Guinea Pigs 101: Some Basic Facts

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January 26, 2011
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2006 TN State Fair- Guinea PigSo you’ve thought about what pet will work in your house, what pet your kids will enjoy, and it’s come down to getting a guinea pig or two. Before you go and shop the aisles of your local pet store, be aware of a few things about these furry little creatures that make them special and awesome.

1: They are smarter than you think. They know when you’re sleeping, when you’re awake, what type of plastic bag you’re opening, and if you’ve been bad or good… they have a direct line to Santa. Wait, that’s not entirely true. But they can learn what sounds are related to actions and items. Some owners swear that if they open a container that has items for their guinea pigs, that they become excited and look forward to the treat or food. They also can sense the time of day like other pets and know when you’re ready for snuggles, play, and stimulating conversation.

2: Guinea pigs can become bored. They need stimulation, interaction, and to be socialized. Without these things, they may experience depression and become lethargic. This is why many guinea pig enthusiasts and advice columns emphasize that they should be adopted in pairs. They need a buddy to hang out with. Snuggling with their human friends is great too but when you’re not around, at least they have each other.

3: They thrive on routine and having a guinea pig may even help you become more disciplined. They rarely change their habits and if something does change you might see them pacing, scampering, and looking out at you as if to say, “hey, what happened?” If you normally feed them at 8am and then one day don’t, they’ll be wondering what’s going on and will squeak and chatter till breakfast is served. If you change from giving them a carrot to lettuce, they might also protest and squeak at you as if to say, “WHAT? Where’s my carrot?!” Be prepared for long weaning periods when trying to introduce a new food and eliminate an old one.

4: They are sensitive and emotional and need stability. Since they are creatures of habit something as small as changing or moving a toy may throw them into a small tizzy. They can also become easily depressed if they live alone and don’t interact much with their human buddies, their roommate dies or leaves, dirty cage, and bad diet. Once a guinea pig becomes depressed, other problems can start such as health issues. Do what you can to make sure they feel secure, safe, and happy.

5: They need space to run around and it’s recommended that a cage for one be at least 7 sq. ft. and for 2 guinea pigs at least 12 sq. ft. Let those little furballs stretch their legs and move their toys about!

6: Always keep their diet a mix of healthy vegetables and minerals and you’ll have a clean, strong, and happy little guinea pig. No junk food and no booze or wild parties. You don’t need you guinea pig dancing on the table with a lampshade on its head or waking up on the front lawn with a massive hangover. Oh wait, maybe that isn’t your guinea pig so much as your college-aged son.

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One Response to “Guinea Pigs 101: Some Basic Facts”

  1. Donna Eggett says:

    Thanks for including some guinea pig tips. Our class of 3 and 4 year olds has a pet guinea pig named Mohawk (for his swirly hair pattern). The children have learned to be kind and gentle and so Mohawk often calls to them to come and play.

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