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Guinea Pigs as Pets

Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Advice about Pets > Guinea Pigs as Pets



Do Guinea Pigs make good pets?

Aug 2005

I need some advice about whether guinea pigs make good pets. We have a 7 year old and a 4 year old, and the 7 year old in particular would like a pet. So, are guinea pigs good for this age range? Will they be cuddly? Do they bite? Are they overall pretty easy to care for [feeding, cleaning cage (how often), etc.]? Any advice, praise or words of caution about guinea pigs is appreciated. Also, we'd like to know whether there's advice on a specific type of guinea pig to get, and a reliable place to purchase them. We were thinking that if we got some, we'd get two. Does that seem like the right approach? Thank you.


I've had guinea pigs as pets for several years now (and I don't have any kids yet, but two on the way!). I think they are really good pets, and many children have them as pets. One thing I would warn you about is that I believe a seven year old could certainly help with caring for the guinea pigs, but in the end an adult really needs to be responsible. Guinea pigs require a lot more space than hamsters or gerbils and the cage needs to be cleaned frequently -- something like every four days, depending on the size of the cage and number of pigs (some people would say clean it every day, but I don't have the time or energy). Also, sometimes they need to see a vet, and again an adult has to be responsible for that.

That said, guinea pigs in general are very docile and rarely bite (unlike hamsters). They aren't up all night running on a wheel, they interact with people (squeaking for food, etc.), they each have unique personalities, and they will sit in your lap quietly for petting and gentle cuddling (can't say whether or not they really like it, though...). Definitely get at least two, since they are herd animals and are happier with a cagemate, and also more fun to watch. As for where to get them, I recommend that you not buy them but rather get them from a shelter or a rescue. I know someone in El Sobrante who runs a guinea pig rescue and she generally has over 100 up for adoption at any given time.

Feeding is very easy -- just guinea pig pellets, hay, and fresh veggies every day. Feeding veggies is the best part, because they get very excited.

Please contact me directly if you want more information about guinea pigs. I'm not a vet or expert, but I do have a lot of experience with guinea pigs and would be more than happy to give you detailed recommendations (way more detail than most people on the BPN would want to see, I'm sure!) Karen


I saw your post about the guinea pigs and wanted to respond because I had quite a few guinea pigs as a child (starting at about age 5 or so). Guinea pigs are good pets in that they are very gentle and docile and not prone to biting. The very best ones to get are babies, because if you treat them well, with lots of petting and cuddling, then they will be great... stretching out and falling asleep next to you while you pet them, running to you and clamboring onto your lap, running about and making a ''wink wink'' sound when you come to visit them. Females are also the best, since males are too horny, especially with females around, and if you get two males together, you can expect aggression. One of the few times I was bitten was when I had two males and a female together and I tried to break up the fight that ensued. Guinea pigs can startle people when they're petted on the head, because they will sometimes jerk their heads up, which may get interpreted as trying to bite (not true). If you get older ones, then expect to spend quite a bit of time getting them used to people, especially if they have been neglected or abused before. A neat thing to do is finding a pregnant female to bring home, then keeping her and one or two of the babies. They're very fun to watch (like many animals, guinea pigs get boring and lazy as they age), hopping and climbing up ladders, etc.

Now, the bummer part of this post is that I also know that as children, my sister and I didn't treat the animals well. We loved them as playtoys, yes, but we often put them in dangerous situations, ruffled their fur the wrong way to get them to squeal in discomfort, forced them to do things as we would our stuffed animals (e.g., trying to spoon feed, dress, etc), carried them too roughly, and through our neglect or poor judgment, caused the deaths of most of them. This has haunted me into adulthood, and it wasn't really until I was 20 years old or so that I finally knew how to respect and truly love small animals like these. So, I guess a lesson was learned, but at a price to both the guinea pigs and to my own mind. Do we really need to abuse before we understand not to? Can kids really have the maturity NOT to abuse? Just some questions to think about before commiting to pets in general. Just keep in mind that guinea pigs are particularly vulnerable to mistreatment because they ARE so gentle.

Also, there's a lot of care involved, and that's another thing I have deep regrets about. They are not small rodents like mice, so the cages need to be cleaned out frequently (at least twice a week). Feeding is not a big deal, but must be done regularly (they will remind you every time you open the fridge door!), and they must get lots of attention and exercise (daily). Getting two is a good idea for that reason (I believe I once had a guinea pig who died from loneliness because I got bored with it and it had no other companion). Get a good book on guinea pig care and you will see that you need a certain size cage, too. I remember that a few years ago there was an organization involved in guinea pig rescues and adoptions (unbelievable but true), and they had a website which detailed how big its house had to be before they would even let you adopt one. I was blown away after I realized that my own home doesn't allow sufficient room for a cage the size they required (I don't have piggies now but I was sad to hear about the rescued ones). I just found it on the web: look at www.cavyspirit.com. They don't even recommend them for young kids at all... see.

