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  • Scot Oppenlander

Guinea Pigs: Are They the Right Pet For You?


Photo Courtesy of Wix


I recently became a piggie parent! That is to say, my wife and I recently adopted four Guinea pigs. We have had two of our piggies, Penny and Poppy, for about a month; and we just recently adopted our two newest pigs, Peppa and Petunia!


Lots of people seem to be curious: are Guinea Pigs the right pet for me? Are they right for my family? What do I have to do to take care of them?


Whether one of your kiddos has been asking for Guinea Pigs recently, or if you think you might like some, I'm here to help you figure out if they're right for you! Here are some things to consider:


Specific Care


Personally, I wouldn't consider Guinea Pig care to be difficult, but it is specific. They need lots of things to be as happy as possible. They need constant, unrestricted access to hay and water, and they need to be fed Guinea Pig pellets and fresh veggies daily. You have to be careful that everything you feed your Guinea Pigs is safe for them to eat. Lots of fruits and veggies are piggie-friendly, but there are a lot that aren't. In their cage, they need plenty of places to hide so they can feel safe.


You Need at Least Two


Guinea pigs are herd animals, and they are prey animals. So, they need to have other Guinea Pigs to socialize with so they can feel safe and happy. You should almost never have just one Guinea Pig, they need at least one other piggie to keep them company.


The easiest way to have two guinea pigs is to adopt a pre-bonded pair. Just like people, not all Guinea Pigs get along. So if you adopt two seperate piggies that don't know each other, there's no guarantee that they will do well in the same cage. Adopting a pair of guinea pigs that are already used to living in a cage together eliminates this problem.


Before you put two Guinea Pigs in the same cage, you need to be absolutely sure that they're the same sex (or that they are spayed/neutered). It's easy to missex Guinea Pigs, and you don't want an accidental litter of babies!


My wife and I decided to get four guinea pigs, but that’s just because we really enjoy having them and wanted to add more to our herd. Guinea Pigs can be perfectly happy in pairs or trios, they just can’t be alone.


Bonding


Just like you can with cats and dogs, you can bond with your Guinea Pigs! Over time, you can interact with them by hand feeding them treats and petting them. This helps your Guinea Pigs learn to trust you. Eventually, your Guinea Pigs will let you pick them up!


We have loved bonding with our piggies. They recognize our voices now, and they get excited when we enter the room! It makes me so happy to hear them "wheek" and watch them run up to me.


Guinea Pigs can have big personalities. We have had so much fun getting to know our girls! We call Penny and Poppy our "old ladies" because they like to spend their days napping in hideys (but who doesn't). Petunia and Peppa are much more active, they like to explore and play.


Overall, Guinea Pigs are great pets to build an emotional connection with.



Photo Courtesy of Wix


You Don't Always Have to Watch Them


Guinea Pigs can spend most of their time in their cage, as long as it is large enough (4-6 feet by 2.5 feet would do just fine for two pigs). Unlike dogs or other pets, you don't have to take them in and out of their cage often. It's much easier to go out for the afternoon or for the day, because you just have to make sure they have enough food and water to last them a few hours until you get back.


That isn't to say that you don't need to interact with your piggies at all. All creatures deserve to be loved! I always make sure I visit my piggies in their room often.


Cage Cleaning


This is my least favorite part of owning Guinea Pigs, but it isn't even that bad! Guinea Pigs poop a LOT, and someone has to clean it up! We spot-clean twice a day, once in the morning and again at night. It only takes about 10-15 minutes each time. Twice a week, we deep clean the cage. That includes changing out the hay box, switching and washing all the cage liners, and cleaning the plastic bottom of the cage. That takes about half an hour.


Fleece Liners=Little To No Smell


If you've been to a pet store or visited a Guinea Pig rescue, then you know Guinea Pig pee does not smell good. Luckily, there is a simple solution to this problem! Using a fleece liner in the bottom of their cage that absorbs the urine makes it much easier to clean, and it keeps the smell down if you change them often (which you should). Our Guinea Pig room doesn't smell at all, and we have four pigs! These are the liners we use.


They Aren't Very Rodent-Like


Don't let an aversion to rodents let you dismiss Guinea Pigs as potential pets. I think they act more like a cat than a rat. They aren't constantly scurrying around their cage, and they do a pretty good job of keeping themselves clean (although you do have to bathe them occasionally). If you aren't sure if you'll like Guinea Pigs, I would strongly recommend visiting a Guinea Pig rescue. That way you can meet some Guinea Pigs and speak to someone who is knowledgeable about their care.


I myself wasn't convinced I would like Guinea Pigs, because I thought I generally disliked rodents. Luckily, I visited a nearby Guinea Pig rescue, and I was able to interact with lots of different piggies and I discovered that I like Guinea Pigs.


They're So Cute!


Needless to say, Guinea Pigs are adorable. Here are some videos and social media accounts to prove it:



Enrichment


How would you like living in the same cage all day every day? It would probably start to get boring right? For that same reason, Guinea Pigs need lots of enrichment in their cage. If they get bored, they may start to chew liners or even their cage. You can add toys, cage liners with different textures, foraging mats, and different enrichment toys to your Guinea Pig's cage to help keep them mentally stimulated and entertained.


Conclusion


Guinea Pigs are wonderful animals, and they can enrich your life in many ways. Hopefully this has helped you feel out the world of Guinea Pigs. I'm not a veterinarian or a Guinea Pig expert, just a piggie parent who wants to help! Therefore, you should do more research into the proper care of Guinea Pigs and analyze your own unique situation before you make a commitment.





Scot Oppenlander is a senior at Brigham Young University-Idaho studying communication with a journalism emphasis. He is in his last semester of his bachelor's degree, and he plans to attend law school in the near future.


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