Responsible Guinea Pig Parenting Begins Before Your Pets Come Home

Papua baseball

The pet store model of guinea pigs could not be more wrong. The most common toys and supplies available are nearly 30 years out of date. However, by connecting with modern guinea pig owners and learning from their successes, your guinea pigs can be an active member of the family well integrated into your lifestyle.

This guest blog was written in conjunction with an appearance on The Pet Podcast Channel and a discussion on guinea pig ownership and care. “Pets Teach Us So Much” Radio #39: Great Guinea Pig Pets.

Owning guinea pigs can be such a fun and rewarding experience. However, so many of these small pets end up unwanted at shelters, on their own outdoors, or in boxes in the trash. Too often it’s because pet owners didn’t realize the kind of pet they were taking home or the amount of work involved in owning one. It’s because of this situation, many rescues and adoption outlets will ask you, “Have you done your research?” What is this research everyone is talking about and where should a new guinea pig owner begin?

Sure, pets have the same needs as humans – eat, drink, poop. Seems easy enough. It’s not enough to have your pets live. They need enrichment in their lives. Your guinea pigs will only become those rewarding pets if you make them happy as well. That takes more effort than you might realize. Here are a few things to consider before bringing home your guinea pigs.

Notice I keep using the plural when I speak of guinea pigs? That’s because guinea pigs are social animals. They are much happier in groups and need at least one companion. Many rescues and shelters won’t adopt a single guinea pig for this reason. Stop thinking of one and start thinking of two or more. Pets from rescues will already be properly paired so you don’t have to worry about any babies.

Guinea pig cages at the pet store are far two small for one guinea pig and certainly not able to hold two or more. You’ll need to build your own C&C style cage or something comparable and this can take up a good piece of real estate in your home. Guinea pigs also need regular floor time to roam around and exercise. This is usually when you’ll see them at their best. You may need to “pig proof” your home before giving them floor time.

Who will be responsible for cleaning your guinea pigs and their cage? Most guinea pig owners clean once a week and sweep up daily. Depending on the size of your cage, you may have to do this more or less often. Your guinea pig will require grooming. Their nails need to be trimmed once a month and their fur needs brushing. Some need teeth trimming from a qualified vet on a regular basis.

How will you safely transport your pet home? Do you have the means to get them to the vet or a qualified pig sitter if you are out of town? You need to find a carrier that is as good as a car seat for a small child and can protect them from an unfortunate accident. Jenny has some great advice on what to consider when choosing a carrier.

Veterinary Care
Can you take your guinea pig to the vet? They are considered exotic pets and need a veterinarian that specialized in exotic pets and specifically guinea pigs. Guinea pigs are very skilled at hiding illness and can easily pass away under anesthesia so finding a qualified guinea pig vet before your pet needs health care is very important. Health care can be expensive and difficult to find for these reasons. Not every dog and cat vet is qualified to take care of a sick guinea pig. Your local guinea pig rescue can help you find a qualified vet.

Can you afford to look after two or more guinea pigs? In addition to the cost of bringing you pet home, there is the initial set-up costs for your cage and supplies. Can you visit the market weekly for fresh vegetables and fruits? A qualified pig-sitter will be needed if you go on vacation and a friend or family member is not available. If you have a long haired guinea pig, you will need grooming supplies. Vet care can be expensive as well and your guinea pig, like any pet, will get sick from time to time.

Are you prepared for a long-term commitment? They may be small but if cared for properly, your guinea pigs will live for eight years. That means that twelve year old child who’s been begging for a guinea pig either needs to take it with them to college or Mom and Dad need to be prepared to care for a senior pig at some point. Guinea pigs need daily exercise and interaction with you. They’re much happier being part of the family. Do you have time to give them floor time and handle the setup and cleanup that can be involved. Quality guinea pig supplies are often difficult to find and may require you to take a longer drive to a specialty pet store, an exotic vet, or purchasing in advance online.

Where to Go
Hopefully by now, you’ve learned the benefits of getting a guinea pig at a rescue versus a pet store. Going to a pet store for guinea pigs is the equivalent of supporting a puppy mills in the dog world. Also, the guinea pig you purchase from a pet store may have health and social issues. A rescue will not only know your guinea pig’s personality, have paired your guinea pig with another that it has bonded with, and be able to help you get setup with the right cage and supplies, a rescue will introduce you to an entire guinea pig community which will be your support group when your pig needs special care through its lifetime.

Once you and your guinea pigs have settled into a happy life together, join a social group online and connect with other guinea pig lovers to discuss the day to day lives of guinea pigs, share photos, and support one another. You can also count on Guinea Pig Today to bring you the latest news, events, and changes in the modern guinea pig world. I hope all this helps you on your road to becoming a responsible guinea pig parent.

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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4 Responses to “Responsible Guinea Pig Parenting Begins Before Your Pets Come Home”
  1. Claire says:

    It’s all so true. I think being part of the online community has been great. When no-one around is as pigsilly as you are it’s just lovely to get a message asking how your sick pig is doing.

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