I saw this cartoon while I was lining cages and put it aside as a reminder to devote my February blog space to these special animals. This post is also an opportunity for a shelter plug, because many guinea pigs lose their homes every day through no fault of their own, and are out there waiting to be adopted.
These little guys are easily overlooked as potential family pets because many wrongly assume they do not qualify as a true companion animal. While they may not go out on walks with you, they are nonetheless sweet, gentle little creatures who will show you genuine love and affection, and definitely deserve a second glance. We had a guinea pig when our kids were young and he was a wonderful pet. He spent a lot of time out of his cage with our daughter, walking around the house or just sitting on laps watching TV and having his back stroked.
Adding any animal to your family will have its pros and cons; that being said, guinea pigs have very few cons, and the ones they do have are pretty minor and avoidable by a responsible pet owner. But let’s start with the good stuff:
Financially, it is easy to get one and their supplies are also affordable and easily obtainable. Here comes the aforementioned plug – if you are considering a guinea pig for your family, check Petfinder.com and your local rescues/pet shelters before going to the pet store. Many wind up homeless for a variety of reasons and are just waiting for a loving family to be their heroes. I also see them pop up from time to time on local social media groups like NextDoor by people who are moving and do not want to take them, or parents with kids going off to college and they don’t want to take on the responsibility of their child’s pet. Those posts are truly heartbreaking.
They are raw vegetarians, so their diets are very simple to accommodate. He will need an ample supply of timothy hay and a fresh water bottle in his cage at all times, supplemented with fresh vegetables and fruits.
Keep them healthy and your little friend will be with you typically for 6-8 years, but some have lived upwards of 10+ years. They are not prone to any types of illnesses like other animals. Annual visits to a vet who specializes in exotics is always a good idea to get them checked for lumps & bumps that you may not detect when handling them, as well as getting their teeth checked for overgrowth. Always keep your guinea pig supplied with wood blocks and a cuttle bone to chew so his teeth remain filed-down and healthy. I’ll push the envelope on Health a little further – they are happier in pairs, and happier pigs are healthier pigs 😊.
Most cages marketed for guinea pigs are not adequate, so a good rule of thumb is to look at the cages in the pet store, and then go find something larger. They need enough space to move around freely, a designated space off to the side to keep their food so they are not running through and contaminating/spilling it, and also space for a place to sleep in like a little hut. PVC tubes are also a great addition. Wayfair has a pretty interesting selection of pet habitats. We discovered that by chance.
Cons can be avoided by keeping your pig’s cage clean and giving him the love and attention you would give any other pet. If his cage is left unattended, it will of course begin to smell unpleasant and your pig may also become sick from the unhygienic conditions he is living in.
It is also possible that he will begin to display negative behavior from being neglected (after all, if you are neglecting his home, you’re neglecting him as well).
If you decide on a pair, your best bet is to get 2 females. A male and female, for the obvious reasons, is not a good idea. Two males have a high probability of becoming aggressive toward each other once they reach sexual maturity, which believe it or not begins when they are still babies themselves. That said, in my pet sitting experience, I have cared for male guinea pigs housed together who got along wonderfully.
Guinea pigs do make noise, mostly when they are happy or excited at mealtime or when greeting you after being out for the day. If you are looking for a totally quiet pet, then an aquarium is probably a better place to start your search than with a guinea pig.
Their vet bills will be slightly higher because they are an exotic pet, which is defined as anything that is not a cat or a dog. As long as there are no signs of illness, they will only require one well-check vet visit annually.
This is just a little snapshot. Below is a link from the Lafeber company with some interesting facts. This company also makes an excellent pellet food for guinea pigs as well as other small pets.
12 Fascinating Guinea Pig Facts - Lafeber Co. - Small Mammals
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