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Guinea Pigs as Pets
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.
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
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 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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