As with rabbits, there is a great deal of misconception associated with guinea pigs. Owing to their small size, people think guinea pigs are low maintenance pets that don’t need much room or attention, or – worse – think they are somehow disposable pets with no emotions or intelligence. This lack of knowledge and lack of research before impulsively buying a guinea pig contributes to the numbers of abandoned guinea pigs.
Guinea pig myths
Let’s start with the notion of buying a pig from a pet store. Don’t. The pet stores have one goal: to sell you things. They don’t really care if your pig is old, young, male, female, or pregnant. You need to ADOPT guinea pigs from a rescue group or shelter, where the non-pregnant females you are adopting are actually non-pregnant females. The disposition and health of the guinea pig will be honestly shared with you by the shelter staff; their goal is to find a happy placement for the guinea pigs. (If you are able to spend massive amounts of time with one guinea pig, fine, otherwise make sure you have two pigs to keep each other company).
Guinea pigs stink
Nope. Guinea pigs typically get stuck in way-too-small cages. They need large cages; about 10 square feet is the minimum recommended cage size for a pig, about three times the size of the cramped cages the pet store will sell you (see “pet stores have one goal”, above). This is why people think guinea pigs stink – they are stuck in the equivalent of a litterbox, and unless you clean it out all the time it is going to stink. Large cages are easier to keep clean!
Cage size and companionship are so very important for guinea pigs (or any creature). Think about having to live alone in a cramped cage with no room to run or play, nothing new to play with or explore, and no one to communicate with or snuggle up to – no companion for the rest of your life. Think about being doomed to a life of solitary confinement and isolation. So many small pets suffer this sad existence.
Guinea pigs are low maintenance pets
Nope. Guinea pigs need to have fresh produce on a daily basis – this means visiting the grocery store or farm market twice a week. Every week.
Guinea pigs need special bedding, quality timothy hay, and quality guinea pig chow. These items may or may not be available at your local pet store. Guinea pigs need their fresh produce twice daily, they need their hay and water bottles refreshed daily, their cages partially cleaned every other day, and a thorough cage cleaning weekly. They need an hour of out of cage time MINIMUM every day. You need to make sure they have a safe place to play out of their cage, and must clean up after their floor time. This goes on day in, day out, every week, every month, year after year. It’s a lot of work even for a motivated adult.
A guinea pig is a great starter pet for a kid
Reread the above paragraph.
The child will learn responsibility by caring for the guinea pig
Did you not reread the paragraph? No child is going to be able to keep up with all that, and any lapse in care means the guinea pig is going to suffer. Children need to learn responsibility but not at the expense of a guinea pig or any other living creature. And what happens when the child does NOT keep up with the care of the pet? Does the pet get dumped at the nearest shelter? All too often, it does (see Lucky the hamster’s story).
Please do not equate size with ease-of-maintenance. Please do not buy a guinea pig from a breeder or pet store, there are so many in shelters that need and deserve loving homes. Guinea pigs are charming, vocal pets with wonderful, cheerful personalities. They are intelligent, loving creatures who deserve happy lives – please do your research and think over your decision carefully before adopting a pig.
Cupid (see photos) is available for adoption! Currently living at the Humane Society of Greater Dayton,
Cupid is a year-old little guy seeking companionship and a forever home.
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