Oh well, decide for yourselves but do spend some real time researching it. They are sweethearts but they need the right care. Susan


Guinea pigs are great pets! I had them and raised them when I was a kid, and my nieces had one too. No, they are unlikely to bite unless they feel trapped and scared, which you can easily avoid. I had them for many years and was never bitten. No need to get two, they don't seem to get lonely like cats do. At first your piglet will run from touch but give him or her lots of handling and s/he'll be tame and calm. If you DO get two, they should both be females. Two males would fight each other, and a male and a female would... you know. Types? Short-hair probably, just because they stay cleaner. They do groom themselves, are clean and neat and odor- free if their cage is kept clean. They don't have the brains of a rabbit, but who needs brains? If you do decide to breed them, the babies are terribly cute, born with hair and ready to run, like little miniature adults. Good luck! Have fun! Ann
There are some really fascinating web-sites about guinea pigs. I have no links for you here, but just google around a bit. They are all about making big enclosures for them not just keeping them in a 2 cubic-foot cage. We have hosted the classroom guinea pig many times, and have gotten to know her very well--enough to know that I'm allergic! So check that out before you buy. On the other hand, I was really surprised at how sweet the little animal was, very lovable. Best wishes meg
I probably know a little too much about guinea pigs. They are gentle and pettable. They make interesting noises, eat interesting things, and once tamed can enjoy being held and carted around. They have a weird magnetism, though they are not too smart. The care is not too complicated, but it ends up taking almost as much effort as a cat (feeding fresh veggies/hay almost every day, cleaning out the giant cage twice a week, clipping toenails, etc.) They live quite a long time (about 7 years), and are big enough to receive ''real'' veterinary care for all their little ailments, so you have to be a lot more committed than with a smaller small pet. (For example, our GPs were treated for eye injury, mites, and a tumor!) It is certainly a good idea to get two (either two females or a neutered male/female pair), because they tend to get lonely. Try not to buy them at a pet store; there are several local guinea pig rescue shelters that can give you lots of information and a wide choice of different breeds. I recommend chatting with Sharlene Scheffer of Cavy World: I think her email is sharleneGP at aol.com. She is a local vet tech and takes care of about 200 guinea pigs at a time! Or, feel free to email me for more GP scoop. Best of luck, ekc
We had guinea pigs growing up and LOVED them. They are easier than larger animals and cuddlier than smaller rodents. They eat all manner of kitchen scraps. Some bite but if you get a good one and are nice to it, they won't. You do have to change their cages fairly often, but that can be good for building responsibility in kids. Guinea Pig Fan
I have tons of experience with guinea pigs. We bought two himalayan guinea pigs (long-haired--not a good idea)from a pet store in Chinatown Oakland when my daughter was 4 (she is now 8) I looked up on a web site how to tell male from female and we got two females. Unfortunately, unknown to us one was pregnant from being mixed in a cage with about a dozen other guinea pigs. The baby ended up being male, and after the birth the two females started fighting so we ended up with 3 in separate cages.

Guinea pigs on average live 5-7 years. One of ours lived 18 months, one 2.5 years and the last one is still going strong at 4.5 years. If you want a good sized cage email me and you can pick it up for free (they generally run about $125). Here are my thoughts:

1. Adopt from a shelter or better yet from someone who knows and loves them and has a litter. This is the best situation because they will start handling the babies right away which is the key to a good pet. In any case try to get them as young as possible (they are weaned between 6 and 10 weeks)
2. If you get two they may or may not get along. Guinea pigs don't generally need this type of companionship
3. They need to be handled frequently when they are young so they are use to it. This is the key to making a good pet. The one guinea pig born at our house was the best pet because he LOVED to be handled by people. Our other two are kind of skittish, but got use to it over time.
4. None of our guinea pigs ever bit anyone, but they do have rodent teeth that need to gnaw (give them wood, carrots, etc.). They tend to be docile and slow moving.
5. Do not get long haired guinea pigs as they need to be groomed. Don't be tempted because they are so pretty. It is not worth it.
6. Cleaning the cage is a pain and must be done at least once a week or it stinks.
7. My daughter has varying degrees of interest in her guinea pigs. She does take them out of the cage and hold them, but they are not house trained (not possible) and so she puts an old blanket over her lap since they will often pee or poop when out of the cage.
8. Guinea pigs squeak a lot. We keep ours in the living room so they are socialized to be around people all the time, but it does make our living room look like a zoo. email me if you want to talk or need a guinea pig cage! ann


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