Let’s be real, guinea pigs are cute. Especially when they are babies. And guinea pigs have a lot of babies. That’s a lot of cute.
In order to produce these bundles of joy, a guinea pig mother undergoes a specific reproductive process. During this process, the pups grow and develop until they are born.
Once born, the mother is able to conceive again and birth another litter. The question is, how many times can a guinea pig mother go through this process?
How many times can a guinea pig mother get pregnant?
While there is no definitive answer to this question, we can estimate the number of times a guinea pig mother can become pregnant by looking at the average number of litters a guinea pig has per year and the age range within which the guinea pig mother should have the pups. Based on these two factors, it is estimated that a guinea pig mother can become pregnant up to eighteen times during her lifetime.
Let’s start by looking at the reproduction process.
Female guinea pigs undergo an estrus cycle (go into heat) every 13 to 20 days. In order to become pregnant, a guinea pig must not only be in heat, but also must ovulate (release eggs).
This ovulation occurs approximately every 15 days. Once a guinea pig is in estrus and has ovulated, there is a one-to-fifteen-hour time period during which the guinea pig can become impregnated by a male guinea pig.
When the male and female guinea pig mate, the egg(s) become fertilized. After the eggs are fertilized, it takes about seven days for implantation to occur.
During implantation, the fertilized egg attaches to the wall of the uterus and, after implantation, development of the embryo begins. As time passes, the embryo develops into a fetus and the fetus grows into a pup.
Guinea pigs can be bred anytime during the year. They tend to birth about five litters per year but have the ability to birth anywhere from two to eight litters in a year.
In the wild, it is natural for guinea pigs to have at least two litters per year, with three or four babies in each litter.
For domesticated guinea pigs, the typical litter size is one to six pups, with the average number of pups in a litter being three. Some litters can have up to thirteen pups.
Interesting Fact: The larger the litter size, the smaller the pups are.
The typical gestation period (the time that the guinea pig is pregnant) is 59 – 72 days, with the average pregnancy lasting around two months, or 63 days.
Interesting Fact: The shorter the pregnancy is, the larger the litter size is. Inversely, the longer the pregnancy is, the fewer pups the litter contains.
During the time that a guinea pig is pregnant, it is important to carefully monitor the guinea pig to ensure she stays healthy. The guinea pig mother will need an unlimited supply of pellets, hay, and water throughout the pregnancy.
It is also important to keep the cage clean and to keep the guinea pig’s stress level down by avoiding loud noises or handling the guinea pig. To the extent possible, a pregnant guinea pig should not be handled.
How Long To Wait Between Litters
There is no required amount of time that a guinea pig must wait between litters. Physically, guinea pigs can become pregnant shortly after birthing a litter.
Guinea pig mothers come back into estrus (i.e. are capable of conceiving) within two to fifteen hours after giving birth. Ovulation occurs within ten hours after estrus begins.
This means that within twelve hours of having one litter, a guinea pig can become pregnant with another litter. Guinea pig mothers have the ability to breastfeed and care for a litter while being pregnant.
Although there is no recommended amount of time to wait between litters, it is a good idea to allow the guinea pig mother to have time to nurse her pups until they are weaned and then give an extra week or so for the mother to rest before becoming pregnant again. Generally, it takes about three weeks for pups to be weaned.
Minimum Breeding Age
Female guinea pigs can become pregnant at only four weeks of age and reach sexual maturity by ten weeks of age. Although they are physically able to have babies at four weeks of age, it is healthier for the guinea pig and the babies when the mother is at least twelve weeks, or three months, old before becoming pregnant.
If a guinea pig is bred too early, the guinea pig mother may not be developed enough to healthily carry the babies to term, mature enough to care for her pups, or weigh enough to sustain the pregnancy.
It is also important that guinea pigs be bred for the first time by the time they are six months old. Breeding for the first time after six months is dangerous because the bones in the guinea pig’s pelvis begin to fuse.
Towards the end of the gestation period, the pelvic bones spread so that the babies can pass through them. When the bones fuse, the babies cannot pass through.
This can cause the guinea pig mother and the pups to die.
Interesting Fact: Younger guinea pigs have smaller litter sizes. Generally, the older the guinea pig mother, the larger the litter size.
Maximum Breeding Age
Guinea pigs should not be bred after two years of age. As mentioned above, as a guinea pig becomes older, her pelvic bones become fused and the guinea pig can no longer have a safe pregnancy.
Also, as guinea pigs get older, it is common for them to develop cystic fibrosis which can cause infertility. When guinea pigs become infertile, fluid filled blisters are released instead of eggs.
If you are a pet owner and not an official breeder, it is suggested that you not breed your guinea pigs and that you take care to separate your female guinea pigs from the males so that they do not become pregnant.
There is an abundance of guinea pigs that have been abandoned by their owners due to accidental pregnancies. Often, these guinea pigs end up in kill shelters (as opposed to no-kill shelters) or worse.
It is also important to note that pregnancies do put stress on a guinea pig’s body and that breeding a guinea pig can actually decrease its lifespan.
Unless you are able to ensure that you can keep your guinea pig healthy, can follow the age guidelines above and are able to properly care for your guinea pig’s litter, it is best not to breed your guinea pig.
So, how many times can a guinea pig get pregnant?
We know that guinea pigs can have multiple litters each year. They typically have five litters per year but can have anywhere from two to eight.
We also know that guinea pigs should only be bred between the ages of three months and two years.
If you do the math, it is very possible that a guinea pig could become pregnant eighteen times during her lifetime. However, in reality, it is not advisable to breed a guinea pig this many times.
Especially since breeding can reduce the lifespan of your guinea pig.
If your guinea pig becomes pregnant, or if you are thinking about breeding your guinea pig, be sure to consult with your vet in order to ensure that your guinea pig has a healthy pregnancy and produce cute, happy, and healthy babies.