The Guinea Pigs Have a Major PR Problem

Don't ForgetIf you’re a pet lover and someone mentions guinea pigs, you’ll probably envision the cute critters that pet owners have come to know and love. One step outside of that circle, however, and the general population thinks of the slang which means an object of experimentation or the popular South American cuisine. Yes, guinea pigs have a serious PR problem.

A quick search for guinea pig news will result in a variety of articles unrelated to the pet. This has created a disconnected guinea pig pet community and an atmosphere where misinformation runs rampant. Quality guinea pig online publications are often small, fragmented and have trouble outranking large advertising focused pet sites on web searches. Too many pet related databases and websites currently being developed often forget to include guinea pigs all together.

As a guinea pig rescue volunteer, I am jealous of the bunny community. Rabbits get a big advertising boost from the Easter holiday and spring time in general. While it’s certainly not all positive, we could argue some press is better than no press. It gets people talking. Rabbits are more respected than guinea pigs and much of that is due to the hard work and dedication of rabbit welfare advocates. In 2009, the rabbit community managed to push PETCO to stop selling bunnies in stores and switch entirely to adoption only marketing. You can see the difference between the rabbit and guinea pig community on sites like cute overload where the bunny tag is gigantic and you don’t even see one for guinea pigs.

You might be thinking, as I did originally, it was a matter of supply and demand. Create more guinea pig content and get more seen. I also have a guinea pig blog, live webcam, YouTube channel, Facebook page, and Twitter account, yet still find it difficult within the greater pet community to get articles about guinea pigs published in other pet resources and news outlets. This means a select group of guinea pig sites online, which have become known as reliable cavy resources, dominate. They certainly don’t speak for the variety of personalities within the guinea pig community.

That said, let’s talk about the types of misconceptions that are in need of change. If you’re passionate about your dog or cat, you might take offense to a product that you find clearly unsafe for your pet. “How on earth did this make it to the pet store?” you might ask. Try an entire aisle. In an open letter to pet stores, we identified how the pet store profile of guinea pigs is about 30 years out of date. Many rescues instruct adoptive families to avoid most pet store supplies. Being at odds with the rescue community also hurts the small mom and pop pet stores who are trying to compete with big box stores for better prices by stocking similar items. This makes it very difficult for a potential adopter to get the resources they need for the rescue to approve their adoption and delays the guinea pigs finding a new forever home. Guinea pig rescue resources need to dedicate a large amount of their time to education, reprogramming really, on the proper care of guinea pigs vs. the pet store model.

Guinea pigs have been seen as “starter pets” for many generations. Often times parents have fond memories of their guinea pig without having a modern view of what guinea pig care is like. This leaves a lot of cavies to wither away in the kid’s bedroom or school classroom while the care takers are not aware of their needs. Guinea pigs, if taken care of properly, can live up to eight years. Many competent cavy owners know illnesses can be difficult to anticipate so the casual owner is certain to miss the nearly invisible signs. Prey animals often cover signs of weakness so as to not end up a menu item. Most guinea pigs need to be weighed on a regular basis as this is the best way to identify if your guinea pig is in ill health and needs to see a vet. Oh yes, guineas pigs do need to see a vet. That’s another chapter of common misconceptions entirely.

We could fill a blog post about correct guinea pig care, but with so many pet care sites already out there, the education is lost in a sea of misinformation and cloudy search results. Instead, let’s address what can be done. The guinea pig community needs to put aside differences and egos to unite under a common goal. If rescues, adopters, and pet owners would share links, promote each other’s pages on Facebook, and retweet on Twitter, a wider audience can be reached. If you share someone else’s cavy related link, you’re helping to boost their search engine results and pet resources will rise to the top. The greater pet community needs to recognizes the guinea pig PR problem so they can help as well. Dog and cat lovers, please lend a paw! Connect with guinea pig rescues, pass along guinea pig care articles from reputable resources, and get conversations going about guinea pig welfare. Please don’t forget about cavies. They need love too. They can be wonderful, loving and rewarding pets if they are given the attention and recognition they deserve. They have given so much to us in the past. Isn’t it time we start giving back? Start with the basics. Hug a guinea pig today.

If you have a great idea for an article about guinea pigs, please let us know. Guinea Pig Today is a network of guinea pig lovers and we’re always looking for the next great story. View our submissions page for more information on how to submit your idea.

Angela, Editor-in-Chief, GPT

Angela founded Guinea Pig Today and guest writes for CavyMadness. She volunteers with Metropolitan Guinea Pig Rescue and supports the ROUS Foundation. Her guinea pig, Papua, is the star of WHEK-TV/DT.

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5 Responses to “The Guinea Pigs Have a Major PR Problem”
  1. Claire says:

    Great article, Angela. Thanks.

  2. Wendy says:

    Fantastic information here. As a volunteer with a rescue, we often struggle with the balance between needing the big box store support and hating the product and attitude that GP’s are ‘inventory’.

  3. Nicole says:

    This is great! As an owner of a total of 12 guinea pigs, I have found that what the pet stores are saying and the guidelines we use are very different. Something that made me nervous though, was when a Petsmart employee told someone buying a guinea pig that vegetables were good for an occasional treat. I read the literature they provided and no where did it say that Guinea pigs don’t make their own Vitamin C and need to get it through food, fresh vegetables and possibly supplements

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