The only ‘starter pet’ is a stuffed toy. All pets are living, feeling creatures who depend upon you for their home, living requirements, attention, health care and safety.
Guinea pigs live an average of five to seven years, a significant investment of your time. Guinea pigs require care and attention every single day, and there will be costs associated with equipment, supplies and veterinary care. While guinea pigs are gentle, personable creatures, they still have specific requirements for their physical, mental and emotional well-being. Guinea pigs need time out of their cage for a few hours every single day, whether to explore their environment and play with toys or to snuggle in your lap, you will need to give your pig room to run as well as some of your time and attention. You may wish to spend some of this time grooming your guinea pig; the short-haired breeds can manage with a once weekly brushing, but the long-haired breeds require daily grooming.
The guinea pig’s cage needs to be cleaned once a week and spot-cleaned every other day. Guinea pigs need a large cage or modular enclosure, high-quality pellets specifically formulated for guinea pigs, fresh water daily, a daily ration of a food high in Vitamin C, some timothy hay, a box to hide in, non-pine bedding material, a food dish, a water bottle and a little box or other enclosure to hide and nap in.
Your guinea pig has teeth which grow constantly, and your veterinarian needs to give your pig a checkup at least once a year (for a young pig). The piggy may require their teeth to be regularly trimmed by the veterinarian. Sometimes guinea pigs get mites or other ailments which require veterinary care by veterinarians who specialize in exotics (not your regular ‘dog and cat’ veterinarian).
How old are your children? Young children lack fine motor control and self-restraint, and many a guinea pig has sustained fatal injuries when they are dropped, squeezed too hard, or stepped or fallen on. Guinea pigs require a gentle touch; they are easily startled by sudden movements and loud noises, and may bite if frightened. Guinea pigs live an average of five to seven years, a significant investment of your time.
If you have children, how is the added work and expense of a guinea pig going to fit in with your schedule and budget? Are your kids going to have time for the pet on top of their extra-curricular school activities and weekend plans? When the kids bail on caring for the pig, are you going to accept the responsibility for caring for this pet? Is the guinea pig going to get enough attention? Are you willing to consider adding a second guinea pig? As social animals, guinea pigs do best with the company of another guinea pig, and while both pigs would still need their daily out-of-cage time, they would not be lonely when you are away at work or school. Obviously, if you are adopting a male and female guinea pig, the male needs to be neutered. There are already plenty of guinea pigs and not enough good homes for all of them.
How do you know you are not allergic to guinea pigs? While not common, some people are allergic to guinea pigs, or to the hay that the pigs eat and play with. Spend some time around a guinea pig (perhaps by visiting one of the adoptable ones at the Humane Society of Greater Dayton).
If, after all of this, you believe that you have the time and resources to provide a good home for a guinea pig, please adopt a homeless guinea pig from Robyn’s Nest Rescue, the Humane Society of Greater Dayton or another local animal shelter instead of purchasing one from a pet store. You will get a good, healthy guinea pig and have the joy of saving a life.
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