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Guinea Pigs for Stress Relief

Updated on April 11, 2014
Oh wise one
Oh wise one | Source

My daughter's pleas to get a pet coincided with a period of high stress for our family. And this made us wonder, is this really the right time for us to be adding animals to our household? Wouldn't a pet just add to our stress?

We concluded that the stroking and loving involved in pet ownership might just counteract the stressful things in our lives, but we weren't sure.

It would also depend, we reasoned, on what kind of animal we got. Maybe a goldfish would be the ideal answer, after all you don't need to do much to look after them, and it's so relaxing watching them just swim around... But then, all they do is swim around. And around. And they're not a very interactive pet for my interactive child.

We came to the conclusion that with a pet, maybe you get out of it what you put in. Looking after fish takes little effort, but you don't get a whole lot out of it. (No offence to fish-lovers. I admit I am generalising and I don't know a whole lot about fish!) While, it seemed, that a larger, land-based animal probably takes up a lot more of your time, but they learn to communicate with you, you can get to know one another well and hopefully, in time, you may also love each other.

Which Animal?

Well we went through a couple of options. We were serious about a dog for a while, but realised it would be unfair when there wouldn't be anyone in the house for long periods during the day, and nice as it would be to get the exercise, would we find the time for regular walks?

Then we considered cats. But we have a large urban fox community around here, and although they're beautiful to watch, the foxes have got into fights with neighbours' cats, resulting in losses of eyes and things. And none of us really liked the idea of having a house cat, it just didn't seem right.

So we thought that some kind of small animal might be fun. A gerbil? Too small. A hamster? Too bitey. A lizard? (My choice). Not cuddly enough. A bird? Too um, feathery.

A rabbit was a strong contender; I liked one I'd seen that had one sticking-up and one sticking-down ear, it looked quirky... But then we met some really cute guinea pigs.

And as a big capybara fan, I just couldn't resist their cute little cousins. As you can't just buy one guinea pig, (well you can but they get lonely), we have two!

One is scruffy, cheeky and crazy and the other is smooth, beautiful and zen.

Big Cousin

I'd love a capybara.  If we had enough space, and if it didn't seem just a little bit cruel...
I'd love a capybara. If we had enough space, and if it didn't seem just a little bit cruel... | Source

Learning About Guinea Pig Civilization

Ever since buying our guinea pigs we've been gradually learning loads about them. I can honestly say that I knew nothing about guinea pigs before, and there's no better way of realising you know nothing about a creature until you actually get one!

We're learning what they should eat, (their favourite foods so far are parsley and dill), and what they absolutely shouldn't eat. (The shouldn't list includes potatoes and iceberg lettuce). We're also learning about their herd mentality and how each group normally has a dominant piggie. This is evident in our cage..

And we're slowly getting to know the likes and dislikes of each guinea pig. Where each one likes to be stroked and where they don't. (Ears are a big no-no for our feisty one). And that they like being wrapped in a soft blanket like a baby.

From this very useful guinea pig hub by Suzanne Day, we've also learnt that the feisty one is an Abyssinian, (with Dutch markings). We didn't know this before, but the description of how this breed looks and behaves describes our scruffy boy almost exactly! The more laid-back one, I believe, is called a smooth.

We're also gradually picking up their little signs for things. For instance, when they're sitting on you and start to fidget or stare deeply into your eyes, it means "you might want to get me off you, because I need to poop". They're very thoughtful like that.

Mainly Poop

While guinea pigs are undeniably a lot of work, much more than we expected actually, we are managing to slot this work into our normal day. And we are getting so much back from these fascinating characters that it's definitely all worth it.

The amount of work involved is mainly related to poop, (poo if you're British). They eat a lot of vegetables, and of course it's going to come out the other end, and very often as it turns out.

And although some people say that their guinea pigs poop mainly in the corners of the cage, their guinea pigs obviously haven't given our guinea pigs that message!

While you don't have to fully clean out the cage each day, (we do a full clean weekly), there is a certain amount of daily cleaning to do; searching for and scooping out poop, replacing soggy wood shavings so that things stay as dry as possible, and also removing rejected, wilted vegetables.

Then there's the food. Guinea pigs do like food, and enjoy eating - almost constantly! So they need on-tap hay, (a constant supply), along with guinea pig pellets, and a bowl of (raw) vegetables two or three times each day. They also need a water bottle to help them stay hydrated.

Pure peace.
Pure peace. | Source

...And Relax

Of course this all takes chunks of time out of our day. But the routine of chopping the vegetables, giving them food and clearing things out is strangely therapeutic.

Not having been a pet owner before, I hadn't realised how this extra routine would make me feel. It's not a duty, it's comforting. And it makes me feel slightly rural, as if our house has become that bit more like a tiny farm. When you live in a city that's a really nice thing.

