Are you Ready to Adopt a Guinea Pig?
Are you ready for a guinea pig?
If you've ever had the privilege of bringing a guinea pig into your home, you'll know the heart-melting feeling you get with each little squeak and twitch of that cute little nose. But guinea pigs, despite their adorable exterior, do have unique needs and lifestyles that require some special care!
This lens is the first in a series of lenses about proper guinea pig care. I hope that upon reading this and other pages you'll feel like a cavy expert and spread the word about proper guinea pig care!
Guinea Pigs aren't Maintenance-Free
The first steps you can take in determining if you can be a great piggie parent
People often make the misconception that the smaller an animal is, the less care and attention it requires. Since guinea pigs are generally docile and have favorite hobbies of sleeping, eating pellets and, well, making pellets, it can be easy to fall into the mistaken way of thinking that a guinea pig would be a perfect, low maintenance first pet for your kindergartner. The truth of the matter is, while guinea pigs are relatively low maintenance in comparison to dogs, they actually require quite a bit of unique care that prospective piggie parents should be aware of before taking a trip to the local animal shelter.
If, after reading through this preliminary guide, you think that you've passed all of the criteria here so far, you might be ready to think about a guinea pig! Read on to find out more about what to do once you've brought the munchkin home.
Can you afford a Guinea Pig?
What to know in order to make sure you have room in your wallet as well as your heart.
After the initial expense of adoption, getting cage supplies, food and toys, it's important to remember that your sweet squeakers will require continuous purchasing of food and bedding. Depending on how you house your fuzzy friend, you may or may not need to buy shavings or other bedding like Carefresh (more on this later!), so be prepared to be able to spend at least $50 a month on your cavy baby. Guinea pigs don't eat nearly as much food as their canine and feline counterparts, and they are generally healthy and don't require extensive vet bills or vaccinations, but they do require bedding changes, chew toys, fresh veggies, and hay.
Here's an example of the supplies you might need in an average month:
1 bag baby carrots: ~ $3.00
1 bag red peppers: ~ $8.00
1 bag hay: ~ $12.00
1 bag shavings: ~ $12.00
1 bag pellets: ~ $5.00
chew toys/treats: ~ $5.00
Of course, your guinea pig won't likely go through a whole bag of pellets in a month, but you may find that you want other veggies or that your vegetables are more expensive, or you want to buy a fun new toy or replace a food bowl. These things can add up, so be sure you're financially stable!
Can you be there when they need you?
Assessing your lifestyle preferences and setting aside time for your guinea pig
Guinea pigs are by nature very social and friendly animals. They travel in herds in the wild of Peru, so housing them with friends is often very important to their happiness. You may come across a piggie that just really likes being the star of the show; the only child, so to speak. If you do have only one piggie, or you have more than one but they are housed separately because they don't get along, be sure that you have enough time in your schedule to spend time with them! If you work a 9-5 job, be sure that you'll be able to snuggle your little one for awhile each day, and provide safe and chaperoned floor time for your piglet to run around and explore. If you aren't able to take at least an hour a day to dedicate to your friend, a guinea pig may not be right for you right now.
Who will take care of the guinea pig?
Figuring out the nitty gritty of cage cleaning, feeding, and keeping piggie happy
Parents often buy or adopt a guinea pig for their young children, thinking of it as the ideal pet because of its calm and sweet nature with people. This isn't a good idea. Guinea pigs, while very approachable, do get nervous very easily, and there are many guinea pig injuries and fatalities due to being dropped, squeezed too hard, or otherwise rough-housed by children. If you do get a guinea pig for your child, be sure that you are the one who is in charge - you feed it, clean the cage, and supervise ALL interaction between the piggie and your children. You may wish to hold it and let the child gently pet the guinea pig's back, but do not allow a child to hold the guinea pig unsupervised. Proper handling and support is very important as well since guinea pigs have weak backs and aren't able to support their own weight when held under their forearms.
