Bringing home a new pet is a big decision. Despite how tempting it is to splurge and bring home a new fur baby from the pet store, there a few things to consider before adding a guinea pig to your family long-term. Feeding, cleaning, and hanging out with your pet is another time commitment to add to your busy schedule. Guinea pigs can be hopelessly cute, but slightly longer-lived than your average pocket pet like a hamster or gerbil. There are definite joys and benefits to owning a guinea pig or two or three, but here are five top things to consider before getting a new pet guinea pig.
- Adopt don’t shop
I love my two adult guinea pigs, but the babies at the pet store are SO CUTE right now. I almost can’t resist their little eyes begging me to bring them home! Before buying into the pet breeding industry, definitely consider adopting your next pet instead. As I write, the local animal shelter I foster for has TEN guinea pigs up for adoption, and I know at least a handful more are in foster homes. That’s a lot of piggies looking for furever homes! Just think of how grateful your guinea pig will be if you rescue them from a tiny little cage at the scary animal shelter. ❤
Seriously though, for every pet you can adopt you’re saving a life instead of increasing the demand for breeders to breed and sell more guinea pigs in stores. My local store has guinea pigs for about $50-60, whereas my shelter lists them for $10 each (sometimes even free if they’ve been there a while or the shelter is getting full). Adopting your guinea pig can lead to a significant savings for you, as well as the satisfaction of doing something good in the world. Before my guinea pigs had to be taken to the shelter, their previous owner listed them for adoption on guineapigfinder.com. Unfortunately, the family was facing a big cross-country move and had to re-home their girls. We saved our guinea pigs the trouble of having to go to the shelter at all, and in turn we were able to get all their supplies and cage from the family after connecting through the adoption website. Guys, all of the guinea pig accessories filled our Nissan Rogue. FILLED the back of our SUV so full that the ladies had to sit on my lap in their carrier as my husband drove us home. Their last mom loved them so much!
- Guinea pigs are social animals
Guinea pigs love some attention. They’ll quickly learn your voice, or even the sound of your footsteps, and start wheeking at you for treats and love! Guinea pigs like to see some of the daily activities of your household, and they might even enjoy being held, petted, and brushed (we’re still working on the getting picked up & held thing at our house). If your guinea pig is going to spend multiple hours alone while you work, they could definitely benefit from a few toys and furry guinea pig friend for some companionship!
- Guinea pigs can live up to 8 years
Jump for joy! You won’t have to get attached and then quickly have your guinea pig pass away a few short years later. This can definitely be a plus for families, as you won’t have to worry quite as soon about kiddos being devastated when the family guinea pig crosses the rainbow bridge. Still, eight years is kind of a long time. Are you ready to feed a guinea pig twice a day for eight years? Take them to the vet every year for a check up? Pay for a guinea pig sitter with every vacation you go on? Buy and prep all their veggies & fruits? Put them on a diet when they get a bit fat (ahem, Rose…)? Eight years is a pretty long time, so make sure you can keep that commitment before you make that commitment.
- Guinea pigs need a lot of space
Seriously, that little cage from the pet store just won’t be enough. Our girls have this 2-story cage to give them plenty of space to play, eat, hide, and even climb up and down the ramp to keep their tiny leg and booty muscles strong. And those plastic storage containers you’ve seen other people keep their guinea pigs in? I can’t even imagine the tiny stench of having them crammed in a tub with little air flow. Current standards in guinea pig care really point toward having 7.5 to 10.5 square feet for a pair of guinea pigs (and the same amount of space for just 1 pig, if you must keep one by itself). No wonder our SUV filled up with guinea pig supplies so quickly! We kind of love these fleece liners that were made for our cage. It’s wonderful not buying and disposing of bedding all the time, and I can just pop one of these fleece liners in the washer and whip out another cute pattern from the pile of clean laundry these ladies have stacked in my office. These fleece pads are made to lock away moisture, so our piggies’ feet should stay rather healthy since they’re hardly ever walking around on soiled bedding.
- Guinea pigs need Vitamin C supplemented in their diets
Just like us humans, guinea pigs can’t make their own vitamin C. Though a guinea pig definitely requires an endless supply of hay and fresh water, vitamin C is another ESSENTIAL component that you have to account for daily. The hay is great for wearing down guinea pig teeth (they constantly grow), but a quality guinea pig pellet and fresh veggies and fruits will help your guinea pigs get all the other nutrients they need. We don’t eat a super narrow range of foods, and your guinea pig shouldn’t either. And, applying our same knowledge about human diet and health, guinea pigs should also not be pigging out on constant sugary snacks and junk food treats. Proper guinea pig pellet foods should be fortified with the needed vitamin C, but sometimes the vitamin can degrade over time, so the supplemented veggies and fruits are a great option to round out guinea pigs’ nutrition. You can learn more about safe guinea pig foods and diets from the resources below.
So, what do you think? Are guinea pigs just the cutest? Having these two in my office is definitely an incentive to actually get me back in the room and working at my desk again. We lucked out so, so much when we were able to adopt these ladies with all their food, toys, accessories, and a gigantic cage. I mean, who wouldn’t want to see their guinea pig chilling in a tiny sleeping bag or hammock? Maybe you can visualize yourself spoiling your own guinea pigs one day soon, too ❤