wild?
Pet guinea pigs cannot survive in the wild. This is because they are already used to being pampered and having all their needs catered for by their owners. Wild guinea pigs have to fend for themselves and keep themselves safe from predators.
Pet guinea pigs if released into the wild will come across unfamiliar and harsh environments that harbour predators, traffic hazards, traps, diseases, and a change in their feeding that they are not used to.
How do wild guinea pigs survive in the wild?
Guinea pigs are all prey animals and the wild ones have adapted to staying away from predators. A good adaptation has been that of young ones being born strong enough to run with their mothers in case of predators.
Guinea pigs have small bodies and as such, they are not capable of fighting off predators. Being prey to larger animals like wolves and snakes, their survival instinct is always to run away and hide whenever they sense danger.
Guinea pigs usually live in herds and are able to communicate among themselves using various sounds enabling them to warn each other of danger. They have good memories that help them remember different paths and the specific locations of their hiding holes.
They will either burrow these holes themselves or use holes dug by other animals. Wild guinea pigs forage in the bushes and eat vegetation including berries and flowers.
They don’t require water unless it’s absolutely necessary because they get their water from the vegetation they eat.
All these qualities make them very different from their domesticated counterparts who have everything offered and done for them.
Factors that affect a pet guinea pig’s survival in the wild
A pet guinea pig’s survival in the wild will be affected by the various factors listed below.
Pet guinea pigs usually live in enclosed cages and hutches that are secured from any predators. They are used to living safely in there without much worry about predators which makes them let down their guard and not be as cautious as they normally would be.
If they were to go into the wild, they would encounter predators more than they are used to. This would make them stressed and keep them on the run always.
They would still be easy to catch because they are not sure of where to hide while the predators are more familiar with the wild paths.
Pet guinea pigs wouldn’t know how to stay away from coming traffic. They are usually kept away from noises because loud sounds scare them.
Traffic with all the horning and sounds will make them anxious, frightened and confused. This would make them try to run away and hide in any direction which would easily lead to them getting knocked down.
Away from the safety of their cozy homes, pet guinea pigs will most likely be frustrated by totally new environments. The weather will definitely not be conducive either as they are used to being shielded from extreme temperatures.
They will get to experience rain, sun, cold, and heat that they are not used to, with all being fatal conditions for them. They will also have to search for secure places to sleep that are much different from their cozy houses.
Infections and diseases
Pet guinea pigs always have someone to call a vet in case of any signs of illness. The wild will have more bacteria than their bodies are used to making them more susceptible to infections and diseases like pneumonia.
Having no one to take care of them and with their bodies not being used to the new environments, they may not be able to survive.
Wild guinea pigs have to graze on vegetation and eat wild fruits for their food needs. Pet guinea pigs have a scheduled diet of hay, vegetables, fruits, and even pellets.
So they will have a hard time beginning to search for their food and having to develop different tastes for the new vegetation they will be eating. They may be unable to get a balanced diet as they won’t know which food to eat and which is nutritious for them.
If your guinea pig goes away from your home, they may get into another homestead in their search for food, safety, and something familiar.
Not everyone views guinea pigs as pets as some will see food and snatch them for a hearty meal. Your guinea pig could also wander into someone’s farm and be caught by set traps for rodents trying to eat a farmer’s valuable crops.
Is it cruel to keep them outside?
Yes, it can be very cruel to keep guinea pigs outside.
First of all, they cannot regulate their own body temperature so if they are kept outside in the winter, they may freeze as temperatures drop below zero.
Even during the summer months, it is not recommended to keep them outside because you never know when a heatwave will occur and cause them to overheat.
If they are kept outside during these times, they may die from overheating.
The best place to keep your domestic guinea pigs is inside your home because that is where you can make sure their environment stays safe for them.
What to do about a guinea pig you don’t want to keep anymore
There are different reasons why you wouldn’t want to keep your pet anymore. Maybe you are allergic to them, you can’t maintain them any longer, the pet has changed, or any other reason that you may have.
Whatever you do, try not to release your pet into the wild because they will not be able to survive and it is cruel to do so.
You can give the delicate pet to another home to be re-homed or you can take them to an animal shelter. There could be someone out there dying to own your guinea pig.
Pet guinea pigs cannot survive in the wild because they are not conditioned to live in such environments. They are used to being fed, protected, and taken care of while in the wild they will have to start at zero to learn how to survive in unfamiliar environments.
Think of it as being kicked out of your home into the streets with nowhere to go and no one to turn to. It’s tough and it’s even tougher for the small animals.