Specialist Breeder and Judge of Poultry, Pigeons, and Cage Birds; Judge at the Grand International Show, Crystal Palace; Membre Societe des Aviculteurs Francais; Vice-president Poultry Club; Hon. Sec. Yokohama Club; on the Committee of Middlesex Columbarian Society,
Indian Game Club, etc.
For a great many years guinea-pigs have been the cherished pets of many a boy and girl, and capital pets they make. They are good tempered, strong and healthy, and will stand a good deal of handling, which other pets would not tolerate. They very seldom attempt to bite their owner, but when they get tired of being played with, and struggle to get away, they can give nasty scratches with their hind claws, which are long and powerful.
Why cavies are called guinea-pigs is a mystery, for there seems to be no record of their origin. At any rate, they do not belong to Guinea, but are natives of South America; neither do they resemble pigs nor are they related to them in any way. The general supposition is that the name is a corruption of Guiana pig.
They belong to the family of rodents known as caviidae, and have four toes on the front feet, and three on the hind feet, which are furnished with long, curved claws. One peculiar and well-known characteristic about them is that they have no tails. Some folks have remarked that they look like a rat without a tail, but I cannot see the resemblance. They are altogether of a shorter and cobbier build in head, body, and legs.
Smooth-coated cavies, or guinea-pigs. The specimen on the left is a Dutch marked cavy; that on the right a self-coloured black cavy. Cavies are healthy, good tempered little creatures, and make excellent pets for children
They are also often credited with being very stupid and senseless animals, but this is unjust. Certainly they are not so sharp and intelligent as animals of a higher class, but some of them are affectionate, and get to know their owner, and show many instances of intelligence.
Cavies can be employed with advantage as lawn-mowers. The above designs show a good type of sleeping-house and wire run for them. Fig. 1 is a movable wire run, the top of which can be covered with netting as a protection from dogs and cats. Fig. 2 is the sleeping-house, which should be rat-proof. Fig. 3 gives an inside view of the front section of the house, showing the sliding door and ventilation holes
Again, it is said that they are delicate, and will not stand cold; but it is surprising, if properly cared for, how hardy and free from ills they are. However, it is necessary that they should be bedded with hay, and provided with a dry sleeping-house, with plenty of ventilation, but free from draughts.
They are prolific animals to keep, and will start breeding at two months old, but this should not be allowed. The female, generally spoken of as the sow, will produce two or three litters in a year, the number of young at each litter being from two to four or five; some authorities state that the number of young at a birth varies from four to twelve, but I have never had or known of any fancier having such results.
The young ones are born with hair and teeth, and are, in fact, to all appearances similar to an adult guinea-pig in miniature. They are very pretty little things, and lively. They run about with their mother, and begin eating various kinds of food, even nibbling oats, on the second day of their existence in this world. They are suckled by their mother for about two or three weeks, and then are able to look after themselves.
If, however, a number of cavies are required in order to keep the lawn in good order, then a different arrangement will be necessary. This consists of a house for them to sleep in and shelter during the day, and also a wire run, as shown in the accompanying illustration. The wire run is made with a wooden framework on which 1-inch mesh wire netting is fastened. There is an open space on one side which fits close up to the sleeping-house, and gives access for the cavies to and from the run. The run should be about 18 inches high, the width and length varying according to the size of the lawn. To prevent stray cats and dogs visiting the cavies, it will be necessary to cover the top of the run with wire netting. These wire runs, if made in sections, can be more easily moved about and will last longer than if made in one piece. Where there is no fear for the cavies from cats and dogs, a good plan is to erect a wire fence about 18 inches high all round the outer edges of the court, with openings leading to the sleeping-boxes for the cavies. These sleeping-boxes should be rat-proof, and be supplied with a sliding door worked by a string to shut in the cavies at night, otherwise, if there are rats about, you will be liable to lose your guinea-pigs. To be continued.
The following is a good firm for supplying Foods, etc., mentioned in this Section : Messrs. Molassine Co., Ltd. (Dog Foods).