Posted: March 27, 2014, 8 p.m. EDT
Do you come home to the sound of wheeking or squealing from a roundish, cute, furry critter hoping to score a romaine lettuce leaf or a dandelion from you? If so, chances are you share your home with a Cavia porcellus, or cavy for short. "A what?” You might be more familiar with the species’ common, nonscientific, U.S. name — guinea pig. The guinea pig name can be deceiving, however. It is neither in the pig family nor from Guinea. Guinea pigs are from the Andes (namely Columbia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia). One theory behind the guinea moniker is that these critters were brought to Europe via Guinea, leading people to think that was where they originated.
Of course, guinea pig aficionados have their own special names for their little critter companions, and a quick look at the names on SmallAnimalChannel’s critter species profile pages, suggests that owners are sweet on their pets. If your guinea pig goes by Oreo, Butterscotch, Toffee, Mocha, Cocoa, Snickers, Smores, Brownie, Cookie, Twinkie, Fudge or Cream Puff, he or she is in good company. Guinea pigs do come in black, white, cream, brown, tan and numerous combinations of these ice-cream flavor and pastry colors, so these delicious names seem like a natural fit. Ironically, these little piggies are named after foods they should never, ever eat!
© Courtesy Samantha Groff
Penelope guinea pig was named after a character in a movie, with additional inspiration from a celebrity's baby name.
Some guinea pig owners opt for gender-specific names like Bella, Gabby, Lola, Molly and Lily for the girls, and Spike, Freddy, Ralphie, Jerry, Max, Leonard and Buddy for the boys. Don’t be embarrassed if you’re not 100 percent positive as to whether your guinea pig is male or female — determining a guinea pig’s gender isn’t the easiest thing to do. Good news! There are plenty of popular gender-neutral guinea pig names to choose from: Cuddles, Snuggles, Nibbles and Patches, to name a few.
Pig-themed names like Porky and Piggy are also on the popular names list, and these gender-neutral names not only capture the guinea pig’s proportions and shape, but their hearty appetites too.
Over the years, Michele Horwich of California has shared her home with four guinea pigs, two of which had "pig” in their name. "The first guinea pig we had, we adopted from a little girl who had named her Daffodil,” Horwich said, "but we just started calling her Pig-A-Latte and then Pig Pig because it stuck better with us.” Her current guinea pig is named Piglet. "She’s Abyssinian, black and blond and white, and yes, she reminds us of a little pig!”
If you are still searching for the perfect guinea pig name, there are some great examples from both the small and big screen. Linny the Guinea Pig is a popular character on Nick Jr.’s Wonder Pets TV show. G-Force, the animated, spy-themed feature film starring a guinea pig cast, surely can be a source for some good pet names too. For a guinea pig that likes to be in command, Darwin (G-Force’s team leader) might be a good fit. There are also his fellow secret agents Blaster (weapons and transportation) and Juarez (martial arts).
After mulling over some possible names, Samantha Groff of California ultimately settled on Penelope for her 6-month-old guinea pig. "My roommate suggested her name, and it sounded so cute,” Groff said. "There’s the movie Penelope where the girl turns into half pig/half girl. Penelope in the movie is brave, and my guinea pig is pretty fearless, so it seemed fitting.” Groff pointed out another popular culture influence in choosing her pet’s name. "And around the time we got her, we were watching Keeping Up With the Kardashians, and Kourtney Kardashian’s daughter’s name is Penelope, so it just sort of stuck.”
And speaking of names, I bet there’s a good chance you’ve referred to yourself or someone you know as a guinea pig at one time or anther. "Guinea pig” is a go-to metaphor for a test subject. How many times have you called yourself or someone you know a guinea pig for trying something new?
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