It also feels good to be nourishing these sweet creatures. It's helping with the whole guinea pig bonding process. And the act of looking after animals is rewarding in itself.

While there are frenzied moments, such as watching them tear around their cage playing or trying to establish guinea pig dominance in their mini-hierarchy, the net result for our family is an increased sense of calm. Previously it was difficult to imagine that adding guinea pig care into our normal daily routine would actually have the effect of reducing our stress, rather than adding to it.

As well as the joy from getting to know our fluffy boys*, the comforting routine and the almost maternal pleasure I get from nourishing them, it is lovely sitting with them on our laps, stroking them while we watch TV. It's also so relaxing sitting by their cage, hand-feeding them, talking to them or simply sitting reading a book next to them.

And I've discovered that they're great listeners too. I tell them my problems and they sit there listening, without judgement, still and serene like little Buddhas.

If things get a little heated in their cage, we listen to calm music together. Their current favourite artist is Richard Goldsworthy. It puts them into their lovely guinea pig meditation trances. Just being with them when they're calm like this makes me calm too.

If you do yoga, tai chi or meditation you will know that sense of calm that you get from practise. Well, I would say that guinea pigs have the same effect. I can feel that special stillness deep inside of me, and that hasn't been there for a while. I also see this in my daughter when she spends time with them.

I feel like being a guinea pig owner will maybe help me to handle stressful situations a lot better. And I'm sure this also goes for other animals too, each in their own special ways.

And did I mention that they're so cute to look at? Seeing their chubby little guinea pig faces looking up at me and their comical, wise guinea pig expressions just melts my heart*.

Disclaimer

*Please excuse my twee language. I'm not normally into the sickly sweet stuff, but my guinea pigs are turning me soppy..

Comments

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    • Moon Daisy profile imageAUTHOR

      Moon Daisy 

      7 months ago from London

      Hi Linda, thanks very much for your lovely comment. I'm glad that you like guinea pigs, and have had the chance to take care of some. They all have their own characters, and are very sweet!

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      8 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I've taken care of a pair of guinea pigs temporarily on several occasions, though I've never had any as my own pets. I think that they're lovely animals. I enjoyed reading about your guinea pigs very much.

    • Moon Daisy profile imageAUTHOR

      Moon Daisy 

      4 years ago from London

      Yes Tolovaj. They are so cute! And calming. We're really getting to know their little personalities now, and they're really cheeky. :)

      I'm glad that there are other guinea pig fans on here, great to hear from you.

    • Tolovaj profile image

      Tolovaj 

      4 years ago

      I totally understand the therapeutic value of having a guinea pig. They are cute and cuddly and you can't stay angry for long time when you are near them. Who wouldn't like them?

    • Moon Daisy profile imageAUTHOR

      Moon Daisy 

      4 years ago from London

      Byron Wolf, thanks for your comment on my hub. I never realised they were so sweet either until we got our own. They cheer me up so much!

      I'm sure you do feel that way about your dog too, I can see how lovable dogs are, and have kind of always wanted one. I still have at the back of my mind thoughts of getting a dog. Maybe if our circumstances change a bit we'll get one one day... :)

    • Moon Daisy profile imageAUTHOR

      Moon Daisy 

      4 years ago from London

      They're great Jeannieinabottle. I think a hamster would be very sweet, and I'm sure that you'd also love having guinea pigs. Thank you for your comment, and I hope you enjoy your pet, whatever you decide to get!

    • Byron Wolf profile image

      Byron Wolf 

      4 years ago

      Adorable and thoughtful hub! Never knew guinea pigs were so sweet. I kind of feel that way about my dog.

    • Jeannieinabottle profile image

      Jeannie InABottle 

      4 years ago from Baltimore, MD

      Guinea pigs are such sweet animals. I've considered getting them myself. Instead, I have been a proud hamster owner several times. Right now, I am "pet free" but thinking a new little furry pet might just be a good idea. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    • Moon Daisy profile imageAUTHOR

      Moon Daisy 

      4 years ago from London

      Ah, thank you Suzanne. They are like little children. I was carrying the feisty (Abyssinian) one around in a blanket with just his face sticking out, and he felt like he was my baby!

      I get what you mean about depending on one another emotionally. It's a really nice feeling. I didn't know that would happen before we got them.

      They haven't had a chance to try grass yet as it's so rainy and yucky outside here, but they love hay very very much.

      I want to link to your page in my hub, hope that's ok with you.

      Thanks for your kind comments.

    • Suzanne Day profile image

      Suzanne Day 

      4 years ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

      Owning a guinea pig is like having another child, except far less demanding and it is a cute child. But the way they depend on you, and you depend on them emotionally, makes it really worthwhile to do.

      I enjoy feeding mine bits of grass as they sit on my lap, patting them is great for me, and making sure they are comfortable becomes part of something to do each day that is appreciated! I'm glad you have grown to love your piggies. Voted useful and up ;)

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