While most people are aware of the existence of guinea pigs, not many people know that there are quite a few different kinds of this large rodent! Teddy guinea pigs are a breed of guinea pig named for their short and dense coat of fur -- similar to a teddy bear. These creatures are quite similar to other breeds of guinea pigs and make for some incredible pets.
So, let's take a look into the origins of the Teddy guinea pig, how it differs from other breeds of guinea pigs, and how to care for one of your own!
Teddy Guinea Pig Origins
First, a brief history about this adorable little cavy. Teddy guinea pigs haven't always existed. In fact, they first came into existence through sheer luck due to a genetic mutation! This doesn't mean that Teddies are damaged or unwell in any way -- it simply means that their genetic makeup has resulted in them having a different appearance from standard guinea pigs!
So how exactly did this happen? It's suspected that Teddy guinea pigs first came around when American guinea pigs were cross-bred with Abyssinian guinea pigs in animal testing laboratories. What happened when these two species bred was the offspring were given dominant genes for short hair, making all offspring of this pairing short-haired.
These offspring, now known as Teddies, also possessed a recessive pair of genes, tt, that results in a kink at the base of a hair. This gene caused the already short hair of Teddies to stand up and out, giving them that trademarked look.
Teddy guinea pigs didn't just stay a random mutation, though. In 1978 they were recognized as an official breed by the American Cavy Breeders Association. From this point on, Teddy guinea pigs have exploded in popularity due to their unique coats. Aside from being kept as a pet, Teddy guinea pigs are also bred for shows to show off their adorable appearance.
Teddy Guinea Pig Appearance
At first glance, Teddy guinea pigs may look the same as any other kinds of guinea pig. While they are quite similar, they also differ in several different ways. It's these differences that make them a sought-after breed by guinea pig lovers of all kinds.
To begin with, the Teddy guinea pig's coat is extremely unique. Its short, dense styling is very similar to the fur that you'd find on a teddy bear, hence the name. In the words of the ACBA, a Teddy guinea pig is classified by its "short, dense, plush coat which is resilient to the touch and 'stands up'."
As far as colors go, Teddies are quite diverse! They come in a wide variety of different colors, ranging from solid colors of white, black, brown, chestnut, gold, and gray to combinations of 3 or more. Patterns include single colors, mixed colors to form a unique hue, stripes, spots, and other random styles. Some specimens can even have satin coats, which are coats that are shinier than normal.
Continuing with the teddy bear appearance, Teddy guinea pigs have a Roman nose, which is a nose that's curved and turned upward. This results in a noticeably wider nose than other guinea pig breeds and makes it a lot easier to distinguish.
In terms of size, Teddy guinea pigs don't differ too much from other breeds. Adults average around 12 inches in length, with males weighing 2 - 3 pounds and females weighing 1.5 - 2.5 pounds.
Personality & Lifespan Of Teddy Guinea Pigs
There's a reason why Teddy guinea pigs are experiencing such a surge of popularity among guinea pig owners. This breed is technically 50% Abyssinian guinea pig, so there's going to be a good amount of overlap with personality. Since Abyssinians are one of the most active breeds, Teddies are right up there with them! This breed is very energetic, easy-going, and loves to interact with humans and other guinea pigs. They also love to be held and cuddled.
Like any other kind of guinea pig, Teddy guinea pigs do need a good amount of companionship from other guinea pigs and their owners. It's recommended that you keep your Teddies in same-sex pairs, and they have no problem living with other breeds of guinea pigs. You should also provide your Teddies with a very large cage in which they can run around an play. In return, you'll be rewarded with very happy and affectionate guinea pigs.
With such a great personality, it makes sense that you'd want your Teddy guinea pig to live for as long as possible. Fortunately, these guys have decently long lifespans, ranging on average from 4 to 8 years old. However, there have been a good amount of outliers, with a few specimens reaching double digits!
To give your Teddy guinea pig the best chance of living past their expected lifespan, there's a few things that you yourself can do. First of all, you can purchase a Teddy from an experienced breeder that raises very healthy guinea pigs. You can also feed your Teddy an optimal diet in addition to making sure their environment is exactly what they need. Combining these three things will increase the chances of you keeping your guinea pig around for a very long time.
