“Mommy?! Daddy?! May I have a guinea pig for Christmas? I promise to take care of it and you won’t have to do anything at all…I pinky-promise!”
Parents. When your beautiful little girl or boy comes to you early in the morning–when they look their cutest, with puppy-dog eyes and bed hair–take a deep breath and pretend something really important has just come up and you don’t have time to discuss it at the moment and leave the room; post-haste!
Dramatic? Maybe. But you’ll thank me for giving you this free advice.
Top 10 Lessons I Learned After Buying a Guinea Pig
1. Guinea pigs are like Pringles potato chips; you really can’t have just one. They are social animals and don’t do well in isolation. It is recommended that at least two guinea pigs are purchased together for socialization (make sure your pigs are either the same sex or have been spayed and/or neutered).
2. Guinea pigs are not pigs. However, males are called boars and females are called sows ( I don’t know why, but it works for them).
3. Guinea pigs require LOTS OF SPACE! The habitats sold in the pet stores are much too small for one, much less more than one piggie. They need a lot of room to run, popcorn, and play (this can get expensive).
4. They may call them pigs because they eat so much! They have a very specific diet and they eat all the time. Timothy hay, pellets, fresh fruits and veggies, vitamin C supplements, treats, and wooden chewies are not inexpensive (we spend about $150.00 a month for our piggies food).
5. Pigsty–a dirty slovenly place! If your piggie habitat is not maintained daily… yes, daily… you can expect it to look and smell like a pigsty. And just so you know, your child will not be able to do it all on their own. It is the responsibility of the parent to ensure the piggie is well taken care of. These sweet little piggies don’t deserve to live in a pigsty, and if you get one just know, you’re responsible for its health and well-being.
6. Guinea pigs are LOUD. They have so many different sounds, you may think you have a bird in the house. Or maybe a cat, or even a real pig. They chirp, squeak, wheek, purr, chatter, and chew on crate bars (click on the hyperlink to hear all the noises little piggies make).
7. They are large rodents! You can expect your guinea pig to reach an average length of eight to 14 inches and weigh anywhere from one to two pounds, depending on gender. They are hardy, but still require a gentle hand when handling.
8. It is difficult to tell the gender of guinea pigs. You can’t trust what the pet store tells you (my family went from four to 12 guinea pigs within a year because the last male we purchased gave birth to two boars and then got pregnant the same day with five pups!).
9. It’s like pulling teeth from an angry dragon to find a small animal care vet anywhere. And you should know vet cost is expensive for these exotic pets.
10. Oh, and unless you have someone who is willing to piggie sit for you, boarding your piggies is going to be interesting. I found a great place out in Lexington that did an excellent job with our herd. But it was not cheap because they are considered to be exotic pets.
That rounds out the lessons I learned after buying a guinea pig, but I also want to share how much having my piggie herd has been an amazing, heartbreaking, and life-changing adventure.
Why I Love Guinea Pigs
I realize I haven’t painted these wonderful pets in the best light, but it is important to share the reality of bringing them into your home.
Guinea pigs are probably the cutest, sweetest, most fun and interesting little fur babies you could make a part of your family. They have the quirkiest personalities and are capable of learning and performing all sorts of tricks.
The real reason I love having a herd of eight guinea pigs living in my home is simple; thanks to them, I never feel alone.
Six years ago, I was diagnosed with systemic Lupus and had to give up my 13-year teaching career. Lupus is an invisible disease; meaning if you see me I don’t look like anything is wrong, in fact, I look pretty hot (see pic below)!
But I am not well, and because there is no cure for Lupus, I will never be well again.
What does this have to do with having guinea pigs? Well, I’m glad you asked.
Lupus is a debilitating, isolating, and difficult disease to manage. I live with chronic fatigue, pain, cognitive dysfunction disorder (Lupus fog), and a host of other chronic health conditions as a result of my immune system attacking my healthy cells, organs, and body systems. Being in the sun causes an increase in Lupus activity.
I’m not able to hang out with my friends like I used to.
I don’t have the friends I used to have when I was healthy.
I spend a crazy amount of time by myself.
But my piggies are amazing and don’t care if I can’t walk very far, or if I can’t take them out in the sun, or if I’m too tired to go out for dinner. They get so excited when I come into the room, they squeak and wheek and popcorn all over the place.
Taking care of them reminds me that I have value and that I’m still able to make a contribution to something outside of myself. When I don’t feel like getting out of bed, they motivate me to do so because they need me.
Oh, and they are the best cuddlers! When I’m feeling anxious, or down, or stressed… just scooping up one of my little piggies and petting their soft, thick fur calms me right down. They give me something else to focus on until I’m ready to deal with whatever is bothering me.
Guinea pigs can do the same for your child. Especially if your little one is shy and quiet and may not find it so easy to make friends. Guinea pigs make great first friends and can help build confidence to go out and make friends on their own.
Top 5 Reasons to Adopt Guinea Pigs for Your Child for Christmas
Guinea pigs are a lot of fun! They can be litterbox trained, and can also be trained to do cool tricks.
It Teaches Responsibility
Although your child will need help caring for their guinea pigs, the daily maintenance of their pets is something they can manage if shown how. Daily care includes sweeping and discarding the poo, hay, and food scraps. Along with providing fresh hay, water, pellets, and veggies, and making sure the piggies receive cuddles.
Your Children Will Learn Practical and Real-Life Skills
Taking care of guinea pigs involves a lot of practical skills. Sweeping, disinfecting, chopping veggies, portioning food, grooming, as well as creating and maintaining a daily routine.
There is something immensely soothing about holding a cute little animal and stroking their fur. Guinea pigs don’t like loud or sudden noises. Therefore, being in the presence of these animals will provide a reason for your child to quiet themselves and be still. Be present in the moment.
Increased Emotional Intelligence
Each guinea pig has its own personality and your child will get to know what and how their pet is feeling based on observed behaviors. As they bond with their piggies, they may be able to transfer this skill of observing behaviors to their interactions with people. This will help make them more emotionally intelligent and empathetic as well.
I know I have given you a lot to think about when you’re faced with this question, “Mommy?! Daddy?! May I have a guinea pig for Christmas? I promise to take care of it and you won’t have to do anything at all… I pinky-promise.”
Hopefully, you took that time and read this article and now you’re ready to have a real conversation with your son or daughter about what adopting guinea pigs entails and what your standards are if you decide to bring at least two into your family.
Remember, life is a journey and just because you’re wandering doesn’t mean you’re lost. Be brave, be beautiful, and stay enchanted.
Oh, and Happy Christma-Chanu-Kwanzaa-Kah and New Year!