What Not to Say To A Guinea Pig Lover

frustrated womanJeffrey Heyden-Kaye and Johan Larson

Be polite when commenting on someone else's pet. Don't try to be funny with an off color remark or you might find you're the only one laughing.

As a guinea pig advocate at pet conventions and conferences, I understand I’m in the minority. There is a tremendous amount of dog and cat organizations and businesses. When I get a chance to talk to a company that addresses guinea pigs, many sell to a variety of small pets and the guinea pig is lesser known. It’s refreshing to find the few companies, like Oxbow, that are the exception.

When talking to those in the pet industry about guinea pigs, I sometimes find I feel as misunderstood as my beloved cavies. I wanted to share with you some of the things that were said to me by people I’ve met in the past few days at Global Pet Expo. Keep in mind, I don’t think they were intending to be rude or hurtful, but didn’t understand where I was coming from.

When discussing guinea pigs with a dog owner –
“Jeanie Pet Today? Oh, Guinea Pig Today! Ha ha. Guinea pigs. My pet could eat your pet!”

When asking someone if they had any new guinea pig products –
“Guinea pigs are great entry level pets. People take them home, they die in a couple weeks, then we get to sell them one of these other animals and their product line. We don’t focus on guinea pig products.”

When sharing my goals in guinea pig welfare –
“Your site works with guinea pig rescues? So how do you generate revenue? …Yes, but what are you selling? …Ok, where is the money? …I have to go. I have an appointment.”

When addressing packaging design on guinea pig products –
“We’re not doing new packaging for the guinea pig supplies. They’re brightly colored and targeted to children because guinea pigs are a child’s pet.”

Lastly, a comment I hear at nearly every event I attend –
“Guinea pigs? You know they eat them in some countries, right?” Some countries eat dogs and cats but I don’t feel a need to bring it up when discussing pets.

I’m polite because I want to form relationships with some of these folks that lasts longer than a few minutes. In general, when dealing with a pet owner, be respectful of the pet they hold close to their heart. Usually the situations improve after a few conversations.

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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13 Responses to “What Not to Say To A Guinea Pig Lover”
  1. Alena Loiselle says:

    Oh, my. Yes, I’ve heard several of these. Thanks again for being the Cavy Lorax. Love the photo illustration, too! Hah.

  2. Sally says:

    I certainly get eyebrows raised when I say I have no kids but have guinea pigs. It’s amazing how many people think of them as just a child’s pet.

    It must have been a little discouraging to be at a pet expo and still be faced with so much ignorance.

  3. Ericka Chadbourne says:

    It is so hard to keep myself in check. I agree with you, fully. Outside of expos you sometimes don’t know what a person’s intentions are (meeting people in passing). And yet I recall to myself that they don’t understand and, even if it is the smallest seed, I have the opportunity to just introduce the idea. It could also be a chance to find a way to gently suggest that such comments are hurtful.
    I once mentioned a new adopted piggy to the receptionist at my doctors office. Granted, it wasn’t the situation you’d expect the highest level of animal respect, but I expected basic social etiquette to be in play.
    I mentioned the new pig out of excitement and her first comment was “Are you going to eat it?”
    I was sad because she jumped so quickly to such an assumption. But after quickly realizing i would likely have to deal with her again, I recall that I am not responsible for her actions and I have the strength to stand up for my own beliefs and communicate them gently to her. “No, I love my guinea pigs. I don’t eat them.”

    • Jennifer says:

      I wonder if the receptionist would have even thought of asking that question had you said you have a dog or cat?

  4. D. says:

    I also get that ‘raised eyebrow’ look…I’m married, and I have two guinea pigs and people look at me like “wha?” (guess I don’t fit the societal norm).

    People just don’t get it – that gpigs aren’t “throwaway” or “pocket” pets, or merely “children’s pets”. In any case, thanks for posting the article…

  5. Jenni says:

    I had a lady ask me why I hadn’t been to the gym in a few weeks and I told her my guineas were sick and I had been hand feeding and making trips to the vet so I hadn’t been able to make it to the gym. She said ” guinea pigs? Why didn’t you just let them die?” seriously. Ugh.

  6. Pam says:

    Those are horrific. I don’t know how you kept your temper.

  7. David says:

    It’s shocking to hear those responses were at a Pet Expo. One would expect that people so committed to their own pets would be more receptive to the pets of others.

  8. Crrrystal says:

    It makes me sad that people can be so ignorant… But then again, I don’t know much about reptiles and could see myself saying some (unintentionally) stupid stuff if I ran into lizard lovers. Then again, I think my filter is good enough to avoid any really hurtful comments.

    Worst I’ve heard was “oh, how are your hamsters doing?” or “guinea pigs? we had those when my girls were little!”

  9. Milded says:

    Worst I’ve heard was “oh, how are your hamsters doing?” or “guinea pigs? we had those when my girls were little!”

    Yes! I hear that a lot too – grrr!

    We know how special guineas really are, these . . . ignoramuses are missing out and don’t deserve to know (and probably wouldn’t see it if it was under their noses)!

  10. Simon says:

    Holy guacamole! Every single one of those comments are offensive to me as a guinea pig owner. I understand your feelings though about biting your tongue. So many people don’t understand the wonder that is a guinea pig. How incredibly loving and sweet they are when you show them love…you know I find my guinea pigs soothing to me when I am stressed out. How could I possibly be mad when I am holding my precious Fifi?

    You know what though, until I decided I wanted to get guinea pigs I really did not know much about them. I still cannot imagine making those types of comments even though I was ignorant about guinea pigs in general.

    Cheers to those of us who take good care of them and all animals for that matters!

  11. Jennifer says:

    The starter pet label is common. Some people are surpised that I, an adult (at least in physical age LOL) would have piggies. I can’t believe that quote from the guy who thinks guinea pigs die in a few weeks. The sadthe offshoot of that is that so many people think they are disposable. And/or can fend for themselves if dumped in the “wild”and or even a park.

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