It is especially important to remember that a guinea pig, just like any other pet, is an investment of your time and money as well as your love. Guinea pigs can live to be upwards of 10 years old (though that is rare). You should be sure that you have prepared yourself to have this companion for a long time. Sometimes, just as with bunnies at Easter time, parents will bring home a guinea pig and it will be fun for awhile, and then the new pet excitement wears off and they are left to clean and take care of it when the intention was for the children to do that. This can lead to a neglected guinea pig, or worse, an abandoned one left to fend for itself outside. This is NEVER okay to do and if it ever gets to the point where a guinea pig would have a happier life elsewhere, the owner should find another responsible friend to adopt, or take him or her to a shelter or animal rescue immediately.
Are You Allowed to Have a Guinea Pig?
What happens if your living situation is 'no pets allowed'.
No matter how badly you may want a guinea pig, if it's against the rules in your apartment or dorm, you need to really take that into consideration. This isn't to say it can't be done (I don't recommend going against the rules but I would be a hypocrite to not admit my guinea pig was a 'student' at my college for part of my junior year), but you have to have a game plan in case something goes wrong. If your landlord suddenly either wants you out or the piggie out, you need to have a plan of action that goes beyond bringing it to the shelter or handing it off to your friend who thought a guinea pig and a hamster were the same animal.
If you are at school, plan to have your family take your pet (and make sure they know how to care for it!) while you're away if there is a problem. If your landlord explicitly does not want any pets, be prepared to break your lease and move.
It would be terrible to adopt a guinea pig, fall in love with him or her, and then have your landlord say "either you go or the critter goes!" Make sure that you always get permission to have a pet where you live, particularly since many shelters will call your landlord to verify this before allowing you to adopt. Sometimes a pet policy may only pertain to dogs or cats in apartment complexes, so it's always helpful to ask someone in charge and see if you might be able to get permission to have some smaller animals in your residence.
Do you know how to care for one?
Will you know how to sustain a happy and healthy guinea pig?
This seems like a no-brainer, but you'd be shocked how many people manage to bring animals into their homes with no idea of how to really take care of them! Pet stores are a prime example of places where you sign a sheet, they hand you an "info sheet" which you might or might not read, and then you're on your way with a new friend. This is dangerous! Always be sure to read up on the care your baby requires either online, or ask your veterinarian for some literature. He or she will often have plenty of resources to point you to, and if not, another specialist will.
Of course, I'm a bit biased and will tell you to read the rest of this how-to guide to get yourself well versed in cavy culture! But the real bottom line is, no matter how you get the information, be sure that you know exactly what your guinea pig will need from you each day- from dietary needs to attention, how to spot illness and proper bedding materials. There's a lot to learn about these fascinating little "potatoes with fur". Take the time to learn and you will be very rewarded with a happy pet!
You've gone through this note and want to learn more. Where should you look next?
If you've read through these tips and find yourself saying "I'm ready, already!", congratulations! You're well on your way to finding the love and happy memories that adopting a guinea pig can bring. To learn more about guinea pig care, please feel free to continue reading my other Squidoo lenses about guinea pigs! By the end of things, you may find yourself becoming a guinea pig evangelist, too! Good luck and thanks for reading!
More Lenses from Guinea Pig Care 101
Please have a look at the other lenses covering the many different aspects of proper guinea pig care!
- Preparing Your Home for a Guinea Pig
You'll learn how to prepare your home, and more.
- When to Have More Than One Guinea Pig
In this lens, you will learn about your options when adopting a guinea pig in terms of deciding whether to adopt more than one.
- What Guinea Pigs Can and Cannot Eat
This lens is all about the dietary dos and don'ts of guinea pig care.
- Where to Find your new Guinea Pig
This lens is all about the adoption process for bringing a new guinea pig into your home, and where you should look to find your furry friend.
- Finding a Good Guinea Pig Vet
This lens is about finding a veterinarian that will best suit your needs as a guinea pig parent.
Guinea Pig Items on eBay
Looking to save some money or maybe find something that you've been trying desperately to find locally but can't? Take a peek on eBay and see what you can find!
Guinea Pig Items on Amazon.com
There are several books and other items on guinea pigs that you can find on Amazon. You never know what you might find!
Please feel free to leave questions or comments here for anything that pops into your mind. Is something incorrect or missing? Did you find any of this information particularly valuable? Maybe you'd just like to say hi. I'm happy to receive any and all feedback! Thanks!