Last year, my preschooler was constantly asking for a hamster. It was non stop. His class had a hamster named Felix and there is nothing more intense than 4-year-old love of a tiny furry rodent (insert obvious Mickey Mouse references here).
After much discussion, my husband and I decided to go with the hamster’s sturdier cousin, the Guinea Pig.
As a child, I wanted one of every animal as well, but my mother has a strict no rodent and reptile rule. Alas, my animal love had to be relegated to the wonderful arenas of dog and fish.
As a consequence, I was just as excited about getting a guinea pig as I knew that my son would be. But, little did I know, there is a lot to learn about the squeaky balls of fur that we now affectionately refer to as George and Spiderman. (George on the left, and sleek Spiderman in the hands of the enthralled 4-year-old) So, if you are thinking about strolling down Guinea Pig road, let my experience guide you for max piggie pleasure!
Adopt, Don’t Shop
We, luckily, have a friend whose guinea pigs had babies. So, we were able to adopt our new family members that way. However, I did find that animal rescue organizations often have hamsters and guinea pigs up for adoption. Not only is the price right, but sometimes, they come with all of their accouterments! Check out petfinder.com under small and furry for guinea pigs up for adoption in your area.
Guinea Pigs are Social Animals
It is best to get two, if possible. They enjoy the socialization with each other!
A few things to watch for:
1. This should be obvious, but unless you plan on becoming the guinea pig version of a crazy cat lady, make sure that you have two piggies of the same sex. Otherwise, get ready to be a guinea pig grandma.
2. When getting two of the same sex, it is helpful if the two are babies when put together or have grown up together. Sometimes, when put together later in life, they can get territorial. No one needs a daily guinea pig smackdown.
3. Try to place their cage in a place where there is a lot of coming and going. They want to be a part of your family! They will be less skittish if you do this right from the beginning.
4. Get a guinea pig pouch! My mother in law made one for my son to wear around his neck. The guinea pig can snuggle and burrow and they get used to the sights and sounds of the outside world. Check out The Activity Mom for directions on how to make your own!
They like to eat. Like a lot.
I’m not judging. I’m approximately 9,000 months pregnant at this point, so I can appreciate someone who likes to grub. But, our plump piggies are hungrier than I ever imagined! Every morning, they get pellets, timothy hay, and an array of fresh fruits or veggies (their favorite are leafy greens). They get reeeeeaaaallllly excited when they hear us open the fridge or when they see my husband (they clearly associate him with snack time). Make sure that whatever bowls are placed in the cage are made of very hard plastic or glass. They will gnaw on anything in their vicinity!
Just as they like to eat a lot, they poop a lot. Like a lot a lot.
For whatever reason, I didn’t realize this. We are cleaning their cage pretty often. I have chosen to use fleece blankets, the crunchy mom that I try to be. They also have a litter box that they use when they feel like it. You can also use paper bedding, but that won’t negate the fact that they poop more than any other animal or human I’ve ever met. Their poop is typically very pellet-ish, and so easily picked up. But, if that grosses you out, I suggest going with an animal that doesn’t poop quite so much…..like a fish…..or a pet rock.
Guinea Pigs are nervous little animals and like places to hide. So, when looking for accents for their cages, look for things that resemble tunnels or covers. Some great little hangouts are also edible! These guys love to chew, so a hangout that you can chew is their utopia! Their favorite treats also doubled as a decoration-little sticks made of seeds and such that hung from the side of the cage that they have to work at getting down. Also, we put the timothy hay in a wheel that George and Spiderman have to work to get the goods – a workout for the mind and body, so to speak.
Watch their interactions with other animals.
Our cat couldn’t care less about the piggies. He hasn’t even given them a second look. Our dog however…….let’s just say that she is Guinea Pig Fan #1. Have you ever seen the movie Swimfan? It’s a relationship like that….not a healthy obsession. For about 4 months, we always had to have a top on the cage. We were not able to leave the dog and the guinea pigs alone together. Luna, that’s my furry terrier soulmate, would attempt to get in the cage with the pigs. She would then lick and sniff them so much that they would be soaking wet. I was nearly positive that she was considering their snack potential. But, eventually her obsession has died down and now they can coexist without the threat of doggie dinner time.
They are noisy!
If you are looking for a quiet pet, this ain’t it! These little fluff-monsters are very vocal. Their sounds all mean different things. We are a year in and I’m still trying to figure it out. Check out the video below for some examples!
As with any pet, preparation is key to longevity. We consider every member of the animal kingdom that lives in our house to be a member of the family. Be sure to do your research and have frank discussions about proper pet care before adding any animal member to your family. With the right preparation, a guinea pig (or 2) could be an awesome addition to any growing menagerie! And let’s be honest Momma, you need to be on board because you’re the one that’s going to end up hanging out with the piggies the most!