Don’t Make Guinea Pigs A Gift for the Holidays

papua christmasMany years ago when I moved into my current home, my daughters bugged me incessantly for a dog. The neighbor had a dog who happily greeted anyone, including my family. I had grown up with cats and dogs so I was aware of what owning a pet would entail. I was less than enthusiastic about entering into a 10-20 year commitment with a furry four-legged child so I said no.

After the holidays (Easter [primarily chicks and bunnies] and the December celebrations) many shelters see an increase in the number of pets coming in as the realization of how much care is required begins to sink in after the excitement has worn off. Essentially, the pet was an impulse purchase, not unlike that pack of gum you grabbed at the last minute at the store yesterday.

I’ve seen two commercials this week that make me cringe. They both deal with children asking for pets, with convincing ability. While I would not want to deny a child the opportunity to experience the unconditional love of a pet or develop a deeper sense of responsibility, the timing of this type of advertisement couldn’t be worse.
Too often parents want to utilize every learning moment and turn to pet ownership without fully considering the long term effect on the family as a whole. Add the holiday hustle and bustle to the mix and you have a recipe for disappointment; the child is upset because ‘you’ are taking away their pet and you may feel resentful because you ended up caring for the child’s pet which was not supposed to happen in the first place. This doesn’t have to happen and I have some suggestions for you.

1. Never, ever bring any pet into the home during holidays. If you have determined that the child is ready for a pet (see #2), give them a picture with the promise that the pet will arrive after the holiday when everyone can focus on the new family member.

2. A good test to determine if your child is ready for the responsibility of a pet, give them a task that must be done at least twice a day; the same task each day and see how long they remember to do it without being reminded more than once and without the “do I have to?” response. If you find that the task is now part of their daily routine, chances are they’re ready.

3. Research #1. All too often, a pet is adopted without knowing if this is the right type of pet for the family. For example, someone with significant allergies might not want a pet that sheds year round; someone who wants a ‘snuggle’ pet might not want one who is “high energy”. Proper research would help families determine what type of pet is best for them.

4. Research #2. Too many parents do not research what it takes to care for any type of pet. Guinea pigs require a great deal of care. I am always amazed at the number of people who don’t know that guinea pigs need annual ‘well-care’ vet visits with an EXOTICS vet. Standard veterinarians do not have the additional education and certifications required to properly treat anything but standard pets. Yes, you have to ask if the vet you use sees exotic pets.

If you’ve read my previous postings, you know that I have 8 pets, so obviously I said ‘yes’ at some point. I have willingly taken on the responsibility after doing research on the care and upkeep of both dogs (Sarah, 13, is a cock-a-poo; Seth, 12, is a lhasa-apsa-poo) and Guinea Pigs (three who live over the Rainbow Bridge and my current six).

For those of you considering a Guinea Pig, etc, as your family’s first pet, please do your research before you make that commitment. Once you decide and after things settle down from all the celebrating, pick out the newest family member together.

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.

Ginger S., Writer, GPT

Ginger has been a pet owner for over 30 years and guest writes for Guinea Pig Today. She volunteers with Metropolitan Guinea Pig Rescue and supports several bunny rescues in her area.

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2 Responses to “Don’t Make Guinea Pigs A Gift for the Holidays”
  1. Claire says:

    Hi Ginger,

    Thanks for your post. My pet hate is when parents breed their pigs just so the kids get to see the pregnancy/birth process. As far as I can see, they rarely consider what will happen to the resulting babies. I think if I was planning to let my girls reproduce I’d have cushy, responsible homes sorted out before conception. A bit obessive perhaps, but it seems more ethical.

    Cheers, Claire

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] to be a stressful issue if you prepare in advance. Guinea pigs, or any pet for that matter, should never be given as a gift during the holidays. If travel is part of your holiday plans, please find qualified pet sitters well in advance. […]

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