Teddy Guinea Pig Care
As a responsible pet owner, you always want to provide your pet with the best care possible. So, if you're looking to bring a Teddy guinea pig into your home, it's essential that you know exactly how to care for one. Teddies have specific needs that need to be met in order for them to live a happy and healthy life. Fortunately, this adorable breed isn't much different at all from other guinea pig breeds.
Teddy guinea pigs enjoy diets that are the same as any other breed. Guinea pigs are herbivores, meaning that they are able to get all of their essential nutrients from a variety of plant matter. However, an overwhelming majority of a wild guinea pig's diet consists of grass and hay, with a few random vegetables thrown into the mix if they can be found.
For thousands of years, this is what guinea pigs have been eating. This has resulted in their bodies becoming fine-tuned for this exact diet. Therefore, your Teddy guinea pig's diet will also need to be made up of about 80% hay. Providing a steady supply of Timothy hay in their cage will help keep their teeth the correct length and will give them most of the nutritional content that they need.
In addition to hay, a good mixture of pelleted food, fresh fruits and vegetables, and the occasional healthy treat work to round out a Teddy guinea pig's diet. A healthy mix of several different foods provides your Teddy with a diverse array of nutrients and works to keep their diet interesting and tasty.
There are some foods that should never be fed to your Teddy guinea pig, such as processed foods, food with very high water content, food with sugar, and downright dangerous foods like rhubarb, tomato leaves, and raw beans.
With such an active and curious little creature, you'll need a cage that is able to contain all of that excitement. Fortunately, there are many guinea pig cages out there that were designed with the environmental needs of guinea pigs in mind. There's also quite a few terrible cages, though. So what exactly does a Teddy guinea pig need in a cage?
First of all, bigger is simply better when it comes to cages. Your Teddy will need plenty of room to run, play, poop, and sleep without feeling cramped. Bigger cages are easier to accessorize, they're easier to clean as eating, sleeping, and bathroom areas stay separated, and they provide plenty of room for guinea pigs to exercise. One Teddy guinea pig needs a minimum of 7.5 square feet, while two need at least 10 square feet.
Their cage should also have great accessibility to aid with cleaning, safe materials that can't be chewed on and ingested, and proper ventilation. A proper cage for your Teddy guinea pig will make them noticeably happier and healthier, so the extra investment for a perfect cage is definitely recommended.
General Teddy Health Care
These adorable little creatures have the added bonus of being relatively low-maintenance. This is because underneath that unique coat is skin that's more dry and sensitive than other guinea pigs. Therefore, Teddy guinea pigs only need to bathe about once or twice a year or whenever they get visibly dirty. Bathing is quite simple, with the only caveat being that Teddies require special shampoo and warm water for their sensitive skin. This trait is great for owners that don't want to spend a lot of time bathing their guinea pig. The only care that their coat needs is a weekly brushing to remove any loose hair.
There are a few more points to note about a Teddy guinea pig's health that aren't as nice as their fur. First of all, Teddies are susceptible to wax build-ups in their ears. Basically all Teddies have this condition, and while it isn't dangerous, it is something that you'll need to regularly deal with. Fortunately, it's quite a simple process that any Teddy guinea pig owner can do at home in 10 minutes.
Additionally, Teddies are quite prone to diarrhea, meaning that they have slightly more sensitive digestive systems than other breeds. This shouldn't require any detailed care, but it does mean that you need to be extra careful to only feed them safe foods they have no problems eating.
Purchasing Teddy Guinea Pigs
If you're ready to purchase your own Teddy guinea pig, it's not a very difficult thing to do! While this breed certainly is unique, it's not uncommon and is quite widely available. There are three main sources that you can obtain a Teddy guinea pig from, and those are pet stores, breeders, and rescues.
Pet stores tend to get a wide variety of different guinea pigs in, and Teddies will sometimes make it into their stock. Specialty breeders also exist around the world, but may take a bit of searching around to find.
Rescuing a Teddy guinea pig is a great option as it gives this creature a second chance at life. Any guinea pig rescue near you will likely have a Teddy or two, or you can look online on pet adoption websites like PetFinder where new guinea pigs are listed daily.
Although Teddy guinea pigs only cost around $25 to $30, they'll provide you with years of entertainment and love. This is such a unique breed of guinea pig with an adorable appearance that you simply won't be able to get enough of if you bring one into your home.