I had many different pets while growing up: mice, hamsters, a rabbit, cats, dogs, birds, the occasional blue-bellied lizard that I caught myself. I almost had a pet raccoon, but the owner decided against re-homing him (probably a good thing).
As a veterinary technician, I would see the occasional guinea pig when they were brought in for nail trims. The sound of their squeals still bounces around inside my head. Guinea pig owners love their little Squeakers. Never having one for a pet myself, I just couldn’t imagine why anyone would want an animal that made that high-pitched noise all the time.
And then there I was last year, standing in a gas station parking lot about to hand over cash for two of those little fury creatures. My kids had recently lost their rabbit, and they wanted a new bunny. After some research, I decided to try guinea pigs instead. Maybe it had been long enough that the squealing I remembered didn’t seem so shrill anymore.
The pigs were pretty much silent for about the first week, and I thought to myself, this isn’t so bad. Then suddenly, a rustling of a plastic bag in the refrigerator turned on the guinea pig sirens. I’m sure that first week they were just getting used to their new surroundings, once they felt comfortable in their new home they decided it was time to let us know how they felt. And they have, because they haven’t been quiet again since then.
Okay, it’s really not that bad. But their hunger squeals have become a household joke, especially because it’s like having two little garbage disposals in our dining room.
As far as being pets, they’re wonderful. I’m really glad I decided to go with guinea pigs rather than another bunny. I love rabbits, and they can make great pets, but my youngest daughter is still really young, and I thought the pigs would be a better fit for her right now. The kids play with the guinea pigs almost every day. They build little houses out of blankets and toys for their pigs, and make picnics for them. They carry them around like babies, or just sit with them on their laps. The guinea pigs make humorous purring noises, they enjoy their noses and chins scratched, and are just really adorable little animals.
If you’ve considered getting your child a first pet, I would highly recommend a guinea pig. Something to keep in mind: guinea pigs are like humans, in that they can not synthesize vitamin C in their bodies, so it’s imperative that you supplement with fresh fruits and vegetables, and feed a fortified guinea pig food.
As I mentioned above, I typically only saw guinea pigs come into the vet hospital for nail trims, and in everything I’ve read about them, if taken care of properly they are healthy animals with a life span of 4-8 years. They can of course have the occasional medical issue, like any other pet. One of our pigs had an abscess under his chin that I was able to treat at home (I recommend a visit with your vet if you find a lump on your pet. I have a lot of experience treating abscesses, so I felt comfortable dealing with this myself).
Guinea pig teeth continue growing, so you’ll need to check the teeth occasionally to make sure they aren’t too long, which can make it difficult or impossible for your friend to eat. If they are causing a problem, your veterinarian can clip the teeth to the size they should be.
If you’re willing, nail trims can be done at home, which can save you a little time and money on vet visits. My next post will be a how-to on nail trims for guinea pigs, cat, dogs, and rabbits.
Bringing a new pet home is a big responsibility, even when the pet is small enough to fit inside your pocket. Guinea pigs are relatively easy to care for, but they do need (and enjoy) a lot of attention. If you’re interested in more information, you can find guinea pig forums online where you can read about other owner’s personal experiences.