March is Adopt-A-Rescued-Guinea-Pig month. Really. Back in 2002, the ASPCA declared March to be Adopt-A-Rescued-Guinea-Pig month to raise awareness about guinea pigs in the shelter system and about pet guinea pigs in general.
Most people don’t seem to be aware that guinea pigs are available for adoption in shelters and rescues; a popular pet, there are millions of guinea pigs in American homes…this also means that hundreds of guinea pigs end up being unwanted and left in shelters.
Guinea pigs make great pets for the right person, but unfortunately so many people think of pets as disposable, that once little Suzy gets tired of caring for the guinea pig, off to the shelter it goes (further reinforcing to the child that pets are disposable). A teenager might be responsible enough to care for the pig, but when they go off to college and cannot keep them in the dorm room, off to the shelter the pig goes. Shelter volunteers too often hear that tired excuse “I was allergic to the hay that they eat”. Buy a bag of hay and leave it open in it the corner of your living room if you must, but determine your allergies before adopting and then abandoning a small pet.
As with any pet, do your research before adopting a guinea pig. Guinea pigs live for several years – are you willing to make commitment of five years or more? If the kids lose interest/go off to college/join the circus and are not taking care of the guinea pig, it will then be your job to be the responsible adult and take care of the guinea pig. You must also consider whether you will be able to afford veterinarian bills if the pig becomes ill or needs his or her teeth trimmed? If you decide to get a second guinea pig, what is the cost for spaying/neutering?
Guinea pigs require daily care - feeding, watering, cage cleaning, grooming, exercise, and companionship. They are social animals, and need to interact with and be a part of your family. Gentle animals, they require a minimum space of about 8 square feet for one pig. If their cage has a wire mesh floor, you need to protect the pigs’ feet by placing a grass mat, wood, or a tile on a portion of the floor. The mesh needs to be fine enough that the pig will not catch his feet in it. NEVER use glass aquariums as they do not allow proper ventilation and ammonia fumes will build up, necessitating one of those veterinary bills mentioned in the previous paragraph. Cages must be located away from direct sunlight, drafts and temperature extremes; line the bottom of the cage with wood pellets or other suitable substrate – avoid pine shavings.
Your guinea pig needs access to timothy hay at all times; special guinea pig pellets must be fed daily as well (rabbit pellets do not provide all the vitamins that guinea pigs require). Fresh vegetables and fresh water must be provided every day. Never give guinea pigs unshelled sunflower seeds – these are a choking hazard.
Guinea pigs have those aridacular teeth which grow continuously, so they must chew to keep the teeth at the proper length and alignment. Give them a piece of untreated wood to gnaw on or a commercial chew toy to gnaw on.
Guinea pigs require daily supervised playtime outside the cage. As with any pet, small children should be supervised by an adult while handling a guinea pig. Never put a guinea pig in a hamster wheel – severe and life-threatening back injuries are likely to occur.
If you are not willing, or not able to devote this sort of time and energy, there are other options: you can foster guinea pigs while they await adoption, or volunteer at the shelter to play with and socialize the guinea pigs, or volunteer at outreach events to educate others about guinea pigs and their care. Even if you have zero interest in ever having a guinea pig of your own, just telling others that there are guinea pigs available for adoption at shelters and rescues can make a huge difference.
The Humane Society of Greater Dayton often has adoptable guinea pigs. The piggies in the slideshow are recent alumni of the Humane Society. Robyn's Nest Rescue and This Little Piggy and Me Adoption and Rescue.are other rescues to check for adoptable guinea pigs.
To receive email notifications when my new articles post to the Dayton Small Pets Examiner page, please use the "Subscribe to Email" link (under the headline, above), or follow me on Twitter to receive notification of all of my articles. If you have questions, comments or suggestions please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for the timeliest response.