Where Children and Guinea Pigs Meet

pignic photoImage courtesy of Rubicat Photography

A young girl holds a guinea pig at the Boston Pignic in 2010.

As I go back through old photos and fill out my Facebook Timeline, I’m reminded of the pets I’ve loved through my life. Dogs, cats, guinea pigs, hamsters, birds, fish… some had a fleeting moment but they’ll be in my heart forever.

I had a pet loving family and they were all very supportive of us having animals. I know I had assistance with care during the early years but I have fond memories of cleaning my guinea pig or hamster cage when I was only in kindergarten. It wasn’t a chore when I had all the time in the world. It was something to do on a lazy Saturday. Of course in my head, I wasn’t a baby anymore. I was a big girl, worthy of the responsibility and I received a pat on the back from my parents and big brothers for a job well done.

While I agree with the warnings from rescues and shelters against parents adopting for all the wrong reasons, and I have seen first hand the results of those poor decisions at the expense of a small life, I also feel sometimes these warnings fall short of explaining to the responsible kids what to expect. What are the right reasons for adopting a guinea pig into your family? There is a line where kids and guinea pigs meet and here’s a few examples of what guinea pigs and responsible children can both benefit from their relationship.

A routine – If you child benefits from routine, guinea pigs can benefit from that too. Being fed the same time each day and having snacks prepared in a pattern can give both your child and your guinea pigs a sense of comfort and predictability. Guinea pigs need daily hay, pellets, fresh vegetables and water. It’s also good to record your guinea pig’s weight and make notes of their behavior and appearance. If you break these down throughout the day at set times, it’s something to look forward to.

Bonding time – Guinea pigs require daily interaction and can be calmed through daily handling and gentle treatment. If your child is introverted or has no siblings, this routine bonding time can be beneficial for developing a lasting bond that extends beyond animals to human relationships. Guinea pigs sometimes visit seniors in nursing homes for this reason as well. While a guinea pig can learn to eat from your hand and be calmed through handling, not every cavy is a lap pig. Don’t expect them to be. This is why it’s important to match a guinea pig’s personality with the personality of your child.

Healthy eating – Guinea pigs need a varied diet of fruits and vegetables. It’s beneficial to balance this diet well with foods high in vitamins and low in sugars. Teaching your child to eat healthy can lead to a lifetime of better eating habits. Read ingredients and learn to understand what they mean. Also, keeping a supply of fresh fruits and vegetables in the house can encourage your child to choose healthier snacks and remind them of their pet’s needs at the same time.

Creativity – If your child has a creative side, they might find they’re wonderful at guinea pig furniture. Cardboard boxes, toilet paper and paper towel rolls can be inspiring items for guinea pig exploration and play. These are simple things your child can make at home. For older children, wooden houses are great chew toys and craft items like cozies and pillows can be made from fleece and sewn by hand.

Shelters and rescues do not what you to adopt a guinea pig, or any pet, to teach your child at the expense of the animal’s health and well being. However, when a responsible child and a pet have mutual needs, there can be a mutual benefit. A pet should belong to the entire family. With good parental support and role models of pet care, your child and guinea pig can grow together to form a loving bond that will last forever.

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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January 2012
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